For better or worse, in people's minds weddings and wedding gifts go together like a horse and carriage. Social reformers in the guise of religious reverends and ministers might rail against the excesses practiced by bridal couples, but their words fall on unheeding ears. Even governments, from time to time, try to curb the tendency by passing laws against luxury and extravagance. Invariably their influence is as transient as their own existence.
Weddings without gifts is a contradiction in terms.
Go back to the early days of carefree village life and you'll see wedding guests entering the room, diffidently or bashfully, making their offering to the bride and groom. Perhaps it might be a cup cunningly wrought out of a piece of wood found in the garden patch. Or a brand new pillow, fat with the down of their own flock of geese.
After carefully examining the offering, the bride and groom would nod their approval at the party organiser standing close beside them, and also known as the keeper of beer or ale or mead or whatever the popular drink of the time. A much appreciated gift would result in a giant tankard of liquid refreshment for the giver. Less appreciated one would generate a smaller container. No gift at all - and then, as now, there's always a few of those sort of guests - and no liquid refreshment at all.
You could always tell apart the liberal giver from the scrooge by the way they left the wedding. The former would reel from side to side, almost missing the door on his way out. The latter might pretend that he was almost as under the weather, but no one was likely to be fooled by the act.
As industrialism and time-keeping came into existence, this hit and miss method of gift-giving was deemed inefficient. Enter the gift register. Now the worry of what to give the couple was taken entirely out of the inexperienced hands of the guest. As long as they could read the couple's stated preferences, they could stop worrying about the wedding gift entirely.
It seemed so easy. It should have been easy. But some people insist on creating problems where none exist.
There seems to be a human need to express freedom of choice and at least one quarter of all wedding guests simply ignore all efforts to get them to buy what they couple want and instead buy them something that they'll never use.
Oh, sure, they'll go to the department store where the couple have registered. But instead of the coffee-maker or water purifier indicated on the list, they will immediately go to that wasteland of wedding presents. That place of luxurious magnificent items whose sight will knock your eyes out, whose price will put you in hock, but whose utility is non-existent.
The bride and groom will spend the rest of their life wondering what to do with that half a ton of crystal. Perhaps they might use it for a salad bowl, if ever 30 guests drop in unexpectedly for lunch. Or a vase, if ever they start their own market flower garden and can afford the couple of hundred dollars of flowers which it needs to fill it.
It seems no matter how hard the bride and groom try to make gift-giving simple and easy, guests insists on going their separate intractable way.
"What would you like as a wedding gift, dear?" they'll ask sweetly. "We really want you to have what you need."
"We could do with some money, gran. This wedding is costing us a fortune."
"I'll get you a tea-set, then, shall I? I saw a really nice one at David Jones the other day."
"Weddings are pretty expensive, gran. Money would be nice."
"Then there's that hall-runner I saw advertised. Very reasonably priced."
"Money is what we'd really like!"
"What about a damask table cloth, and eight napkins to go with it."
"You're absolutely, right, dear. Way too expensive. The tea-set was half the price."
The contemporary couple, marrying for the second, or third, or even fourth time, have a real dilemma on their hands. They need another casserole dish like they need another recipe book, but how can you get that through to people?
Of course, where there's a way, and where there's so many wedding specialists around, a solution was bound to surface sooner or later.
Here's the latest gift-register list.
"Tim and I are going to the Antarctic for our honeymoon and have registered with our bank. For your convenience we've made arrangements for you to select your choice of gifts by using any of the following options - credit card, cheque, money order or electronic money transfer.
Our most desired item is $50
Desired - $20
Less desired - $10
Least desired - $5"
What will those "doing our own thing" guests do now? Give $100? A $1,000? Bring it on!
Vlady is an Australian Civil Marriage Celebrant. She is also an author of "Complete Book of Australian Weddings" and "The Small Organisation Handbook". Vlady is a member of Queensland Civil Marriage Celebrants Association and Celebrants Training Association. She is also a member of Australian Authors and Romance Writers of Australia.
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