L’Oven Marriage! Not much room for the bride and groom: Snug kitchen becomes venue for the first UK Asian isolation wedding
The bride wore her traditional south-Asian wedding dress and carried a plastic bouquet as she walked down the stairs of her house.
Waiting for her in the living room was her fiancé dressed in a red and gold Sherwani – a knee length coat buttoned to the neck.
On the other side of the room the groom’s immediate family held a camera phone, streaming the occasion via WhatsApp video to his parents back home in Bangladesh.
With venues and caterers closed, couples have been thumped into disarray and are being forced to postpone or even cancel their weddings due to the pandemic. However, it was not the case for these newlyweds from Birmingham.
April 6, 2020, marked the wedding day of Shyam Choudhury, 33, and Zeena Choudhury, 31. They were one of the few people in the UK to have an isolation wedding, though it was not the typical wedding British Bengalis would normally have.
According to research from Asiana Wedding Magazine, the cost of an asian wedding is around £50,000. This includes the venue, catering, photographer and videographer, bride and groom outfits, gold, hair and make-up artist, and the cars.
Mrs Choudhury said: “Our wedding venue was mainly the small living room and the kitchen.”
The couple said that regardless of losing their deposit from the venue and caterer, the burden of high expenses was eased as they saved a considerable amount of money.
For Mrs Choudhury, it was not the wedding she expected. Walking down 15 stairs onto the ground floor in her mum’s house was the main stage for her big day.
She said: “I had mixed emotions, both upset but happy that I’m getting married.
“Every girl’s dream is to have a fairytale wedding, but maybe this was meant for us, it was a blessing in disguise.”
Despite other family members virtually dialling in to the wedding, both Mr and Mrs Choudhury had only a handful of their immediate family there. Around 500 people were initially invited, but only 4% filled up the ‘makeshift’ venue.
Mr Choudhury said: “It was upsetting not to have my whole family and cousins there but it just wasn’t safe.
“Social distancing was impossible in a small house, though we were being careful with hand washing.
“Everything was rushed – no one knew, not even the neighbours. We were worried they’d see a gathering and say something.”
The groom’s uncle, who also acted as a senior witness, travelled from Coventry with protective gear. He wore a mask and gloves, applying the two-metre rule when he could.
Ribas Ahmed said: “Being one of the major figures at the wedding, I had to take extra precautions.
“I recently became a grandfather after 12 years, and just the other week, my father-in-law had passed away, so it was a very big risk for me.”
He said he had never been to a wedding like this before where he could not bring along his family. He described the atmosphere as ‘boring’ as it is not the usual set up for an Asian wedding.
Mr Ribas said: “The only time there was no social distancing was for the photos as we stood together, and the serving of the food.
“I didn’t really want to eat the food just in case, but I felt bad as it’s my nephew’s big day, they wouldn’t let me leave hungry!”
In Asian culture it is normal for the daughter to leave her parents and live with her husband’s family. At the end of the evening when guests start to leave the venue, the bride has a Bidaai – meaning ‘goodbye’ where she bids farewell to her family and maternal home, and is driven away in a luxury car.
It is one of the most sentimental aspects of a wedding, however this bride did not experience that.
Mrs Choudhury said: “My farewell journey was literally a walk down the road as both houses are not far apart – it felt surreal.”
For now, honeymoon plans have been put on hold as the newlyweds settle into their new home in the West Midlands. They hope to have a grand celebration when lockdown is lifted and the world gets back to normal.
Mr Choudhury said: “Weddings only happen once, so it would be nice to see my extended family celebrate the marriage with me, this time in person.”