When it comes to weddings, there is clearly no shortage of stories of how one could, or should live out their big day.

While I heard a number of anecdotes of how some people pressured their parents into taking on debt to help them achieve their dream wedding, I also heard from others who decided to keep things small to save money for things like travel or home ownership.

Some, however, are envisioning a different way to do things altogether.

Vishal Gill, a local financial planner with Portfolio Planning, said he and his wife Raman didn’t know what to expect when preparing for their wedding during the COVID pandemic. 

He said they realized they shared a different vision when they sat down to discuss what they truly wanted while planning for the big day.

“It was funny, because we just kind of assumed the other one wanted the big wedding because it just kind of came up in conversations,” he said.

“I would say something about a big wedding, just assuming that Raman wanted a big wedding and she would talk to me about stuff about a big wedding thinking I wanted it as well.”

But he said that the pandemic forced them to rethink their entire plan, opening up a conversation where they both realized that wasn’t even what they wanted.

“I think she turned to me and was like, ‘what do you actually want for the wedding? Like, do you want a big wedding? Or do you want a small wedding? And what's your ideal situation?’” he said.

“Honestly, I thought it was a trap,” he laughed.

After discussing their wishes, the pair decided they wanted to elope, because more than the wedding, they just wanted to be married.

Although it took a little bit of time convincing their parents, they ended up having an intimate ceremony at home with just their immediate families.

“We had just our parents, and the officiant came in and married us and we were done in like 20 minutes,” he said.

“We just did like our vows and stuff and then we went to a park and just told whoever wanted to, to come through and take pictures with us for two hours.”

The couple then went on a week-long honeymoon in Whistler with their dog right after their small elopement.

Vishal estimated that they ended up saving close to $80K by not having a traditional Indian wedding.

He said that he doesn't regret his decision at all, because often the politics of South Asian families take the focus away from the couple during the wedding. 

“I just think it's so much drama that comes in, we kind of had that conversation of all the drama that has come from my siblings’ weddings and our cousin's weddings,” he said.

“You already know, there's always something. There's somebody in the back whose upset about this or this or some uncles that aren't happy about how many bottles there are -- there's always something that offends somebody.”

Family pressure is a huge thing in the South Asian community, and some couples I spoke to echoed this sentiment, and shared that they felt compelled to have a bigger wedding because they are the “only child, only daughter, oldest son, youngest son …” etc. etc. till the cows come home.

But the cost of putting your parents, grandparents, masi, chachi and pateeja’s wishes before your own, is it can foster resentment when the wedding didn’t live up to your expectations, or you look back years later and realize you didn’t enjoy a second of it.

Vishal said this is also what he heard from his close family members when he asked them what he should do about the wedding.

“The people I asked said, ‘we regret doing our wedding, we hated the wedding and there was so much drama that happened with the wedding,’” he said.

“One thing I've heard a lot is that ‘we don't even remember our wedding, it all happened so quickly, people were late and were getting mad at each other, so it just ends up being a blur.’ So the writing's on the wall, the information is there for you [but] sometimes we just don't want to hear it. Because again, we don't want to disappoint a partner and stuff like that.”

Vishal also shared some financial insight, including the fact that sometimes, “we need to protect our parents from themselves.”

“For our community especially, we need to protect our parents from themselves. Because they love us so much and they want to do so much for us, but it's like a toxic relationship because they just want to give, give, give, and we just take, take, take, because it's easier,” he said.

“It ends up being a toxic relationship where a lot of kids take advantage of the parents, not maliciously, but because they're too scared to voice their opinions.”

He said that the financial implications for our parents’ generation is that many boomers are outliving their money, and those that are leaning on their parents for financial support for their weddings, may cause them problems in the long run.

“When they were working, their life expectancy was like 70. But now it's like 90, sometimes, 100. They're living way longer than they thought they were gonna live and they were prepared to live,” he said. 

“So you got to think about if you're taking 60-70k from your parents, you're actually taking probably 7-8 years of their retirement away from them.”

Vishal said that he and his wife opted to use the money they saved to buy a property instead, and that they are extremely happy that they were able to do things the way they wanted to.

Everyone’s situation is different, but if you are wondering how to convince your parents to let you have a smaller wedding or elope like Vishal, he said it did take some convincing, but their families eventually came around.

He said at first, his father-in-law was a bit upset given that his wife was the first one in her family to get married, but he quickly came around.

“He's like the most important thing is you guys found each other. You guys are great together. And I just want you guys to be happy,” said Vishal.

“He said, ‘as much as I care about the wedding, I care more about grandkids, So the faster you guys get married the better.’”

Oh, you thought the pressure would stop after the wedding? 

Nice try.

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.

More by Rumneek Johal
5X Press is a forum for opinions, conversations, & experiences, powered by South Asian youth. The views expressed here are not representative of those of 5X Festival.