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Anyone would tell you, the word ‘traditional’ and I have never been in the same room. So when I got engaged a year and a half ago, I had envisaged a small beach wedding with 50 guests and a seafood buffet under a white tent on the sand. As I soon found out though, cutting down an Indian guest list to 50 is impossible and Durban’s beaches in summer would have washed up too many uninvited guests and waves of humidity. So we settled on a hall wedding with a turquoise, silver and white theme, to reflect the freshness of the ocean. And so the planning of the traditional wedding began…
Choosing the venue was the first step in making that epic journey down the aisle and naturally, we wanted a place that was equally romantic. This was my first encounter with the colossal price tag that draped itself around the event and made me question the fairytale that had imprinted itself in the minds of little girls all over the world who ever longed for a dream wedding. The Orient Hall in Greyville, Durban was our initial choice – with its elegant entrance and ample space. It would cost us no less than a whopping R10 000 to hire for the day, excluding the dining hall and Jama`at Khana (prayer area). The Coast of Dreams at the Exhibition Centre quoted us the same; however the waiting list extended into 2011, as if the wait wasn’t long enough already. For a front row view of the beach, a reception at the Elangeni Hotel would set us back at least R260 a head, excluding décor and we weren’t allowed outside catering. At this point, I was beginning to become increasingly comfortable with the idea of a tent in the garden, but decided to be proactive and investigate a little further. A morning on the phone, and I had come up with at least four venues which ranged from R2000 to R4000, including tables and chairs and the Jama`at Khana. The Crescent Hall in Parlock offered the most value for money, seating 600 people at R3000. We chose the stunning Soofie Bhaijaan Hall in Sherwood, with its airy ambiance and spectacular dome which lit up at night.
The dream dress was not as difficult to find as the hall - and surprisingly less expensive than we had anticipated. Of course, there are the Chantilly lace and silk dresses that will dent the wallet by between R 9 000 and R14 000 from Sposabella or you could import a dress from America through Pink Chilly Bridal, but nothing beats a huge bridal store and great service. After many trips to the change rooms and oohs and aahs, I found my ideal dress at Fabric World and Bridal Centre in Commercial Road. It was a simple boob tube dress, with work down the left side and embroidered sleeves which could be attached. At a basic cost of R3 500, I was able to add beading to the dress at a recommended dress maker to make it unique. Extras such as the tiara, veil and jewellery added to the cost, but in comparison to other dresses, it was worth it. Although the term ‘worth it’ in planning a dream wedding should be used loosely… or not at all.
Setting the stage for the event however, did cost more than we had hoped. With our grand ideas of bringing the beach theme into a hall, we soon realised that even the simplest décor would make the bank balance cringe in shame. While the initial ideas of a Perspex aisle and canvas stage would cost us in the region of R20 000, even the simplest décor presented itself with half that amount – which was still pricier than we had bargained for. We did find other décor companies that would have charged us R5 000, but for reputable artists like Azam Khan’s, who guarantee their best work and more importantly on your big day – peace of mind, we were comfortable to pay double that. On the momentous occasion, they outdid themselves, bringing a simple elegance to the hall which surpassed our expectations.
At any Indian wedding however, the one thing that people will always end up talking about is the menu. After much searching, we met Akram Bemath, a reputable caterer whose crockery is unrivalled. The figure, at R24 000, brought with it 3 courses, including fruit salad and ice cream – a perfect end to a balmy evening. Dealing with such a down-to-earth person who takes such a personal stake in his business was truly refreshing and guests are still talking about the delicious menu. Our wedding cake was heavenly – 3 tiers of vanilla sponge and cream had people buzzing. As a gift from Reddy’s Bakery in Broad Street, it really added so much more to our wedding. Reddy’s is renowned for making the best cakes in Durban!
Capturing the special moments of the event requires a gifted photographer, with an eye for detail – and one who’s going to possess God- given patience. After encountering a few unsuitable ones, we came across Camtech, who even suggested we have a creative photo shoot at the Hilton Hotel, which made the day even more unique. The minimum package costs around R5 500 and although this was more than we had bargained for, it’s important to have great pictures and a DVD to look back on and remember the day.
These aspects of an Indian wedding are the crux of the event itself, but there are numerous little things that guests don’t get to see that add to the cost of such a function. Gifts or ‘kunchas’ that are exchanged between families sometimes range from perfume to pure gold sets - and this doesn’t even include the rings or dowry. Functions prior to the wedding also need to be catered for such as the Mehndi the night before – and just the Mehndi artist alone could come with a price tag of between R400 to R1 000. Hair and make-up amounts to roughly R500, not to mention facials and manicures leading up to the wedding. Hair Sensation at the Hilton is perfect for hair, dressing and and make-up, with the renowned Shirley Naidoo who works her magic with your hair and leaves you feeling and looking like a princess. Adding to the ambience, the florist too has to understand your function and the aesthetics you’re going for. Ram’s Florist in the city centre is well-established and made a simple, elegant lily bouquet and buttonholes for the men on my side of the family.
Invitations also set you back a few hundreds of rands – we were lucky to find our gorgeous invitations at Sabah Collection, and they were priced at R4 each. Printing, however, is an added expense. The little things definitely add up and unlike clichéd scenes from Hindi movies, there isn’t a barrage of family members all pitching in. In fact, my mum, my husband and I planned everything, and a year still felt like it wasn’t enough. While I was fortunate enough to have my husband contribute toward half of these expenses, a traditional Indian wedding requires the bride’s party to host the event.
The cost is insurmountable at times and some parents see their life savings being washed away in the space of a blurry two hours. And yes, it is extravagant when you think about the millions who can’t afford a meal or all the hard work that lasts just a night. But it’s about giving your children away with dignity, to celebrate with your friends and family and to share in the expansion of your family. Planning and saving money is critical before tying the knot – you don’t want to spend everything on a wedding and start your lives together with nothing in the bank or no money for a honeymoon. Looking back on the 9th of January 2010, it was one of the most beautiful days of my life and all the hard work paid off. I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s all about being realistic and looking for the best deal, while making the most of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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Last Updated (Friday, 11 June 2010 22:50)