Chennai Marriage Feasts – an exercise in repetitiveness

Like any other city, Chennai too is a melting pot of various cultures. While this has many advantqages, one place where I wish for some variety is a marriage feast. Any marriage feast is supposed to be representative of the community of the bride and groom. In Chennai, the variety has been all but erased and what you are served is the standardized fare, in marriage after marriage.

It starts with a Naan / Chappathi and some gooey masala, then some mixed rice, followed by sambar sadam, white rice(don’t ask, that’s what the servers call it) with rasam, Curd rice and then an icecream. Irrespective of whether the bride and groom come from a Chettiar / Mudaliar / Nadar/ whateverar community, this is the menu perfected by the caterers of the city.

If you have attended one reception, you have attended them all. The entire process takes three hours. Two hours to tackle the Chennai traffic and land up in the marriage hall, ten minutes to wait in the queue to give the gift to the couple, 1 minute for the photographer / videographer to record your arrival for posterity, twenty minutes to go through the standardized menu and half an hour(since by now the traffic is much reduced) to get back home.

How one longs for a marriage feast with some native flair. Well, for that one has to leave the city and go to the districts I guess. One can’t have it all.

38 Comments so far

  1. Mahesh (unregistered) on December 4th, 2007 @ 4:39 pm

    This is due to influx of north Indians into the city (in large numbers – again due to IT industry culture). This is the standard menu of any lunch in any IT company these days.
    As the culture is changing (or aligning to these practices) the food menu has also become like that. Similarly you can see Dosa / Idly stalls in many weddings in North.

  2. Ravi (unregistered) on December 4th, 2007 @ 5:54 pm

    Chenthil, I can’t agree with you more. The unique touch is lost. Infact marriage arrangement have become so commercialised that last week I was surprised to see that there were three women – all clad in the same kind of saree at the reception and they were part of the catering group! Maybe as you say, places outside the city still maintain the regional flavour – like Chidambaram is known for idli-kadappa/gosthu, Chettinad for paal paniyaram etc.

  3. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on December 4th, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

    Its not just the marriage feast alone, but the marriage itself which has become commercialised and monotonous. Women prefer to marry men who are financially better off than them – commercialisation! With the empowerment of women and maintainence money waiting for them at the end of it, divorces are not anymore unique either.

  4. Kokki_Jacobus (unregistered) on December 4th, 2007 @ 9:17 pm

    Its not just the marriage feast alone, but the marriage itself which has become commercialised and monotonous. Women prefer to marry men who are financially better off than them – commercialisation! With the empowerment of women and maintainence money waiting for them at the end of it, divorces are not anymore unique either.

    On what basis are you making this sexist comment?

    I’m sorry Chenthil.. had to respond to that.

    Your post is very intersting indeed.. a lot of thought seems to have gone into it ;)
    Over the last few decades, ‘marriage management’ (known to the Western world as Wedding planning) has been delegated to marriage contractors. These people take care of everything in the wedding, except for the bride and the groom! In such a scenario it is inevitable that the menu for the marriage feast is determined to a large extent by these people. A visit to any of these contractors office and they’ll produce the same menu – it’s almost like an industry standard now. And it’s not like the families don’t try either – all assurances are given if the family requests for something special, but in the end what gets served may be the cook’s call.

    You’ve mentioned going to the districts for local fare – I wonder how many of the districts have managed to stay away from this standardization of the feast. Any thoughts from people who’ve attended marriages in the ‘districts’?

  5. Chenthil (unregistered) on December 4th, 2007 @ 9:36 pm

    Mahesh, give the IT guys a break. I think this is more due to the contractors standardization as per ISO 9001:2000.

    Ravi, yeah, miss those vellai paniyaram and stuff from Karaikudi weddings.

    Parthasarathy – that can be argued vigorously, let me just say that I disagree with your statement.

    Kokki – I attend a lot of weddings in Karaikudi area. We are still served delicacies of that region – vellai paniyaram, kavun arisi, etc. The marriage I attended in Nagercoil too had the local flavor. So I think the districts have not yet standardized their fare.

