Fairytale wedding main
Prernaa Suri at her Sikh wedding ceremony in India Image Credit: Supplied


  • Childhood stories of princes and happily everafters colour the idea of weddings for many adults.
  • Women and men, all have their notions of fairytale weddings.
  • For many it is about social status, for some it is about finally being treated the way they feel they deserve to be - as royalty.
  • Weddings are the fun part while the work begins after that...

Why do so many of us want that big, dramatic wedding? Is it gender specific? Or does the answer lie in childhood tales of princes and princesses? Is it a display of wealth and worth? Or one of the many ills of a consumerist society?
We present a cross-section of opinions that tell you why

“I wanted the wedding to be grand”

Abhilash Polaserry, Special to Gulf News

When it was time to get married, I knew I wanted the wedding to be grand. And a lot of time was spent on finalising the details.

My wife and I are from two different cultural backgrounds from within India. We couldn’t decide if the wedding would follow customs from Kerala or Sindhi rituals, and so decided to have two ceremonies.

Abhilash Polaserry
Polaserry didn't hire an event planner but took a few days off from work to figure out everything from the clothes to the stage design. Image Credit: Supplied

For both, I had an idea of what I wanted. I did research on the kind of outfit I would wear, the decor and venues. We didn’t have an event planner, so I took a few days off to figure everything out — from the stage design, lighting, music to bouquet arrangements.

I narrowed down a list of venues and then took both set of parents to decide on the final locations. There are many good hotels in Dubai, but I wanted it to be fairly new venues.

The process of organising a wedding is quite complicated. And the planning goes on till the last day. Even on the day, problems do happen. I got a call from the person designing our stage a few days before the wedding saying he couldn’t do the decor. He suggested someone else and even though I didn’t like the new design, I had no choice.

Abhilash P.
Polassery said: "I do believe that in general, Indians are obsessed with the big fat wedding." Image Credit: Supplied

However, all said and done, it was a memorable occasion. One thing people still remember is how I entered the wedding venue on a horse. This, however, was one thing I didn’t imagine myself doing. It is a tradition in Sindhi weddings suggested by my wife’s family. So, I thought I should agree to it.

I do believe that in general, Indians are obsessed with the big fat wedding. You may have never hosted a party in your life, but you’ll host the biggest wedding party. It is a way of sharing your happiness, and for some it is also about showing off your wealth.

When I think back, I wonder if such a big wedding was required. But, the memories are something we will never forget. We still talk about all the parties and fun times. The bigger the event, the more the people attending it and carrying forward those memories with you. I have no regrets.
- The reader is a business owner based in Dubai

Will I have an extravagant wedding? I have no idea

Shreya Bhatia, Reader Interactivity Journalist

To splurge on a wedding or to save? That is a difficult question to answer. I am in two minds.

The term ‘big fat Indian wedding’ has become almost synonymous with Indian culture. While 2018 has been the year of prominent celebrity weddings, I think the extravagance seen at each one has created a ripple effect, and has emphasised the idea further.

What designer will I wear on my big day? Should I have a destination wedding? Is having five different functions enough?

A lot goes into planning a wedding, big or small. I have cousins getting married in the near future and let me tell you, flower arrangements can easily eat up most of the budget, and let’s not even talk about bridal clothes and destinations.

Fairytale Wedding shreya
To spend or not to spend, that is the question... Image Credit: Anupa Kurian-Murshed

While big weddings with large guest lists are Instagram friendly, small intimate weddings and ceremonies are also beautiful, and should not be considered less just because the bank account does not have a dent in it.

Ultimately, I think people should do what they want – free of social obligations and pressure. If a fairytale wedding is what you want (and you can afford it), then nothing should stop you. If you want to do something small and low-key, you should not be pressured to spill your dough.

I’ve actually never thought about my wedding, let alone planned it, so, I don’t know if I want to have a big wedding or do something small. If you ask me this question in a few years, maybe I’ll have a better answer (and importantly a person I want to marry). Till then, you’ll find me happily attending weddings and eating wedding cake, at the back of the room (however big or small).

The Indian wedding where no one danced

Evangeline Elsa, Community Solutions Editor

I have never understood big weddings. To me, they are just unnecessary. You spend too much money, there’s so much to do. It all looks very stressful.

I never dreamt of a fairytale wedding

I spent my childhood in Noida, a suburb on the outskirts of Delhi, India’s capital territory. Every North Indian wedding I attended then, was lavish. The celebrations lasted for days. But they never inspired me to dream of a big fat Indian wedding.

