New Variations On The Wedding Gift Racket
Dear Friend –
Perhaps you’ve noticed, as I certainly have, the trend of engaged couples sending their wedding guests directives, thinly disguised as suggestions, that friends, family, and anyone who might pop for a present purchase specific wedding gifts or, more and more frequently, that they skip the hassle of a trip to the mall and just send cash rather than risk the scandalous faux pas of giving the happy couple another toaster.
Taking this socio-cultural trend yet another step, some soon-to-be-weds, as noted in a Wall Street Journal article,1 are leaning on guests to pony up significant coin as a contribution to the wedding festivities themselves, distinct from and, one assumes, in addition to, a wedding gift. (While such activities are themselves distasteful, even more alarming is the realization that this intensification of pre-nuptial avarice brings us that much closer to the point that it will inevitably become a topic that Andy Rooney will brandish to bash anyone born after 1892 by recalling in detail and at length that when he and Mrs. R got hitched, their only gifts were a Bible, sixteen clothespins that had been passed down from mother to daughter for eight generations, and two jars of canned persimmons.)
This phenomenon (the wedding gift thing, not the Andy Rooney thing, although …) is outrageous and should move all of us (except Andy Rooney) to take a stand against such greed on the part of this small group of bride and groom wannabes, who have been arbitrarily privileged by tradition to coerce payola from the rest of us. Well, I for one (cue fanfare) am striking back against this despicable marketplace inequity, and I am certain you will support me in this crusade/jihad/secular revolt (note newfound cultural sensitivity).
What, one may well ask rhetorically, is so special about the betrothed that they have license to levy this tariff on their acquaintances? Well, one might rhetorically answer (presumably not the same one who originally asked this rhetorical question), these crazy kids are planning to commit marriage, an institution so significant in our civilization that it evokes celebration, one aspect of which is the giving of gifts. And you know what? I can see the validity of this point.
Indeed, my argument is not that these folks, suckered in by the diamond, flower, and chapel cartels to sign up for a formal marriage ceremony, don’t deserve compensatory gifts, but that others – oh, let’s say me, for example – also deserve some of the loot.
Moreover, you will be happy to learn that not only have I developed a means of leveling the playing field, but I’ve also given the procedure my own special spin, creating in the process, a win-win situation.
Have I got a deal for you.
Accidents (And Wedding Invitations) Can Happen
Imagine receiving an engraved card from me that announce “Someone’s getting married.” On unfolding it, you discover the message, “But it’s not me – yet.”
I admit that I’m perfectly content as and prefer to remain a member of the unmarried, but I will also point out that I certainly have the potential for getting married. Heck, if one takes a look at my first marriage, it’s clear that I am capable of marrying the wrong spouse at the wrong time for the wrong reason in the face of all kinds of warnings and signals. I am the proverbial loose cannon. And I figure that’s gotta be worth something.
The bargain I’m offering to strike is a simple one: friends, family, and anyone else that I might find a reasonable premise to invite to my wedding, reception, showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, etc (and I can be pretty darn clever when it comes to such rationalizations; if a name can be approximated with the English alphabet, the person answering to that name is in jeopardy) can either make a modest contribution (calculated at approximately half the value of an appropriate wedding present) in commemoration of my unwed status OR those same individuals can risk the pains, inconvenience, and fiscal cost of involvement in my matrimonial bliss.
The Consequences Of Refusal – The Wedding From Hell (Or The Ozarks)
Now, I’m not saying I will definitely get married if you all don’t pay off. Maybe I’m just bluffing; maybe I’m not. But before you decide whether to call that bluff, consider the following.
