Striving to be the rule- Ethics for wedding guests.

Striving to be the rule- Ethics for wedding guests.

The Bible is filled with analogies and parables relating to weddings. Yahweh was the bridegroom to His people Israel, in the Old Testament. Jesus begins His public ministry at the wedding feast of Cana and punctuates His parables with analogies of wedding processions, banquets and bridesmaids.

Looking at the Gospels, one can draw from it an ‘ethics for wedding guests.’ Why do we need such ethics? Simply because we have reached a stage where common courtesy has disappeared, and the focus now needs to shift to that which should have been the obvious.

All exceptions not withstanding, one must admit that a certain culture of disrespect has crept in at wedding celebrations. This culture of disrespect has now become a cycle of acceptable behaviour and one that seems to raise no eye brows. I am irked and so I write with the hope that somewhere this discourtesy will be frowned upon with many thumbs down of disapproval.

Weddings today are an expensive affair, and while I continue to advocate for a debt free marriage (not to be read as don’t have a celebration), I hope that we will cut our coat according to our cloth. Given the fact that an average celebration runs into a couple of hundred thousand rupees, it stands that for most people, a wedding celebration of two and half hours amounts to several years of scrounging and savings.

For those who transcend beyond the social pressures of wedding celebrations, the reception is a special dream, cherished by many a bride and groom. Years of planning, years of saving and hard work and coordination all dissolve in a ‘two and a half hour whirlpool’ of time, that just disappears in a jiffy. Just like that, several thousands of rupees have all been spent in less than 150 minutes.

So that brings me to the ethics of the wedding guest. Do we then not have an obligation to be an integral part of the celebration in every way; from the religious celebrations to burning a hole in the dance floor?

Assume the total guest list has two hundred and fifty people (that’s a low estimate), and the total cost of the wedding is four hundred thousand (also a really low estimate), your host ends up paying 1600 per person, or a whopping 2,666 rupees per minute for a 150 minute celebration. This is the minimum. A family of five could cost your host a cool ten thousand g’s. That’s reason enough to be respectful when we get an invitation.

Ethic 1: Let your yes be a yes or your no be a no.
The fact that you have received an invite means that you have been chosen as the honoured one, over many more; people who would like to attend, but for some reason your host with their limited guest list, has chosen you instead. The first thing that courtesy demands is an answer to your host. Most invites have an RSVP at the bottom of the card; it means ‘Répondez s’il vous plaît’ meaning “Please respond” and that’s what you ought to do.

Don’t keep your guest waiting for an answer, and if you must, let there be an outer limit date in your head. If you are unable to go, your host will be able to invite someone else who really wants to attend. Remember the ‘rage’ of the king in the parable of Jesus who sent out his servants to invite the guests? Well, keeping all the customs of that time in mind, the guests knew very well their obligation to attend and the honour to be given to the king. Yet they disrespectfully declined the invitation at the last minute incurring the wrath of the king. If you know you will attend, say yes; if not politely decline.

Ethic 2: Be on time!
So don’t give me that yarn that you were stuck in traffic, especially if you live in Mumbai, or one of India’s traffic crazy metropolises. Traffic is nothing new to the city and is a perennial problem. Besides, the red lines on Google maps tell you exactly how maddening the route you have taken will be. Plan in advance; leave early!

You owe it to your host to be on time; especially if your card has the words, “reception at seven thirty sharp.” That word ‘sharp’ has been put there deliberately, it need not be said; but unfortunately invites in India have that word inserted; a telling sign of tardiness now come to be known sarcastically as India Standard Time (IST).

It is unethical, and if I may dare say criminal, when brides and grooms have to wait for an hour after the scheduled time, just because the guests are late. Ironically in one parish I noticed that those who lived closest were always strolling in last. Keep in mind the ten foolish virgins who were late for the wedding banquet; the bridegroom shut the door on them. Am I hinting at a revolutionary idea?

Ethics 3: The wedding is not about you, it’s about your host!

It’s no rocket science and nothing at a catholic wedding is out of the blue. You eat, you dance and you drink; the choice of activity is very limited and hence one does not get the privilege of refusing participation on the grounds, that you don’t agree with the agenda, barring ill health or physical inability. Even if your day was bogged down by an insensitive boss or a nagging wife, the wedding reception is not about you! Get up and dance, have fun, laugh. You owe it to your host.

I would like to think of Jesus at the wedding of Cana not merely as a helper in need, but as one who was celebrating in every way, the joy of being at a wedding. It’s painful when the emcees at every wedding practically go down on their knees begging people to dance and enjoy themselves. It’s equally ironic to see those who never dance or participate at any wedding, implore their guests to shake a leg at their loved ones event.

