Back in the days when Net still meant a badminton net, and we did not know what a buffet dinner was, it was the done thing for entire families to be invited to weddings. "Mr and Mrs (only)" type invitations did not imply nice things about the hosts, and if you had guests at home at that time, you were expected to bring your guests along. (There was a typical phrase in the invitation card to that effect).
The reception consisted of the bride and groom dressed in their gilt-edged finest, sitting in two throne like decorative chairs with carvings that would make Buckingham Palace squirm with jealousy. All this happened on a stage , on to which folks climbed, to wish the couple, give them presents, get photographed, after which they descended and watched the proceedings from the sitting area which had chairs set up. Alongside the bride and the groom sat some "responsible" folks from either side, whose job was to collect the envelopes/gifts/presents, kind of nonchalantly passed to them by the couple, and document it, and store the stuff . Inventory management in action.
The information on the possible value of these gifts and things was often relayed to the mother of the bride/groom, through assorted mobile aunts and gestures like nodding, shaking the head and raising the eyebrows. When the guest came to bid the hosts goodbye and tell them what a wonderful reception it was, someone would emerge with a return gift, and the hosts would smilingly present it to the guest, with much questioning by the guest on the necessity of it all , etc etc.
One of the interesting outcomes of this was that the couple soon became the proud owners of 8 lemon sets, and 15 pressure cookers. None of these were returnable, as you never knew from where they were bought, and such discussions about purchases and money were simply not held with the donors.
Money was never discussed though value was predominant in the minds.
Why does all this spring to mind ?
Because, in these times-of-recycled-electrons, hitherto called the Internet, weddings have taken on an E-flavour. Particularly, in the US of A.
The minute a wedding is fixed, besides the bride and groom, the venue, the timings, the directions to the venue, special group rates at hotels for the wedding, and several other things, loom on the horizon.
So we have the couple's wedding website. A Main page which has some impressive background graphics, with some really nice casual pictures of the bride and groom , not necessarily bedecked . It tells the date, location and time of the wedding ceremony, with pictures of the venue. There is the inevitable Google Map nonchalantly sitting on one side, and people click that to find out how much time it will take them to reach there from wherever.
There is a another web section with snippets of how the couple met, where "the question" was popped , and so on.
Then there is something called a section pertaining to gifts, basically telling about a "gift registry". Typical of a society which honors order, common logic, and citizens who follow rules, the couple go to shops and choose patterns of crockery, items of interest, sets of china or whatever, and register these against their name. They then inform their guests , either on their web page , or on their invitation card, where the registry has been done. Those interested in gifting things to the couple, then go to these places , sometimes even online, choose from the preselected items , and gift according to their own wishes,capacity to spend, and audacity of mind. While this avoids the perils of acquiring 34 vases and bowls in 15 different designs and sizes, the element of surprise , sometimes seems to be gone.....
Sometimes things take an innovative turn; some might term it blatantly opportunistic, others may admire the nifty thinking of the couple, but a recent wedding website had an additional section of gifts. Something like presenting envelopes of cash with the usage mentioned on the cover. Enabling all this are sites like Honeyfund , a Honeymoon Registry !
The couple can request people to gift funds for, things like, say, the airfare to Hawaii, divided into , maybe ten parts, so that ten people gifting that would enable your ticketing. Ten invited people could over a period of time , before the wedding, "buy" up the ten parts, by using their credit cards and or Paypal. The gifting of cash, in eminently giftable amounts, and varying degrees of largesse, can also include, paying for the couple's flights between Hawaiian islands, snorkeling adventures, daily cocktails, fancy candlelight dinners, ocean front lunches, sightseeing trips, visits to ship museums, and many other things.
In keeping with today's emphasis on things like corporate social responsibility, the sites that host these wedding websites , arrange with the vendors figuring on their gift registry, to donate a part of every purchase to a charity chosen by the couple; which could be something like UNICEF.
When Google Maps says that it will take you 47 minutes to reach the venue from point A, notice that it also mentions that in rush hour traffic it will be an hour an 10 minutes. The bride and groom do their "green" bit, by mentioning that parking is available and that "carpooling is encouraged". They even mention what type of food and seating arrangements will be in effect at the reception.
It seems to be customary to have sit down dinners at the reception with predecided seating arrangements, with a seating chart. There is a Master of ceremonies who orchestrates the events, as the immediate relatives of the bride and groom walk in, in a certain order, each announced to thunderous ovations and sometimes even whistles, from the seated folks. Cake cutting, the first dance of the groom with the bride. There are speeches and toasts by friends and relatives, all predecided. No extempore surprises. And the fun continues, as the tempo of the music increases, and the DJ starts spinning tracks that spell Hindi Film Music.
This particular wedding had the couples friends putting up a dance performance choreographed to the latest Hindi film hits, and this suddenly seemed to inspire, many older folks (who would otherwise qualify as parents of immediately eligible brides and grooms) to take the floor and shake to "maujja hi maujja" and "shavaa, shavaa" , dressed in traditional paithanees and rich silks.
The slickness of it all , overwhelms.
Somehow, in all this smart e-fication , one harks back indulgently, to presumably imperfect, innocently serious, non standard, old ,frequently observed celebrations and memories, from one's culture, each unique in itself,
A major part of my mind revels in the very natural semichaotic situations that prevail in our native weddings. The free flowing of tears on the bride's mother's face as the Sanskrit wedding verses by the priests reach the last stanza , the mother of the groom trying hard not to overpreen with pride, an elderly aunt, watching and counting ,with a hawkeye, as the caterer's fellow hands out plates, to ensure he doesnt overbill you; the groom's elder sister moving around holding a bunch of important keys tucked in at her waist amidst jingling silver stuff. A bunch of young kids, eyeing the throne like chairs on the stage, and slowly slipping on to them , legs too small to bend at the knees, grinning away in delight, as the bride and groom get up to take a refreshment break, after touching umpteen feet and overexercising the smile muscles. And someone's greataunt in her nineties, sitting, wrapped in a shawl, in the front row chairs, wearing antique heirloom jewellery, bending at the ear of another greataunt , telling how things were so different in "our time", and did she see the totally shocking outfit worn by so and so ?
Something tells me things will come full circle. We in India will slowly take to the e-wedding stuff. Those in the west, will look again in wonder at the o-wedding (where o could be "old" or "organic" :-)..).
But the honeymoon registry just may not work. In Mumbai, that is.
I am thinking of someone paying for the couple's trip to the airport, say, in a fancy limouzine. But before that someone will have to pay for filling those terrible potholes, and dug up ditches, possible flat tyres, and other down to earth things ....
System Design, anyone ?