Wedding bells ring in joy for all. Who doesn't like to attend weddings? I am no exception. But of late I have been coming across a dampening phrase in every other invitation card – “No gifts or bouquets, please” or “Blessings only”. I cannot say for sure how it is with others but this statutory warning has landed me in a soup – a different kind, each time! So I have come to dread this phrase so much so that I feel pleased as punch to receive a normal, regular (read traditional) wedding invitation.
The first thing is I simply cannot understand the logic behind this request. Doesn't it go against the culture of ‘gifts’? It is all very well to say “Your blessing is your gift”. But I am just a lesser mortal in this materialistic world (come on, tell me how many of you aren't) and don’t subscribe to lofty principles, but I can vouch that there is as much joy in giving as in receiving! Let me be me and do what I wish! You will understand when I elaborate …
The first time I came across this ‘unreasonable’ request was in the late 80's – I think those friends were much ahead of their times. I felt I had been stripped of my fundamental right to go armed with a gift to a wedding reception! I couldn't take it lying down. So I defiantly marched in with an extra large gift alright! To my embarrassment, our good hosts turned down the gift very graciously, explaining they hadn't accepted gifts even from relatives. You can imagine my stupid expression as I walked down the dais after greeting the newlyweds - with our gift still in my hand - (hubby doesn't chip in with help on such occasions – ‘gift’ is entirely my department, so I have to always grin and bear it!). More embarrassment when I couldn't balance my plate and gift. So I had to find a calm resting place for the latter so that I could focus on my dinner. The only consolation was that I was not the only one – there were many in the same predicament! Humph …. I will never forget that first experience.
Yes, but obviously I didn't learn my lesson! The next decade witnessed a boom in such requests. Needless to say I sailed through varied experiences ….. The first time, I repeated the same mistake as before but luckily wasn't penalized for it! In fact it was accepted without the least hesitation (perhaps to save our humiliation - so considerate, eh?). Encouraged, I continued to flaunt such a request with impunity the next time only to be politely put in place! However bouquets managed to get a better treatment. So the next time – yes, you guessed it – I landed with flowers. But they had to be left at the entrance! I had failed to read the invitation properly – it read – “No gifts / bouquets, please!” And they stuck to it verbatim!
Oh I forgot to mention another weird experience. It was my colleague’s son’s wedding – the entire staff was in full attendance. The invite carried the statutory warning, “No gifts, please” but some of us managed to thrust the gift envelope in the hands of the hapless bridegroom who was our ex-student. You see he couldn't put up a strong resistance against his respected teachers! We patted our own backs and boasted about our victory to the colleagues who were not so fortunate! Wait, that was not ‘The end’! Two days later, our colleague resumed duty. As we gathered around him for small talk, he smilingly took out envelopes from his bag and started reading out the names written on them and distributing! Yes, those were our gift envelopes returning to us! So he had the last laugh; my hubby too!
You see hubby had been in the disapproval mode all along, asking me to stick to the invite’s request. Finally I had to give in – no choice, you see – a case of twice (in fact more) bitten, thrice shy, so to say! So there we stood in the queue to greet the newlyweds – barehanded for the first time! There were many others like us. But there were so many others armed with gifts too. My eyes were riveted on the stage – no, not admiring the bridal couple but scrutinizing whether the gifts exchanged hands. Oh yes, they did! I looked at hubby. Needless to say he was coolly oblivious to the entire show. Even if he wasn't, it didn't matter to him. Don’t you agree men are made of different mettle? I was on pins and needles. I noticed many in the queue pulling out an envelope from their purse with a flourish as they neared the dais. I cursed myself – how couldn't I think of that? I simply couldn't forgive myself. My guilt-pangs must have adorned my face but I guess the newlyweds with eyes only for each other must have missed it.
So what next? No prizes for guessing – I started attending weddings with an envelope with a cash gift in the purse – with the words “Best wishes from The Balasubramonians” inscribed on it. If it was accepted, fine. If not, again fine! This was a classic case of having the cake and eating it too. I patted my own back for resolving my dilemma – though it was definitely not my discovery!
This worked well for a while till we encountered a different experience. We had gone for a reception with our friends. As we stood together in the greet-the-couple-queue, I pulled out the gift envelope from my purse. Noticing that, my friend said that they didn't bring any gift as requested in the invite. We greeted the couple with the gift and hand-shake and our friends with a mere hand-shake. We felt bad that they must have felt bad. I got an earful from hubby who felt I had embarrassed our hosts as well as our friends.
So the next time, I played the obedient wife as we attended a wedding reception minus the ubiquitous envelope. Again the same scenes – gifts / envelopes / bouquets being accepted as graciously as mere handshakes and greetings. I gave hubby a meaningful glance. He whispered, “We are only honoring their request, so why feel guilty?” Theoretically correct, but personally I couldn't agree. I am still struggling to come to terms with the changing trend.
But my honest opinion is the phrase goes against our culture. I don’t think anyone would grudge presenting a gift! So why put a negative premium on that?! Is the aim to revolutionize? Will someone enlighten me with a valid / convincing explanation for this growing trend? I would like to state here that if people are taking concrete steps against dowry, they deserve kudos. But I hope they are not mixing up issues by saying ‘NO’ to gifts which can in no way be classified as dowry! If they still want to persist in bringing about a change in society, good luck to them! Till then will someone help me to get out of this ‘thrishanku’?! It is with dreadful apprehension that I open wedding invitation cards these days!
© Copyright 2011. Brinda Balasubramonian.
© Copyright 2011. Brinda Balasubramonian.