"Genuine invitations aside, a good portion of guests are asked along to avoid causing offence." Photo: Stocksy
I remember the first time I realised how starkly different the average wedding is to my ethnic experience.
A work colleague had just started scouring reception halls for an appropriate venue and was complaining that the smallest room in one particular function centre was far too big.
"How many guests are you having?" I asked.
The question stressed her to no end. Her guest list, thus far, was much longer than she had wished.
My stunned silence in response can only be explained by pointing out that the last wedding I had attended prior to that conversation was one comprising 350 guests, and two halls to hold them. This was new territory, and I was wholly unimpressed. After all, to my thinking, if ever there was to be a time to gather your friends, family, work colleagues - and sometimes even your neighbours - would it not be on that special day? And even if you were to only invite family and close friends from both sides – would it really only add up to 50 people?
Lately, however, I am rethinking my position. As a 26-year-old Arab Australian from Western Sydney – aka, a "brown girl" through and through - I can confidently lay claim to the title of 'wedding guest veteran'. My career spans 10 years and involves everything from home, beach and garden weddings to spectacular shebangs in almost every reception hall in NSW.
And I think I've finally had enough.
Weddings are supposed to be intimate affairs – occasions where a bride and groom share their joy and create new memories with the people they love the most.
Or at least, that's what the movies tell us.
But when you invite, out of politeness, every person that you and your family have ever crossed paths with to date, your wedding reality is a 50/50 ratio of people who love you, to people sitting in complete boredom at their allocated table, picking at the nuts and mezze while calculating how much longer they have to stay for their perceived social obligation to be fulfilled.
I realise this makes me sound like a wedding Grinch, but that's far from the case. As a full endorser of all things romantic, I love a good wedding. But if I've been invited to your big day because 20 years ago, my parents exchanged a handful of family visits with yours, then I'd really rather just be happy for you from afar. And if our connection is that distant, will you even notice my absence?
Unfortunately, it's not as simple as turning down an invitation – or at least not in the world of tight-knit, brown communities. After all, the very basis of the invitation is one of generosity and kinship. When every family friend is automatically known as an "aunty" or "uncle", you quickly find yourself a member of one big non-biological family. You may never really see them outside of major celebrations, but come their child's wedding day, their excitement at hosting you will have no bounds.
The social niceties dance that thus ensues is a difficult one to manoeuvre, and I have yet to master the skill of politely turning an invitation down without causing offence – ('Don't you want to share in your crib buddy's happiness?' 'Er… Not really?') – or lying about unavoidable commitments – ('Yeah, sorry, I already have plans… (with Netflix…)').
And the awkwardness is double-edged. Genuine invitations aside, a good portion of guests are asked along to avoid causing offence. Their presence may not necessarily matter to the bride and groom, but their lack of invitation could be all that's needed to set off a long-standing feud with the family.
There's no messing around, in the world of weddings.
Personally, I think that well wishes should come free of strings. And because I'd rather not waste precious stress energy on strategising ways to decline multiple new wedding invitations, here's my hope for the 2016 ethnic wedding community: May we learn to embrace the 50 person wedding style as a mercy to reluctant guests nationwide.
After all, with Snapchat and Facebook still thriving, we won't exactly manage to miss a moment of it anyway.
Miran is a radio producer and the co-editor of online Arab-Australian publication, Sajjeling. Follow Miran on Twitter @miranhosny