It’s a tide that won’t stop turning. Awareness, education, the empowerment of women – each, a little drop in the ocean – creates a ripple effect that brings the concepts of equal rights and gender equality to the fore, into the reality of life.
It’s an uphill struggle – imparting the truths of feminism, busting the negative myths that surround the idea – and any woman standing up to chauvinism, even if only symbolically, is inspiring.
Like bride Avanee Kapoor, who decided on a wedding of equals and then proceeded to communicate a massive message with the utmost grace and subtlety.
At the weddings of her friends and family members, surrounded by the love and celebrations, Avanee realized that there were so many customs and rituals that seemed out of place with her own ethos. She says, “I began paying attention, at weddings, to the thoughts behind certain rituals and found these outdated at best, objectionable at worst.” The aspect that hit her most was the inherent bias in the rituals, “So many rituals are unabashedly sexist and quite biased. Once I realized that, I knew this would not be something that would be part of my own wedding.”
Preparing to be challenged, she began to examine the context with several rituals when it was her time to be wed. She says, “I’m not someone against traditions, in fact, for the most part, I enjoy them. Only the practices that are discriminatory bother me.”
To begin with, though, the plucky bride had to convince her fiancé. She grins, “When I first told Ishan about my plans, he didn’t quite understand. He saw the rituals as something that was purely a formality. But I explained that I didn’t want ideas I’m fundamentally against to be part of a day that has so much significance for me.” As her groom warmed up to his bride’s ideas, his family had to be brought on board too. She says, “Naturally they were a little hesitant. He’s the first child in the family in a whole generation to get married and his dad explained to me that the family would expect certain things. I totally understood his perspective and we decided to forge a middle path. Celebrate, have something ceremonial but avoid anything that propagates gender discrimination.”
She and Ishan looked to see if they could tweak some rituals to make them more equal or just do away with those that had no room for evolution.
Avanee says, “Milni is a ceremony that takes place once the baraat arrives. Here the men from the bride’s family welcome the men from the groom’s family. At my wedding, I made sure that women from both sides were involved in this too.”
Then there were the rituals that just had to be ditched, she says, “I’m not a fan of mehndi, so I decided to swap that function for an informal lunch party. There was no chuda ceremony, sindoor, mangalsutra or pheras. There was no need for me to wear additional sign and symbols of marriage when the same was not expected of my husband. Also, the significance of most of these ceremonies have their roots in patriarchy.”
Avanee was delighted with the response from the families. Ishan’s parents both became her unequivocal supporters and her father-in-law brought his own ideas to the table! She smiles as she says, “The cost of the wedding was split equally between both families. His father at one point insisted that they took care of a larger chunk of the expenses because they had invited 100 guests more than we did! It took some convincing by my father before he agreed on dividing the cost in half.”
And she is still reeling with gratitude at the support she received even as she jokingly mentions that her sister is more of a rebel than she is and since everything Avanee did was an understatement in front of her sister’s actions, she had her family on her side right from the start.
With ideas from her father-in-law included, the novel, future-forward wedding meant there would also be no exchange of gifts in cash or kind, “Ishan and I were looking forward to the cash that we would have got from our guests. But his father was strictly against it, much to our disappointment,” she laughs.
The support she received from the older generation had Avanee not just moved emotionally, but empowered, “We didn’t have pheras but had a pooja for peace and harmony. There were no hitches at our wedding and it was well accepted by everyone. In fact, when Ishan and I were doing the pooja, someone in the back asked when the pheras were going to happen to which his grandmother quickly stood up in our support.”
Avanee concludes by saying, “We are all Khatri Punjabis so you can imagine the odds against us wanting this kind of a wedding. And this was made possible only because of the endless effort, love and confidence of both families and my partner who himself did not have the same set of beliefs as me but trusted my sometimes whimsical sometimes logical decisions till the very end.”
Relate Avanee’s unconventional wedding? Let us know which ritual did you unfollow at your wedding at email@example.com.