I read a blog recently that examined party invitations. Specifically, wedding and baby shower invitations, and how many are little more than attempts to extract the largest amount of cash and/or gifts possible from their guests.
I can practically see the hosts hunched over spreadsheets as they assemble profit and loss statements, comparing outlay versus intake. “Don’t forget to factor in the napkins!” cries one. “They work out to eight cents per!”
It made me recall my own wedding experiences. One in particular stood out, as it was ahead of the curve in its use-the-guests mentality.
It was November of 1990. I was happily employed as a field rep for a book publisher. I also had a part-time job working Saturdays in a record store.
It was Friday, and I hurriedly completed that day’s appointments in the far-south suburbs of Chicago, raced to my home on the northwest side, showered, shaved and dressed for that night’s rehearsal dinner.
Somehow, I also managed to pick-up my tux and the wedding gift.
I set-off, eager for a night of socializing.
The groom was a basketball buddy of mine. He had asked me to stand up, and I accepted. Jim had a nice three-point shot and was generally likable even if he had a frugal streak.
A favorite ploy of his was to order an expensive appetizer and imported beer, and when the check came, announce “I have a dollar.” After subsidizing Jim’s post-game libations two or three times, the rest of us came to appreciate the beauty of separate checks.
Looking back, that should have been a clue.
The wedding rehearsal was filled with good-natured humor and camaraderie. Afterwards, we moved on to the restaurant. After a fine dinner, I was approached by the couple to-be and asked if I would tend bar at the reception.
The only other occasion in life that found me similarly speechless was the time I was asked out by Naomi Watts and Diane Lane on the same day. (But that’s another blog for another day.)
My mind raced as the bride and groom explained they were trying to keep costs down, and that they thought I would be a “really good” bartender. Part of me thought they were kidding. I mumbled something like “Only if the wine has twist-off caps.”
When I realized they weren’t, I begged off, citing my inexperience at public bartending.
Meanwhile, the other part of me (my inner wedding guest) was screaming. “I took an unpaid day off of work! Rented a tuxedo! And bought you a freaking wedding present! And now you want me to work at your wedding?”
Of course, had I known the reception was going to be held in the event room of the bride’s apartment complex, and that bartending meant dispensing cans of soda, I might have said yes.
Which was another unusual aspect of this wedding.
Despite the bride’s father being a doctor, the groom’s a successful businessman, and the bride being a physical therapist and the groom the manager of his employer’s shipping and receiving department, the reception consisted of supermarket cold cut trays, potato chips and soda.
In an apartment complex event room.
Let me first make clear the fact that I am unequivocally opposed to obnoxious and extravagant showcase weddings. But this was at the other end of the scale.
This wasn’t a wedding hosted by impoverished folk. These were people with careers. And paychecks. And their guests didn’t even rate a can of Bud with their dried-out chicken breast and soggy vegetable medley?
Making matters worse was that the location of the reception had been kept a secret until the day of the wedding. Guests were told it was a “surprise”, and I certainly won’t argue that.
But I couldn’t escape the feeling I’d been had. Much like after those post-game get-togethers.
You might be tempted to say this story takes the cake. But with hosts like these, there was no way that was going to happen.
It was padlocked to the table.