Celebrity weddings in Pakistan were redefined this past weekend thanks to Urwa Hocane and Farhan Saeed.
Prior to this, celebrity weddings have mostly been exclusive affairs, with the general public allowed glimpses of the glamour through only a handful of images or videos.
But ‘UrHan’ – as one is beginning to refer to them in the longstanding custom set by Brangelina and TomKat – believed in celebrating with the world at large, making sure that every moment of their nuptials was floated out onto the Internet. Through the all-pervasive reaches of Instagram and for those requiring more details, Snapchat, we could follow them every step of the way.
We saw it all happen from the very start: we were there when Farhan proposed to Urwa, in front of the Eiffel Tower no less. We admit to have had rolled our eyes a bit, wondering why he couldn’t have just chosen a local spot. Then again, in the words of Audrey Hepburn, ‘Paris is always a good idea’.
We then proceeded on to the dholkis, enjoying the floral explosions and colorful designer-wear worn by Urwa and an ecstatic sister-of-the-bride Mawra Hocane. We saw the girls arriving at the historic Badshahi Mosque for the nikkah, Urwa signing her nikkah papers; Farhan having his ‘Qubool hai’ moment and then, inevitably, the photo shoot of the newly-weds at the venue because what better backdrop could there be than that provided by the Mughal-esque grandeur of the Badshahi Mosque?
Celebs like Urwa and Farhan have oodles of fans who look up to them and aspire to their lifestyle. But does the average bride know that most of Urwa and Farhan's clothes were borrowed? Probably not. Is it really fair to encourage young brides to buy wedding outfits worth 10 lakhs or more?
Onto an all-white brunch, a multi-colored Qawwali night and then, a wedding reception where finally, one saw celebrities other than Urwa-Mawra-Farhan. Bushra Ansari twirled, Resham grooved and Nauman Ijaz and Sajal Ali just kind of moved.
Designer Ali Xeeshan was also seen shaking it up, wearing fur because that’s what eccentric designers wear to weddings, you know. Cellphone cameras littered the periphery, recording the proceedings for posterity.
And the cameras particularly went into a frenzy when Fawad Khan made a short appearance. The dapper, suited Fawad was nudged, shoved and jostled while he and his wife posed with the newly-weds for images. Fawad didn’t dance but to make up for it, songs from his unfortunately banned Ae Dil Hai Mushkil blared in the backdrop.
Very exciting, all this! Or was it?
Somewhere between the dholkis and the selfies, we began to wonder why Urhan chose to make every aspect of their wedding so public. Should they have kept certain things – like the Nikah or those PDAs – private? Fans’ curiosity could have gotten satiated by floating out a few images or, if they felt like it, have a single event covered in detail. What prompted them to Snapchat and Instagram all the way, zig-zagging from Qawwalis to dholkis to mosques?
The ‘trending’ wedding encourages empty consumerism. That's not ok.
It could have been a very millennial desire for validation via social media that prompted them to have their wedding ‘trend’ on social media. Alarmingly, a trending wedding is the latest unfathomable concept to enamor a considerable segment of our society. One could credit the #AnushMunib wedding that took place earlier this year to have popularised the notion and now, we are inflicted with umpteen dholki videos uploaded onto the Internet come wedding season.
While some people criticised the #UrwaFarhan wedding, others felt we should ‘live and let live’ and not pass judgement on the couple’s private business.
It’s true that making personal attacks is never correct.
However, one has to ask: with the media specially invited to their wedding, with fashion designers listed like ‘sponsors’ on their wedding invitations, with a ‘red carpet’ set up at their shaadi – was this really a private event? The answer is undeniably ‘no’.
Since the #UrwaFarhan wedding was a public event and a matter of public interest, it should be critiqued as such, and there’s no denying some aspects of this spectacle were problematic.
Before the advent of Instagram and wedding hashtags, weddings had been intimate affairs where relatives and friends got together, danced, had fun. Now, they’ve metamorphosed into superficial productions where everything from the décor to the designer wedding-wear to the professionally choreographed dances gets publicised for all to see. In a society rife with economic discrepancies this could be considered insensitive.
It also sets an alarmingly impossible standard young people to aspire to. Fact is, the #UrwaFarhan wedding was heavily choreographed and the bill for the couple’s clothes was limited, given how many of their clothes were borrowed.
The wedding card clearly extended ‘Hugs’ to ‘HSY, Elan, Faraz Manan, Muse, Munib Nawaz, QYT, Shireen Rehman, Fiza Gillani, Sherezad Rahimtoola and Irfan Ahson’. Clearly, these were the people sponsoring the wedding, jewelry and handling the décor.
Quite a few of them also lent out clothes, although the couple did buy some also. At the main wedding reception, for instance, where the couple wore HSY, it was quite obvious that the well-fitted designs had been created bespoke. In many other instances, the ill-fitting hinted at samples borrowed just for the day.
But does the average bride know that? She doesn’t have the kind of access that’ll get her a designer outfit for free.
Inevitably, she’ll have to purchase one. And is it really fair to encourage young brides to buy wedding outfits worth 10 lakhs or more?
In return for lending clothes to #UrwaFarhan, these sponsors got marketed big time via social media. In fact, you can be pretty sure that right now, dozens of Internet-savvy brides-to-be have handed over Instagram images of Urwa or Mawra and asked their wily tailors to replicate the designs, as is. Bloggers and Instagrammers, are still reveling in the large number of followers they have attracted via the #urwafarhan hashtag.
This brings us to the event’s other problematic aspect – the hypocrisy of some of those who collaborated to bring it into being.
On private Facebook accounts and in their drawing rooms, the city’s supposed upper tier turned up their noses and derided the wedding but no one chose to speak of it on a public forum. No one openly expressed how appalling the concept of a sponsored wedding truly was.
The designers who confessed to have ‘cringed’ at the social media coverage, are happy with the clients that the wedding images have attracted.
On private Facebook accounts and in their drawing rooms, the city’s supposed upper tier turned up their noses at the wedding... but many weren't above using it as a means to promote their brands.
It all boils down to money and marketing but when a wedding turns into a production and gets applauded by all, it sets disturbing precedents.
Young couples may aspire towards similar ceremonies, the inclination to ‘show off’ increases and the glamour that hitherto identified a celebrity wedding wears off, replaced by a grand event open to public consumption.
What does this say of us?
What’s next for #UrwaFarhan?
Aside from the freebies, the wedding ensured that Urwa, Mawra and Farhan’s Internet followings increased and people who may not have really known much about them now knew them intimately.
They enhanced their celebrity status, not caring much to be regarded more as tabloid stars rather than bona fide icons. Everything sells on Instagram and all publicity is good publicity.
Perhaps that’s how it’s meant to be in the age of social media... quantity over quality, consumerism rules all. It’s still sad.