Wednesday, June 27, 2007
What message would you like to leave?
Maybe it's just that I've been to too many weddings recently that I am suffering from what I call post-wishes fatigue. Perhaps I am bitter that none of those weddings have been my own, and I am merely jealous. Though if any of you had seen the groom on one occasion, there would be a petition right now outside of parliament to amend the Human Rights Act. Teeth simply should not be like that.
Post-wishes fatigue occurs when you finally get around to phoning in in order to give some money to the happy couple. Despite the fact you actually spent money getting to the wedding, buying drinks at the cash bar, possibly buying a wedding outfit and a disposable camera because you keep forgetting to take your digital one with you, darn it. (Try stapling it to your hand the night before).
Post Wishes Fatigue starts with a simple spoken pleasantry. You hear from a friend or relative that they are to tie the knot. If you are like me (female or gay), you will probably clap your hands together in a happy way and say something like: "Oh how exciting, congratulations, when is it?". If you are not like me (male or an ugly spinster), you will probably say: "Really? Are you expecting a baby.?" But we deal not with the latter, but the former.
Then of course, you spend weeks and weeks talking wedding, planning how to get to wedding, what to wear for wedding, who else is invited, what the bride/groom is wearing, blah blah blah until you know as much about the day as the bride or groom does.
The day of the wedding comes. You write a card out for the happy couple. "Wishing you every happiness in your married lives together" or some such yadda. You greet the happy couple on the day with more congratulations, you look wonderfuls and Thank you so much for inviting mes. Just when you think the smile on your face will crack you find there's a book of condolences to sign. "Dearest Princess of Hearts, you will always be with us. I will never visit Paris again in Spring without thinking of you."
I think I got barred from that wedding reception.
You stare at the book of congrats, probably slightly sozzled by then, and desperately try to think of something witty and beautiful that someone else has not said. You skim-read the other pages, probably dribbling wine and spittle over it, and of course it's all written in fountain pen, but the ink runs out while you try to use it and all you have in your bag or pocket is a chewed-up biro. And it's red. In the light of your pikey shame all you can muster is: "Wishing you all the best for your married lives together" and hoping that it's "lives" and not "life" and wondering whether you wrote that in the card as well. Not that they'd notice anyway, because you could only find half an orange crayon to write on the card with.
Skulking back to your seat, you think you can relax, but NO! Along comes a second uncle twice removed, It could be Uncle Leo, Harry or Jake, you can't remember, although you know it's not uncle Norm, who wasn't really your uncle but he hung around anyway until he disappeared "Up North" and your mum had to explain with a Barbie doll why Uncle Norm no longer visits. "Where exactly did he put the cake? Show me on the barbie... are you sure it was on your head?" Where was I?
Oh, Uncle Leo, or Harry, comes up with a video camera and shoves it into your mug and says: "Send your wishes!"
This reminds me of a funny story recently. Mum and I were in Greece for a wedding and someone came up to us with a video camera. It was late and we were not paying too much attention. He said: "Wishes.... speak wishes." Mum looked flustered for a second, before replying: "I wish I were 29 again."
So you're put on the spot and have to think of something that does not sound banal. The best one I ever heard was at the same Greek wedding where my friend Simon, glass of port in one hand and a fat cigar in the other, waded up to the lens, raised both cigar and wine, said: "Cheers" and walked off. Class.
What else can you say: "Best wishes for the future and all that, blah blah?" There simply is nothing in those old Victorian etiquette books that prepares one for this sort of enforced bonhomie. It's enough to make you eschew all friendships, tear up your phone book and take to yelling "Bah humbug" at random passers by (this works well if you live near a bus stop and can shout it out of the window without anyone seeing you. Hours of fun. Note to self - Get out more. Not to weddings. Staple note to hand so don't forget).
You think you've escaped when you get home. But no, there's the post-wedding "heck I forgot to contribute to their present/honeymoon/cosmetic surgery" moment when you fish around your bag and find the wedding invitation and gift list stuck to it with a piece of old chewing gum. So you ring up. Phew! It's not too late. How much do you want to contribute? ("what's the minimum limit on a credit card?" is not an acceptable answer, I have since discovered.) When all the details are taken, you go to thank the helpful assistant.
"What message would you like to leave on the card?"
"There's a CARD?"
"Any message for the couple?"
Slight moment of panic.
"Um... er... best wishes for your married lives (or is it life?) together."