Is marriage even relevant today? Many of us wonder, particularly in the urban upper middle class spaces that many of us here are privileged to occupy. It definitely supports many an industry, providing economic benefits to many: the designers, weavers, tailors, caterers, decorators, hotels, marriage halls, and what have you. So much so that sometimes the business generated by matrimony seems to overshadow the actual event: in essence, two people vowing to spend their lives together. These vows could be exchanged in either a legal, religious, or social ceremony. Ceremonies may have evolved over time, in different communities. Tying the knot, either actually or symbolically, often figures. The controversial part for many today is the giving away of the bride to the groom, which has been intrinsic to many cultures across the globe.
When I got married, many decades ago, I was young and starry-eyed, and didn't really question the basic Vedic rituals of our wedding. We had a very simple ceremony in an Arya Samaj temple, followed by lunch at the same venue. It was attended by as many family members and friends who could make it to Delhi at relatively short notice. No cards were printed. I wore a maroon and orange Kanjeevaram, with no zari, woven from an antique design and sourced by my dear teacher, Dr. Anandalakshmy. (I still wear it). I wore a choker made from my great-great-grandmother's bajuband (armlet), a small gold chain with a pendant and small jhumkas, a gold kada on each wrist, glass bangles, and my mother's heavy old paijeb (anklets). My father giving my hand to the groom didn't seem like a big deal at the time, although feminism had definitely become a part of our lives by then.
Cut to our niece's wedding last November. The groom's parents were recovering from Covid and were too weak to travel, the bride's parents had other ailments making travel difficult, and the grooms's brother had to get back to his job abroad by a certain date, making it difficult to give sufficient legal notice for a court marriage, which is what the youngsters wanted. The spouse came up with the idea of an Arya Samaj wedding. History repeated itself in the self-same Arya Samaj temple, where we were the most senior family members present. The spouse explained to the priest that the kanyadaan part of the ceremony was not required. The priest was sensible enough not to argue about this! It so happened that the bride has an older sister, and the groom an older brother, so the couple was flanked by their siblings and their spouses for the duration of the ceremony. Of course there was live transmission of the ceremony to both sets of parents too. Masks were donned and all eighteen of us participants in this beautiful wedding went for lunch at an open air venue. A few days later, the couple went to visit both sets of parents in their respective cities...
I have loved Leila Seth's account of her son Shantum's wedding, on the banks of the Ganga.
I love weddings where the couple write and recite their own special vows.
I would love a ceremony wherein both sets of parents take their own child's hand, and put it into the partner's hand, simultaneously, blessing them both with a life together full of respect and love.
As parents of adult children, our role is to support them in any way that we can, and grant them the autonomy to live their lives as they choose.
A marriage is far more than a wedding. Let the wedding ceremony not get in the way of the marriage.
I remember Michael Creighton's words: All love ends, either with the end of life, or the end of love.
Many youngsters no longer believe in marriage, as they have seen too many marriages break up.
In today's uncertain world, I would want my adult offspring to be reasonably happy, whichever way they choose to live.