Saturday, August 08, 2009

Weddings : E and O

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 ?


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  2. I remember that at my reception, the majority of the gifts I received were Ganeshas, clocks and clocks with Ganeshas...a few were innovative enough to be Ganesha's with built-in clocks!!! I DID feel jealous about the western concept of gift registry then!!

  3. Like Roshni, I received dozens of clocks, bedcovers that I still use (twelve years later), many many teasets (that I never use, as I do not drink tea) and such other stuff.
    Though I prefer the older type, unchoreographed, pre-e-ifed celebrations, I wouldn't mind a sponsored trip to Hawaii.

  4. I did not get any so called gifts because that was printed on the invitation cards. We accepted only mental good wishes but some mandatory gifts from both parents side which were purely required for ceremony. Still today we do not accept any gift except mental wishes which are priceless for us.

  5. I printed on the wedding card : No gifts and presents.

    And pronto, there were people with gifts and presents. Either they didnt read. Or they didnt understand. Or they didnt care !

    Weddings were with presents.

    So, we have photoframes, wall clocks, statues and such else. I dont remember whats come of them now !

    And i have seen it happen at the homes of friends, meticulous documentation ! Mr.So & So gave 'Wall clock' ! It had to be paid back, you see !!

    But this part sharing is a tough ask !! What if the 'cut-off' figure wasnt reached..?

    But donating it to a UNICEF is an interesting idea. But i dont know if they know that the money goes to the United Nations.

    And not to any other 'childrens Emergency Fund' !!


  6. Enjoyed your interesting post ! I was married in 1960 (!)and wish lists were just becoming popular but I didn't have one because i considered them a bit mercenary and decided that most people like to give love and thought to a wedding gift .There wasn't much duplication All that's survived apart from me is a celery bowl a little known neighbour gave us. I often use it ! Oh, and a casserole dish-but that is now used by my niece in France as a water bowl for her dogs !
    PS Your side bar clocks perplexes me! I keep looking round to find where the ticking is coming from! It also a reminder that time is passing and i must make the most of every day !

  7. it is quite a change and when I am looking to buy a gift for a couple, I am happy with the lists but can see where it's less free-spirited. I got married in 1964 and it wasn't the 'thing' to do back then if it even existed. By the time my kids got married though in the 90's it was and the couple not only usually listed on home gifts (many already living together and having homes already) but also at a sporting good store; so the groom can get gifts also.

  8. Being a newlywed, such things on fresh on my mind. My cousin was married about 6 months prior to me. She had the glitz and glamour of the West weddings, including the honeymoon registry.

    I wasn't going to register for anything, truth be told. Greg and I had a house full, actually... two homes full. We both had homes before getting married, so it wasn't as though we were in need of items. When asked what we'd like, my parents suggested gift certificates to Home Depot, as we had a lot of home renovations to do.

    However, one of my friends literally took me by the hand and demanded that I register! And so I did. She was motified that I only registered for a few items and took me back to the store once more. I appreciate what people want to give.

    But most importantly, the most important thing, was family and friends being there to share such an important day. We didn't go with a fancy hall and such. Our wedding was at my parents' home and it was beautiful.

  9. Oh! I wanted to add ~ I mentioned to my Mom and Mother-in-Law about the "honeymoon registry." Just to see how they would react. They were aghast and horrified...

  10. The trend in India or atleast in pune/mumbai is not to accept any gifts. Only your good wishes for the newly married couple.That's why this gift registry thingy in this part of world always intrigued me. Even though the couple doesn't 10 toasters or 10 blenders which is usually the joke yet the gift registry is like openly asking for gifts. I am not saying its wrong but after attending all those weddings in India this kinda feels strange.

  11. Thank you for mentioning the benefits of a honeymoon registry and describing the attributes behind this increasingly mainstream registry option for engaged couples.

    It is great to see how popular the honeymoon registry is becoming. When Traveler's Joy first started accepting Members over five years ago, we realized there were a large number of engaged couples that were not satisfied with the diversity of the traditional wedding registry market. Since then, the honeymoon registry has become a mainstream option for brides and grooms and the industry has experienced significant growth.

    We are proud to have helped tens of thousands of couples honeymoon at destinations they may never have considered - a great feeling for everyone at Traveler's Joy.

    I encourage you to contact us with any questions about our service. Most importantly, enjoy your honeymoon!

    Best Regards,

    Brandon Warner
    President & Co-founder
    Traveler's Joy Honeymoon Registry
    Traveler's Joy, Inc.

