There is nothing essential about a big wedding. It may be something that people prefer in our culture, but a smaller, private congregation, or even no congregation at all, does not prevent two people from being joined in the bond of marriage. Recent years have seen a surge in the highly profitable marriage halls industry, taking advantage of the culture of extravagance and excess surrounding Pakistani weddings.

Closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic, marriage hall owners have issued an ultimatum to the government demanding that they be allowed to reopen by June 15 at the latest. Firstly, there is a need to address this trend of interest groups and associations issuing ultimatums to the government and threatening to violate the law if their demands, however unreasonable they may be, are not accepted. Government policy may be challenged in court or protested in the streets. But no one should be allowed to break the law.

Secondly, the number of coronavirus cases in the country has risen by 4,000 in a single day to reach approximately 82,300 cases. To put that into perspective, China, has only had a total of 83000 cases since the pandemic started. At this point, it is becoming increasingly clear that further relaxation in restrictions is going to make the situation go from bad to worse. The primary purpose of marriage halls is to host large congregations, which are often made up of people travelling from all over the place. It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to ensure social distancing at such gatherings that involve rituals and mingling. The government caved in to the demands of the clerics, which severely compromised its lockdown policy. It should not repeat the error and now allow marriage hall owners and caterers to have their way. Big weddings at lavish halls are a luxury that Pakistan can certainly do without until the situation becomes more tenable.