KOCHI: It took us a pandemic and lockdown to realise that weddings can be small, even zero waste. Big-fat Kerala weddings used to be major pollutants, with the food wasted, light, sound and electricity consumed and the used cups and plates that end up on roadsides. In the middle of all this, is a bride wearing a heavy load of gold ornaments.
Probably, a tradition that is rooted deep in the dowry system — one that affiliates a woman’s worth and honour to the amount of gold she brings — it is still going strong. Even while families struggle to make ends meet, they save up for their daughter’s wedding gold purchase. But times have changed. Women own million-dollar companies now. Fashion is growing sustainable and simple. And it is probably time that the bride became more important than her gold at a wedding. It has turned out, that the pandemic-triggered simple weddings have made some couples and, in rare cases, their families, to think out of the jewellery box.
One such no-gold wedding that garnered plenty of public attention was that of actor Mridula Murali. Ammu Varghese, a Kochi-based celebrity stylist who designed her wedding look firmly believes that it must be up to the bride how she wants to look on her big day.
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“Mridula was clear about having a no-gold wedding from the very beginning. She was sure and confident about it,” says Ammu. She speaks further on the misconception people have that, if a bride wears less gold, it is because her family cannot afford it.
“Soon after Mridula’s wedding, my social media handles were flooded with messages of women asking for suggestions to create a similar look. The idea is not to give up gold completely, but rather, to use it well within the budget to look presentable and graceful. It shouldn’t be an indication of wealth to the point where it makes the bride uncomfortable. Our generation can really make a change by adopting such concepts,” says Ammu.
Nuziha Ajmal, a social media influencer, seconds this opinion. She thinks the system is unfair to families and brides who are made to think less of themselves because they cannot afford to buy so much gold. “I never fancied gold ornaments my entire life. But when my wedding date was fixed, I saw how gold became a topic of discussion among my relatives and friends.
Though my father whole-heartedly accepted my decision to not wear any, it was hard to convince my grandparents and relatives. They even told my parents my in-laws would end up mistreating me,” quips Nuziha. But her in-laws and husband were more than supportive of her choice. “I have shared this idea with many people. You may wear gold if you love it, but don’t let society corner you into doing it,” she adds.
It is the unwritten rules and stigma that makes it harder to eliminate gold. Stories of families going bankrupt due to weddings are quite common, unfortunately even in our cities. Nishanth Sundhar, a project engineer based in Kochi, can testify to this. “I belong to a middle-class family. My parents took a loan for my sister’s wedding, so we could afford gold for her. My father couldn’t pay it off on his own, so now it is up to me to do it. I am struggling to make ends meet,” he says.
Kavya Tara Kamal from Kollam tells TNIE, "I had opted for a very simple and non-religious wedding. My parents and in-laws were very supportive but my relatives stood against it. My husband was also in search of a life partner who had the idea of a simple marriage. I only wore one ornament and my aunt did my make-up."
Thiruvananthapuram-based social media consultant of The Reading Room Ashwini Jayakumar feels even if a bride plans a ‘no-gold’ wedding, many would try to change their mind. "That is when we need to stand up for ourselves and make our choice matter. Again, it is a matter of personal choice, wear jewellery if you love it. But don’t attach its worth to your value and your family’s honour," says Jayakumar.