What Has the Law to Do With a Wedding Invitations List?

One Saturday afternoon I brought my 17-year old nephew to my solicitor’s office. We were attending a wedding dinner that night. I ushered him into my chamber, and he found himself surrounded by voluminous law books, law periodicals and law reports. He cast an amazed look at the amount of papers piling up on my desk – all requiring my urgent and immediate attention. I also had several large cards laying haphazardly on the desk – wedding invitations.

My nephew, who was interested in a career in law, took a book titled ‘Family Law’ and began reading it. Meanwhile I continued my work of drafting a statement of defence to a plaintiff’s statement of claim, preparing an affidavit in reply at the same time. I also looked at some files of divorce cases which were scheduled for hearing at the High Court next month.

After reading for about 20 minutes or so, my nephew stood up and posed me a question: “Uncle, is there a relationship between whom one invites to his wedding and the law?”

“The simple answer to that question is, no, there isn’t. Whom do you invite is not governed by any law, of course. There would be legal chaos if there be a law governing how many guests one could include in one’s wedding invitations. But there may be relationship between whom one invites to one’s wedding and the state of one’s later married life, albeit a fortuitous one. Why do you ask?”

He shrugged, and said,” No particular reason. Just ask for the sake of asking.”

“OK, but you must avoid asking such questions in the future. If you are interested in the law, you are of course encouraged to ask questions – and good questions only. For example, you might want to ask why, in the first place, there are laws governing marriages and divorce.”

His curiosity piqued, my nephew was all ears, as I continued: “In the first place, do you know that a marriage is a contract? That means it entails contractual obligations on the part of the two parties to the marriage, and that’s why there are marriage and divorce laws and regulations.”

“Oh,” came my nephew’s answer, “I didn’t know that. It sounds rather unromantic that a marriage is a contract.” How true.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in my chamber. After my personal introduction to contract law, my nephew became quite interested in the law of contract. I handed him my Guest’s Law of Contract and he began to read it.

That evening, as we mingled with the guests who made the list on the wedding invitations, I couldn’t help reflecting on the question my nephew asked of me in the office earlier. Of course, a marriage (which is always lauded as being made in heaven) is a romantic affair, an occasion for joy and cause for celebration. Who would like to be told that, in the eyes of the law, a marriage, properly formalized, becomes a contract just as much as an ordinary, cold agreement comes into force after all the terms and conditions are fulfilled? Which couple would seek the solicitor’s legal advice on marriage while they are busy preparing the wedding invitations, wedding cakes, wedding reception and the associated paraphernalia? Of course that would be the last thing on their mind.