The One-Dish Ordinance has been a peculiarity since it came into being. Its logic was seldom understood and it divided opinion sharply over its necessity. Recently the Punjab Government converted the ordinance – which restricts food served at wedding functions to a single dish and limits the duration of such events – into law passed through the Assembly. Not only was the ordinance made permanent, the government instructed the police authorities to enforce the law strictly, instructing them to clamp down on events that extend beyond the proscribed limit, even if they are being held in privately owned houses. To the amusement of the reporters present, the government also instructed that all serving of food must end before 10pm on any event connected to a wedding at any location.

Many openly wondered about the fate of the wedding guest who had picked up a kebab at one past ten, or a small and obscure wedding ritual that dragged into the night. More concerning than these hilarious hypotheticals is the very real problem of enforcement. How will the police enter private homes to determine if food is being served according to regulations and in the proper timeframe? The sight of police officials inspecting weddings at public marriage halls have caused strife in the past; them entering private houses is not only much more aggravating but is also legally impossible without a warrant.

To be fair, the government has the right intentions. Families used to drown themselves in debt to pull off what would be considered a lavish wedding. And although people continue to skirt the restrictions, many – especially among the poor sections – use the law to host simple weddings. However there is an extent to which the government can control people’s lives through legislation and law enforcement. It makes sense to regulate public marriage halls, but to control wedding functions at private homes is impractical and overbearing.