I think Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones's wedding list reflected very nicely on her and her fiance when it was published last week. They've asked for things that they really want, at modest prices. Their total value of pounds 7,000 is modest but average - the Linley's list at pounds 180,000 obviously reflected a very different lifestyle. But I've noticed that there has been a move away from the rather flashy kind of present recently.
Before, people wanted two dinner services - one for formal entertaining and one for everyday. Now, because people aren't entertaining in such a grand style, maybe they'll just order a plain white set with a collection of really wonderful side-plates which will be used for a grand dinner party.
Plainer things are in vogue - plain glasses, not cut glass ones - and it's no longer the done thing to have matching whole sets of everything. Couples want their homes to look chic but to steer away from looking like everyone else's. Most people want to be quirky. They ask us to find lots of odd things - napkin rings made of bent spoons or pieces of scaffolding for instance.
When I started in the job in the late Eighties, everyone wanted plates embossed with huge lemons and jugs with purple grapes on them. That's all changed - now everyone wants a simple white plate decorated with deliciously cooked food.
We still get a lot of people who want to build up collections of silver, but nowadays it's likely to be silver plate rather than solid silver. But it still looks just like the real thing. And of course everyone is conscious now of things being dishwasher-proof.
Ashtrays are definitely unpopular. People don't ask for them and guests certainly don't like giving them.
In a majority of cases, women are the most interested in the list. We've only had two men coming in completely on their own. The women just couldn't get time off work. One of the men chose brown blankets] A woman would absolutely never choose brown blankets; they would normally go for cream or navy or a lovely green colour. Brown is a kind of boys' prep school colour. And there was the man who wanted everything orange]
Men are interested in the glasses and decanters. They like to have a look at the china too - as long as it's not too floral. I had one couple who temporarily walked out on me - he wanted very plain china and she wanted something patterned. It looked as though they might come to blows so I suggested we went on to glass. But he wanted cut glass and she wanted plain. Eventually they came back with a compromise: he had the glass and she had the china.
People are getting married later now than they used to. They're likely to have lived together and already have what they need for a household. However, people still like whole new sets of kitchen utensils to start off a new life. Things they wouldn't think of buying for themselves - lovely saucepans and expensive little gadgets. When I got married, I asked for a steel measuring jug.
Nationalities vary greatly. In England, china is probably the most important thing, but in the US knives and forks and linen are always top of the list. Italians are especially keen on silver. We did one wedding which was all glasses. There were about 75 guests and each gave a special glass or a set of glasses. Or there was the couple who wanted nothing but solid silver cutlery - everyone gave one knife or fork which was specially engraved.
People have become aware of their guests' budgetary constraints. We used to notice that City boys would just say 'put it on my credit card'. Now people are thinking more about what they give. But people sometimes put expensive things on the list, even though its unlikely that anyone will give it to them. There was a pounds 3,000 wrought iron bed on one list.
We had two farmers getting married recently and they included a pounds 50,000 JCB digger on their list. That's probably the most expensive thing we've ever had. The cheapest thing might be the 75p egg-separator, possibly bought in conjunction with the pounds 1.95 egg whisk.
A lot of people include things that have private, jokey value. At the moment there's a big craze for hot-air balloons. One girl has them on everything - china, pictures, even a huge hot air balloon chandelier.
People are much more aware of their homes now. They take a lot more interest in what they eat off, what they look at. Probably our most popular thing is still the traditional toaster - those old-fashioned chrome Dualit toasters with rounded corners that cost about pounds 100 each. It's quite bizarre - everyone wants one.