by Ross Elledge, courtesy I DO! Magazine
It’s official. I am getting older. People around me are getting married and some of them are having children. And not necessarily in that order but then again this is the 21st century. Old mates who seemingly only yesterday regarded marriage to be as likely as a close encounter with the third kind have now given into the fairer sex and are tying the knot! The decision made, the photos of ex-girlfriends consigned to dusty shoe boxes to be shown to randy grandchildren years from now, these lads and their lovers can now turn their attention to the most important bits of paper they will ever put a pen to. No, not the pre-nuptial! The guest list and more importantly the gift list!
“Anything you give is appreciated, but cash gifts will help just that little bit more.” Yes, hard to believe but that actually was emblazoned in fancy gold lettering on one of the last invitations I received. Whatever next? Little boxes for my VISA card number? Payment online at www.gimmedamoney.com? And you do realize that this raises a whole number of little dilemmas. First and foremost – if I am giving a cash gift, how much is enough? I mean how well do I know these people? What are the going rates? Lm 10 for people I say good morning to at work ranging to three figures for people who have profoundly affected my life? Am I going to be labeled as mean or excessive? Do I get a student discount? And can I get my money’s worth by drinking enough at the reception? All salient points to be considered in weighing up how many bills to stuff in the envelope. Still, I suppose it’s better than having to spend the afternoon looking at silverware and chandeliers.
And another thing – why the compulsion in Malta to make the occasion so over the top? And to invite what seems like half the country to the ceremony and reception! That is something which has always hit me about the typical Maltese wedding – the sheer amount of people invited. I mean, maybe I am just unsociable or something but I can’t even think of that many people to invite to my wedding. Maybe I am just an unlikable sod but I can’t help getting the feeling that most times at the weddings I’ve been to, the bride and groom don’t know half of the guests themselves. Distant cousin #3, drunken uncle #2, man on roundabout I met earlier today, unnamed work colleague – the guest list sort of reads like the credits list at the end of a movie. You’ve got your protagonists at the top – your best man and maid of honour etc, and then towards the bottom it’s these sort of – well, extras. The faceless, nameless people who just make it a big event.
A while ago I was invited to a work colleague’s wedding. After reassuring my girlfriend of one year that the inscription “Ross and partner” on the invite did not mean that they didn’t know her name, but rather that they were in a hurry when they wrote the invites, we arrived fashionably late and dressed to kill (am very chuffed with the way I look in a suit but then again I think everyone is – sort of get to play at James Bond for the evening and have to fight the urge to ask for a vodka martini, shaken but not stirred etc.). We walked in and headed straight for the bar (I find sobriety counterproductive at weddings – I believe the official AA translation of that is, I just need a good excuse to get plastered). Working through my second drink I began to notice that there weren’t too many familiar faces. In fact there weren’t any familiar faces. And I wasn’t drunk yet. So I sauntered up to a friendly looking, if unfamiliar face and asked if he had seen Audrey and Clarence yet. “Audrey and Clarence?” Right – wrong wedding obviously. After the now not so friendly looking face redirected me to the wedding reception down the road I vowed to make a hasty escape…and only to return if the food was really bad at the other wedding.
I remember once being at an old girlfriend’s house and looking at a photo of her sister’s wedding. The groom looked (and indeed was) much younger than I was at the time of my failed courtship. And as they stood there at the altar, doubtless having just uttered their “I dos”, he looked towards the camera at the moment of the snapshot. And there on his face was an expression that I had seen before, yet couldn’t quite place until much later that afternoon. I remember I had only seen that look in the eyes once before on the face of a rabbit right before my father hit it with the car whizzing along a country lane in Kent.
Having said that I was recently invited to an engagement party and it was the kind of thing which melts even the hardest of cynics – that’s right folks, brace yourselves for a mushy ending with a moral. As I was privileged enough to be invited to gather around the happy couple at what was an intimate and close ceremony with family and friends, and the priest blessed the rings, I could not help grinning like a moron. But it was the intimacy of the setting and the sheer love these two people obviously share for each other that warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes (lord have mercy – how clichéd, but sadly true), and grandiose ceremonies and long gift lists won’t give you those feelings. Thankfully, gin and tonic may help simulate them.