One of the most important things to come out of the conversations around massive, lavish weddings is the consequences of focusing more on that than on your marriage.

The rush to keep up with our culture’s “timelines” and expectations, including going to school, getting married and having babies before the age of 30 like our immigrant parents, is taking a toll on individuals in our community. 

Couples are often skipping out on important conversations around their beliefs, their values, their lifestyle compatibility, their families, their goals and expectations before jumping right into wedding planning, because that’s what everyone else is doing.

Being married is just a box on a checklist, and having a big wedding with tons of random people is a part of the process. But rushing into a marriage for the wedding has deeper implications than just the financial impact.

The stakes are heightened once wedding planning commences, and trying to exit a situation where families are enmeshed, and deposits have been paid, makes things far more difficult.

Not to mention the fact that many couples are discussing what they want their weddings to look like before even discussing what they want their marriage to look like.

Therapist and coach Kristina Hayer says that she sees the number of problems that marriage and wedding pressures place on individuals in the South Asian community.

Hayer works closely with the community and has many clients aging from 25-30 who are either planning to or have recently gotten married.

“The amount of stress and problems that it contributes to in the relationship as a whole is a lot,” she said. 

“I have lots of people for couple’s counselling and so much [stems] from their wedding planning.”

She added that societal and cultural pressures to book weddings so far in advance create many problems for couples.

“I see a lot of people rushing it for one thing, but I've [also] noticed so many people, once they book their wedding, that's when they really start to get to know each other,” she said.

“So many people don't even focus as much on what the marriage is actually going to look like. It's just so sad. I've seen literally six people in the past six months or so that have gotten divorced, and they're just so young.”

She said that the emphasis on marriage and large weddings overshadows very real conversations that couples should be having about their values, beliefs, and wishes.

“Couples aren't even prepared to handle more simplistic arguments, let alone something that holds so much of a financial burden,” Hayer added.

Because culturally the concept of dating multiple people or simply dating is foreign to our parents, couples only introduce their partners to their family when they are “ready” to tie the knot.

The problem with this is that the expectations of parents, families, and friends, adds another dimension that makes it difficult to leave if things don’t work out.

“Once people get that idea of like, ‘this is the person I'm gonna marry,’ and name that out loud to their family and friends, it becomes like a toxic bind,” said Hayer.

“It's like, there's no backing out of it. They're not even willing to pay attention to red flags that are coming on, because [of the wedding].”

She adds that in the South Asian community, getting married is often seen as part of a checklist to being an “adult,” or something that gains approval from your family.

“It's like a status symbol, almost. I find that the couples are more attached to that than each other, or really what it's gonna look like spending the rest of your life together,” she said.

“They don't even look beyond the wedding day. Those are the things you need to consider for the rest of your life. [Instead] it's like they're pulling teeth just to make this thing happen.”

The cost of centring partnerships in our lives is often not knowing ourselves, our wishes, our hopes and desires as individual beings.

Instead, many are conditioned to showcase the outward appearance of being fulfilled--to seek external validation.

Coach and social worker Sandeep Gill says this focus on the external means that many people never take the time to understand their inner selves or to discuss this with their partners.

“In our parents' generation, the fixation was on survival. The fixation almost had to be on money because they wanted to give us a better life,” said Gill.

“But with that, we never had an emotional connection. We don't have an emphasis put on our values, on investing in our personal well being, because we didn't see that as something that was important.”

When we don’t see examples of healthy relationships, or what love and affection look like in practice, we tend to settle for less than ideal circumstances. Or, we do certain things because we think we “should,” with the belief that it will make us happier.

“Maybe if I find a partner, I’ll be happier.”

“Maybe if we get married, I’ll be happier.”

“Maybe if I have a big wedding, I’ll be happier.”

“Maybe if we have a baby, I’ll be happier.”

Do we become happier? Or in doing so, are we just giving our power away, and contributing to the vicious cycle?

“We're receiving all of this information from outside sources. Our concept is basically for women to be like, ‘a man's gonna save me,’” she said. 

“‘When I get married, then everything's just gonna feel a lot better.’ And whether it's on the unconscious level or not, [getting married] is still considered a feat.”

Then, many people have big weddings or even get married just to satisfy their parents.

Gill sees this with many of her clients, who she says often let the wishes of others outweigh their own desires.

“Why do we do it? Because that's virtuous. It's like, ‘that's gonna make me a good wife, a good daughter, obedient -- all of these things. And we all on some level carry these conditional virtues about ourselves because we want to be liked,” she said.

“When we look around our friends circle, and everybody else is sort of doing that. So now we become conditioned to believe that that's the norm.”

I think about how many people in recent weeks have messaged me -- about how much they hate their wedding planning, how deeply unhappy they are with the process, or how they regret spending so much money. 

Many of these people never seem to stop to ask themselves “why,” or acknowledge that they do have a choice in the matter.

“When we start to break down and unravel these parts of our identities, we realize how many masks we are wearing,” said Gill.

“My question is always for who? And it's easier to disconnect from yourself, that's why so many women are disconnected and running on autopilot. Because it's actually easier than to have emotional courage.”

If you don’t have the “emotional courage,” as Gill calls it, to put your foot down for what kind of life you want, the wedding you want, the things you want out of your relationship, whether or not you want to live with your in-laws, you’re constantly going to seeking validation from outside of you to fill that space.

“Whatever you're resisting within yourself is going to continue to persist in areas of your life. It's not going to go away, [and] the wedding is just one example,” she added.

At first, you're trying to impress your parents and make them proud, so you do whatever they ask of you. 

Your parents tell you, “you can do what you want when you’re married.” But then you get married and are trying to not only keep your husband happy, but also meet the expectations and demands of your in-laws.

If you don't learn to build up your own inner voice, you will run into problems in your relationships to others and to yourself.

What are your relationship deal breakers? What things align with who you are and who you want to be? What causes are important to you? What do you want out of your career, life and relationship? This should be discussed before wedding party planning.

“If you don't know yourself, your capacity to now connect with your person, your partner is going to be on that level,” said Gill.

“We also have men who have their own deep struggles and that's a whole other thing. So now you have two people coming together on some level of maybe a disconnection, lack of communication, lack of maybe even seeing healthy relationships.”

Yet couples operating from this level of disconnection or dysfunction, are still investing thousands of dollars into their weddings, instead of investing their time and attention on their partnerships. 

No one throws a lavish party for you when when you leave a relationship you’re not satisfied in. Yet, if you stay in that relationship and get married, you can have confetti and twinkling lights and a guest list of hundreds of people who won’t stick around for the come down from the wedding high.

This is why Gill says it's important for us to take a break from the facades we put on on social media, and instead ask ourselves what matters most to us.

“Most people will run their whole lives without taking a moment to reflect on what our values are. And the thing is, your values are your compass. Your internal compass,” said Gill.

“You can be the cycle breaker. You can break these patterns.”

So if we are all talking about how tired we are of trying to impress one another, what’s it going to be?

The lights will dim and the likes on social media will stop flooding, but abandoning what you want to satisfy your partner, your family, or your ego, will cost you so much more than the wedding.

About the author

Rumneek Johal

Rumneek is a journalist, host and speaker. She is currently the BC Reporter at Press Progress where she focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism. Her previous work centers on asking tough questions within her community, starting conversation and chipping away at the status quo. Other focus areas for her work include the South Asian community, arts and culture, pop culture, and more. She is a proud Punjabi woman from Surrey, BC.

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