Bunhill: St Michael spreads his wedding wings

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WITHIN a few years, up to one in four of the country's newlyweds will be blessed by St Michael. Put more commercially, M&S reckons that up to 100,000 couples a year will be asking friends and relatives to choose their gifts from its computerised wedding list system.

This ensures that an item is removed from the list once anyone has bought it from any M&S outlet. And after the wedding, the happy couple will be presented with a computer print-out telling them exactly who bought what.

M&S is exceptionally gung- ho over the whole initiative, which was launched as recently as February in 40 stores after extensive research into the gifts business. Now the scheme is expanding to 70 stores, complete with trained advisers and a simplified ordering system (you don't have to write out your choice, merely tick it on a list).

The list includes inoffensive items such as Royal Doulton china, canteens of cutlery, glasses and cast-iron cookery utensils, but the furnishings struck even an untrendy observer like me as depressing, while the Indy's fashion department was scathing over the uniformly derivative nature of the designs. It recommended Peter Jones, The Conran Shop or Thomas Goode as the best place for wedding lists, above even the Sloanes' traditional favourite, the General Trading Company.

Designs apart, I find the phenomenon slightly sinister, and not only because the styles are so much less sprightly than M&S clothes.

St Michael is so omnipresent in our daily lives that you would have thought he could have left our weddings alone. What next - funerals?