Daily The Business

The big business of weddings in Pakistan

Now, we all enjoy Pakistani weddings.

The pulsating music, the much-garlanded patios and the larger-than-life grandeur of it all keeps us coming back for more.

But let’s face it. Nuptials in Pakistan are expensive. Very expensive. And with each year these weddings are getting bigger and splashier in a bid to outdo each other. A typical Pakistani wedding has at least three events and a minimum of 200 guests.

“Over a decade ago, a ceremony would cost between Rs200,000 to Rs300,000,” Annam Lodhi, a journalist who recently got married, told Geo.tv, “But now it costs between Rs500,000 to Rs10,00,000 per event.” Of course, this amount is just a fraction of what high-end events cost. When you are getting married, and if the word gets out, prices of things get jacked up, she adds. “Even someone like a henna artist, who would normally charge Rs1,000, would demand Rs10,000 from a bride.”

Pakistan’s wedding industry is booming and as a result birthing a whole new industry.

For a wedding, a couple needs a make-up artist, who can charge up to Rs160,000 per day, an event manager, a caterer, a DJ and a marquee, to name a few.

In the quest to plate up the most unique wedding of the year, event managers are driving up their charges offering couples the most outrageous ideas, such as entering on exotic animals. And everything has a large price tag.

One way Pakistani families are trying to ease up expenses is by opting for a shendi, which combines the mehndi with the wedding. Another is the trend of destination weddings that reduces the number of guests one has to host.

Khalid Rafiq, the father of a newlywed bride, laments paying over a million to a local designer to stitch up his daughter’s wedding outfit. A special wedding day dress for the bride alone be upward to Rs800,000, or more.

But the event managers and caterers refuse to take the blame. What they offer, they insist, is what is in demand. “People want extravagant weddings,” explains Junaid Zia, the owner of Qasr-e-Noor Banquet Halls, “That is just what the social mindset is, to spend as much as you can on your son or daughter’s wedding for all to see.” Come inflation or added taxation, adds Zia, business is always good.

His company offers three packages. The most basic one is for Rs2-3 crores, including the hall, décor and food. This can go up easily to Rs30-35 crores. “Families do not want to compromise on food. The bigger the buffet the better.” Even in a city like Lahore, where there is a one-dish rule.

Usman Tariq of Emaan Foods says his packages are cheaper, ranging from Rs10,000 to Rs200,000. If a family wants to keep it even simpler they can just pay for a large daeg (pot) of food.

The over-the-top wedding extravaganza in neighbouring India by the billionaire Ambani family, and the way Bollywood and Lollywood glamorise the royalty of nuptials is further firing up the competition.

But there is always a way out. An exit door, if you must.

In December, Rizwan, a photographer, organized his wedding as simply as he could. He invited 25 close guests. Had home cooked meals and talked the night away with family and friends under fairy lights. The post about his low budget ceremony went viral.

Can you believe it, the weddings only cost him Rs20,000. Where there is a will…

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