Marriages feature as the most important event in a person’s life in practically all civilized cultures, since time long gone by. In our part of the world, especially, wedding ceremonies have always tended to be elaborate affairs spreading over quite a few days and involving at least three to four formal occasions. Regardless of whether a person can afford to indulge in the festivities and celebrations associated with marriages, the prime concern has invariably been to put up the best show possible. But, when one compares the finest of those of yesteryear, one finds that they are far removed from anything witnessed before in terms of conceptualization and execution, and, although admittedly, such weddings are confined to the moneyed classes. The trend is fast catching on so that even middle-income groups are now coming up with economical ways of introducing imaginative touches to wedding festivities.
Whereas once, wedding halls, gardens and hotels used to be popular venues for wedding receptions and dinners, today there is a host of other options available which give the event a slightly exclusive touch. Ranging from empty plots belonging to friends or located close to one’s residence, which could be available for free or at a nominal cost, and transformed into something exotic, to clubs that vary in rental from economical to steep, there are many possibilities one can look into today. Among the more popular, albeit expensive clubs that are being sought for weddings these days are the Marina, and Creek clubs, Creek Club has three lawns varying in rates from Rs 35,000 (for an area accommodating 500 people) to Rs 125,000 for a garden that can comfortably host 1500 to 2000 guests. Similarly, Marina Club has lawns that it gives out to non-members for Rs 85,000 (accommodating over 500 guests) and Rs 125,000 (for 1000 guests). Another venue that is gaining in popularity in recent years is KPI (Karachi Parsi Institute). Its lawns are available for Rs 60,000.
All the above-mentioned venues do not insist on their own catering, so one has the option to use any caterer one likes. Which brings us to the many catering services now available. As weddings are becoming more and more highbrow, the caterers too, are becoming more up-market and along with sumptuous food, many are equipped to provide the most sophisticated décor imaginable. Both factions of the Rajputs, for instance, provide chair-backs, table-covers and net for decoration in any color that the customer may demand, and have a wide variety of accessories for décor, Asia Tent House, though, is by far the most well-equipped decorator, and ranging from lace marquees to exotic props he has the lot, to exotic props he has the lot, provided one has the mullah to pay for it.
Important consideration when planning a wedding is the bridal ensemble. While markets like Mehboob Baksh have been functioning for years, providing reasonably priced bridal outfits there are a large number of up-scale boutiques and designers operating from their homes that have also developed a sizable clientele over time. However, for those wishing to buy exclusive stuff, but not prepared to spend eighty thousand to a lac of rupees on a designer bridal wear, there are mercifully many options available today. A large number of extremely talented women of extremely talented women have opened up outlets within their homes and are creating ensembles that are not only aesthetically pleasing but color coordinated with the jewelery and the ambiance of the occasion. Shehla Virji, Ashraf and Rosy Patel are just some of the enterprising women that are producing unique outfits without putting as great a hole in the pockets as their more famous counterparts.
While there is no shortage of jewelers in the city, one invariable prefers to stick to those one has been familiar with for many ears. However, since most jewelers have kept themselves abreast with the latest fashions and are willing to copy any design be it from a catalogue, a motif on a bridal ensemble or a competitor’s creation, one generally doesn’t need to fret about which jeweler to use for this very important day.
On the other hand, which beautician to go to is definitely the cause of major concern these days. The better ones have hiked up their prices astronomically and this is one area the bride definitely doesn’t want to compromise on, since she understandably wants to look her best. If there are no budget restrictions, one can take a pick of the most renowned names in the business – Rukaiya, Rubina, Shaheen – but otherwise it would be a good idea to shop around, see the portfolios of the not-so-famous stylists, and select the one whose work seems the closest to what one has in mind. It might be worth one’s while to check out Nasreen Zafar, and Saba of Sabs while in the process.