  6. Jennal Paarvai (unregistered) on December 4th, 2007 @ 9:44 pm

    Ummm… I don’t agree with the previous comment… I’m not quite sure that its these marriage contractors who are to blame. There seems to be a misplaced notion now in our community that serving chapathi and biriyani and gobi-manjoori as opposed to a traditional sambar-rasam saappadu is a sign of “modern-ness” and class.

    But hey, we take out five-year loans to falsely impress people on the wedding day that our families are moneyed and status-ed… so maybe it isn’t even that surprising. Misplaced aspiration combined with a sad ignorance…

    Like the author has pointed out, its a pity that our much-loved “feast” has had to suffer because of this.

  7. Sudha (unregistered) on December 5th, 2007 @ 2:29 am

    People are taking the easy way out by hiring these catering shops and quality food is the sacrifice. When my sister got married(we are from Karnataka) my parents hired cooks and the lunch tasted fantastic. But it also meant we had to buy supplies and have some relatives monitor the cooks. Also we ate last after all the ceremonies and some of the curries were empty when we wanted second servings.
    If we hire guys the food will be “shipped in” from a central facility and if any item is running low, a phone call is all it takes. The caterers want to sell the standard menu because they are already preparing certain items for another function and it is easier to make it in bulk and supply the same junk to the whole city.
    Sadly,the days are over where we hired a trusted family chef for a week before the event.

  8. Krishna (unregistered) on December 5th, 2007 @ 3:23 am

    As you all know, planning and executing a marriage ceremony is a long and stressful process, even though it’s a pleasant experience. To reduce some of the stress, people often go to catering contractors because that’s one of the main parts of the whole marriage ceremony and brings lot of stress. When people go to such contractors, it’s not like they can serve whatever they want. Contractors must have provided various options to people who conduct the ceremony, from where they select.

    I think here is where the problem lies. To satisfy most of the people who attend the marriage, people always take the safer bet, not too specific type of food as the attendees do not belong to one particular community or culture. To satisfy everyone that attends the marriage, people are often forced to go with most generalized and safer menu.

  9. rajesh (unregistered) on December 5th, 2007 @ 3:55 am

    People should select the food they want when dealing with catering contractors or hire cooks
    to get the job done. I attended a marriage in Chennai there were no naans, no North Indian dishes all stuff from the South. It suprises me that “Cyber Coolie” culture has taken over Chennai its disgusting. We are heading to be another Bangalore, with so many North Indians here we will soon be adopting there habits which have no relevance to us. The city of MAD RASCALS truly is mad when it comes to a number of things.

  10. Giridhar (unregistered) on December 5th, 2007 @ 8:55 am

    @Mahesh…. what has a reception menu got to do with IT companies? Do u really know whats the meaning of IT company? IT Companies are not catering companies. They deal with computer software/hardwares. Whatever goes wrong or whatever u dont like, you people go about and start blaming IT companies? Pl get some rational thinking dosage. Relax buddy, think and write.

  11. Mahesh (unregistered) on December 5th, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

    Giridhar, Chenthil and others,

    I agree with your views to disagree with me :-)

    Just go and ask the contractor chief (the person who decides the standard menu stuff or has this Naan/Roti/Gheerice menu) why is he offering this in most of the marriage menus.

    His answer may throw up reasons which may be closer to what I mentioned.

  12. ds (unregistered) on December 5th, 2007 @ 3:06 pm

    According to me , why to spend more on marriages. Its only an understanding between the bride and groom..

    In the office if somebody invites for the marriage we often try to skip that saying some silly reasons… people please understand.. Dont invite everyone unneccessarily thereby wasting your money,time and others money time..
    Marriage function is not to prove your status and money.. It affects the middle class.

  13. sachin (unregistered) on December 5th, 2007 @ 7:54 pm


    If you should feel this way, then im glad to note that there is a market for different kinds of fare in weddings.