Those in receipt of this announcement should be aware that, if I have to make good on the threatened exchange of nuptial vows, this will not be one of those simple, quiet ceremonies with only a few family members present one is always hearing about. No, I’m thinking of a ceremony more along the lines of Papal Election meets Fear Factor – tentatively to be held at the either
(1) The Dugout Bar of Mickey Mantle’s Holiday Inn (AAA Approved) in Joplin, Missouri2
or, if I’m feeling more precious,
(2) The Precious Moments Chapel in nearby Carthage Missouri, which has generously offered me a cut of the profits from the sale of figurines (the perfect souvenir!) to my mother and, should she overlook any, to the other guests.
All 26 groomsmen will be spectacularly attired in lime green tuxes with bright green piping. Those of you attending the bride can anticipate buying and wearing gorgeous rhinestone-studded, two-tone lavender bridesmaid’s dresses, constructed from tutu skirts and corseted bodices set off by the obligatory puffy sleeves, creations which can easily be adapted for everyday wear.
The wedding will begin with a series of games, many of which involve taping note cards to ones forehead or tucking oranges beneath ones chin, to break the ice among the audience (as well as embarrass anyone who participates and mark as a pariah anyone who declines to play).
The service itself, styled on the Bataan Death March, will be long, arduous, and Protestant (OK, that’s redundant, but you know what I mean), featuring congregational singing of every verse of multiple, obscure, difficult hymns, a sermon with heavy emphasis on likelihood of all in attendance spending eternity in Hell, and, of course, a collection. I will also throw in some sanctimonious New Age verbal tofu about the oneness of the universe, a quotation from the Koran or the Yajur-Veda or some other off-brand holy book, and a Yeats poem, all declaimed in an Ozarks dialect.
Individual audience members will then be randomly spotlighted and instructed to spontaneously serenade my bride and me with a cappella solos from a selection of pre-Yoko Beatles tunes, culminating with everyone joining in on a medley of hits from Metallica, Lynyrd Sknyrd, and The Carpenters. The musical section will conclude with a battle of the bands featuring the best Zydeco and Klezmer groups to be found in southwest Missouri.
If the church’s standard wedding vows are not already dangerously dull (defined as tedious enough to cause at least 50% of listeners to invoke Do Not Resuscitate orders; i.e., equivalent to the interest level of the average medical staff meeting), I will, as a last resort, read from my own writings (although I might instead opt for the recitation of either the 33rd page of the Prospect Heights, Illinois telephone directory or every 16th word from “The Da Vinci Code” or, as it is surrealistically known in Chicago, “Da Da Vinci Code”).
And, just in case you’re asking yourself this – Yes, there will armadillos wearing pantaloons and fedoras. And maybe some newts dipped in fluorescent paint.
The reception will be held in the Fellowship Hall (AKA the basement) of the Christian Church (no book but the Bible, no creed but Christ, no cake but that really dry white crap) in Diamond, Missouri. I won’t give away all the secret culinary treats but suffice it to say that an order is already pending at the local Piggly Wiggly for several cases of Campbell’s condensed mushroom soup and dozens of bags of miniature, colored marshmallows.
I can confidently assure you, the fun will be non-stop – and by fun, I mean every boring, tedious, humiliating, frustrating wedding reception activity possible. You can look forward to entire orchards of money trees, folk dancing representative of every ethnic group in Chicago, several breeds of the chicken dance, the classic obnoxious DJ, insipid toasts, drunken relatives, the Macarena, cash bar, drunken singing of the “Y-M-C-A” song, garter removing, cake mashing, dollar dancing, bouquet throwing … . This party will have ‘em all, and, in fact, will have them all repeated a couple of times for the benefit of The Wedding Supreme Commander (AKA the photographer).
Let’s put it this way: To get what I want, I’m not afraid to play the Hokey-Pokey card.
And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.
- Jennifer Saranow, Wall Street Journal, “To Have and to Hit Up,” May 6, 2005 [↩]
- Besides lending his name to the place, The Mick also authored the slogan used to push the fried chicken served in the hotel restaurant: “To get a better piece of chicken, you’d have to be a rooster.” I couldn’t make this stuff up. [↩]