For most grooms, planning begins with a lesson in wedding lingo. Close on the heels of the engagement, we're asked to learn words like fiancé and boutonnière and mélange, words that hadn't yet entered our vocabulary, words that occasionally come equipped with accent marks but don't tell us which way they're leaning.
And when we come to hand-canceling, we think to ourselves, that can't be what it sounds like. Only two possible definitions come to mind.
a a gesture agreed upon by the bride, groom and DJ, which, when executed, signifies a change in song (ex: "If you play the Electric Slide, I swear to god, I will hand cancel the crap outta that song.")
b (biblical:) an act of disfigurement in which a groom's hand is mangled or amputated as a result of tardiness, failure to complete a task, or any unsatisfactory performance (ex: "Dude, if you're not at that tasting in 20 minutes, she's gonna hand cancel you with a butter knife.")
(I just submitted the above to UrbanDictionary.com.)
What it refers to is postage stamps that have been "cancelled" by a stamp ... by hand. And there's a need for such a thing in the wedding world. No one wants to spend hours on an ornate invitation envelope design, only to have that envelope fed through and mauled in a stamping machine.
Factory farming ... for envelopes
And these days, grooms, there's all sorts of drama about hand canceling. (Imagine: all this drama about something you never even knew existed.) In the good ol' days, post office employees were happy to hand stamp envelopes, as long as it wasn't rush hour or the Christmas season. Today, most post offices will charge you for the service; or they direct you to a post office that might do it; or they just decline altogether; OR they tell you they'll do it, but "you should know, despite your efforts, the envelopes are likely to go through a machine anyway."
The automatic feeders. Where envelopes go to die.
So what's the solution? Less ornate envelopes? E-vitations?
No, the solution is making hand-canceling the new groom task. Throughout wedding planning, I was asked to perform a number of tasks that involved acquiring things or expressing disapproval or putting pressure on those who needed some putting of pressure. So, brides - why not send the men in to employ some gentle coercion with the local postal staff? Like a bouncer in the most uninteresting, under-dressed nightclub ever conceived, your groom will march in there and demand hand canceling ... and no, don't hand him the stamp, postal person, cause he won't be doin' it his damn self.
Grooms - you're going to be facing some stiff competition, so prepare accordingly. Know your opponent. If it's a male employee, don't approach the glass with a smile and your top shirt button undone. Know too that you may be waiting a bit while you observe the stamping (it's a rookie mistake to assume they'll do it once you leave). In other words, prepare some activities to keep you occupied: read a book, clear your inbox, or present your famous spiel on the advantages and disadvantages of the Pony Express. Complete the task by chaperoning said envelopes on their postal journey, ensuring that they are remain pure and intact. This is your charge, groom.
And whatever you do, don't return home without getting the job done, or your may find your hands canceled. In the biblical sense.