It is – or so the magazines keep telling us – the Year of the Wedding. Don't pretend you don't know why. Even the most ardent of Republicans can't have failed to notice the hourly updates on the state of Kate M's hair, weight, ability to dress herself, etc. Or Kate Ms' – let's not forget Kate Moss – impending (and, if you read Grazia, far more interesting) nuptials.
In a coincidence so staggering that I've yet (to the undoubted delight of my colleagues) to shut up about it, it's also the first year that any of my friends are to wed. This is enormously exciting. As a child, I was starved of weddings: my cousins were either too settled, too far-flung, or too liberal to tie the knot. The only one I went to was my parents, when they – two children and two decades into their acquaintance – decided to get hitched. It was lovely, of course (I was maid of honour, which suited me down to the ground), but it wasn't, to my 10-year-old mind, a Proper Wedding. Mum wore yellow. Dad wore jeans. And it was all over and done with in the space of an hour.
Ever since, I've pined for the real thing. It's never happened. Summers come and go, colleagues flit off to marquees in Surrey and Sussex and Somerset and I, well, I just stay at home. No one I knew got married.
And then, suddenly, they did. Rather like buses, after an eternity of nothing, I'm spoiled for choice. This year I have three: two in the summer, and one in autumn. All at once, I realise what I've been missing: a chance to get dressed up, yes. A lovely day out. Also: a hell of a lot of spending.
"What are you going to wear?" This has become the small talk of choice amongst those invited. Of more concern are my plans for getting to and from the do. A hotel is in order, apparently. A train ticket, obviously. And – a gift.
This is the minefield. Is it ok to present the bride with a single highball (£2.50)? A wastepaper basket (£9.95)? What, exactly, is wedding list etiquette? Rather like the summer sales, I feel as though I should have some kind of strategy here: get in before the good gifts go, choose something that might remind them of you (even though they chose it in the first place). Fortunately, none of the brides-to-be have been hugely demanding; even the most expensive presents come in under the £100 mark. Unfortunately, I'm still flummoxed. Would the garlic crusher be a terribly bad idea?