Been to a wedding recently? My husband and received an invitation to a wedding this summer, our first in several years. Our friends are either long-married or confirmed singles. Given the infrequency of the invitations, we don’t know what’s in and what’s out for weddings, or more precisely, wedding gifts. Actually, we never did know. We were married by a judge in the county courthouse. We didn’t know about gift registries then, and even if we had, we never considered owning china, silverware or crystal. (Years later we inherited all these things.) It was the seventies. We had little money and our lifestyle was simple.
Thankfully, the recent invitation directed us to a couple of wedding registries, so we knew choosing a gift would be easy. A few days before the wedding date, we visited Macy’s and typed the bride’s name in the store’s wedding registry computer. We tapped our toes and checked our watches as we watched the gift list grow to the point it reached the floor. As it got longer and longer and began making its way toward the housewares department, we expected to see the message, “This machine is experiencing technical difficulties.” But the message never arrived. Eight feet and three inches of paper later, it ground to a halt.
Reading the 93 items on the list reminded us of two wedding gifts we received (the only ones we could remember): three stainless steel serving trays, which we still have, and a hideous bouquet of plastic flowers which we didn’t keep for more than a few minutes. We only received about seven gifts. Imagine trying to remember 93.
Despite the length and depth of the gift wish list, it still signified that not much has changed from the past. When I mentioned this to a friend, she updated me on something that has: the addition of honeymoon registries. She knows two attorneys who are getting married and have added honeymoon options to their gift list. I’m imagining the choices: hotel room upgrade: $300 a day; room service — three dinners, $450; private surfing lessons, $300; and new warm-weather wardrobe, $4,000.
Wedding customs vary from culture to culture. In many cultures, money is the preferred gift. This saves a trip to the registry and the time required to pour over the list. But even this practice has its drawbacks. A Romanian friend said that guests put their cash donations in envelopes, which they set in front of them on their tables during the reception. They then hold their breath as the emcee moves around the room, chooses some envelopes to open, and reports their contents to the larger audience. The stingy donor is soon exposed, much to the pleasure — and relief — of others who have given more.
The more I think about these changes, the better our wedding sounds. We’re still married after 44 years and only have one bad memory of gifts. We still laugh about the plastic flowers. In a charitable moment, my husband said, “Plastic lasts for eternity. Maybe the sentiment behind this gift was, ‘May your marriage last as long as these flowers.'” Nice try.