Heroine for a Day

“Happiness is a place between too much and too little.”
-Finnish proverb

Aerial view of Lahore Fort
I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that by the time I was in high school I had my entire wedding planned out down to the music, lighting, venue, dress, and potential guest list. The venue was going to be the majestic Lahore Fort. I was going to wear a maroon-green-gold lehenga with a long trail. I was going to walk towards the dais through a pathway lit with tall torches separated by a fence of tube roses to Chopin playing in the background (tradition be damned). 

My actual wedding took place in a squat looking structure in the middle of Fremont, California. It was a restaurant that doubled as a banquet hall for parties. To call it charming would be egregiously generous of me. Since our wedding party did not have enough people to fill the banquet hall, we only rented half of the place and I sat on a make-shift stage in a cheaply made shalwar kameez bought in haste from an Indian store in Berkeley while complete strangers sat a few feet from us enjoying their meal. If there was music, I don't remember it. 

I had resigned to an acceptable wedding (as opposed to that of my dreams) when we first realized that it would be best for visa status purposes to get married in California rather than traveling back to Lahore, but I had not imagined that the day would end up reminding me of tacky ceremonies that my mother dragged me to when I was a child, in which the bride wore cheap crinkly chiffon-blend outfits with blush streaked across her cheeks in two well-defined diagonals, and the groom sat next to her with an overbearing mustache and a garland of roses or one made of five rupee notes (anyone remember those?). 

Well, it wasn't as bad as all that. 

My wedding outfit
But it was supposed to be my day, you know? It was supposed to be the one day in my whole life on which I felt like a Jane Austen heroine at the end of her novel embarking on a journey of love and freedom and romance and what have you. It was supposed to be the one day, just the one, I would want to remember and relive forever. Instead, my best memories of it conjure the word "mediocre" from the crevices of my vocabulary. My only thought was "Is this really happening?" Our extended families surrounded us and took pictures from their phones and cameras to share with our immediate families who could not be there for the occasion on account of visa difficulties in Pakistan. And herein lies the problem. I could not be the aforementioned heroine for a day because our families - parents and siblings - were not able to attend. 

It still would have been alright. We would have been able to have a wedding that made me feel like a heroine of just slightly less consequence than the heroine of the Lahore Fort had we not felt compelled to downplay celebrations as much as possible. There was no one person who intimated that we should forgo wedding festivities (like having a nice dress for me, a photographer to capture all the moments of the big day, etc.), but it was the collective response of loved ones and strangers back home alike that made my heroic day so unacceptable and downright scandalous "What? No family? And you are still going ahead with it? Why would you even consider? The eldest daughter/eldest son getting married in the absence of parents? Really? Haww haye."

I don't want to get into the reasons for not delaying the ceremony to a time when our families could attend. Suffice to say they were unavoidable, less romantic, and more practical than one would think - completely work and residency status related. Be that as it may, did I still not deserve to be that heroine for a few hours? Maybe for that afternoon in October of 2008, I should have forgotten about disappointments of others and just been the bride I wanted to be. I should have worn a gorgeous maroon-green-gold dress, we should have rented the whole god-forsaken-sad-excuse-of-a-banquet-hall, I should have given them Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu to play, and there should have been a professional photographer to cue me to behave demurely (or however heroines and brides are supposed to behave).

Because now, the disappointments are nowhere to be found. Our families appreciate the low-profile wedding we had, and everything that followed (the actual marriage: our togetherness as a family, frequent visits of loved ones from home, and Jahan, of course) has given them nothing but untainted joy. And I know, I know it is not about the wedding, it's about the marriage, which is nothing if not happy. 

Like the Finnish proverb says, "Happiness is a place between too little and too much," and sometimes I can't help but wonder if this place is closer to "too much." So, I should have gone ahead and had a nice wedding. I should have been a heroine for a day.