My parents never gave me the idea that getting married was my ultimate goal. Nor was I ever told that my wedding day would be the beginning of my “happily ever after”.

I grew up watching my mother bring up my sister and me, while my father lived and worked in a different city.

My youth was not a build up, leading to my ‘big day’. If anything, I was learning how to be responsible for my younger sister and myself, while my mother went to work. She was the one paying the bills, attending parent meetings, fixing things around the house, making sure our life went smoothly. Watching her, I learnt that I did not need any ‘knight-in-shining-armour’ to come and rescue me.

My father visited us a few times every year. From the way he treated my mother, my sister and me, I grew up understanding that men and women were equal. I was given the same opportunities and respect they would have given a son.

I had a simple wedding, unlike many of my friends.

Evangeline on her wedding day
It was a simple wedding with friends, family and neighbours Image Credit: Supplied

In India, arranged marriages are common. At 23, I wasn’t forced to have one, I was fine with it. After six months of being engaged, my wedding comprised of two events on two days - a ring exchange ceremony and the actual day of the wedding.

Both in Kerala, a south Indian state, where brides are expected to be adorned in a lot of gold jewellery. I wasn’t going to do that. It is the 21st century, I did not need to announce my family wealth to my neighbours.

My husband and I were on the same page, a simple celebration with close friends, relatives and family. There was no extravagance, no excessive make-up, no designer gowns, no Bollywood music blaring through loudspeakers, no fireworks, no one dancing and definitely no weird photo poses.

People came, the priest read the prayers, everyone blessed us, ate and left in peace.

The Manthrakodi is folded and worn over the head during the wedding ceremony. Image Credit: Supplied

All I remember from that day is that it was raining and that the church wedding service was quite long. And, a heavy folded manthrakodi (the first sari gifted to the bride by the in-laws, traditionally worn on the bride’s head during the Syrian Christian wedding mass, in Kerala), was puncturing holes in my scalp as it pressed against the many pins that our neighbourhood beautician had carefully placed in my hairdo.

Do I regret not having a big celebration?

No. Weddings have progressively become more dramatic. I still don’t understand the obsession.

Why not use all that money and effort in something more interesting, like planning a trip with your spouse? Or save, or invest?

All that being said, I don’t want to judge, whatever floats your boat is fine, we all have just one life after all. All I’m saying is that fairytales are not real and weddings are not fairytale endings to your life story. They are a beginning to a more responsible and challenging adult life.

Bloggers make matters worse

Huda Tabrez, Community Web Editor

If you search for #Wedding on Instagram, it throws up 136 million posts. #Weddingphotography - 18.9 million. #WeddingCake - 136 million.

Influencers are changing the wedding industry, from perfect table settings to artistically shot, just out-of-focus-enough ‘candid’ ultra-HD photographs. The bar has been set very high for the average would-be couple, but one would argue that it is easy to ‘splurge’ when many aspects of your marriage (if not all) are sponsored.

Fairytale wedding Huda
‘Sponsored weddings’ are a reality for influencers and that is making it harder and harder for regular couples to have the perfect wedding. Image Credit: Anupa Kurian-Murshed

If Instagram celebrities and Pinterest wedding boards were just about aesthetics, it would have been harmless fun. But elaborate settings and exotic venues can come at a steep price tag and that is where the problem arises.

‘Sponsored weddings’ are a reality for influencers and that is making it harder and harder for regular couples to have the perfect wedding. Well, at least for those regular couples who still care about the event enough to plan it out. When I was about to get married a few years ago, all I can remember worrying about is how much work we would have at home.

We are a standard Indian family, with standard Indian troubles (and joys). When you have an extended family - several aunts and uncles with their grown up children (and their children) at home for a wedding, things can get interesting to say the least. I still remember worrying about how often someone at home would have to make tea, as I, the de-facto chai-maker was now the bride-to-be. People in India also have an odd allergy to disposable cutlery. No matter how many people there are at home, no one really willingly eats or drinks out of disposable paperware, which means piles of dishes to wash. Yes, we always have someone hired to help but it just seems tiring, to say the least.

Those, for me, were the worries of being a bride. As for the perfect, just out-of-focus-enough ‘candid’ ultra-HD photographs? That was never on my list of things to worry about. All I wanted was a happy, family time that kick-started the next chapter in life. And in that sense, my fairytale came true.