    If you notice carefully, most families would like to have a fairly elaborate invite list and hence are required to keep the per plate cost down. This obviously results in the standardization of the food menu. Another aspect is that most families will go for the tried and tested caterer with the most standard menu to appeal to all ages and backgrounds. This also helps them prevent criticism from within the family

    I disagree with most commentators on the sexist, regionalist line of thought. Cuisine is available, but at a price. Are you willing to afford it and take the risk too?

  14. Karthik Thirumalai (unregistered) on December 5th, 2007 @ 9:20 pm

    I understand the poster’s frustration over wedding menus, but this is bound to happen. Especially, when you are in Chennai we find different cultures blending into one.I share your thoughts as to how nice it would be to see unique flavors in the food being served and the culture that comes with it.

    I agree with other posters here that cost is in important factor when it comes to the caterers, when you mass produce at a central location, you save big.

    I think what Mahesh was trying to point is the fact, the expanding IT companies have brought people from different parts of India, they see the need to provide North Indian food at their cafeterias. Again, it’s an in-evitablity, we all want economic well being and this part and parcel of all the development. It goes hand in hand.

    I agree with you on the sexist tone, but as far as the regionalist tone is concerned, this is CHENNAI metblogs and you are going to see that as well. We as a community have been very conservative for a long time and take to heart certain parts of our culture, food and language is part of that. I am sure Marathis are complaining that how the rest of India has dissolved Maharashtrian culture.

  15. desigirl (unregistered) on December 6th, 2007 @ 2:16 am

    I can imagine the standardisation and all that but I think it rests with the families. Caterers have specialities – the one that did my wedding was a brahmin one and could do both iyer and iyengar do’s really well. He sat with us and told us the kind of dishes that go and ones that don’t. The meal was a winner and I have heard it repeated across the board – many of the kudumbams that came now have my caterer as their aasthana caterer cos none of the other recep grub matched up to mine!
    I have since gone to several weddings and tho many serve the standard fare – esp if u go to joints like Palm Grove, Woodlands etc. I guess if you hire the caterers separately and then book a proper mandapam, u might luck out. Hire a package venue-and-grub deal, u get regulated gloop.

  16. ramesh (unregistered) on December 6th, 2007 @ 3:42 am

    Reading these blogs really disappoints me to see that people care little for maintaining traditions in this city. Karthik you have mentioned a point about Marathis complaining how the rest of India has dissolved there culture it is true. Chennai is not far behind in this regards it is only years before people of this city wake up and realise that there culture has been eroded away. But people here are just money hungry and that’s all they care about and integrating into the mainstream Indian society. Which is very hard for anyone from TN to do unless you change yourself entirley. It seems the people of Chennai are being controlled at each level by the Central government and helpless
    to do anything about that.

  17. Tamizhan (unregistered) on December 6th, 2007 @ 8:57 am

    The positive side of a standard wedding menu.

    Available from about 6 a.m – Pongal, Vadai, Idli and unlimited chutney and sambhar. Semma kattu…burp.

    Available from about 9:30 a.m – Full meals. Some rasam sadham is all I can eat after the earlier breakfast.

    3 p.m – Bhajji, coffee etc. Maybe a little bit.

    From 7 p.m – Dont care what is there….Time to drink(s).

    If the menu is standardised, it is better in one way as you know what to expect. If the 6 a.m breakfast menu is changed, I will stop attending weddings.

    In fact I have attended marriages (read ‘eaten breakfast’) and left before the couple got married.

  18. Giridhar (unregistered) on December 6th, 2007 @ 9:13 am

    @Mahesh / @Karthick

    Guys the problem lies with metro attitude and fast lives. Not with “IT” companies. Dont let movies like “Tamil MA” spoil you.

    First, why do u leave marriage to a contractor? marriage is a life time event and why dont you all take care in planning it by yourself? when u leave it to a contractor and this guy will do only his own stereotyped menu. why dont you hire a caterer and choose menu?

    If you cant spend 1 hour with a caterer to choose the menu, and take care on whats going to be served to you friends and relatives, better dont do it at all. Give them 100-200 rupees and ask them to go and eat in a restaurant of their choice.

    I really dont understand how can some random guy choose what our friends and family must eat. And definitely dont understand why do people hold marriage functions elaborately and grandly when they cant manage it by themselves.

