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Weddings in India have always been grand affairs. A middle-class Indian wedding is slowly becoming a way for people to show off their social status. Having multiple celebrations and parties preceding the marriage is the latest fad, courtesy Bollywood.
These days, people have to save money for a wedding for years before the actual event. The marriage expense list often seems out of the budget and keeps getting longer. No wonder, Indian parents are stressed about marrying off their children, especially daughters.
It is a general practice in most Indian families to start saving for a girl's marriage from the day she is born. Several weighty social issues are underlying this custom. mymoneykarma explores the reasons why Indian parents feel the need to save money for their daughters' weddings.
Dowry is one of the most widespread evils of present Indian society that continues to plague hapless girls and their families. The custom of dowry, prevalent among Hindus, stems from the feeling of entitlement in the groom's family. The groom's relatives demand expensive gifts and articles such as a car from the bride's parents to 'compensate' for the cost of taking care of their daughter. Modern education has facilitated this ancient custom instead of curbing it. People actually demand heavier dowries if the groom is well-educated and earns decent money. The bride's parents often incur huge debts to fulfill the demands of the groom's families.
Most middle-class parents have the notion that they must invite everyone they know to their daughter's wedding so that they can bless the new couple. People who are mere acquaintances are invited to the wedding as well. Uninvited people stay miffed years after the marriage. The guest list in a middle-class marriage in India often crosses a thousand people! This puts a huge financial burden on the bride's parents.
Often, a lot of societal expectations add to the marriage expense list. Fear of disapproval of the guests, pressure to spend as per perceived social status, apprehension of offending neighbors, extended relatives and other acquaintances lead Indian parents into overdrive of expenditures. Parents spend a considerable amount of money appeasing the expectations of the society they mingle in. Money is paid to buy gifts for people they don't like, getting decorations they don't want, clicking pictures that'll be forgotten weeks after and costly videos that no one would want to watch. A DJ stand, vodka Pani Puri, 360 items on the dinner menu, rare orchids used in decorations, getting minor celebrities to perform at the wedding are some examples of frivolous expenses arising out of societal pressure.
Weddings in India are often the medium of the fulfillment of fantasies of the bride's family. The bride's extended family dream of a particular type of marriage and the parents run around to cover costs for the latest fashion, expensive decorations, top-notch catering, excellent photographers, pre-wedding shoots and select venues. Specific decorations are put up just because they would look good in photographs. The wedding becomes an event of wish-fulfillment for all relatives.
Today's brides are exposed to a lot of marketing gimmicks that sway their preferences. They want the best for themselves, right from M.A.C. cosmetics, salon treatments, designer trousseau, to destination weddings. This trend is becoming popular with the middle-class in India. Indian parents are also driven by an emotional desire to fulfill their daughter's fantasies as they consider her marriage to be the most important event in her life.
Parents are also expected to pay for the honeymoon of their daughter, the costs of which are ever-increasing. Holidays in foreign locations like Italy, France, Switzerland, Florida are very popular but cost a fortune. Even the honeymoon packages in India are quite costly. Gifting a holiday can be quite taxing for Indian parents.
Lavish weddings are not morally wrong, the values behind them are the culprits. A lavish wedding is useless if it renders the parents of the bride in debt or without savings. Marriage is supposed to be a family gathering of a few, not a social event for hundreds. Saving money for your daughter's wedding can be prudent only when that money is of some use to her. Instead of spending on a lavish wedding, here are some alternatives you can consider:
Start a savings fund for your daughter, such as mutual funds or an FD, that can finance her career aspirations.
An intimate wedding can increase room for expenses that you want, such as designer clothes and state-of-art wedding arrangements.
Set up an after-marriage fund for your daughter for emergencies and financing her dreams.
Secure your daughter's future with a retirement plan rather than spending meaninglessly on a wedding trousseau that she is unlikely to wear in the future.
Indian parents should save to make their daughters financially stable before and after marriage. This will help her in securing her future rather than a lavish wedding.