The Not-So-Simple Malayali Weddings

Back in the early ‘90s, my sister wore a pair of jeans to a wedding. Just a simple pair of black jeans and a flowery top. She was considered to be one of the most stylish girls at that wedding. And yet, somehow my younger cousins of this generation would shudder at the thought of wearing something as inconsequential as jeans to a wedding. These days, weddings are the place where you get to showcase the biggest, boldest, and most creative fashion statements; be it with custom-made, heavily embellished outfits or intricate designer sarees and blouses that cost more than two-wheelers. Weddings are not quite what they used to be.

For instance, nowadays the minute a wedding gets announced, the bride-to-be along with her posse rushes into the beauty parlours for back to back sessions of scrubbing, rubbing, peeling, waxing, plucking, whitening, straightening, polishing, colouring and so much more. They even have special gold, diamond, and platinum packages of pre-bridal treatments to help the bride achieve that radiant albeit expensive glow before the big day.

When my mom’s marriage was fixed, my grandmother handed her a bowl of turmeric and curd which she diligently applied on her face every single day. That was my mom’s special pre-bridal treatment. And on her wedding day, my mom did her own makeup like a total badass. But again, that was the norm back then. There were no celebrity make-up artists called in just for the day. When my sisters and I attended weddings as kids, the most we did was slap on some talcum powder and put on some kanmashi. And some bright pink lipstick which would be shared among all the cousins. Then we’d get dressed in clothes which were usually the ones we wore on our birthdays that year or the one some relative brought us from the Gulf. At the wedding, we’d get sprinkled with rose water on arrival (which would just get rid of half the talcum powder) and later eat a sadhya which usually ended with just one payasam and not 17 different varieties. Or if you were at a wedding reception, the most you’d get is tea and cutlet. No elaborate buffets or smoke-filled dosa counters or chocolate fountains that everyone just randomly stick their hands into (gross!).

Back then the whole thing would be done within just a couple of hours and not drawn over 4 or 5 days of countless ceremonies heavily borrowed from our North Indian counterparts. Which includes purchasing separate outfits to wear to the engagement, the sangeet, the haldi, the tilak, the pre-wedding ceremony, the wedding morning ceremony, the actual wedding in the temple, the mock wedding on stage, the reception, and God-knows-what-else ceremonies. Weddings are apparently expensive even for the guests.

Remember the time when there were no emcees introducing the bride and groom and their families and the families’ families? No bands (other than the nadaswaram) playing music louder than a nightclub making any conversation literally impossible. The good old times when we got to see the actual ceremony on stage and not the backs of a hundred photographers. And there were no freakin’ drones flying at your head all the time!

Since Instagram and Facebook feeds have replaced regular photo albums, wedding photographs have become less about capturing the memory and more about creative expression. Remember that viral video of the Malayali couple that created “ambience” inside a giant pit filled with water while sitting in a copper vessel drenched with artificial rain? With couples pushing photographers to push creative boundaries, wedding photography has turned into a thriving industry in itself.

But I can’t even begin to tell you how much I adore the old style of wedding photography and videography. Unlike today’s artistically created, high definition and high priced wedding videos that ends up being just fodder for Facebook likes, I consider wedding videos from way back to be truly special. It almost always began with a stock shot of a sunrise, then birds flying over some random field and ended with shots of the bride and groom running around trees or awkwardly putting their arms around themselves, embarrassment plastered all over their faces. The amount of cringe in those videos is literally what I live for.

The kind of cringe that I could do without though is the billion dance numbers that are so popular at weddings now. Call me a party pooper, but do I really have to sit through a bunch of badly choreographed dances – first by the friends, then the cousins, then maybe a random aunty joins in and finally the most cringe-worthy of all, the bride and groom’s rehearsed “romantic” number. To any of my cousins reading this, of course, I’m not talking about your wedding! No, your dance numbers were awesome. All 15 of them!

Saying that weddings now are no longer a simple affair would be a gross understatement. While to some it might look like a mockery of the age-old practice, the great Malayali weddings of this era are all about exuberance-packed celebrations rather than a mere ceremony. The shy and timid bride, as well as the sombre sweaty groom, have been replaced with two overjoyed individuals excited to start their lives together, with loved ones who leave no stones unturned trying to make it the most memorable day of their lives. And in the end, isn’t that all that matters?


  1. Well said!!! While we Malayalis are thoroughly enjoying the diversion from our traditional weddings for a change,one can’t deny there is great beauty in simplicity!

  2. This whole article reminded me of that scene in the Malayalam movie, 1983. The one where the make-up lady apologises to Rameshan because she couldn’t utilise her skill fully.
    And earlier days it used to be such a simple affair and every one had fun. These days, marriages are a huge thing and blingy. But isn’t everything else too, over rated?

    • Hahaha.. such an awesime scene that was. “Make up koodthal aano cheta?”

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Madri 🙂

Tell us what you're thinking

Subscribe to our newsletter

We'll send you a monthly newsletter with our top articles of the month

Latest Posts