I was at another wedding last night. A classy affair held at a century-old mansion tucked away on the northwest corner of the University of British Columbia campus. Weddings monopolized a significant portion of my weekends last summer, and this year has been no different. Apparently I am at that age.
Although I don’t profess to know much about weddings, I do have an appreciation for many of the elements of a good wedding: tradition, ceremony, gifting, public speaking, and open bars. For the bride and groom, and their immediate family, the wedding is always going to be more meaningful than its constituent parts. But for the rest of us, the spectators, a wedding is most enjoyable when these disparate elements come together to make a memorable evening. While that may be a trite observation, the volume of books and magazines written about the subject suggests that despite how common they are - most people don’t know where to begin when it comes to participating in a wedding.
I had the good fortune of being the best man at several of these aforementioned weddings, and on each occasion I was required to deliberate on what is the appropriate gift for my friend, the groom. As the best man you want your gift to the groom to be something that you can be proud of, something that conveys deliberate thought, and rises to the occasion. It’s not going to be a toaster that you wrap and place on the table at the back of room alongside the gifts from the in-laws. It’s not going to be an envelope of cash you sheepishly place in a basket with the rest.
Your gift needs to have gravitas.
It should be the kind of gift that is delivered over scotch the night before, or bleary eyed at brunch on the day of. It doesn’t have to be particularly expensive, but your best friend is only going to get married a couple of times, so you want whatever you select to be of substance.
I am of the firm view that monogrammed sterling silver cufflinks will more often than not be the correct choice.
A simple oval or rectangular cufflink, unobscured by superfluous gemstones or etching is the classic choice. Even with initials etched into their face, sterling silver cufflinks remain tastefully understated - barely discernible to the unaccustomed, while conveying an air of subtle sophistication to those who take notice. They are the kind of detail that only the wearer, and those with a keen eye, get to appreciate. Even if the groom does not wear a suit or double-cuffed shirt with any frequency, he will recognize that this is the kind of gift designed to mark an occasion. He may not yet own any monogrammed clothing or accessories, and if that is so then he will appreciate that you spent time and money acquiring these cufflinks for him, and that you know in the years and decades that follow he will have occasion to wear them. Alternatively if the groom is a regular wearer of cufflinks then all the more reason for him to enjoy this particular pair, purchased and monogrammed to commemorate the occasion.
Cufflinks have a rich, albeit fading, history of being used as gifts to commemorate significant occasions. In medieval times cufflinks were made almost exclusively as items to commemorate royal weddings and other affairs of state. The custom of using cufflinks as a gift or a keepsake has been so widely practiced that in some circles it is said that a man should never buy his own cufflinks. I’m not sure I agree with that sentiment entirely. If that were true I wouldn’t have many pairs to choose from in the mornings.
What I can agree with is that gifted, and personalized, sterling cufflinks do fall into that fetishized, and jealousy guarded group of “heirloom quality” #menswear accessories. Unless lost or stolen it is a safe bet that some day the gifted cufflinks will end up as a cherished possession of the groom’s son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter.
Above are my late grandfather’s cufflinks. Gifted to him by my grandmother, and more recently gifted to me.