Thu, May 29, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Pakistani province enforces frugal wedding parties


When Mohammad Imran was planning the dinner for his cousin’s wedding reception, he had no excuse to trim the pricey menu down from six entrees. Then the government came to his rescue.

Punjab province’s newly elected leaders announced that starting this month they would strictly enforce an often ignored law that limits wedding feasts to one main dish — a measure welcomed by Pakistanis struggling with a sagging economy and rising prices.

At the reception that Imran recently hosted in Lahore, the main dish was mutton karahi.

“It saved me around 100,000 rupees [US$1,430],” the 34-year-old real estate dealer said.

He said he had to insist on following the rule over strong opposition from other family members, who didn’t want to buck social pressures to put on a lavish feast.

“We are passing through a very tough period. Everyone needs savings,” Imran said.

Pakistan’s economy is slowing and increases in global food costs have made matters worse. The price of a staple like rice has soared 150 percent the past year and wheat flour is in short supply.

Middle-class Pakistanis must devote more of their incomes to basics, while the poor struggle to get by.

It was poor families the national government set out to help by enacting a law in the 1990s limiting wedding meals, giving them a way to avoid a cultural burden without feeling humiliated. At one point, only soft drinks or hot drinks like tea were allowed, but court challenges and amendments now permit one entree, accompanied by a few appropriate side dishes such as rice.

The law has been only sporadically enforced, however, probably because it runs against powerful tradition.

Pakistani weddings tend to be grand, colorful affairs, often lasting several days and involving hundreds of guests. Many families start saving for the wedding the day a child is born.

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