While indulging in some shameful Kardashian wedding ogling the other day, I scrolled upon one of the favours Kim and Kris bestowed upon their guests: a notepad with a background photo of themselves. That's right, it would seem K&K want their friends to write a grocery list on their faces -- milk, eggs, dish soap, tampons. Or maybe jot down the message that uncle Rodney called on Kim's cleavage. That's always a riot. This can't have been much more appealing to come across in your goody bag than a ballpoint pen or cardholder at a trade show. I shouldn't give it another thought.
Yet Kim and Kris' odd choice in memorabilia has me thinking about the custom of giving gifts to your wedding guests in general. Is this merely a well-intentioned (if bizarrely executed) gesture, or does it say something about the state of matrimony? Maybe we believe that if we engrave our initials or plaster our faces on something, we'll lend permanence to our unions. We hear a lot about how marriage might not be forever, after all. Perhaps the trend is just another example of our desire for a moment in the spotlight, veiled as a thank you. Or more likely, this is merely one more way the wedding industry pulls a fast one on you while you're doe-eyed and weepy-faced.
Probably the latter, for sadly whether these custom trinkets are left under tables, soaked in red wine, or miraculously make it out of the wedding to the junk drawer, they will likely end up where most party favors do: in the trash. Too cynical? In case you haven't noticed, marriage is a pretty cynical business these days. People are deciding to tie the knot later in life and marriages end in divorce all the time, not least of all in Hollywood. So it's understandable why the few of us still making the jump are hopped up on a mildly-delusional planning high.
Anyone who has organized a wedding will know the particular frenzied state that has you questioning whether to give your guests some token of your affection. When I married my husband three years ago, I remember scouring websites that sell cocktail napkins, soapboxes and fans with your initials engraved on them. There are creative suggestions for "thoughtful gifts for your guests" in every bridal magazine. And a search for "wedding guest gifts" will proffer up advice to do (or purchase) something personal for your guests, who will in turn remember the wedding fondly for years to come. Brides are lapping that shiz up. I did.
But why are we buying this crap? I asked my elders -- the baby boomers -- whether gifts for wedding guests were common in their day and heard a resounding, "No." You came, saw, maybe had a drink, and were out of there by late afternoon. Was marriage so much better off back then? Probably not. We've all seen the last scene in The Graduate. But there's no question that marriage has become increasingly commercialized.
Enter the Kardashians.
The wedding industry is big business. So it's odd, to say the least, that at a time when weddings are such a hot commodity -- from Say Yes to the Dress, to Four Weddings, The Bachelor and Bachelorette, to this latest televised fiasco -- marriage itself isn't doing so well. Alas, people tie the knot for many reasons these days: for love, security, status and some for the big party, cake, and white dress (in Kim's case, dresses). Is commercialism doing marriage a disservice? Honestly, I don't know.
Nor do I mean to say that if you bought (or are buying) gifts for your wedding guests you are doomed. Far from it -- you have as good a chance as the rest of us, including Kim and Kris. At our wedding, we settled on matchboxes with "Emily & Robbie, 2008" printed on them and we're still going strong. I just hope that culturally we're spending enough time focusing on the important stuff about marriage -- you know, like how you'll handle finances or your fights, and whether you share the same views on monogamy -- before tying the knot. Googling bizarre tokens to gift at $10.00 a pop can lead to some serious time suckage. Not to mention that it's not great for your chequing account, which unless you actually are as rich as Kim, you might want to save for groceries.
Alas, weddings are an extravagance any way you cut the mini cupcakes. So if you believe that the best way to thank your guests for flying across the country and buying you dishes is with a monogrammed scented candle, then so be it. I've also heard a good old fashioned "thank you" works well.