    Please leave IT companies alone. Or please stage a darna and chase out all IT companies and go back to stone age.

  19. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on December 6th, 2007 @ 10:19 am

    IT companies are being ‘protected’ by many here.

    While IT companies have the ‘bestest’ grooms and brides on show, they also have the highest ‘divorce’ rates – a direct result of women empowerment, surely?

    One of the IT companies ( ? Infosys ) on OMR has ‘automatic condom vending machines’ in one of their toilets after a number of their workers started getting pregnant after doing night shifts!

    Surely, they are a fulcrum of revolution in many senses.

  20. Chenthil (unregistered) on December 6th, 2007 @ 10:42 am

    Parthasarathy – you astound me with your arguments. You are a genius. The clever use of a question mark to escape any responsibility of your statements was a master stroke. I can understand the quote marks for bestest, but why the quote marks for divorce?

    FYI, I am not from the IT industry. I am a lorry fleet operator.

  21. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on December 6th, 2007 @ 11:42 am


    There was an article in DC about the exceptionally high divorce rates among BPO/IT high income earners. I confirmed this when I spoke to a legal expert too. But you can take your own independent advice if you have reason to not believe me here.

    As for the Auto Condoms, unfortunately this is hearsay and I cant vouch for the actual company involved. So I would be grateful if anyone can throw more light on this.

    BTW, if you are a lorry fleet operator, you could do with a condom machine yourself ;-)

  22. Anonymous (unregistered) on December 6th, 2007 @ 1:56 pm


    You have proven that you are an MCP

  23. sachin (unregistered) on December 6th, 2007 @ 3:02 pm


    AMUSING. From food to Auto drivers, IT companies, Women, North Indians, Non-Indians and the hindi language

    I dont know how every article in metblogs manages to find blame in Auto drivers, IT companies, Women, North Indians, Non-Indians and the hindi language. This trend has been such that every post is extremely right winged on these topics.

    I think you should put up a post to provoke open thought on these subjects. Its amusing that one should live in a metro like chennai and expect that their deepest conservativeness will be pervasive here. It should be noted that every metro in india is globalized – if you cannot deal with it then dont live in the metros.

  24. Giridhar (unregistered) on December 6th, 2007 @ 4:17 pm

    @Sachin….cant agree more.

    I dunno what has a condom vending machine gotto do with marriage/reception food menu.

    and FYI, infosys’ doesnt have a call center operating in the OMR premises. Dont start spinning stories just make a random point.

  25. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on December 6th, 2007 @ 5:30 pm

    Anonymous : How have I? And how worse is that, than being a feminitvadi?

    Giridhar, I am not trying to make a ‘random point’. I have clearly stated that I myself would like to know more about the said ‘fact’ about a condom vending machine.

    But then again, the fact is that most ‘extra-marital sex’ in Chennai takes place on OMR and that much of this is due to the new IT companies – making it a fulcrum for revolution in many ways. Or that divorce rates are commonest among IT and BPO employees.

  26. Karthik Thirumalai (unregistered) on December 6th, 2007 @ 8:37 pm


    I was never attacking IT companies in the first place, infact I am happy that many have improved their economic well being because of it. The whole point about the comment was that, economic prosperity brings in people from different parts of the country, just like how South Indians moved to Mumbai in the earlier days. In this fast paced world, the only constant thing is change itself. So I was merely stating the obvious, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to hold on to the ‘Madras’ I knew and grew up with.

    In a argument there is supposedly this hard and fast rule that either I agree with you entirely or disagree with you. I don’t believe that. I completely agree that if people want traditional menus in their weddings, they ought to take extra pains to provide the same.

    What’s wrong with you man? I agree with others here, how did you jump from wedding menus to pregnancy? It’s not the IT companies, it’s the culture and attitude. When a society prospers, there are different things that come with it and some of it are bad. But to blame an entire group of people is just abhorable.

