Wedding Woo-Hoos and Boo-Boos
The Straits Times today reports that one in ten people in Singapore will suffer from mental illness. I’m not surprised. I reckon it’s the same one in ten who’s unlucky enough to be planning their wedding. Today, the stress of getting married is no longer the result of mulling about the who; rather, it is the planning of the how. Weddings have become complicated, expensive affairs these days, with businesses more than happy to cash in on our nation’s propensity to splurge for that once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Why have we reached such a ridiculous state, where it’s no longer unusual for a courting couple to have to postpone marriage in order to save money for that fancy wedding, thereby inadvertently inviting the fitnah that comes with being in a relationship? I think part of it is because we’ve become a more narcissistic society, which can be attributed to a host of factors: our student-centric approach to education where everybody is ‘special’, the fewer siblings we have compared to previous generations and the rise of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
The ‘average’ wedding today is a manifestation of this narcissism, with details that are meant to leave the bride and groom feeling ultra-special on their big day, no matter the strain it takes on one’s finances. Everything from wedding decorations, to the wedding photo album, to the trays of branded stuff is meant to scream a single, coherent message: I am beautiful, I am taken, please gawk at me and my wonderful gifts.
As believing Muslims, we need to realise that such weddings are but an ephemeral illusion of marital bliss. How grand your wedding is will not determine how happy your marriage will be (yes I’m talking to you Kim Kardashian).
Nevertheless, I am tempted to think that the majority of Muzlimbuzz’s readers already realise this and is instead grappling with the dilemma of wanting to keep the event simple, while trying to convince their parents (and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends and nosey, menopausal makciks) that the best wedding is one that doesn’t burn a hole in the pocket.
However, I would exhort those reading this to proceed with caution: there is absolutely no point in wanting to have a Muslim-inspired wedding, then arguing and getting angry with your parents so that you can have said wedding. It’s easier said than done, this balancing act you’ll have to pull to follow the sunnah of the Prophet while keeping your composure, but then nothing worth having in life ever comes easy. It would help to do plenty of dzikr and doa and remember that it is as harrowing an experience for them as it is for you.
Perhaps I can share my own wedding preparation story, though I shamelessly admit I am guilty of not following my own advice. I told my parents early on that I wanted a “simple nikah at the mosque”. That was my first mistake, offering my own opinion, instead of being humble and asking them for theirs. My parents agreed and so I pushed further. I told them I wanted to invite X number of people. That was my second mistake. My third was telling my fiancée to tell her parents the same.[pullquote_left]I hope others will learn from the many mistakes I made en route to my wedding, and steer clear of them. That they will not become Taliban-like when planning their own wedding.[/pullquote_left]
My parents ceded control of the wedding details to us. Because of the restrictions I placed on the number of invitees, my father, who knows just about everybody, had decided that it would be best not to invite any of his friends, so that nobody would feel left out. When I asked him if he was okay with how the wedding was being prepared (in an effort to save my twisted soul), he said, “Don’t worry. I may lose one or two friends, but I’m gaining a daughter.” His words were poignant, given how he’s always wanted a girl to complete his brood of two sons, and each time I recall them I try hard not to tear.
Although it may sound like I carried the preparations of the wedding on my own shoulders, in truth, I could never have achieved it without the help of the other members of my family and future in-laws. My mother was perhaps my biggest supporter, reminding me to have faith, giving me instructions when I appeared lost, and contributing from her savings when I was short of cash.
I am revealing all this because I hope others will learn from the many mistakes I made en route to my wedding, and steer clear of them. That they will not become Taliban-like when planning their own wedding. Ask for advice, be humble and above all, respect and obey your parents.
Islam is NOT Anti-Culture
I think it’s also important to add that one should not take the stress one feels at having to shell out all the money that’s needed for the wedding, and translate that into an all-out attack on culture. I’ve witnessed it before, well-intentioned Muslims causing bad blood by wanting to ‘cleanse’ their wedding of all elements of culture, citing that such elements are not part of Islam. They are misinformed. As mentioned by Brother Abdul Halim Abdul Karim in his popular Islamic Worldview course, Islam is not anti-culture, but rather purifies culture from khurafat, or superstitious belief. Islam also brings with it a culture of its own, which is then adopted by other customs, the black songkok of the Malays, for instance.
In Singapore, a pertinent cultural issue when planning for a wedding is that of the hantaran. This is typically a cash gift that is given to the bride’s family as a means of covering the wedding expenses, which would normally come to a few thousand dollars. Although I used to be very much against the idea of hantaran, I now realise that with the proper intention, it can be a useful tool in building stronger ties between the two families of those getting married (and yes, if you must ask I did give it for my own nikah).
In fact, I feel that the wedding itself is a celebration of one’s culture, in a world where such unique identities are often drowned out by the vast monoculture that globalisation brings. Although we know and affirm that the nikah itself is the most critical part of the entire ceremony, let’s not neglect the other aspects of the wedding. Enjoy and immerse yourself in the beauty of your majlis.
I will end by saying this: although wedding preparations are generally a major headache, the ability to marry and to embark on a lifetime journey with your special someone as exhorted by Islam is itself a nikmah from Allah swt. Let us never forget who we are truly marrying for.
Shahnawaz Abdul Hamid
The writer blogs about football, politics and religion at www.hayatshah.com. He is currently writing a book about his experiences meeting Muslims in Cambodia and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.