My fantasies added up to make my wedding day special

Prernaa Sethi Suri, Special to Gulf News

What is a fairytale wedding? It ideally should mean that the bride feels and is treated like the queen and the groom like a king on their special day. But, in today’s world it is all about a big budget stage show for the guests and other spectators.

There might be some percentage of girls and boys who desire a fairytale wedding because they still believe in the myth of ‘happily ever after’ and some who are inspired by cinema, but majority of the current generation is over those fantasies.

Suri said: "It is important to have a mind of your own and know what you want, and not be influenced." Image Credit: Supplied

Most of these extravagant weddings are influenced by social media or are a result of social competition.

How much time do we all spend on our phones, tablets, laptops following some or the other celebrities, brand, fashion trend or these recent big fat weddings? We picture ourselves in those shoes and this indirectly makes us want the same. In addition to that is the desire to be different and be noticed.

The wedding is a result of many years of collection of ideas and finances to make it the most beautiful day. The event is not just about the ceremony, but the invitation, the décor, the venues, the lavish menus, the live performances by celebrities, the gifts, the outfits and of course the jewellery.

The other side of the story is that the parents of the bride and groom want to do the best for them. However, that does not necessarily mean spending all their savings on a 2-3 day event. But to coexist with their clan they need to please the members of it. The society creates pressure on them to make the affair more eventful and spend exorbitantly.

It is sad that these weddings are often an ordeal for the girls, boys and their parents, as they are busy looking good for the pictures and being hospitable to the guests.

However a fairytale wedding should be about the joy it brings to the ones immediately involved, if the paparazzi, glamour and spending money bring joy then be it. But it is important to have a mind of your own and know what you want, and not be influenced.

I remember from my teenage days, I always said that I wanted to wear an outfit by a particular designer and get married at a particular destination. Mostly because I thought the designer made his brides look the best. I had always seen his work while attending weddings, or browsing pictures online. All these fantasies’ added up to make my wedding one of the most special days in my life.

I deserved my fairytale wedding ...

Sara Al Shurafa, Web News Editor

I come from a mixed marriage, my husband is Moroccan while I am half-Jordanian and half-Lebanese. And to keep the families happy we decided to divide the festivities and ceremonies, between countries.

The stage at one of Sara Al Shurafa's wedding ceremonies.
Elaborate weddings are the norm in many Arab communities. Image Credit: Supplied

Yes, both of us are Arabs, but believe me we have two different worlds. I would have an easier experience if I married an American, as I know how that goes from Hollywood.

In the Lebanese culture, the official legal marriage is done in a day, and attended by men of the two families, the bride, her mum and sisters and a priest.

The wedding is held on another day. And it’s pretty much like the Western wedding, a white gown, food and lots of dancing.

A traditional Moroccan wedding takes place with several ceremonies and numerous dress changes. Image Credit: Supplied

So the official legal marriage was decided to take place in Morocco, and the wedding in Lebanon.

When I arrived there I didn’t know what to expect, one sentence my husband kept saying, “your weddings are like a birthday party to us. But, my family has promised to keep it down”.

How reassuring...

Whenever I would ask him for details, I would get nothing but, my mum promised to keep it simple.

Ha! Simple, what is simple? What will happen? What am I supposed to wear? What shall I get with me?

What shall I tell my family to expect?

I arrived in Morocco, half of the things they say I don’t understand, as we speak a different dialect, so whatever they tried to communicate to me about the marriage was vague.

I was taken to a women, who in my head is a wedding planner, who showed me five kaftans (Moroccan traditional dress), I thought I was supposed to choose one.

Instead, I was told: “Dear you are wearing all of these on that night.”

That women was not a wedding planner after all, she is known in Moroccan to be a ‘Nagafa’ and she would be responsible of me the whole night, and with her came four other women.

Talk about an awkward scenario! And don’t forget I was clueless of whatever they were saying.

On the day, I went in the morning had my hair and make-up done. And after that the bride, I, was lost.

I arrived at my in-laws house, were I was taken by the same Nagafa I had met previously, into a room in the house that looked like a workshop.

A traditional wedding

There were dresses, jewellery, crowns, needles, shoes ... I bet if I asked her for anything at that moment she would have furnished it.

She and the other women with her started dressing me up, styling my headpiece and jewellery to fit my first green outfit of the night.

It was a dark green heavy kaftan, with gold rims and colourful embroidery.

Sara Al Shurafa
Henna and the colour green are considered a sign of fertility, beauty and optimism for Moroccans Image Credit: Supplied

It was green and the opener of the celebrations with the henna tradition. Henna and the colour green are considered a sign of fertility, beauty and optimism for Moroccans.

