Does it really make sense to spend so much on a wedding that you feel bankrupt the day after?
It's official. The Big Fat Indian Wedding is out of control.
I should know. Whenever the wedding season rolls around I end up getting inundated with invites to attend the nuptials of people whom I have never heard of, let alone met. And my! What invitations they are!
They come in elaborately carved wooden boxes, they feature paintings by celebrated artists, and are accompanied by such goodies as hand-made gourmet chocolates, silver mementos, or even little figurines of gods and goddesses. And the only thing I can think of (as I puzzle over who these people may be) is: if the card is so pricey, how expensive will the wedding be?
And the answer to that question is: very.
For starters, it will be held in some scenic location or the other. If the budget is tight (I speak relatively, of course) then it will an exclusive beach resort in Thailand or an opulent palace in India. If money is no object then the map will expand to include Florence, Venice, Vienna, or any other historic European city. Each event will be held at a different venue, and the venue of each event will have a different decor.
The wedding party will be flown down in chartered planes, the most expensive suites in the best hotels will be booked, chefs will be hired from all over the world to cater to the myriad tastes of the guests, champagne and first-growth wines will be on tap, and there will be hairdressers, make-up artists and manicurists galore so that everyone can look their absolute best.
And that's before we even start on the expense of outfitting the bride and groom for the many, many functions they will attend before and after they get hitched. There will be couture lenghas for the bride with matching jewelry and accessories for each outfit. There will be made-to-measure suits and custom-made shoes for the groom. And there will be designer watches for both.
Then, there's the small matter of the trousseau -- or dowry, or whatever you want to call it -- which the bride will be expected to bring with her. Furniture for the house, diamonds for the mother-in-law, designer bags for the sisters-in-law, a luxury car for the husband. And so on, and so extravagant.
And if the wedding is so over-the-top, then the honeymoon must also be suitably stratospheric. A week's skiing in Switzerland or a road trip through French wine country will simply not do. No, this has to be the break of a lifetime, involving private planes, Michelin-star meals, and something truly spectacular, like being given a tour of the Louvre after hours.
As I declined an invitation to one such affair last week, I started to wonder how much this Big Fat Indian Wedding would actually cost. I must confess that I began to feel a bit faint when I totted up the sums, and had to go for a little lie-down. This much money on a wedding? Am sure the Instagram posts and Facebook videos will be awesome. And the neighbors will be totally jealous. But really! Is all that expense really worth it?
Well, I guess it all depends on much spare cash you -- or more accurately, your parents -- have lying around underneath those cushions. But just to put things in perspective, here's a small sample of what you could do with the money instead of spending it on a week-long jamboree.
* Buy a nice apartment so that you can start married life in a home of your own. There will be no interfering in-laws, no pesky house rules to follow, and no mortgage to pay off. And you know what they say about real estate; it always appreciates.
* Already have a lovely home in the best part of Delhi or Mumbai, thanks to Daddy and Mummy? Well then, splash out on buying a holiday home by the sea or in the mountains. How does a chalet in Verbier or a villa in Tuscany sound? Not only could you vacation there for the rest of your life, it could even double up as a venue for the party you throw for your first anniversary.
* Put the money away in a safe investment and use the annual interest to fund a luxury holiday (or three) every year. It should be enough to pay for a cruise around the Mediterranean in a private yacht. Or hiring your own private island in the Caribbean during the winter. Or both.
Just one more thing: Don't touch the principal. That's your nest egg just in case your kids are foolish enough to want a Big Fat Indian Wedding of their own. You don't want to be caught short when -- and if -- that happens.