The cynic’s view of marriage involving three rings – the engagement ring, the wedding ring and ‘suffering’ (!) misses the flurry of activity in the run up to the big day. Even if couples don’t have time for courtship, or running around trees as they used to do in movies, going on ’rounds’ to personally hand over wedding invitations, seems to be a ritual that cannot be dispensed with. Even during the Covid19 pandemic, that there are folks who expect to be invited in person, is asinine. When court summons and official memos are being sent on messaging platforms and medical consultation, recruitment and pretty much most transactions going online, such insistence on formalities betrays only big fat egos.
Speaking of ‘fat’, it’s not uncommon for couples to put on a few extra kilos before the wedding, as it would be impolite to refuse the persuasive “must have some sweet nah” offerings at the homes of most invitees. Flab can be an advance gift. After all, there’s the honeymoon to shed it!
My mind almost inevitably goes back to an incident more than a decade and a half ago. Much before the advent of whatsapp and the acceptance of online invitations, I remember being rebuffed by a vernacular journalist whom I had bumped into at a college where I had gone to invite the Principal to my wedding. I was carrying a bunch of invitation cards and having known this scribe for a while, I quickly wrote his name on the envelope and handed over my invitation to him with a big smile. The bloke frowned and refused to accept it. His grouse was that I ought to have fixed an appointment with him and respectfully presented it to him at his office! I wonder if he had grandiose illusions of being presented with a Padma Award! It is precisely such pettiness that forces couples and their families to do the invitation drill before the bridal march!
A soft copy of a wedding invitation is not just enviro-friendly but also convenient. Often, when the guests need to hurriedly write a note on gifts and refer the invitation for the name of the bride or groom, Murphy’s Law takes over and the hard copy would be untraceable. The wrong name, or even misspelling, can be disastrous! If the invitation is on an email or whatsapp message, such information, not limited to the names but also the reception venue, and directions or landmarks, the ever handy mobile phone will provide a ready reckoner. Some of the most creative wedding invitations that I have come across, replete with links to the meaningful wishlists for gifts, have all been in the digital space.
A wedding is a solemn but also predominantly a family event. There is no need to mobilise a crowd like politicians do for their rallies! Quite inexplicably, the turnout is viewed as a barometer of social status and prestige. Cut it out, folks. This is where I admire marriage ceremonies in the West. Only about fifty people would be present. The guest list is restricted to family and a close circle of friends. For the rest, live video links are sent out to give them a virtual slice of the wedding cake. It makes economic sense too. Instead of splurging on a feast for hundreds or thousands of invitees, the money can be used for the couple to set up a nice home. Or more meaningfully, used to sponsor a good meal at an orphanage or old age home for those who are really hungry and can do with a lavish spread, as opposed to overfed invitees who would probably nibble and waste food.
With an eighty year old father at home, my family has been reclusive since March last year, perhaps even to the point of being paranoid rather than sorry. So while we did not show up at a recent family engagement, our maid’s son’s wedding and will have to skip a few more receptions of friends, our prayers, online wishes and carefully chosen home delivered gifts will hopefully make up for our physical absence. Prayers, blessings and heartfelt wishes do not need a photo-op.
(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, a Columnist, Author, Public Speaking Mentor & Former Resident Editor of NDTV 24×7)