  27. sexmaniac (unregistered) on December 7th, 2007 @ 2:15 am


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    practice it like breathing and liking it.
    Believe me, Women aren’t BAD as you want us
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  28. ramesh (unregistered) on December 7th, 2007 @ 4:37 am

    IT companies and BPO’s coming to Chennai are a good thing however this does not mean we have to change our indentity. People have a big problem with this in Chennai especially they feel they must make everyone welcome I am sorry to say you can’t please everyone. Any non Tamilians that come here are just here for money they are not concerned with anything else. They rather make you slaves and enforce there culture on the locals. I have no problem with any one from other states coming here but they must follow local practises and not try to enforce there rules on us. Movies like “Tamil MA” highlights these issues in Chennai and TN it should make people wake up to the reality on what goes on here instead of being in self-denial.

  29. ds (unregistered) on December 7th, 2007 @ 3:23 pm

    ‘Changing our identity’ – What is the non-sense identity.
    I dont understand why people are too much attached to their culture, religion, language, customs etc.. We all are HUMANS.. whichever is good accept it.

  30. Jennal Paarvai (unregistered) on December 7th, 2007 @ 5:15 pm

    Dear Parthasarathy,

    Please choose:

    Option 1: Women are empowered. They now have the ability and the strength to walk out of a marriage that isn’t working. (whether these are women in IT/BPO is another matter)

    Option 2: Women aren’t empowered. No divorce, agreed. But women stay in shitty marriages with our traditionally-MCP men (and I am male, btw) all their lives unhappily, because society (our “culture”, if you will) dictates that they do not have a choice.

    A low divorce rate in our country does not automatically mean a high happily-married rate. What’s more important? Artificially keeping divorce rates down, or happy marriages?

  31. ds (unregistered) on December 7th, 2007 @ 9:17 pm

    Well said ! Jennal Paarvai.

  32. Karthik Thirumalai (unregistered) on December 7th, 2007 @ 9:23 pm


    White I reject the notion that there is no ‘Identity’, again the factor of inevitablity is in play especially in the cities. We all ache to be in a particular group, no matter how much we speak about ‘Multi-Culturism’ and we all like to belong to something. It’s an inate human quality. Try living in a foreign country and you will know what I am talking about.

    How many times have people made fun of other languages? I have done it a hundred times, but felt bad when i could sense someone else is trying to do the same.

    I have come to understand that as you become older, we tend become more conservative in nature. Again, something that pushes human beings towards feeling that, they should belong to a group( that maybe anything: language, country, region, religion etc and sometimes all of it)

    It’s interesting to note the things you have mentioned in your comments. I am no fortune teller, but the way things are moving forward, expect more cultural changes. It’s very true that those that moved into Chennai from other parts of India are in it just for their economic well being and it’s their constitutional right to do so. It’s also true that businesses will try to cater to the needs of very population segment to be profitable. There will be a market for more exclusive ‘North-Indian’ joints and other ‘Saravana Bhavans’ types that co-exist. I wish we could go back to those days, when life was much simpler and but reality is much different.

    You have no right to tell any ‘Chennaite’ to ask them to live somewhere else. How attached are you to being Sindhi? How long have you lived in Chennai? Do you know Tamil?

    I mean these are fair questions to ask, atleast I feel that way. Would you change your Sindhi culture and ways, in order to meet certail goals? I think you are referring to @Ramesh’s and few others ‘right-winged’ tone, while I don’t agree everything they have to say, it’s fair to feel that “our” cultured is being altered.

    You have to realise that 2000 years of culture (predates so many ancient cultures) and traditions are not going away soon and their adherents are not ready to give that up easily as well.

    I am no right-winger by any stretch of means, but preserving local culture and traditions should part of any transitions.

  33. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on December 7th, 2007 @ 9:36 pm


    There is no argument anywhere in favour of keeping divorce rates down. Please read carefully before shooting off.

    As for divorces, they need to be taken in our stride. It should be recognised that marriages are not ‘natural’ and that husbands are not solely responsible for its ‘sucess’. No need for ‘maintainence penalities’ that actually encourage many women to take divorce over petty family issues.
    Again, empowerment of women need not be stopped. But that is the other reason for increased divorces.

