A few years ago, I received an invitation to a wedding of some distant cousin-in-law taking place in the British Virgin Islands. It was the fourth such request I had received that year. My friend Bill happened to be the groom in one of these weddings.
It didn’t escape me that in each of those nuptials, one party came from a very affluent family, while the other was from a more modest background. The spark that lit these tropical fires had to start somewhere. In Bill’s case, I doubt it was he, the groom from Iowa, but rather Kate, the bride from Martha’s Vineyard.
To be fair, Kate’s mother had taken over the entire affair. It was to be an intimate get away for the couple, and turned into a full-blown circus on St. Kitts.
My son Jason, then in full teenage bluster, didn’t allow any of this past him when he saw me perusing the invite. With a shrug he mumbled something like, “I think it’s their way of keeping the under-seven-figure riff-raff away.”
Could this have been a harbinger from the mouth of babes?
Testing his theory, I ran upstairs to my office and found the other three announcements. Then, I began inspecting websites of the airlines and resorts listed in the invitations as offering “special rates” for a week-long stay.
On average, just the travel and accommodations reached five figures for each wedding. This didn’t take into account any other expense. I calculated the cost for attendance at all four ceremonies, and saw a healthy chunk of my retirement fund vanishing.
More problems loomed on these exotic horizons. Golf was to be the theme at two of the gatherings. The listings recommended personal caddies, all U.S. golf pros, who could accompany me to the Caribbean for just another year of Jason’s college tuition.
While decent at Putt-Putt, I didn’t hit the links much. I called downstairs to Jason, and asked him if he wanted to caddie for me. Alas, he had smelled trouble and was already in the living room caddying the TV remote.
What about wedding gifts? I had to give some thought to that.
My first inclination was to accept the invite to Bill and Kate’s wedding, since I had seen them much more recently than 35 years ago at a middle school graduation. That would leave me only one real present to deal with.
Initially, I thought a fitting gift would be my attendance. Presumptuous, yet still setting me back a few years in the bank account. Wouldn’t such personal expenditure be appreciated? How exactly do you shop for someone whose family can get them anything?
Buying a Porsche or ski condo in the Alps would have to be left to one of Kate’s uncles. I had to think of something earthly. Books were no good. Even though the bride and groom liked a good read, there was something about reaching into my personal stock of collectibles that smacked of convenience.
I remembered that Kate loved a well-made margarita, so I thought the most advanced 12-way blender would be a practical gift that the newlyweds could use right away.
Yet from my past discussions with Bill, I recalled a full traveling kitchen staff and fresh Aegean pomegranates flown in weekly for morning juice and evening cocktail mixes. Kate’s family had a power lifter named Mario back in the kitchen squeezing each seed by hand.
Somehow, I didn’t think they were registered at Sears.
Jason was right, after all. I accepted my fate as a member of the vulgar throng and decided to save my retirement and his college tuition. In light of more recent economic events, it turned out to be prescient.
Instead, I sent laudatory cards. The enduring tan would have been nice, but I let the idea go.
Before that wedding, I had a chance to speak to Bill. He expressed overwhelming feelings at the anticipated opulence of his ceremony, and told me he felt best served by being a good prop for the wedding album.
I reiterated some wise words my father once told me before I left home for college: “Keep your mouth shut and do what you’re told.”
Bill raised his eyebrows, “That’s not bad advice; anything else?”
My reply was swift: “Hold still for the camera, remember the little people next time Mario hands you a drink on The Vineyard, and next elections, vote appropriately to assuage your guilt – whatever that means to you”
Telly Halkias is a national-award winning newspaper columnist.
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