Accepted paper:

From Ballroom Dancing to the Ghoonghat: Indian Weddings and the Aesthetics of Negotiating Identities


Parul Bhandari ( O P Jindal Global University)

Paper short abstract:

From "youngster's night" to western dress codes for engagement ceremonies and "traditional" dress and music at weddings; the aesthetics of wedding celebrations in India are undergoing significant changes and in turn reflect on changing identities. The paper analyses these negotiations.

Paper long abstract:

This paper focuses specifically on weddings and ways in which their organization reflects on identities and anxieties of the professional and educational elite of New Delhi, who are negotiating between various forces of modernization, globalization, and other communal factors. Weddings are really a snapshot of all that is aspired for in one's marriage. From the clothes, to the d├ęcor, to the "functions" (events or ceremonies) there is a story and a statement being made by the bride and the groom and their family. These "statements" reflect the state of mind, the anguish, and negotiation that people are experiencing in their quest to readjust, reaffirm or acquire a place in society. These negotiations are manifest in their choice of themes and appropriate dress codes of various events such as "youngster's night" or bachelor and bachelorette party where the dress code is "Western"; the engagement ceremony where the bride-to-be prefers to wear a gown rather than traditional Indian clothing; other ceremonies where the dress code is "traditional". The significance of "our song" wherein the bride and groom dance to a choice of their song, often performing waltz or ballroom dance, highlights an emerging identity of the new couple. There is a trend of choreographed performances by family members, professional singers, dancers and comedians. An analysis of why these choices are made and what they reflect on the identity of the individuals will be undertaken, in the context of modernization theories with stress on fluidity of identities. Understanding changing wedding norms and ceremonies is important to understand changing social fabric of our society.

panel P48
Weddings: identity and aesthetics in a globalising consumer world