Yesterday, I attended my department’s Christmas lunch and was seated next to a colleague who’s from New Brunswick like me. We got to discussing weddings and he remarked that, since moving to Montreal, he’d noticed people approached them differently here.
In NB, people went in for simple, understated weddings at the family church (or city hall) followed by a reception at a nearby church hall or similar venue, which would be catered, feature a DJ or band, and cash bar. In Montreal, he noticed, weddings were bigger, flashier, had open bars and were much costlier than back home. While open bars are expected, guests are also expected to, in addition to purchasing something on the registry, offer cash to the bride and groom ($300 to $500).
I thought about it for a bit and realised that had been my experience as well. We talked about this with our Montreal-born colleagues and discovered this was probably a cultural difference: Montrealers (or people from large centres in general) spend a lot on their weddings because they expect their families and friends to chip in to help pay for it. Maritimers (or again, perhaps, people from smaller centres in general) don’t spend a lot because they’d never expect their friends and family to help pay for it.
The conversation then drew on a broader observation that, in the Maritimes, discussion of money (salary, mortgage, the prices of one’s material goods) was generally never done. You don’t declare the price you paid for things. You either own a thing or you don’t. The price is not relevant. And any kind of such discussion would be considered vulgar. In Montreal, or at least, at my office, entire conversations can revolve around someone’s purchases over the weekend. Declaring publicly the cost of an item is a way of saying, “My discretionary income is robust enough that I can afford this high end item. By agreeing verbally that I got a good deal, you are making the declaration that we are in the same socio-economic class. If you express surprise at what I paid, then I hereby declare that I am in a higher income bracket than you. If you declare your item was in fact even more expensive than mine, then you have trumped me, sir.”
Anyway, I don’t have much a point here other than to say it was something I had noticed since living here and finally someone else mentioned it. I thought it was just me.
Or it could just be my office.