Sumayyah Muhit, 22, helped organize a mock shaadi through the Bengali Student Association at the New York Institute of Technology, where they “don’t really have a lot of Bengali representation,” she said.
The event took place on Feb. 16 and featured performers, almost 500 attendees dressed in wedding finery, and a bride and groom who were selected after monthslong elections. The wedding drew students from India, Pakistan, Nepal and other South Asian regions, as well as those who are not South Asian. “Everyone at our school seemed to be excited for it,” Ms. Muhit said.
Throughout the event, the club’s executives stopped to narrate and explain the customs. Ms. Muhit said she had particularly enjoyed the opportunity to share Bengali traditions, like gate-holding at the door to playfully block the groom’s entrance and a day-after ceremony from her home region of Sylhet in Bangladesh, in which the bride comes home and cuts fish.
“So many people who attended the wedding had no idea where Bangladesh was, or that it was even a country in Asia,” she said.
Mock wedding events have existed in various forms for decades. Sororities and fraternities often host parties where students dress up as brides and grooms. In Canada, a musical group called Betta Boyz hosted a large mock Nigerian wedding at a Calgary banquet hall in July 2022. Similar events are also popular in colleges in South Asia. Students at the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan, for example, hosted a widely attended, elaborate mock shaadi in March; photos and videos of the event went viral on Twitter and TikTok.
Pop culture has played a significant role in creating demand for these events, said Rijuta Mehta, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto specializing in post-colonial studies. Bollywood films, reality television shows like “Indian Matchmaking” and magazine spreads featuring “ultrarich weddings” all contribute to wedding-related fervor. “There is this entire media industry around images of glamorous, luxurious, extravagant, highly indulgent weddings,” she said.