The chandeliers and fairy lights hanging from the William Pitt Union Ballroom shone brightly, illuminating the way for students to celebrate the “wedding” of Audrika Khondaker and Avi Patel. The bride wore a heavily embroidered fuchsia robe-style shawar kameez, while the groom wore a pink and white kurta suit.
Last Saturday, Pitt’s Pakistan and South Asian Students Association teamed up to host PSA’s annual Mock Shaadi event. Shaadi is a common South Asian term, and PSA president and junior chemistry student Saad Khan said the PSA adapted many aspects of a traditional Pakistani wedding to create an evening of celebration and culture for the Desi community.
“Mock Shaadi is an annual event where students can experience and celebrate South Asian culture by attending a traditional Pakistani wedding,” Khan said. “This event is for fun and to educate students at the University of Pittsburgh about South Asian culture. We honor South Asian wedding traditions and are trying to bring more South Asian visibility to campus.”
Students in attendance are dressed in traditional Desi clothing, from lehenga cholis (a set of embroidered shirts and ankle-length skirts) to kurta pajamas (a comfortable robe with loose embroidered trousers).
The night started with a mock bride and groom introduction, two Pitt students entered, and the crowd erupted into cheers and applause. The newlyweds sat on a loveseat at the front of the room, adorned with pink and rose petals, and listened to their respective speeches from the bridesmaids and groomsmen.
The newlyweds performed a traditional slow dance before cutting down a three-tiered white frosted wedding cake. There are also multiple performances in the evening to celebrate Desi culture.The lineup includes Awaza South Asian a cappella group, and from Mastana, niri tamara and First Class Bangla, are Pitt’s South Asian dance team. Other dance groups including the Ya’baso Dance Team and Controlled Chaos also participated.
The buffet includes traditional South Asian delicacies such as biryani, a rice mixed with a variety of South Asian spices, and naan or flatbread. There is also a henna table where students can do henna for free.
Khan said PSA was lucky to have a community that wanted to help highlight Desi culture and traditions by providing services, from Salem Halal Market and Grill arrive Peacock creative activity design.
Bride and PSA secretary Khondaker said there were many elements involved in putting together an event, from decor to dining and entertainment.
“Like a real wedding, we started planning the event months in advance, including finding decorations, food, music, and more,” said Khondaker, a sophomore majoring in neuroscience. “This meant we had to select the bride and groom ahead of time to make sure the colour theme matched their attire. We also reached out to a number of fantastic performance teams on campus.”
Khondaker said she was nervous about being a bride, but it was an experience she enjoyed.
“It was a great experience,” Khondaker said. “I was really surrounded by the most extraordinary people. I have to admit that I was very nervous about this event. But with the help of my friends, I was able to get my hair and makeup done in my free time. Overall, the evening was over It went well and I had a great time chatting with everyone, watching the show and dancing.”
Khan said the process of finding brides and grooms for the event depends on which club — PSA or SASA — decides which role to take on in a given year.
“This year, PSA has played a role in selecting brides, and to that end, we have all interested parties fill out a Google form explaining why they are interested in becoming a bride,” Khan said. “We selected brides anonymously based on the best response provided.”
Meera Mistry, a first-year neuroscience major, said she attended the event because she was curious to see what it would be like and ended up enjoying the show.
“I think the event will be very interesting,” Mistry said. “I had never heard of the concept of fake weddings, and from my own experience, Desi weddings were so much fun, so I had to come and see for myself. The performances were fantastic and it was fun to see other Desi organisations get involved.”
Ami Doshi, a first-year neuroscience major, said she loved the henna designs offered in the evening, as well as the special dances that included the bride.
“The line to finish henna is really long,” says Doshi. “People were eager to get something done, and the design was beautiful. But I think one of the cutest moments of the night was when the girls from PSA performed and pulled the bride onto the dance floor, and the bride danced with them to the choreography.”
Mistry said she was sad to see everyone dressed in traditional clothes, which reminded her of previous weddings.
“That night made me feel nostalgic,” Mistry said. “It’s been a few years since I attended Desi weddings, and the music, food and seeing everyone in their beautiful traditional clothes reminds me of Desi events in my hometown. Having an event like this at the university fosters a sense of community and comfort.”