I was reflecting on this morning’s post today, and found my mind turning to #1 daughter’s wedding. Son in law’s mother called me last night — she is flying out to the see them, and taking along the frozen top layer of their wedding cake, and of course I am rushing to finish their anniversary quilt, so it may not be surprising that I thought of it. But I thought of it in terms of objects and consumption.
If you have never arranged a wedding, or if it has been a long time since your last wedding, you may not know that the modern wedding is an orgy of consumption. It is very difficult to avoid turning the whole thing into a shopping spree. Even when, as with the wedding we planned, it is a small, simple wedding with the focus on the ceremony, it is hard to avoid becoming fixated on the stuff.
Our bride had very specific ideas about all the details of her wedding, so even though we made every attempt to shop locally, we ended up with objects from all over. We made the wedding gown ourselves, with lace sent from Louisiana and organza bought in Kansas City. The cake was made by the local family-owned bakery, but we had heart-shaped ravioli flown in from New Jersey. There were ribbons from Tennessee and flower-embedded papers from California. And of course people flew in from all over the country.
We gave the guests carved sandalwood fans from China. The scripture chosen for the ceremony was sung by a quartet from Missouri: “Awake O North wind and come thou South/ Blow upon my garden that the spices may flow out!” So the fan, as in the old folktale, was the wind, and the sandalwood was the spices, and we added a heart cut from seed-embedded paper (from Canada) to be the garden. #2 daughter and I made tag art from copies of family photographs and ephemera, each one different so that guests could choose one they loved and know that it was unique. We hand-calligraphed another of the scriptures from the ceremony (and the cantata) for the tags. The one pictured here used an announcement of a French woodland festival from the early 20th century, so the fan honors both the European and Asian parts of #1 daughter’s heritage. We used childhood photos of both the bride and groom, too, to remember their families and upbringings as they began their new family. While the guests probably did not catch all the symbolism, it was certainly true that these objects had deep meaning.
When people had fewer objects, it might have been that all of them had that level of meaning, those layers of meaning. Things belonged to many people, or were made by someone, or brought from a distance at some danger and difficulty.
On the other hand, we no longer face frostbite in our search to get pepper. We can merely go to the grocery. Let us not get carried away with our nostalgia. But do let’s make as many of our presents as possible with our own two hands.