  34. Arunkumar (unregistered) on December 8th, 2007 @ 1:53 am


    If you do not have facts, better not to mention it here. Infosys on OMR does not have Automatic Condom Vending Machines. Infosys as an Indian company has its own ethics and values.

    Better get back to the topic without diversion.

    (Note: I work for Infosys in Sholinganallur, Chennai and know better about what the rest rooms have. Also BPO does not operate here in Chennai.)

  35. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on December 8th, 2007 @ 3:41 pm

    Arun, You are getting on my nerves. This is the third and final time I m going to say that I am only asking for the place with condom vending machines. &^^%#$^%#@$(&^*&

  36. Anand (unregistered) on December 9th, 2007 @ 7:11 am

    Those of you here who have been writing comments which are so parochial and narrow minded should be ashamed. We are a bunch of hypocrites. We want ourselves to be accepted as equals in the rest of India and in Western countries where we have settled, but we do not have the mindset and sophistication in our thinking to do the same when people from other parts of India and abroad come to work in Chennai. The world is now a multicultural place. Cities like London, New York and so on are a melting pot of different cultures. Right wing noises in these places are quite sensibly drowned out by the majority. These cities at the same time retain their uniqueness.

    And so will we. Chennai is a major metropolis and I would like to assume, a confident metropolis. Statements like ‘our culture is being eroded’ are ridiculous. Chennai has evolved over the centuries and will continue to evolve. However a Chennaiite is always a Chennaiite and nothing is going to happen to take that identity away from you! A capital city or for that matter any city that has higher ambitions cannot also have the amount of social conservativeness that some of you want to retain. And anyway, where has all of that led us? To some of the greatest inequalities in society.

    If you want to fight against something, go and fight against some of the absurd things that our governments do. Not against the IT companies and so on who are at the end of the day directly and indirectly providing employment and contributing to our economy. Empowering women is one of the best things to have happened in recent times and there is a great deal more to go. Some of the comments sadly show an unwillingness to accept the reality.

    Also some of you confuse Chennai culture and Tamil culture. Chennai has never historically been the guardian of Tamil culture. It is Madurai, Tanjavur and so on. Chennai is embracing some modernity in keeping with its status as a major metropolis. If you find it difficult to accept, then the options are either to learn to adjust or alternatively, not to live in a metro.

    I am a full blooded Chennaiite and I miss some of the things which I grew up with in the 70’s, but I realize that I should not confuse nostalgia and a memory of the past as the only truth. As they say ‘the only constant is change’. So let us be confident as Chennaiites and not be afraid of accepting new ideas or people and make Chennai a truly vibrant city.

    I am really sorry that this comment has very little relevance to the actual blog, but seeing some of the earlier comments, I just had to say this.

  37. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on December 9th, 2007 @ 9:04 am

    Anand, Good general observations. But in my defense, I will have to say again that I am NOT against empowerment of women ( nor can I see anyone else here who is ). In fact I am NOT even against feminism – as opposed to ‘feministvadism’.

    Someone else here THOUGHT I am AGAINST divorces too! And it must have taken a lot of re reading of my messages to convince him that I was NOT.

    My point is that divorces are increasing in large part due to the increasing empowerment of women. Kindly read the posts carefully before coming to any sensible conclusion.

  38. ram (unregistered) on December 9th, 2007 @ 5:06 pm

    Some of the points you make are true Anand even if Chennai is not the guardian of Tamil culture that may be true other places in TN has a sense of this but this does not mean we change everything the fact is the majority of people living in Chennai are Tamilians and so we should maitain our customs and traditons. I mean we do not see non Tamilians coming here and leaving there culture behind do we so why should we let other cultures come here and allow them to change everything I mean the language spoken in Chennai has this problem. Madras Bashai is an example of this, places like Mumbai have slang language and normal language but they do not mix words from other languages like this language so already we are lacking there. If you ask some one something in Tamil in Chennai they struggle to give you an answer in Tamil or say that do not speak it how ridiculous does that sound. Go to Shanghai and you will not encounter such idiotic behaviour.

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