| A still from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which featured some NRIs and their extravagant ceremonies
London, Sept. 4: Young Patels getting married in Britain apparently expect the most expensive wedding gifts from their guests, according to research conducted by John Lewis, the Oxford Street department store.
On their “wish list” are items such as plasma television screens ' they alone cost '5,000 each ' Royal Doulton crockery, champagne stoppers and top-of-the-range fridge-freezers.
John Lewis picked four of the most common surnames in Britain by consulting the Office of National Statistics ' Patel, Jones, Smith and Cohen ' and compared their wedding gift lists.
Time was when guests attending an Indian wedding would be told by the parents of the bride or groom: “Please don’t bring gifts. Your gracious presence is itself a precious gift. If you bless the couple, what more could anyone want'”
Of course, everyone knows no guest will come empty-handed.
But the research done by John Lewis reveals that Indians are becoming as shameless as the English. Young Patel couples come into the store before the wedding and draw up their ideal list by choosing from the 500,000 goodies that are available. They think nothing of sticking the priciest gifts on their list.
Guests can then choose from the list, which is put up online. If one item is picked, other guests cannot select the same gift. The English idea is that by getting guests to avoid duplication, a young couple can get collect enough useful gifts at the beginning of their married life.
Mr and Mrs Jones tend to ask for cheaper gifts such as hammocks, champagne buckets and coffee makers, with a '500 barbecue the most expensive item asked for.
Mr and Mrs Smith go for sofas, board games and microwave equipment for the kitchen. Although John Lewis would not dream of saying so, they seem even duller than the Jones.
Mr and Mrs Cohen request items such as fondue sets, Le Creuset pans and egg poachers from their wedding guests. Again, their taste leaves much to be desired.
Kerry McCulloch, the head of gift lists at John Lewis, said the surname trend was surprising and “a bit of an eye-opener”.
“Lists have been changing quite drastically over the past few years,” she said, adding that although the traditional crockery remained, people were having a lot more fun with their choices.
In the late 1950s, items such as winceyette blankets and wooden washing tongs featured on the gift list, replaced in the 1960s by Pyrex dishes and bone china dinner sets, the research showed.
In 2005, said McCulloch, the Patels were “the top end, cr'me de la cr'me”.
“They are by no means shy and they are certainly looking to the luxury items in life as opposed to the kitchen basics,” she said.
McCulloch said: “Our latest research has highlighted some fascinating insights into wedding list preference, including the fact that couples with the same surnames are more likely to have similar wedding gifts. If you are after the ultimate and most opulent wedding lists, full of luxury goods and sensational extravagances, then it’s keeping up with the Patels that really counts.”
She added: “We will continue to watch this interesting trend in surname similarities, as who knows when the Jones will eventually regain their crown' They need to be a little bit more adventurous.”
Prof Richard Scase, a specialist in demographics and the author of Britain in 2010, said he was not surprised at all by the gift list findings.
The Patels engage in giving and sharing, he said, because of their extended family structure. “The giving of gifts is a token of respect to the other family members.” Their gift choices were marked by “conspicuous consumption rather than functionality”.
Scase added that the difference could be explained by the fact that Indian families did a lot of entertaining, cooking extensive meals for large families.
Whether Patel couples actually get the presents they want is, of course, another matter. The Patels are famed for being careful with their money.
A prominent member of the community, Lata Patel, who was mayor of the London borough of Brent from 1996-97 ' she and her wealthy businessman husband, K.D. Patel, attend dozens of Gujarati weddings ' said the norm for most guests was to fork out about '50 for a gift.
“These days many people have stopped buying gifts,” she said. “Some people buy vouchers from Selfridges, John Lewis and other stores, so that married couples can buy what they want. Or guests give cash. Usually, there are two envelopes, one for the groom and another for the bride and you put '25 into each or '20 or even '10, depending on what you can afford.”