Recently, Mr Kesaralal Gunasekera, Dr K.N.K.Wijayawardana and Dr D.P.Atukorale have each written to the press expressing their displeasure about the loud music at many Sri Lankan weddings. Readers will, no doubt, recollect reading several similar public complaints in the past.
Virtually without exception, Sri Lankan parents feel obliged to give their children a grand wedding because they fear that failing to do so would affect their standing in the eyes of relatives, friends and even others. As a corollary, parents consider it vital to invite all their close relatives; others whom they or the children like; many to whom they are obliged in some way; those who may be too important to be ignored; those whom they meet frequently at work or elsewhere; those who might feel offended if they were to be left out; and a few others, on various additional grounds.
One need not hesitate to assert that the principal objectives of a Sri Lankan wedding are to get family and friends together to wish the young couple well on their long journey ahead and to make use of the occasion to let the guests, many of whom may be meeting each other after a long interval of time, to exchange news of their near and dear. In contrast to these two primary objectives, there are two other lesser ones, namely, to treat all the guests to a good meal and, in weddings of those who belong to what we may call the more westernised classes of society, to provide an opportunity for those so inclined to enjoy the pleasures of the bar and the dance floor. Sadly, the primary objectives tend nowadays to be pushed well into the background and greater prominence given to food, drink and dancing.
In the majority of weddings, we find that the band for the wedding is chosen by the young couple on the grounds that the music of the favoured band had been fun to dance to at some nightclub, disco, ball or gala. Whilst these bands may be the rage at a particular time, it would not be too far from the truth to state that the members of such bands, almost universally, have not the faintest idea about acoustics or high fidelity amplification. It has been revealed by medical doctors that these musical groups often consist of persons who, having listened to their own output at full volume for some years, have now lost part of their hearing. Consequently, the man at the amplifier tends to set the bass, treble, reverberation and volume settings to the maximum, whatever be the capacity of the amplifying equipment, and whatever the size and acoustics of the wedding hall. The members of the band are not concerned whether the high notes of their music pierce the eardrums of those guests who are unfortunate enough to have to sit close to their monstrous loudspeakers or whether the low notes force the chest cavities of those present to resonate disturbingly, causing actual physical distress, as has been reported in some instances.
Besides the painful assault on one’s eardrums and lungs, the sad part is that one cannot often hear what even one’s immediate neighbour is saying, let alone what someone on the other side of the table is trying to convey. The strain of shouting one’s questions or answers is a severe assault on the throat and one is, in any case, not certain whether the other party has heard correctly whatever is said. Thus, instead of leaving us with a sense of contentment at having been able to interact happily with our fellow guests, we are left frustrated and angry at the crass insensitivity of the band leaders who, for the most part, do not respond at all positively to requests to cut down on the volume of their blaring loudspeakers.
The end result of all this is that the young couple end up by marring the one unrepeatable day of their lives by subjecting so many of their guests to severe acoustic torture. With a little consideration for their guests, the bride and groom could surely leave some of their dancing for the thousand opportunities which will undoubtedly present themselves during the rest of their married life.
Young couples might controvert this point of view by insisting that it is their wedding and, if they and their friends want to dance to a noisy band, no one should begrudge them their fun on their one special day. They certainly have a point there but, in the light of this conflict between the primary and secondary purposes, some kind of compromise needs to be forged. It is, therefore, suggested that, when a wedding is being planned, parents should tell the young couple that there will always be two basic groups of people at Sri Lankan weddings – the older generation, who would like to interact with the other guests without painful discomfort, and the younger generation, the majority of whom might like to dance in preference to talking. The parents and the couple should then adopt a middle path by agreeing that the wedding ceremony proper would be followed immediately by soft music of some kind (not necessarily by the band) for, say, two hours to allow the guests to wish the couple and to move around and re-establish contact with those whom they might meet only on these occasions. This arrangement would have the added advantage of sparing the couple the tiresome chore of walking through the crowds to each table to meet all the guests. Thus, the newly-weds would themselves need to go up only to those few guests who might be too old or in too poor health to get about easily.
Dinner should be served early so that those wishing to leave before the cacophony commences could do so. Those who wish to drink, eat later and also dance could do so after the first two hours of relative quiet. Even if most of the guests do not leave early, at least they would have had a reasonable amount of quiet time to catch up with at least a few relatives and friends, and can thereafter resign themselves to remaining silent during the second half of loud music and dancing, till the newly-weds depart.
By this modus vivendi, both the primary and secondary objectives of having a grand wedding could be reasonably satisfied, and good governance of all aspects of the wedding established