Darrel Bristow-Bovey – AKA Ebenezer Scrooge – has a rant about the cost and expectations of wedding presents.
I am so glad the wedding season is coming to an end. I am the Ebenezer Scrooge of weddings. It’s not that I especially disapprove of them – except in the very general sense that they are unnatural pagan rituals marking the end of youthful joy and leading sexlessly unto the grave – no, I just don’t like what they cost.
It’s not the cost of the band or the floral arrangements I mind – that’s someone else’s problem. What I object to is how much it costs to be a guest.
I don’t know if you know this about me, but I’m something of a miser. I part with spare cash with all the enthusiasm of a stone being cold-called by the blood donation services. Unnecessary expenditure hurts me like a piano falling on my head – that someone will expect me to pay for.
I don’t like giving birthday gifts either, but you can usually finesse that. You can pretend you left it in the car and will fetch it later, or maybe you can get away with an inexpensive in-joke item. But, weddings are different.
The sustaining fiction propping up most weddings – like the boning in a white bridal bustier – is that this is the final one these villains are going to inflict on us, and therefore our gift should sum up our best and most lavish wishes for the life ahead. Give the happy couple a commemorative beer mug, or a set of golf tees, or that bottle of Turkish raki you bought in duty-free to get rid of the last of your lira, and you may expect frosty social interaction for the next 40 years.
And as for the gift registry! Not even Roman emperors exacting tributes from their vanquished foes had the nerve to specify precisely where the Gauls or the Pannonians should go shopping. But even worse – I was recently invited to a wedding where, I was informed, instead of a gift I should donate cash.
I reeled. No longer even the touching pretence that your gift will form part of the household of your dear friends, that every time they lift a slice of lemon meringue with that weird cake ladle, they’ll think of you.
“Cash?” I gasped.“Or you could make an EFT,” my friend’s wife-to-be clarified helpfully. “It’s to buy a house.”
“Where will my name appear?”
“In this house I’m helping you buy. Will there be a plaque on the lounge wall? Will there be a commemorative Bristow-Bovey Breakfast Nook?”
“If you feel that way about it,” she said coldly, “you can just give a normal gift.”
“We need a coffee maker.”
“Because ours broke.”
“No, I mean why should I be giving a gift at all? What service am I rewarding? What grievous loss am I compensating? What am I buying a ticket for, other than a so-so dinner, some second-rate speeches, watching you two dance – which, frankly, I’ve seen before and it’s not such a spectacle – and then afterwards seeing considerably less of my buddy? If you ask me, you should be paying me.”
“I think,” said my friend heavily, “you should probably leave now.”
At the door I looked back, and he was consoling her with a husbandly hug, and to tell you the truth they did look a lovely couple, and my heart did swell with sunny thoughts of love and their future.
“I tell you what,” I said. “What about if I’m best man? If I can be best man, then I don’t mind paying.”
I think they’re still thinking about it.