I entered the hall where all the celebrations were taking place, with the Naqafa chanting something loudly while following me. I later realised they were saying some verses to protect the bride and groom from the evil eye.

The bride’s entrance is very important in the Moroccan ceremony, so I was placed in an ‘Amaria’ - a structure like a palanquin carried by the Nagafa, with the groom leading.

Sara Al Shurafa 1
Shurafa said: "Everybody was dancing and eating and laughing, while I was modelling and posing." Image Credit: Supplied

Later when I landed safely on the floor, henna was applied to my hands, and pictures with family and friends were taken.

Then I left, to put on another dress while everybody else danced, ate and enjoyed.

Now it was a pink one, and after that came the blue kaftan, which I wore when signing the marriage contract.

A Berber dress came after that, to honour my husband’s origins and a colourful last kaftan to eat dinner in, at last, and was a gift from my in-laws.

Sara Al Shurafa wedding 1
Shurafa said: "I feel till today, that such a heavy traditional wedding is just an utter torture for the bride, who that night is supposed to be allowed to celebrate, and not just a celebration for everybody else." Image Credit: Supplied

At this point it was very late. I couldn’t feel my legs. And my back was in so much pain that I would have dissolved in tears if I was told to change one more time.

I even had to go through the pictures to remember the sequence of the dresses. And I realised that I saw nothing of my ceremony and experienced nothing, except the back pain that I remember till today.

Everybody was dancing and eating and laughing, while I was modelling and posing.

I feel till today, that such a heavy traditional wedding is just an utter torture for the bride, who that night is supposed to be allowed to celebrate, and not just a celebration for everybody else.

My celebrity wedding

And that’s why when my part of the wedding three months later took place. I made sure that it was my night. It was the night I wanted, and I could enjoy every single second of.

Maybe everybody around me thought I went over the clouds, but till today, looking back I think it was worth to celebrate such a focal changing point in my life - my way.

I had my wedding in a five-star hotel, with logos designed, poems written, décor built just for me, even a stairway was built inside the ball room, more than three bands and a DJ - all accompanied by dancers and live entertainment all night long, a huge candy buffet and even a bigger cake, apart from the dinner buffet that had dishes from all around the world.

I had designed my shoes for that night, I had a team of photographers follow me since I woke up early in the morning. I did my make-up and hair at a celebrity salon.

Yes, I was in my bubble and no one could have burst it on that day. Yes, it did cost me a fortune, and yes it was out of a huge production movie like my friends described it. But today I look back on it, and think, yes, I deserved it.

Women in our culture, her life changes after she is married, and yes she deserves a fairytale for one night before she is faced with reality.

Even if I was never that fairytale brat girl, that night I forgot my reality and let go of myself, and danced the night away with my family and friends.

Focus on what is more important

Sarah Iqbal-Khan, Special to Gulf News

“We’re engaged!”

As soon as I uttered the words, people were asking me questions about the wedding, and what my ‘colours’ would be. I knew I was going to have a wedding but never did I think of the day as a ‘fairytale’ come true.

Sarah Iqbal-Khan at her wedding day in Toronto, Canada.
Khan said: "Having gotten married after most of my friends, I’d participated in their weddings, but never quite understood the hype or hoopla about the wedding day." Image Credit: Supplied

Note: The fairytale is when your other half states that your weird habits are now normal to him. I digress.

Having gotten married after most of my friends, I’d participated in their weddings, but never quite understood the hype or hoopla about the wedding day. I figured the marriage was always more important.

I told many suitors I met that a court wedding would suffice and the money could be used for something with resale value, like down payment for a house.

 I always wanted a massive ring — resale value and all that

Weddings are a massive exercise in wish-fulfillment, for the couple and/or the family. There’s often a desire to use the wedding to demonstrate one’s individuality, wealth or status. As my husband frustratingly knows, I am driven by efficiency and practicality so the concept of spending so much on the dress, or venue and anything in between took a while to digest.

I enjoy the wedding as a version of a party, but the sheer wastefulness of a wedding was something I found challenging. Take the wedding dress – I only picked it out three weeks prior to the event as I didn’t want something I couldn’t wear again. Also no one cared much about my completely practical idea to recycle my mum’s wedding outfit.

Ultimately, weddings are what we make of them, a fairytale, just another day, or the start of something new. I just think we should not let the day make us lose sight of what’s really important - the marriage.
- The writer is a consultant based in Canada