What does your wedding invitation say about you?

Rachel Knickmeyer: knickmeyer.net

Rachel Knickmeyer: knickmeyer.net

One summer we had two wedding invitations displayed side-by-side on our mantlepiece.

The first was to a wedding of wealthy friends. It arrived in an envelope sealed with stamped wax. The invitation itself was made of thickly textured card with gold engraved type. It was surrounded by a band of lace, secured by an artificial rose.

The second was to a Quaker wedding. The invitation was on a sheet of typed A4 paper (recycled).

The first wedding directed us to a wedding list registered at one of the major department stores. The second had a note saying that if anyone would like to buy a gift, the couple would very much appreciate the following… There was then a list of items which included (without any reference to branding) a cheese grater, a sieve and a wooden spoon. I don’t remember, but I strongly suspect there was also a suggestion to contribute to a chosen charity, as well or instead of giving a present.

The weddings themselves were the embodiment of their invitations. At the first wedding, the bride wore Pronovias. Waiters in black tie circulated with champagne cocktails and intricately-constructed canapés, after which the guests sat down to a 5-course meal in an elegant hall. Each table had a flower display worthy of a design award.

At the second wedding, the bride wore a purple dress that could be used again in future. The guests carried the vases of flowers from the Meeting House to the party venue. There was a delicious vegetarian buffet after which we danced outside on the grass (it was a warm evening). At the end, we waved the bride and groom off as they cycled away on a tandem. It was perfectly clear that the couple would have embraced these choices however much money they happened to have in the bank.

So what to make of this? Both weddings featured a loving couple who wanted their friends and family to celebrate their union with them. I don’t think one was morally superior to the other.

It must be said that our own wedding was much closer to the first than the second – far less showy and less opulent it’s true, but it still had all those trappings on a more modest scale. Yet I admire the anti-materialistic impulse. I like the purity of it – the way it gets you away from the surface of things to focus on what really matters.

The problem is, I really like pretty stuff. And kitchen gadgets. And Apple products. I could definitely forsake most wordly things so long as I could still shop at Lakeland. And my Cath Kidston handbag is going to need replacing soon. And I’d need to keep my iPhone, iPad and iMac…

Maybe I don’t have a Quaker soul.

If I get fed up with Judaism and can’t become a Quaker, I might consider Sikhism. They really have the right idea, the way every service ends in a shared meal. Yes, I think I will become a Sikh. I don’t know what their weddings are like, though…

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6 thoughts on “What does your wedding invitation say about you?

  1. TheTawnyOwl

    But WERE the Quakers rich? Because I disagree that they would have done just what they did, however rich they were. I would say that our financial background tends to define us and dictate and circumscribe our choices – with that being as true for the rich couple as for the Quakers. No matter how much the rich couple longed for a tandem and a vegetarian buffet, it would simply not have been an option for them – don’t rich people have a duty to live up to their riches? Or feel that they do?

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    1. feellikeagrownup Post author

      Interesting point. I certainly agree that we’re conditioned to adhere to our cultural expectations but I think it’s more about culture than income. So the Quaker couple were not as rich as the other – but if they had been, their cultural and religious beliefs would have meant they made the same choices.

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  2. Jnana Hodson

    From the Quaker point of view, it’s not about wealth but simplicity.
    As we find in practice, though, simplicity is not always cheap. But it can be the essence of elegance.

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    1. feellikeagrownup Post author

      That is interesting. So if the Quaker wedding had been elegant, tasteful and understated (in a way that would cost a lot of money without being showy) would that be considered to be in the Quaker spirit?

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  3. EM

    As the Quaker in question… I remember not having been to many weddings when I got married (I was 26) and only realising later there was a whole ‘mnemonics’ around weddings – meanings that others were getting from what we were doing, that I wasn’t conscious of transmitting (certainly not when it came to invitations, which I regarded as a means of communication, not a statement of wealth!) What I wanted more than anything was to celebrate my relationship in front of my family, friends and the law, without blowing a fortune on one night. The moment before we walked in to the Meeting House remains etched on my memory as one of pure, intense happiness, as was dancing on the lawn in the warm evening, later. It was about love. Thinking about the Quaker spirit, I guess we do tend to be pretty thoughtful with our money. But we all interpret that in very different ways. I have Quaker friends who won’t fly by plane because of the environmental impact. And others who jet around the world to work on conflict resolution. And I personally sometimes get a bit disheartened at some Quakers’ ‘down at heel’ness when it comes to clothes… as my husband and I have a large selection of feather boas, platform shoes, wigs and tutus for parties – as wearing these things means we have more fun, and make friends quicker! My grandma often quotes William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” And my daughter recently asked me what my favourite possession was. And it was definitely my iPhone.

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    1. feellikeagrownup Post author

      I too have one moment from my wedding day that I remember to be particularly, transcendingly joyous and it was when we came into the marquee and the klezmer band struck up and we started dancing with everyone clapping along.

      Interesting about the attitude to being thoughtful about how you spend money being subject to many different interpretations.

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