Aliya Ali-Afzal on who The Big Day is for

Both the book, and the actual ceremony.

To celebrate the publication of The Big Day, we have invited Aliya Ali-Afzal to chat about whether a wedding day is for the bride and groom, or for everyone else.

Although, in theory, a wedding day belongs to the bride and groom, there are so many people with a vested interest in the big day, that power struggles are inevitable. Whether the happy couple ask for other people’s opinions or not, they will most certainly get them! Family and friends may comment on the arrangements and costs, add to the couple’s guest list, argue about the type of cake, and even have vocal opinions on the bride’s wedding dress. And what do lots of different opinions lead to? Conflict!

Although this may not be the ideal when planning a wedding in real life, for a novel, it gave me a perfect setting to explore the fireworks that go off when a bride-to-be clashes with her mum. Noor, the bride in my novel The Big Day, must decide whether to give into her mother’s demands for a ball room and a weeklong big fat desi wedding, complete with life-sized ice sculptures of the bride and groom, or stick to her own dream of a simple, sustainable, garden wedding, even if means making her mum unhappy.

As in reality, the wedding planning in the book is an emotional roller-coaster, with high stakes, relationships under strain and a countdown to the wedding, which is tense but also funny, as the battle for the big day escalates.

Weddings stir up all sorts of emotions and expose the complex dynamics in several relationships in the bride’s life. Mothers have often dreamt of their daughters’ wedding years before the bride herself, and it is hard for the mother-of-the- bride (MOB) to let go of her vision for her child’s day, while also ‘letting go’ of her child as she gets married and goes on to create a new family with her husband.

Then there’s the mother of the groom, the future mother-in-law (MIL), who may feel left out, leading to the MOB and MIL tussling over arrangements as well. The mothers may get competitive over their outfits, or who has a bigger role on the day itself.

Latent resentment may resurface amongst the bridesmaids, if one friend feels she is not as prominent or valued in the wedding party as others, plus seeing their friend get married may bring up complex emotions about the bridesmaids’ own romantic lives. The father of the bride may be stressing about his speech, and there is always that second cousin on your mum’s side who stops speaking to your parents because they didn’t invite her daughter and son-in-law and their three children, to your wedding.

When you add the financial pressures, which are particularly significant in the lavish weddings British South Asians throw, and the impossible task of trying to keep everyone happy, while planning a romantic, often Insta-worthy wedding, it’s easy to get lost in the planning itself and forget that first and foremost, this is about two people in love making a commitment to each other.

In my novel, as in movies, such as Crazy Rich Asians, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Bridesmaids and Mamma Mia, thinking about the sort of wedding the she wants, makes Noor, the bride-to-be in The Big Day, also think about what she wants from the rest of her life, including her career and finding out more about her mysterious father, who died when she was a child. The fact that he won’t be at the wedding, makes Noor want to trace his family, in defiance of her mother.  Although she is very much in love with her fiancé Dan, the legacy of her mum’s two divorces and unhappy romantic past, weighs heavy on Noor’s mind, especially as her mum has never told her what went wrong in her marriages. The lead up to the wedding is when you think about the past and your future.

One of the inspirations for my novel was my own experience of wedding planning. I always dreamed of getting married in Hawaii, wearing a grass skirt and flowers in my hair. However, I ended up having a week-long traditional desi wedding, with hundreds of guests. I wondered if the bride in my novel would fight for the wedding of her dreams, the way I wish I had!

The Big Day, by Aliya Ali-Afzal, published by Aria (Head of Zeus) on 6th June (UK), in paperback, eBook and audio, online and in all good bookshops.

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