This piece was originally published in The Chinook Observer during October 2011.
One of my nieces was getting married. Yes, we got a “save the date” postcard with the young couple’s photo on it, but no, there was no formal invitation with details. We had to go to a website. At a family get together beforehand, however, it turned out that none of us had taken the time to go to the site to get directions to the farm near Mt. Angel where the wedding would be held—and “us” included the bride’s mother and older sister. And, Google maps (as usual) was pretty vague when providing directions to a rural location.
Website! For a wedding? Next will it be “Skype the ceremony” via a high tech conference call? What happened to the tactile sensation of the engraved invitation on heavy rag-content paper—a luxurious feel similar to high thread count cotton sheets? Engraved invitations go along with artisan cakes, not ones from a box! What about the clink of crystal? Those traditional elements represent a special occasion.
But, the eco-titan side of my personality understood the website approach. The frugal side of me did too: Less waste of materials and less outlay for postage. The wedding couple requested gifts of experiences, and if you really wanted to give them something tangible, no gift-wrapping. Money to help pay for their honeymoon trip was an option.
If the Internet approach to weddings takes over, eventually we’ll be doing electronic fund transfers. That will never go over with the East Coast Italians I know, where the traditional wedding gift is an envelope stuffed with real money. I had to laugh when Robert deNiro handed Billy Crystal an envelope at the Crystal character’s wedding in “Analyze This.” It was a great visual double entendre. Probably most West Coast people thought deNiro’s mobster was paying a debt or offering a bribe, when he was just giving the proper wedding gift. Those envelopes of cash are supposed to provide enough funds to cover the cost of the wedding reception and then some.
My husband told me about the first West Coast wedding he ever attended, in Arizona. There were lots of colorfully wrapped boxes, and he thought, “Gifts are for wedding showers, not the wedding itself,” as he added his envelope with a check to the pile. Furthermore, the reception was a potluck…unheard of in his blue-collar Jersey neighborhood where limos and banquet halls are routinely part of a wedding, no matter the family’s economic status. But things have undoubtedly changed there too.
I have another young extended family member who is pointedly choosing not to get married. Her sweetie is a British citizen in the U.S. on a work visa. She knows it would be much easier for him to get permanent status, a “green card,” if they were married, but she refuses to marry for what feels like an emotionally dishonest reason. Maybe when she does marry, I’ll get a physical invitation.
Yes, I do lots of email, especially for logistics—time, place and manner kinds of messages—but when someone is ill, is celebrating a special occasion, or has done something really kind for me, I send them a hand-written letter or card. Turns out my habits are part of a bigger trend.
The high tech/high touch future is here, just as predicted by John Naisbitt in his book, “Megatrends,” back in 1982: “We must learn to balance the material wonders of technology with the spiritual demands of our human nature.” According to a Wall Street Journal article on August 25, the “Tweeting Crowd Sends a Lot of Letters.” Judy Clement Wall, with 1,665 Twitter followers, says that as virtual friends become real ones, a physical letter “solidifies the friendship. It makes the person real and 3D in a way that they can’t be on line.” The article mentions Elizabeth Bailey Weil, a Twitter executive who has taken up producing hand-made stationery on a 1923 letterpress machine. Using a special card on fine paper, writing in ink, and mailing it designates a special friendship that has crossed from the electronic cloud into something tangible.
So much for Skyping the wedding. We could watch the couple kiss and hug, but they wouldn’t feel ours via the Internet. Champagne toasts wouldn’t be the same without the bubbly. High tech/high touch—as I read long ago, the technology of one age becomes the art form of the next. Those old letterpress machines may have been idle for a time as cumbersome and outmoded, but not any more.
Victoria Stoppiello is a freelance writer; her astrological chart shows six aspects in earth signs—maybe that’s why she likes to touch and feel people and things.