One may well think that with the venue selected and booked, bridal attire and jewelry ordered and the make-up artist confirmed, one’s problems are solved. But weddings today entail a lot more planning and details than they did ever before. In fact, for those who have no budget constraints, or at any rate have greater financial leeway than most, weddings are nothing short of dream sequences from Hollywood or Bollywood blockbusters. Many prospective couples actually model their entire wedding receptions on the lines of weddings receptions on the lines of weddings picturized in popular movies. And to make all this possible and in fact, choreograph the wedding from start to finish are wedding planners, who take on most of the responsibilities of the wedding household, so that all that is requires of the bridal party is to look fresh and welcoming when receiving their guests. Meinu Baigmohamad, Aayesha Valika and Yumma Ali Khan are three friends who have teamed up as wedding planners and claim they even see to the arrangements inside the wedding household, so that the decoration of banisters, lighting, etc. is all taken care of by them! So involved do they become with their clients from the start – from designing exclusive wedding invitation cards to suggesting where to sit, how to make an entry and which make-up artiste and photographer to use – that it becomes almost like a family affair for them. Sometimes, the trio even guides the bride as to what combination she should wear at the wedding.
Those who do want to hand over the entire wedding festivities to wedding planners, normally go for elaborate ceremonies with themes. Often, the bridal outfit becomes the basis of the theme of the wedding functions. Hence, if the reception attire is Eastern, an ethnic or Mughal theme prevails for which ‘bara dairs’, ‘jharokas’, and ‘dyas’ lining the length of the pathway leading up to the stage are used. Non-traditional wedding have varied themes, such as a black backdrop with stars on them, simulating a galaxy, or a gazebo to give modern, dramatic touch, similarly, ‘mehndis’ have an ‘ajrak’, ‘chundri’ or ‘jamawar’ theme. According to Khan, these days an average reception package for about 500 guests, which includes floral arrangements, a decorated stage, about 100 to 150 candies, giveaways, table-setting with napkin rings, ribbons around the glasses and fabric on chairs, costs close to a hundred thousand rupees. So when planning a grand wedding nowadays, in addition to all the trousseau expenses, one has to be prepared to keep aside a substantial sum as ‘style’ expenses. And of course, the sky is the limit if one doesn’t have to worry about budget. Ranging from Rajasthani ‘mehndis’, complete with a procession of camel carts laden with ‘mehndi’ and professional Thari dancers to Greek wedding receptions with golden organza curtains boasting a typically Grecian print, complemented by stone urns and candelabra and green heart-shaped wreaths hanging on gold organza backed chairs, one can have a pick of the most opulent of functions.
For those who don’t want to splurge so much, yet want to add style to their weddings, there are cheaper options available. One can spend on the décor of just the stage – a focal point of the even, whether a mehndi or a reception – rather than let it be handled by decorators. Yasmeen Katchi, who has been decorating stages for wedding for over two decades and is a full-fledged wedding planner now, admits that more and more clients are coming to her to get the entire wedding professionally planned, nevertheless, she also continues to do just stages or flower arrangements, giveaways or ‘mehndi thaals’ if the client doesn’t want the entire works.
There are others in the business too, who are willing to just do stages and flower arrangements, such as Anisa Khan. Of course, in the final analysis, it is the budget that determines how elaborate the décor of the stage would be Basic décor stages cost a minimum of Rs 10,000, although if one wished to spend less than that, they can do so by opting for just floral arrangements for the scaffold. Expensive stage settings include backdrop, props, carpet, furniture and myriads of fresh flower – one can choose local or imported depending on how much one wants to spend. Some people go all out and even have landscaped stages with waterfalls and simulated garden scenarios. Needless to say the more elaborate the stage, the more the expenses. Anisa Khan claims that she can detect the difference in people’s tastes in the course of the last five years. A few years ago, she feels, the demand was for relatively simple stages. “However, over the years, the trend has become to compete with the balls and every couple wants their wedding to look different and more striking than any other.”