With lockdown eased, Nepal sees a resurgence of weddings and ceremonies amid Covid-19 risk

Return of ceremonies worries public health experts

Prasun Sangroula

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: Samikshya, 24, from Kathmandu recently got married, just after the lockdown was eased. Even though she was not wholly positive about the idea of tying the knot amid pandemic, the groom’s family argued that the lagan was perfect this time and there may never come such an ideal, astrologically-perfect time for the wedlock, according to Samikshya, who asked to be identified with a pseudonym fearing backlash from her family.

“I know it’s not a right time to marry but the circumstances compelled me,” said Samikshya. “I couldn’t convince our families and didn’t have any other alternative.”

For many Nepalis like Samikshya, marriage is not a private affair. It is a social affair, linked to the prestige of the families. And while many conscious Zoomers like her would have opted to avoid social gatherings amid the pandemic, they can’t wholly reject their families and bow to their pressures.

And as such, many like Samikshya have been married during the pandemic, irrespective of the threat of the virus. Although data related to marriage are hard to find, it’s easy to guess the rate of marital functions has increased since the government eased the lockdown two weeks ago. One has only to scroll their social media feeds. Wedding posts have made a comeback. Recently, a group photo of bridegrooms heading to different venues for marriage went viral. The grooms were all stuck in the Narayanghat-Mugling road due to a landslide and the photo session seemed to have provided a moment of levity amid the boring lull of a long-distance drive.

They, however, appeared to have ignored the fact that a pandemic was still ongoing in the country. Nepal’s coronavirus caseload is still over 2000 daily. On Monday, July 5, the country registered a total of 2622 new cases, with 23 lives lost in the preceding 24 hours. Even though the number of cases and fatalities is significantly less than what it was during the peak surge two months ago, the threat is anything but over. 

Public health experts have warned that, despite the easing of the lockdown, the threat of the virus is intact, and so people should follow the Covid protocols. 

Public health experts have warned that, despite the easing of the lockdown, the threat of the virus is intact, and so people should follow the Covid protocols. Otherwise, it is only a matter of time before the third wave sets in. 

Even though gatherings are proven to be a catalyst to virus spread, the government has allowed such gatherings, with the provision that a maximum of 15 people can be present at a function. With lax regulations, however, it is obvious that gatherings feature much more people than the threshold. 

Sociologist Ganesh Basnet says that for Nepalis, marriage is an affair of utmost sociological importance. Many believe that it determines their position in society. 

He said, “the government has included marriage in the most important category. With that,  in society like ours, it will be ineffective to prohibit such ceremonies through law and order. 

“In the first lockdown, the government tried to prohibit gatherings, including marriage functions, but people didn’t listen,” said Basnet. “Some of the factors that are leading people to conduct marriage ceremonies in such a critical time are the low level of literacy and superstitious beliefs that a delay of marriage can create ominous problems in the family.”

Moreover, many families who escaped virus infection are yet to be serious about it, Basnet added.

It might be that people have been using weddings and other gatherings to get connected to each other after such a long time of frustrating stay at home, argues psychologist Gopal Dhakal. 

“As the government has eased the lockdown they want to clear all those stress and frustration through celebration and gatherings,” said Dhakal. “It is definitely an unfavorable time to conduct any kind of functions and gatherings but meanwhile people also want to meet their friends and family and celebrate to get relieved.”

Many jobs have been either lost or discontinued during the pandemic, including that of wedding planners and those working at party palaces. Marriage ceremonies have allowed wedding planners to continue their work but party palaces are still restricted to host any kind of functions. 

Aastha Khati, event coordinator at Nepal Wedding Planners, said that her company has started organizing weddings but maintaining safety protocols and using the least number of manpower. 

“We ask our clients to invite the least number of guests,” said Khati. “On average, around 15 – 30 people are attending the ceremony that is being planned by Nepali Wedding Planners.”

However, the return of the ceremonies has had public health experts worried.

“This is not a good signal,” said Dr Sameer Mani Dixit, Director of Research at Center for Molecular Dynamics. He added that the increase of gatherings also shows the negligence of the government towards the potential threat that viruses can cause. 

“The government could have deployed security personnel to look over those who breach safety protocols,” Dixit said. “Until everyone is vaccinated, the virus will continue to spread.”