I went to a beautiful Wedding recently on the NSW North Coast. The bride and groom live overseas; they both work in the humanitarian-aid field. They do amazing work in providing emergency needs and delivering programs to heal and rebuild lives, communities, countries.
The bride and groom took some time off and flew back into Australia so they could celebrate their Wedding and let all their family and friends share in that special moment. Of course they would not want or need a traditional Gift Registry for their Wedding.
When looking at the Wedding invitation, it very clearly and simply stated:
Now there was obviously many good reasons for such a ‘request.’ Often working with the disadvantaged and always travelling from one place to another; the concept of receiving gifts was to them (presumably) excessive as well as impractical for their current lifestyle. Also, the ‘No Gifts’ thing was considerate of the fact that most of the guest list incurred great expense in travel and accommodation just to attend.
As a guest however, I still found the ‘request’ a little uncomfortable. I wanted to understand why, what's behind this feeling?
When we attend a celebration of a milestone in the life of a friend or loved-one, what is it we are trying to say to them by giving them a gift?
The gift is an expression. The gift says the things we think and feel and can’t necessarily put into words or that we don’t get around to putting into words in the bustle of everyday life. But the special milestones in life - like a wedding - are an opportunity for us to think about them; to reflect even (we're getting spiritual now!) on our relationship; what they mean to us as a friend, how much we value having them in our lives.
A wedding therefore allows us (as guests) the opportunity of giving and expressing what we feel. And we do that with a gift!
“That doesn’t do service to the relationship,” according to Ellen J. Langer, Professor of Psychology at Harvard. “If I don’t let you give me a gift, then I’m not encouraging you to think about me and think about things I like. I am preventing you from experiencing the joy of engaging in all those activities. You do people a disservice by not giving them the gift of giving.”
It’s always an honour to be asked to attend a wedding; being among those with whom the bride and groom wish to share such a special moment of their lives. It’s a lovely opportunity to think about them and what they mean to us. Lovelier still to express that with a gift.