A few weeks back, in our mail was this ornate maroon and gold envelope that contained an invite to a wedding reception at a prestigious hotel in town. No one we knew was planning to host a wedding reception in Singapore and so even before we opened the envelope, we wondered if we had missed making a note of it. We read the names of the groom and bride to see if it triggered a forgotten memory. The names looked unfamiliar but then again, that was not unsettling. We flipped the invite over and found in neat print the name of the hosts, with details of their contacts. The host names were unfamiliar too. So the case of the mysterious invite just grew curiouser and curiouser.
Then began a round of deliberations; Could it be the second cousin of your mother’s sister in law? Or is it the nephew of your uncle’s son in law on his mother’s side? See, that is the problem with us Indians. When there is a wedding being planned in the family, we plan it on a macro scale. We don’t miss inviting all distant cousins and their extended families and include the people we meet at family weddings even if they are not remotely related to any distant cousin of ours. At the European wedding I attended last November, the hosts had invited the immediate family and a few friends. They knew that the church in Amsterdam could take only 100 guests. So they drew up their list of invitees and made sure everyone RSVP’d their attendance. On the day of the wedding there was no scope for additional guests accidentally showing up at the door of the church. But I am digressing, back to the mystery invite.
The envelope carrying the ornate invite was encased in a see through plastic envelope that had our address stuck on it. What the envelope or the names lacked in familiarity, the address sticker more than made up for it. On one end of the sticker that had our printed address, was a familiar registration number. That is when it flashed on us that our names have been randomly picked from the address book of a religious community we were members of. It baffled me that someone could include us in the list of invitees to a personal event like a wedding, without even having met us.
So I imagined the scene on the evening of the reception. To suit the occasion, so we would have turned out in proper attire. As we entered, we would unsurely beam and nod at everyone at the hall, wondering who the host was and when we would be stopped on our tracks to be welcomed. And everyone else would be nursing wine glasses, looking content and happy. And then someone would tap us on the shoulder and ask if we had lost our way. Shudder! It was like a bad dream.
Anyway, we decided to rip the envelope open to check the contents of the invite and found two invites enclosed; one for the wedding in Chennai at a very fashionable address and then one for the reception the following week at Singapore. I have to confess, that I am a grammar and spell check Nazi when it comes to wedding invites irrespective of their caste, creed or colour. Have you noticed errors which are almost certain in the many invites that are printed? A classic one being, Mr and Mrs XYZ cordially invite you to the wedding of our son or daughter and the versions of spellings for occasion, marriage, auspicious, cordially… and the list goes on. Who can stop chuckling at some of the foot notes that some invites carry. (With best compliments from nearest and dearest, anyone?) So I eagerly scanned the card to see if this family had proof read the invite before it went to print. I froze when I reached the end of the invite. It said in italics, No boxed gifts please.
That was a first. Wait. Did they mean don’t carry anything boxed because they would anyway throw the boxes away? Or did they mean bring cash or cheque only? Maybe the couple had two of everything they wanted to set up home and did not want a replica of all things they already possessed? Maybe they wanted to give away the cash to a charity they supported? Maybe the newlyweds were relocating to a new country and it would be cumbersome to lug them boxed gifts along to the new place. Those italicised words jumped at me and triggered so many thoughts in the few minutes that I spent looking at them over and over again.
I wish we had more couples who could voice what they needed to start their lives that could make a thoughtful wedding gift. Most establishments offer vouchers and gift coupons and that should be easy. The European wedding hosts pointed to an online store that had a list of things the couple wanted for their new home. The guests had to log in and choose what they wanted to gift from that list. Why couldn’t these guys opt for something as simple?
Anyway back to the mystery invitation card. A few days after we had received the card, the host called up on the phone to confirm if we had received the invite. It was awkward to cheerfully thank him for the invite but the job had to be done. I was restless and decided to call the lady of the house to let her know that we were uncomfortable attending the reception since we had never met them and we didn’t know the family. When I called to speak to her, she was quick to apologize that our address was chosen by mistake and was meant for a namesake family friend of theirs.
A wave of relief rushed through me when I realized that all the deliberations, the analysis of the fairness of it all were such a wasted exercise. Just as I was beginning to thank her for clarifying, she asked me about us, what we did and how long we had been in Singapore. At the end of that conversation she said,”Since you anyway have the invite, why don’t you attend the wedding reception?!”