Ethic 4. Dress appropriately!

Appropriateness of dress at wedding nuptials should be ingrained in our social consciousness. Reverence for God must be shown in Church and by extension, reverence for the sensitivities of guests at the reception. After all, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and that is not a geographical privilege to the House of God, but extended everywhere we go. I don’t subscribe to the maxim, “if you have it flaunt it”.

At the same time, one is expected to dress for the occasion. I am a bit appalled as a priest, to find poorly laundered vestments given to the celebrants at a wedding nuptial. Poverty should never be an excuse for untidiness. Jesus in one of His parables took to task a guest, who had walked in without a wedding garment.

All things said, there are exceptions to the rule. But this wedding season strive to be the rule.

Fr Warner D’Souza

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23 thoughts on “Striving to be the rule- Ethics for wedding guests.”

  • Very good article. We all need to share this in all our groups and with our family members and friends. Its high time we need to value time and money spent by Groom and Bride for hosting a wedding. It could be any function I being a compere is asked to wait for their guests. I do it but we have to wind up by 10.00 pm. So if we wait till 8.30 to begin the function we just have 1 and half hour. So loss to the host is more. This article does create a lot of awareness. Thanks Fr. Warner for this article. I am sharing it with everyone

  • Very well written Fr. Warner. The message needs to be spread during every wedding season to keep the awareness alive and bring about even a small change in the mental attitude of the invited guests every time. Perhaps down the line we may see the change but I wish it could change now. Wishful thinking.

  • Brilliant article Fr. Warner, this just shakes us out of the reverie, whether we are professionals managing the wedding or simply invited guest’s.

    Every point is well thought of and carefully penned.

    An eye opener to people more than one.
    Thank you Fr. Warner. We all hope and pray that this nails down some sense in us all.

  • An enlightenment to every invite where the host picks you up among the rest as a participant to join in his celebration on time.

    Thank you for the beautiful article, no excuses to be late.

    God bless

  • Good article right in time for the wedding season!!!

  • Absolutely correct fr. Warner. We especially Catholics have forgotten their manners and ettiquets. Whether at weddings Sunday mass or otherwise. We the followers of Jesus should be the ones showing others the right way.but we instead are following the trend as it comes. Truly our weddings have become a free for all show.

  • Superb piece Fr Warner.
    Couples should include it as an insert with the wedding card !

  • Right On the Button!! Fr. Warner

    Clear and just to the point.

    Hope we get wiser, sooner and act in accordance.

  • Good Stuff, Fr. Warner. These are known facts which we have thrown out of the window. Glad you brought them to light in writing. Appreciate your efforts.

  • Yes I too wish this article could be inserted within the invitation. There is one more ethic do not rush to give your gifts to the couple, if you are in a hurry to leave then leave your gifts with the couple’s parents. Let the couple enjoy their own wedding.

  • It has become a unhealthy trend these days each one trying to compete with each other to show off their wealth.

  • Very rightly said Fr. Warner, In my seven years of doing wedding photography only two weddings have started at 7:30pm 🙂

  • Nailed it. …. can’t imagine the amount a couple spends per minute on a wedding celebration….the calculation jus throws more light on how wastefully we use the money on wedding celebrations…..that too with a guest list much lesser than the average….

  • Fr. U just reenforced what I believe in. All my contacts are definitely gonna receive this beginning with fly. Hopefully coming from you it will strike a chord somewhere

  • Brilliant Fr. Warner…. Precise & exactly what we all need to follow. Thank you.

  • Absolutely fantastic topic and right on point!!!

  • Well written. One practical way, I can think, priest can influence is by urging the couple and their families, at the time of the scrutiny, to limit the number of guests to close relatives and friends only. I believe keeping the guest list really small and close knit will allow for better use of time and resources and also for a more enjoyable experience. The present (marriageable)generation could start this trend.

  • This must be told across all parishes in Sunday Sermons for the lay people to understand and realize the importance of the occasion and inculcate the habit of being punctual.

  • Wonderfully penned and straight to the point – this is indeed what every couple must be counseled upon when they approach the Church to solemnise their bond of love and receive the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Similarly every family, parents and all others too must be educated about these aspects and change must slowly but surely be brought about!

  • Bang on!! I’m going to share this with A lot of people I know,😉

  • Very nicely shared with reference to the Bible .. indeed these ethics are actually really simple, which we need to adhere to make the occasion really happening both for the host and the invited guests. Worth reading n sharing. I’m sharing it too. Thanks

  • I appreciate you taking up this very important yet one that is rarely visited by priests. Thank you, Fr.!


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