Tuesday 24 February 2009

The case for the spontaneous wedding

This time next week I shall be a married man, for the first time in my fairly long life. Either that or a disgraced bachelor on the run, looking over his shoulder while desperately trying to grow a beard.

The last three months have taught me much. Not least about the crazy pressures which lead many people to spend such a bizarrely long time organising their weddings. I gather that two years is the norm. At every turn we have had people tutting at us for doing things at short notice. Though pregnancy, obesity and doomed attempts to diet all seem to be powerful arguments against arranging the wedding outfits months in advance, to take but one example.

I consulted an authoritative book of etiquette which pronounced that invitations should be sent out six weeks before the ceremony. Which would have been perfect, if the hotel where we are holding the reception had not insisted on being told final numbers, and receiving payment in full, a month in advance. Even before then, my fiancée was able to counter all my attempts at backsliding by pointing out that we were committed to paying for the reception whether it actually took place or not.

We compromised by sending the invitations out seven weeks ahead, with a hectoring covering letter. It seemed to do the trick.

The expense is undeniably damnable. I read recently that the average British wedding now costs over £21,000. This seems an implausibly high figure to me, given the vast numbers of the underclass who must get spliced for nothing more than the price of a few pints, a tray of jumbo sausage rolls and a taxi home from A&E after the traditional punch-up, but our own costs were certainly alarming. My darling wife-to-be helpfully pointed out that we could have saved a fortune by just booking a party and then surprising the hotel when she turned up in a wedding dress, but unfortunately she did not have that insight until after I had signed the documentation.

Only last week I heard the sad story of a couple who, after the traditional 18 months of planning, had recently sent out invitations to their dream wedding in July. Days later they received a letter from the receivers of their chosen fairytale venue, regretting that they would be unable to honour the booking. This sort of thing can only increase as the Great Depression strengthens its grip on the country.

So let me make the case for spontaneity. For reasons doubtless not unrelated to the above-mentioned costs, marriages in the UK have slumped to the lowest levels ever recorded. But wedlock is a good thing for children, and for society as a whole. So if you are thinking about getting hitched, just do it. You will be amazed by how quickly you can get it organised if you put your mind to it. And you will probably also be pleasantly surprised by the bargains you can screw out of increasingly desperate couturiers and hoteliers, though you might want to think about having your honeymoon in Scarborough (my own first choice, though sadly not my bride’s) to avoid the impact of our plummeting currency.

In case you are wondering why this column is still here, spontaneity is also our watchword in planning our life together. It would be convenient for many reasons to live close to my wife’s job, family and friends in Cheshire. But we have a perfectly viable Plan B to live in Northumberland while she is on maternity leave. The response to recent efforts to publicise my house suggests that this is where we are most likely to end up.

So if you are longing for me to disappear, you know what you have to do. Surely it has got to be a bargain?

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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