SUMMER WEDDINGS & SOCIAL PRESSURE

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‘Tis the season to be wedded, a time dreaded by singletons and feared by couples alike. Why?

Well, that’s not a great mystery.

In Malta, weddings are mostly big and rambunctious affairs. Couples invite their extended families, friends, neighbours, colleagues, acquaintances, their kindergarten teacher, their postman and people they haven’t seen in ages. This conglomeration of people from all walks of life can create tensions, especially for people in their 20s and 30s who, for some reason during such events, are studied and prodded under the microscope of society.

All singletons know that if you go to a wedding without a partner, you’ll unavoidably attract a barrage of snide comments asking why you’re still single. Even worse, if you go with a friend, they’ll unequivocally believe you’re a couple, which could summon an avalanche of even more comments, this time rendering both you and your friend terribly uncomfortable.

On the other hand, if you’re not single and attend the wedding with your partner, they’ll ask you when your turn is to get married. And if you’re married but haven’t got any children, they’ll give you a kind reminder that your clock is ticking, and that you’d better make haste while the sun shines. In other words, society’s pressure and expectations never end, and somehow it all seems to come to a head during these joyous ceremonies called other people’s weddings.

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Then there’s the financial side of the equation. Firstly, there’s the gift, which has now come to exclusively mean a sum of money, as opposed to past practice where a normal present was accepted with a smile. Then, there’s the dress you’re going to wear, which usually costs about €100 or more. And of course, there are the relevant accessories; matching shoes and handbag, jewellery, not to mention a trip to the hairdresser’s. When all’s said and done, going to a wedding means spending around €250 – €300, gift included. No wonder most people gobble and slurp anything edible that comes their way during the reception. Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, everyone seems to want to get their gift’s worth back.

I’m very aware of how expensive weddings are – the bride’s dress, the groom’s tuxedo, not to mention outfitting bridesmaids and family members. These are just the tip of the iceberg. One must cater for the church and venue, the flowers and lights, music and decorations, food and drinks, waiters and ushers, etc, etc. It’s obvious that receiving monetary gifts from guests is welcome. However, the thought should be more important than the gift, so this shouldn’t be expected and merely received with thanks… right?

Unfortunately, not only are monetary gifts an actual must, but most couples actually end up tallying the money received in such a way as to know which individual gave what, and end up treating said family member/friend/neighbour accordingly. How many times have I heard someone refer to this or that acquaintance in a depreciating way while remembering how miserly their wedding gift was? More than I can count. Years after the wedding, they still remember the cousin who only gave them €50 or the colleague who didn’t even bother to buy an expensive wedding card. Pretty cold-blooded, right? Not to mention that it’s really chilling to see how people attach a value on friendship depending on money and gifts. No one seems to consider that perhaps that friend or neighbour might not have been able to give a bigger amount because of personal circumstances, or that even buying new clothes might have been an issue.

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A wedding, for many, is the most beautiful day of their lives, and wanting to share one’s joy with others on such an occasion is laudable. Yet, one must always remember that in the end, guests are invited to enjoy the day and make merry together with the happy couple, and not as an expedient for them to regain all the money spent on the ceremony itself. In the same way, looking down on other people just because they have different priorities and making them uncomfortable by hinting that there may be something lacking in their life if they don’t conform to the norms of society should not be associated with an event which is supposed to promote the union of two people, in love and understanding. However, sadly to see, many times this is far from the truth.

I could go on by describing how some people only use weddings as an excuse to show off instead of actually sharing their experience with others, not to mention the way crass consumerism seems to be the focal point of this ceremony, while the spiritual union of two people is actually ignored, but I think you get the idea. Personally I love weddings, because I love seeing happy people celebrate, but this kind of attitude, which seems to underlie a huge section of society, really bothers me.

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What do you think about this kind of behaviour?

Have you ever dreaded going to a wedding? Let us know in the comment section below.