I have a friend that is from a Texas town waaaay out in the desert. There are no big cities around it, but the town is fairly substantial – about 80,000 people.
I didn’t know her at the time of her wedding, but I’ve seen pictures. She comes from a prominent family (her father is a well-known and wealthy doctor) and had a HUGE wedding of close to 1,000 guests.
I have done some wedding planning on the side, so I am always interested in wedding details. I looked at her pictures, asked lots of questions (which she was happy to answer) and was in awe of such a huge event. I was curious how they pulled it off and while asking questions about staff and hired help, she said something that completely shocked me.
She stated that the “tradition” in her town is the belief that a wedding is a community event – therefore all guests should help out. When a wedding invitation is sent to a guest, an insert is included in the invitation that includes a specific job for that family. I asked for an example and she said that you might get an insert that says, “Take out the trash two hours into the reception”, or, “Bus all of the guest tables at the end of the reception”.
I still don’t quite know what to think of this. She has only lived outside of her hometown for less than a year (she relocated with her husband after she got married) and she was surprised to find out that wasn’t a common wedding practice. She has been to dozens of weddings in her lifetime, and she has ALWAYS done a job at each wedding.
What do you think of this? Since the entire town accepts this as a common practice, is it acceptable etiquette? Does the whole town just have bad manners? If I was planning a wedding in this town, I think I would have a really difficult time with this practice, but I’m not sure. I’m stumped. What are your thoughts? 0308-13
How can a wedding be a “community event” when the guest list consists of less than 2% of the entire community population?
I have seen this on a much smaller scale in a local church. The congregation starts off small and when the rare wedding occurs, everyone leaps to help pull it off. Over time, the congregation size gets larger, the number of weddings increases and the expectation of the church members helping with wedding labor becomes entrenched as a custom. And when a custom gets established, there are people who enshrine it as a mandatory obligatory service that is owed and must be rendered. I personally witnessed this in my own church a decade ago. There was a belief that the people in each small group in the church could be assigned to bring specific food items for the reception or be assigned wedding tasks thus making it possible to have a 20K wedding on a 5K budget using hundreds of free man hours of labor. I put my foot down, alerted the pastors who honestly had no idea congregants were doing this and the practice was stopped with a complete overhaul of the church wedding policies. My thoughts then and now are that no one owes you a big, fancy wedding which is a WANT, not a NEED. Church members, and by extension community members, may have an ethical duty to meet your NEEDS but they are not under any obligation to cater to your WANTS.
Assigning jobs in the invitation assumes the invited guests are actually coming to the wedding. So the invitation is more of a summons than a true invitation. It appears the guests have no choice in whether they will serve and how they will serve. I am all for people volunteering to help by taking the initiative to do so but inserted job descriptions in the invitations takes that initiative away. When people presume to be owed the labor of others, they will take the initiative to get it rather than waiting to see if people, out of the goodness of their hearts, would freely volunteer to serve. Given a choice, an overwhelming number of friends and family would prefer to be treated graciously as guests but that doesn’t achieve the goal of a big wedding, does it? No, your friend’s wedding invitation was really a summons to appear to do conscripted manual labor so that her wedding dreams were realized.
Finally, the last reason why this method of labor acquisition is so bad is that it assumes all guests are of the same cultural mindset. What of the guests who were not from this isolated community and had no expectation of being treated like hired help instead of treasured guests?
Please tell me the happy couple did not register for gifts, too.