Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 24 May 2019

You don't need a Priyanka Chopra wedding to live happily ever after

In the age of Instagram influencers, destination ceremonies and co-ordinated guest dress codes, it feels like we've lost sight of what marriage means

Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas pose for photographs during a reception in New Delhi in December 2018. EPA/Rajat Gupta
Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas pose for photographs during a reception in New Delhi in December 2018. EPA/Rajat Gupta

It’s the moment that most women have dreamed about since they were little – standing in a beautiful dress, waiting to get married, their perfect groom feeling that he is the luckiest man alive.

Now, add to that four bridesmaids, whose matching outfits include not just dresses and shoes but hair and even underwear. Also, make sure your guests are wearing colour co-ordinated clothing. Then set all of that against a cinema-style backdrop in a romantic destination. Welcome to weddings in 2019.

Extravagant weddings have always been a talking point, but with the rise of Instagram influencers, online wedding planning and the non-stop sharing of airbrushed images of people’s nuptials – from the moment they pop the question to lying on the beach during the honeymoon – we are at a new level now.

Take the actress Priyanka Chopra’s wedding to Nick Jonas, which kicked off last May when he had Tiffany’s New York store closed in order to propose to her (ring cost: $300,000). That happy event was followed by many more, all shared with the world in perfect photographs and videos, encompassing visits to India and the United States, hen nights, wedding ceremonies and receptions. It seemed like every moment was plastered all over social media. Now Chopra is set to star alongside Mindy Kaling in a big-screen comedy that is being described as “Crazy Rich Asians meets My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.

It’s hard to begrudge Chopra and Jonas their opulent wedding: they have the money, the looks and the opportunity. It’s also far too easy to typecast women who know what they want as show-offs or “bridezillas”.

Nevertheless, tying the knot is becoming more expensive. The average cost of a wedding in 2018 in the UK, for example, is in excess of £32,000, while the nation’s median salary is £29,588.

There’s also a new level of obsession about the proceedings. This week, reports surfaced of a bridesmaid asking for advice on Reddit. She had had her long hair chopped into a pixie cut and donated it to a charity that makes wigs for children with cancer. The bride was apparently furious that her look wouldn’t fit in with the feminine theme of the wedding she had planned.

Another bride apparently demanded full payment for a “do-over” of her wedding because her pregnant bridesmaid got more attention than she did.

It now seems that some weddings are organised simply to post on Instagram. Today’s neurotic choreography creates the feeling of a performance for the camera, rather than a joyous, shared event. The ideas that weddings are about people coming together and establishing a strong footing for the future appears to have been forgotten.

Take the “destination wedding” – a phenomenon in which the couple selects a far-flung location as the picture-perfect backdrop for their ceremony. The fabulous photographs and the dream-come-true movie feeling are obviously part of the decision-making, but a wedding in a distant idyll often means that fewer guests are able to come, and so costs are lower.

The whole idea is fraught with potential problems, though. Some close family members and friends might not be able to attend for financial reasons, which the bride and groom could take as a slight. Others will make the journey, resentment simmering about the cost and the inconvenience.

All of this means that I have a sneaking admiration for one couple who reportedly served processed cheese slices, carrots and celery sticks to guests at their wedding. Whether that choice was driven by economic restraint or an emergency replacement for a caterer that didn’t show is hard to know. But the incident came to light when one of the guests posted photographs to a Facebook group dedicated to wedding shaming – and apparently there are many such groups. How have we found ourselves in a place where guests are openly rude about people sharing the most important day of their lives?

It seems we are more confused than ever about what a wedding is supposed to be. Couples that throw huge, expensive, obsessive weddings are criticised, and so are those who throw weddings on a budget. Guests who do come are issued with diktats about clothing, children and how to behave, but those who do not show are met with anger.

At the end of the day, if you can afford a Jonas-Chopra-style blow-out, or you’re happy with celery and cheese, a wedding passes quickly. What remains is the marriage. If only more people Instagrammed that.

Shelina Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World

Updated: April 18, 2019 02:04 PM

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