    *Honeymoon Registry Partner with, The Knot, and*

  12. What an interesting post!

    A gift registry does seem strange, mostly because the trend here in cities like Mumbai is not to accept gifts, perhaps just from close relatives.

  13. Hehehe my wedding was only 3 years back but we did receive tea sets and wall clocks and assorted silver stuff for puja etc! Times have not changed all that much I guess :-D

  14. When my mom got married she got truck loads of utensils and kitchen items coz i think in those days that was the trend.Those utensils are still unused even after 28 yrs. Coz my granny had already collected all the utensils etc required for the house and we are still using them.
    I too receive gifts on my wedding, all sorts of stuff not just utensils. Mostly i will not use all of it and it will keep lying in the house. So this gift registry thing should work in India if taken in right sense. But mostly people will mock at the hosts for putting something like this.

  15. I was married in 1948 and a gift registry would have been looked on as cheap advertising. To ask for money would have been in the poorest of taste.

    While getting money would have been wonderful, I am afraid that I still think it is mercenary.

  16. NOTHING beats an Indian wedding....

  17. This idea of 'Gift Registry' has baffled me. Sometimes I think it si excellent idea dn sometimes I think it is all non-sense.

    I wonder if jealosy does all this to a person. No such 'Registry' existed when I got married!



  19. Recently one of my daughter's friends married. I was surprised it was actually fun and lasted for most of the last few months of the year. We attended the groom's party that was held in the recreation room of a very exclusive condo...they have rich friends. The next month we attended the bridal shower at the home of one of her mother's very close friends. That was fun and we played silly games. I still have the GIGANTIC "emerald" plastic ring I won at one of the games. We were invited to go with them to Mexico for the wedding, but we had plans for a cruise in the Carribean for that time. In December there was the last party at a local resturant for everyone and they showed all the photos from the wedding and the zip lining through the forest canopy, the swimming pools, and all sorts of pictures of the acutal wedding. The bride is a professional dancer and one of the pictures showed her spinning in her white wedding gown around her father, who was getting the jitters. It was a very sweet picture of them. We have been married 45 years and things have changed very much here in the US, too. We were given a bridal shower and we needed everything. No registry, though...oh no..not that.

    They registered at one of the department stores, but the gift I bought from there was not terribly expensive and was exactly what she wanted. I sort of like the registries, but I do see that it could be a burden for some. Twenty or more years ago one of our neighbor's daughter married and sent us an invitation. She was registered at an upscale department store and everything she selected was very pricey. She got a cup and saucer from us. It was what I could afford, and it was given with a happy heart.

    So that is all the wedding news I have for you. We haven't been to another this year so far. This year has seen too many funerals for us to attend.

  20. Roshni,Sucharita When we were children, the popular thing was tea sets and lemon sets. Pressure cookers if you were a prosperous type. I guess clocks becoming popular as gifts at weddings has much to do with life becoming faster now.

    Pradipda I too had a similar thing at ours. And mostly today, the business of giving presents is on the way out.

    Kavi I think today folks have realized that the only person who benefits from all this gifting is the shopkeeper. But I thought there is a certain lack of grace in asking for things with choices, on a website......

    Barbara Blindell Thank you. And you used the very word I wanted to. Mercenary it is....

    Rain I am just amazed how the departments stores publicize these gift registry stuff. I mean , the couple asking people to select gifts from there is hinting about gifts. Not done. Hmm.

    Aleta I so agree. No amount of fancy places can bring to a wedding the warmth and rischness of a home wedding with your dear ones present to bless you. And you know what, I have to agree with your Mom and Mom-in-law...

    Vinita This registry stuff reduces the whole event to a business. And I agree about the trend today. The emphasis is on "No presents or bouquets". And guests basically come, bless the couple, and enjoy a great evening, which is as it should be.....

    Manju Somehow all this standardisation in weddings makes me feel like everyone blogging with a fixed template. I think our weddngs are more interesting and original.

    Shilpa Yes.Some things do remain the same....

    Enchanted Like I old manju above, I feel the gift registry stuff is standardising things too far. Given our ability today in India to find alternative uses and misuses of everything, I dont know how well the registry stuff will work here.But start they will, because whatever the West does, we copy....:-)

    Darlene I agree totally. Mercenary it is...

    Braja :-)

    Vivek It wont be long before they start offering courses in Wedding Management....:-)

    nsiyer That must be such an excellent idea. The couple and their families are to be congratulated indeed....

    Amber Star Thank you.