Big white weddings don’t mean happily ever after

Big+white+weddings+dont+mean+happily+ever+after

Ipsa Chaudhary


Art by Yasmeen El-Jayyousi

It was a day just like any other. I woke up at the obscene time of 5:45 a.m., before even the usual peck of birds were twittering outside my window, struggled through a mind-numbing day of school and then finally went home and plopped down on the couch, trying to muddle through the prospect of homework that lied in wait for me. Not long after, my parents got home.
By this time, I’ve usually shut myself up in my room so as to avoid the lecture on homework and grades from my parents, but that particular day, I was lethargic enough that I couldn’t even bother moving my limbs. So I braced myself for the lecture as I loafed on the couch.
Surprisingly, the topic of conversation shifted from my hapless grades to marriage. How we got on that subject, I have no idea. Regardless, I didn’t mind the change of topic – at least not at first.
The subjects of the conversation changed from me to young single women, mainly Indian ones, as my mom and dad listed off names of women in their 20s who were in relationships but had yet to tie the knot. At first they just gossiped about which Indian youngsters were getting married soon, but their amiable tones soon changed to ones of sympathy as they started listing off unmarried women in their late 20s. My dad clucked disapprovingly at the prospect of a woman being single in her late 20s. He shook his head as he said something to the effect of how a woman single at that age would probably never get married and how it was a pity.
My initial reaction was to nod along with my dad. But as I listened to him, I found myself rising up on the couch, inflating with the confusion that welled up inside of me.
“What if I don’t get married?” I said. He said something about me being silly and that I would get married. But there it was. How did he know that I would get married, and why did I have to?
Up until that point, I was an avid believer in the big white wedding and happily ever after. I had always associated one with the other. But when I actually took time to think about it, I realized happily ever after could happen without the big white wedding. I’d just been raised to think that wasn’t the case. And I’m not talking about my parents’ influence on me.
I’m talking about societal expectations in America.
Most little girls grow up watching Disney movies. They see the princess fall in love and find her happily ever after. From “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” (1937) to “Tangled” (2010), Disney movies still exemplify the idea that the damsel in distress needs a dashing prince to come save her so she can have her happy ending. Snow White was a gullible fool who got poisoned and had to have a prince come rescue her. Rapunzel from “Tangled,” although more modern and more bright than Snow White, still needed Flynn Rider to help her escape the tower at the beginning and to rescue her from Mother Gothel in the end. And even the one Disney movie, “The Princess and the Frog,” which tried to portray the leading female character, Tiana, as hardworking and career oriented, had her willing to give up her lifelong dream for her happily ever after. But of course, being a Disney movie, Tiana married her prince and achieved her dreams.
And as I embarked on the journey of my teenage years watching these movies, the desire to ripen into adulthood, get married and live happily ever after became ingrained into my very being. I wanted to fall in love and have a beautiful white wedding and live happily ever after to the end of my days in our castle-esque looking house.
Since I was little I’ve had dreams of getting married. It starts with me meeting the guy of my dreams. Then suddenly I’m a vision in white lace and pearls walking down a perfectly lit aisle. I hear murmurs and slight intakes of breath as I pass the mahogany pews and make my way towards the grandiose altar. And soon I’m exchanging wedding bands with my very-soon-to-be husband. Seal it with a kiss and we’re married, and I’m on my way to my happily ever after.
As I’ve grown, Disney movies and romance novels have sprinkled my dreams with various versions of the same scenes of me falling in love and getting married. But since that conversation with my parents, I’ve realized that there’s something missing in that picturesque big white wedding. Even though I still really want to fall in love, get married and have a beautiful wedding, now that I think about it, that is a ridiculous notion for many reasons.
First off, I’m Hindu. I’m not even Christian, so I wouldn’t even have a “white wedding.” But I wanted it anyways. Secondly, where is it mandated that women get married in order to achieve happiness? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to fall in love, get married and live a happy life. The problem lies in the idea that marriage is essential to happiness.  While a committed relationship may add to your contentedness, finding what makes you happy in life is just as important, whether it’s in a career or a hobby.
Sometimes I find myself fantasizing about marriage as if that will be what makes me happy in the end. But that’s not true. Marriage is just one small piece in the puzzle of our lives. So instead of focusing on that, if I just focus on what I love to do and my future career, chances are I will end up living happily ever after.
By Ipsa Chaudhary
This opinion piece is labeled as such on the desktop version.