Nagaland: Weddings during COVID

The pandemic has forced generally lavish Naga weddings to adapt to the ‘new normal’


Atono Tsükrü Kense 
Kohima | November 24

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, educational institutions, exams, social gatherings, sports activities, worship services etc were all paused for almost a year, depriving people their social interactions.

With the wedding season here, couples have had to strike a fine balance to hold their ceremonies this year. Nagas are known to have lavish weddings—from the decorations, foods, return gifts etc; and the numbers of guests is perceived by some as an indication of social status. However, in line with the ‘new normal,’ weddings now have to be small affairs, with a limited number of guests.

The Directorate of Health and Family Welfare, Nagaland had on November 17, issued an advisory for weddings, marriages and social events to prevent transmission of COVID-19, for strict adherence with immediate effect.

“Our greatest concern is, gathering in whatsoever may be, should be limited and as far as possible social distancing and wearing of mask must be compulsory,” said Dr Vizolie Suokhrie, Principal Director, Health and Family Welfare.

He also reminded that there is no place for complacency. “There should be limited time for all these events and less exposure is the best way,” he added. The Principal Director further cautioned that people with flu like symptoms should strictly avoid these events, while the elderly and young children should avoid attending social events.

Dr Nyan Kikon, IDSP H&FW meanwhile also said that it is part of “our social responsibility” to follow the advisories. 

Small weddings

Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), General Secretary, Rev Zelhou Keyho said weddings/marriages are long term plans. “The future of the couple and so many things are involved and we don't know how long this will go; it may go longer than we think,” he stated. 

While understanding the difficulty in postponing weddings, he however stated that the “blessing of the Church and participation of family and few friends is enough.” “So, personally I would say get the blessing of the Church and continue life,” he added. 

A soon to be groom whose wedding is next month acknowledged that it is disheartening to be able to invite only a limited number of guests. “Weddings are the only time when we get to invite all our relatives, friends and loved ones in one place,” he stated.

He however understood the need to be responsible in these unprecedented times. “We can’t be complacent and ignore the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic.” His wedding, for instance, will only have 100 close family members, 50 each from the groom’s and bride’s families for the ceremony at the Church.

About 200-300 guests are expected for the reception which would be held in the Church compound and packed foods will be handed out to the guests. “As far as possible, we are trying to adhere to the government advisory,” he added. 

Another man who is getting married in December doesn’t have any qualms about the restrictions, as he remarked “the wedding for me is not something to show off. It is a sacred ritual. What matters to me and my fiancé is getting the blessings of the Church and our parents.”

“In recent years, weddings have become a competition as to who has the most expensive decorations, foods and the large number of guests,” he remarked, adding, “It is a huge burden on the married couple who has to build their future.”

While many are adhering to the health advisories, there are also cases of the SOPs being flouted. 

The proprietor of a printing house in Kohima said that though orders for printing wedding cards have reduced, customers still place orders for 700-800 guests, which is beyond the limit set by the government. 

On his part, he said he keeps reminding his customers about the standing advisory on inviting guests, yet some people seem to not care. He further informed that he is printing wedding cards to about 2000-3000 guests. "Except to keep reminding them, I could do nothing much as I have to deliver what my customers ask" said the proprietor.

Rev Keyho meanwhile called for acting responsibly. “Community welfare must be our concern. We must do all that we can and leave the rest to God.” He further appreciated that food packets are being distributed in several weddings and should be followed by all.

“Our carelessness will be a bad Christian testimony. We should not allow ourselves to be complacent lest we become a stumbling block to others. Protecting oneself contributes to protecting the larger community. Be responsible- ‘reasonable faith and responsible response’ in protecting oneself and the community should be our response to the pandemic,” Rev Keyho advised.