Shahriar (single name used) tied the knot with Maleeha, a corporate affairs officer of a multinational company, at a convention centre in Dhaka in the first week of December last year. The event was originally scheduled for April of the same year, but because of the Covid-19 pandemic, they had to reschedule it. Additionally, they had to cut their guest list to 250 from 800 people for the obvious reason – social distancing.
This is one of hundreds of weddings affected by the pandemic in the city. Culturally in this part of the world, weddings are weeklong extravagant events that are expensive for any echelon of society. They also include home visits, engagements, wedding receptions, post-wedding receptions and some family programmes.
“Nowadays even a low budget wedding programme costs Tk 300,000-Tk 500,000 ($3,500 to $5,900 approximately),” said Arif Rahman, manager of Maloncho Community Centre.
The pandemic has compelled people to accept what was once considered unthinkable – a simple wedding. After the outbreak started in March last year, most of the wedding ceremonies were first postponed. They have of late resumed but in a low-key way. According to a survey conducted by Brides American Wedding Study in 2020, 23 per cent of people postponed their weddings to spend more, and 47 per cent of people planned to downsize their guest list.
The marriage registers, known as ‘Kazi’, are not happy about the number of people opting for marriage. “I have never seen such limited number of marriages in my life since the liberation war. “I used to register multiple marriages a day, now I do hardly one or two a day”, said Abdul Hakim from Dholpur Kazi Office in Dhaka’s Jatrabari Zone.
"Being in lockdown for several months, weddings have started again in a new normal phase", Md Matiur Rahman Bhuiyan, a teacher at Dinajpur Government Women's College, told The FE Outreach Team. "I appreciate the idea of simple weddings. It is very cost-effective and good for new couples. They can save a portion of money from the extravagant events for their future,” he added.
People affiliated with wedding management-related services – including dressmakers, flower providers, rental car providers, caterers, makeover salons, beauty parlors, photographers, and bands – have fallen on hard times.
Convention halls and community centres remained closed till September. "The year 2020 was different for all of us. From what we observed in the first months of the pandemic, we couldn’t even imagine of better days ahead. But wedding events have resumed, on a small scale though. Most of the events are now taking place with minimal decorations,” said Towkir Ahmed, CEO and chief cinematographer of Frame, a photography agency.
Fairuz Karim, co-founder of event management platform Selvice, said, “In this pandemic, we launched Selvice Wedding, a zoom wedding platform for brides and grooms with the attendance of Kazis. Initially, it got a good response. But now as weddings are mostly taking place at community centres, people don’t feel the necessity of it much.”
“Grooms and brides are getting themselves prepared to tie the knot with proper safety measures,” said Anisul Islam, who has recently attended a wedding event.
According to a registry and planning company, people are nowadays scheduling their wedding ceremonies on weekdays and receptions on weekends.
Md. Zubayer Wasit is a student of economics at Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP). He can be reached at [email protected]