Sunday, November 16, 2008 5:57 AM
Have weddings sold out to mammon?
Indraswari , Bandung | Sat, 11/15/2008 10:59 AM | Opinion
When attending a wedding, current custom requires people to give money as a
gift to the newlyweds. Prior to the 1990s, people normally gave goods instead
of money. There was no strict rule on what kind of goods to be given but
normally it should have been small enough to be brought by hand to the party.
At that time it varied from household utensils such as a dinner set to batik
cloth and electronic goods. This kind of gift also aimed to assist the
newlyweds with the necessary equipment they needed to form a new household.
Since the early 1990s people have began to abandon this custom. One reason is
because the bride and groom receive too many of the same item. One of my
relatives told me she had received ten clothes irons on her wedding day. Since
then the custom of giving goods gradually has been replaced by giving money.
During this "transitional" period some people inserted a small note in their
wedding invitations: "We would be grateful if you gave us a token of love
(tanda kasih) not in the form of goods". Today we do not find such a note as
the custom of giving goods no longer exists.
Whatever the gift, it should be seen as a symbol of care, attention and
affection. Thus the nominal value of the gift is supposed to come second. Even
attending a wedding is a valuable gift for the couple and their families and
cannot be traded off with the material value of the gift they may have brought,
including if they brought nothing.
It is sad that in today's society, appreciation to people responding to our
invitations -- be it a wedding or any other event -- is often reduced to the
nominal value of the gift they bring, in this case how much money they give.
Some people even make a note on who gave how much and keep the note for a
reference when it comes to their turn to "pay back" the money.
I think that such an attitude may affect future post-wedding relationships
between the party holders and their guests as this may become a subject of
gossip such as: "When Mrs. X's daughter was married I gave her such a large
amount of money but now when my daughter was married she only gave me such and
such little amount of money", or "Mr. Y and his wife gave a lot of money at the
wedding of my two children so it is now my turn to return the same amount of
money to them as their son will soon be married".
Then why not also consider the inflation rate and take into account today's
financial crisis so that everything will be a perfect business calculation? Or
maybe there is no need for a wedding -- just sending money to the couple's bank
account may be enough? The more you give the more appreciation you will
I previously regarded weddings as a purely social event but in fact it is not.
Instead it is a kind of semi-business event at which some people intentionally
plan to profit -- from the gift they will receive from the guests.
In terms of social relationships, unfortunately weddings may also create a semi
debt-credit relationship between the party holders and the guests. It may also
become a hindrance for poor people or those on a tight budget to participate in
such events due to financial constraints.
Hopefully all this "business" matter will not overcome the social value of
weddings -- that is to maintain silaturahmi or good relationships with fellow
human beings and to show them that we care.
The writer is a lecturer in the Department of Public Administration, School of
Social and Political Science, Parahyangan Catholic University, Bandung.