My Outlook: Letting the gratitude outshine the gift

By Shelley Luedtek
     A guest on a TV talk show was sharing pictures of a recent celebration. The audience oohed and aahed over images of a smartly dressed couple posing with guests on a yacht. Huge floral displays filled the railings and spilled over into an area where guests enjoyed delicacies prepared by a well-known chef. A casual glance would suggest it was a high-end wedding. It wasn't. It was actually a first anniversary party.
    Certainly this celebrity couple wouldn't blink an eye at a celebration that rivalled their actual wedding, but it isn't just the rich and famous who are encouraged to spend big when the first year marker comes along. There is an increasingly large movement within the wedding industry urging couples to re-create their big day by doing it over again on their first anniversary.
    You start with the venue--ideally, they say--the same place you got married. The guest list should include those who attended your wedding along with the acquaintances you've acquired in the year since your marriage.
    Next you choose your theme as the jumping off point for decor, cuisine and music. Once that is set you contact your original vendors such as the DJ, photographer and florist to "re-create the magic from your special day." A party planner explained, "The idea that all of your loved ones can be together and celebrate in your first year of marriage is priceless."
    And pricey.
    Seems to me couples are now expected to match, if not outspend, the dollar figure of their actual wedding day. Quite the way for the industry to keep dollars flowing. Or does that sound too cynical?
    Perhaps it's not cynicism as much as it is sadness. A behavioural psychologist wonders if these elaborate celebrations so early on in a marriage are indicative of the disheartening reality that people don't have expectations of the longevity of marriage.
    Or the longevity of much, for that matter.
    Corporations that struggle with employee retention have been looking for solutions to high turnover. Some are hiring outside assistance in determining what types of gifts would provide extra incentives and encourage employees to stick around. Since the average employee stays in a job 4.4 years experts suggest making a big deal of the 5-year mark for those that stay that long. Stock options or a one-month paid sabbatical are the top suggestions, however one company is known for presenting Samurai swords. A far cry from the days when people worked for the same company for decades and received a gold watch at the end. Parties of some sort for each year of employment is the norm in some places, with the hope it will encourage people to stay on board.
    My husband and I marked a significant anniversary a few weeks ago. It had nothing to do with a relationship milestone, nor was it job related. Ten years ago we were in a hospital listening to a doctor's diagnosis that set us back on our heels regarding my husband's health. Within days he was in an operating room and although there were difficult setbacks following surgery, we rejoiced in the outcome…and have been rejoicing ever since. When the ten-year marker rolled around we wanted to acknowledge it--which we did--by taking part in the kinds of activities we do every day; activities he can participate in because of what took place in that operating room 10 years earlier. It was an expression of thankfulness for all we had going on at the time. The activity of life. Exactly what we were celebrating.
     We should always be mindful of reasons to celebrate, but what sets an event apart is not the atmosphere, but the attitude. Even more important than the festivity is the expression of gratitude. Thank you for sharing this year of marriage with me, thank you for the work you do on the job, thank you for health that has been restored. The most meaningful part of the commemoration occurs when the show of gratitude upstages the show. That's my outlook.

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