The Marriages (Compulsory Registration and Prevention of Wasteful Expenditure) Bill, 2016, aims to limit the amount of money that can be spent on a wedding. MP Ranjeet Ranjan, wife of MP Pappu Yadav who plans to introduce a bill that seeks that, “if any family intends to spend more than Rs 5 lakh towards expenditure on marriage, such family shall declare the amount proposed to be spent in advance to the appropriate government and contribute 10% of such amount in a welfare fund which shall be established by the appropriate government to assist the poor and below poverty line families for the marriage of their daughters”.
MP Ranjeet Ranjan told PTI that marriages these days are more about showing off wealth which puts pressure on poorer families to spend more.
The bill, if passed, may also allow the government to regulate the amount of dishes to be served and how many guests can be invited to reign in costs. Weddings will also have to be registered within 60 days of solemnisation.
This isn’t the first time the government has contemplated curbs on excessive spending in marriages. In 2012, a panel on India’s Dowry Prevention Act recommended an “Introduction of ceilings, in terms of percentages of income on both gifts and marriage expenditure.” Women’s rights groups and campaigners believe the pressure to finance expensive ceremonies lead to ‘dowry murders’ (murder of young brides who do not pay dowry) and farmers committing suicide due to wedding-related debt. They also believe that female infanticide can be linked to feat of high wedding costs.
India’s lavish spending on weddings can condemn the poor to bonded labour according to this article in the Harvard Kennedy School. Poor families are often uneducated and are pressured into borrowing high-interest loans from moneylenders. They often become bonded labourers to pay off massive debt.
India’s wedding industry is worth £12 billion worldwide according to Business Insider. The wedding industry in India is over Rs 100,000 crore with an annual growth rate of 25-30%. An average Indian spends one-fifth of his total wealth in a lifetime in a wedding ceremony. The wedding season also generates about three lakh jobs per year (season).