Tag Archives: marriage

Friend of the Bride or the Groom?

By Jason Menard

There are few spectacles as wondrous as the celebration of the union of two loving partners in the bonds of matrimony. But there are also few things more uncomfortable than getting to the ceremony, being asked, “friend of the bride or the groom?” and not having an answer.

Maybe it’s reflective of an insular society that finds us with fewer true friends and less of a community feeling, but acquaintance invitations appear to be the fashion in modern weddings. In fact, just recently, my wife and I received an invitation to the wedding of a person to whom we’ve only spoken a handful of times.

Generally, I base my acceptance of whether or not I know the bride and groom’s first and last names. When I’ve only got a fuzzy notion of the bride’s first name and couldn’t pick the groom out of a police line-up, I think I’ve got grounds for not attending. But now we’re in that uncomfortable matrimonial nether-region of how to bow out gracefully.

It’s not like we have to worry about doing irreparable damage to a friendship, because exchanging pleasantries with someone who lives in close proximity to you does not a friendship make. Hell, if that was the case, I’d have invited the clerk at the grocery store we frequented, the guy behind the counter at the Lebanese restaurant we often got take out from, and the entire staff at the local Blockbuster Video. But that’s not how we saw our wedding. We chose to celebrate our wedding day with those who were closest to us – the friends and family that we saw every day and those we saw less frequently, but held a close emotional attachment to the both of us.

Our wedding was an intimate affair – which is just a fancy way of saying small. However, we made the choice to pare down the guest list out of respect for those we barely know.

Anyone who’s gone through the process of planning a wedding knows that the creation of the guest list can be one of most stressful aspects of the whole venture. The dreaded spectre of family politics inevitably raises its ugly head. We’ve all played that game – if you invite one aunt, then you have to invite the other. And if you invite those cousins, then we have to factor in spouses and children. A simply 60-gathering can easily increase exponentially three or four times just by climbing the family tree.

In many cases, these are family members that you never, ever see, except for weddings and funerals. A couple of years back, my wife and I were invited to the wedding of a cousin of mine of whom I had not seen for over a decade – back in her early teens. Yet, because of those thin family ties, we were invited. Work obligations forced us to miss the event – and we ended up dodging a bullet as the marriage lasted under a year.

And that’s where those doing the inviting have to take into consideration the investment required of the invitees. Weddings aren’t just an expense for the bride, groom, and their family – it also represents a substantial financial burden for those who choose to attend. Beyond the inflated prices for gifts, attendees must bear the cost of travel and taking time off of work. Those that are close to you will gladly bear that burden to share in your day, but is it really fair to expect that type of investment from those you don’t know? The fact is that family ties loosen and they shouldn’t be used to tighten the noose around our necks and oblige us to attend the ceremonies. And even if you believe that those family ties bind for life, acquaintances should not be held to the same standard.

Of course, as it turns out, not even the word no is free. Apparently some sort of etiquette commandment implies that, even if you don’t attend the wedding you’re obligated to send a gift in gratitude for having been invited. Personally, I think that’s a crock – I’m more than happy to send the barely known couple my fondest wishes for a long and happy life together, but those sentiments don’t need to be accompanied by a fondue set – but my wife is responsible for all things involving social graces in my family, and we’ll end up ponying up some cash for the right to decline.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think weddings should be about the gifts – they’re about sharing a special moment in your life with those who are most important to you. But many people look at wedding gifts as a means to an end – a way for the guests to pay back the expense you’ve incurred through inviting them. So maybe this shotgun approach of inviting distant relatives and casual acquaintances is a way to maximize one’s return while minimizing the risk that they’ll actually show up to the event.

Nor should weddings be a socially paralyzing experience. Just because I work with people doesn’t mean I have to invite them to my wedding. Why should I feel obligated to invite my eighth cousin, six times removed, because we spent a wonderful weekend at the beach together when I was five? Especially when I haven’t seen hind nor hair of that person since.

And if you need to enter into the realm of deductive reasoning when the question “friend of the bride or the groom,” is posed, then it’s a good sign that you shouldn’t be at that wedding – or compelled to attend.

But just make sure you drop off your gift on the way out.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

It’s a Nice Day for a Green Wedding

By Jason Menard

The time is fast approaching when a white wedding will be a thing of the past – replaced by the dominant colour green. The days of the wedding gift seem to be fading rapidly into memory, as the traditional lavishly decorated box is fast being replaced by a non-descript envelope.

Perhaps it’s a case of people now getting married later in life, when they’ve already established a home and don’t need new household goods, but I find it a little sad when the closest thing to intimacy that a modern wedding gift imparts is its signature.

It’s sad that weddings have now become slaves to functionality and practicality. Heck, if marriage ceremonies were truly committed to being practical, the expense of a lavish church wedding would be banked in lieu of a cheaper, civil service. A wedding is a celebration of love and a new life together, but today’s wedding gifts seem less about an expression from the heart and more about balancing a ledger.

How many people have heard the familiar refrain that a wedding gift should cover the cost of the meal? Does it not cheapen the intention of the gift when it becomes a barterable commodity as opposed to a token of affection?

My wife and I differ on the subject, in that she’s nowhere near as perturbed by the trend. At our wedding, she was fine with either option, whereas I was much more interested in the gifts because they offered me more than just another household appliance or decoration – they gave me a tangible remembrance of my wedding celebration and the person from whom the gift came.

Money simply goes into an anonymous pile. And whether it’s used to defer the cost of a wedding, purchase something for the home, or saved to help start a new life together, it eventually gets lost in the shuffle and the unique nature of the gift is gone. However, an actual gift can stay in a family for years.

We still have the coffee maker given to us at our wedding, and I consider that one of the best gifts we got. Simply put, the person who gave us the gift was known for her coffee consumption – and by giving that gift to us, we continue to be able to smile at how perfectly a gift matches the giver. No matter how pretty the picture, a cheque just doesn’t have that same cachet – and, eventually, the only one who sees it is the bank.

To gauge the importance of a gift, let’s look at what the married couple gives to their guests. I’ve yet to go to a wedding where the newlyweds forked over a few bucks to each attendee – instead, they offer special mementoes and keepsakes to help you remember the day. Although I never wear it, I still have a pocket watch given to me at a wedding in which I was a groomsman, and when I stumble across it, the memories of that event come rushing back.

Admittedly, the issue isn’t so black and white today. People are getting married later in life. Many people have been living on their own or in relationships wherein they’ve already accumulated a significant portion of their home decorations. A few already have purchased a home by the time they tie the knot, so there may not be an apparent need for a wedding gift.

But that’s the beauty of the process. It’s challenging to find the right gift for the right person, but when you do it’s a magical moment. Our young kids have it right – without a full comprehension of what money means, a piece of paper signifies nothing, but a well-thought-out gift brings a smile to their faces that warms the heart.

Call me a romantic at heart, but I really don’t feel a wedding should be about a net balance. My wife and I were lucky in that we received financial support from both sides of our family – and we made sure that our wedding plans were, by no means, extravagant. As such, even if we received no gifts whatsoever, I would have been happy because my wedding was a celebration of my love for my wife in front of our friends and family – not a way to pocket some extra cash.

Our guests’ presence was gift enough and anything we received on top of that was gravy. While I can still look around my home at the odd gift we received during that time, it’s sad to say that I no longer have any memory of the money I received. Understand, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and I appreciate each and every gift we received whether it came in an envelope or in a box. I just worry that we’re going too far away from sentimentality.

It’s ironic, in giving cash on a wedding day, we’re bankrupting a significant source of the couple’s happy memories for the future.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved