Football has given way to cricket, the Chelsea Flower Show is about to open its gates, and at last there is a warmth in the air that might inspire feelings of fellowship and harmony. In other words, we are into the wedding season. Up and down the country this weekend, the marriage vows were being recited in their hundreds, and vol-au-vents were being consumed in their thousands.
Only Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis made it on to the front pages with her nuptials, but many families will now have similar pictures of daughters, sons, nieces and nephews emoting the same state of wedded bliss.
I went to a wedding party myself at the weekend. It wasn't what you might call a small affair: several hundred people were treated to a dinner of steak and chips in a marquee so big it may have spanned two postal districts.
I found it difficult to remember the last time I'd been to a wedding. In fact, I seem to have jumped somehow from first attending weddings, then 40th birthday parties, and now it's mainly funerals, a sad progression which keeps me in touch with my mortality. So it was a treat, made even more rare by the fact that the happy couple (who would both be roughly in my age bracket) were first-timers.
As the groom pointed out in his speech, he and his wife had 97 years of singledom between them (cue the guests silently working out how this total was apportioned between them). There were many references in the speeches to the fact that a long wait had come to an end - even the father of the bride opened his address by remarking that he never thought he would see the day.
The sense that a wedding was the final destination of a natural human quest was palpable. And as we can see from the fact that marriage - between or among the sexes - remains a highly divisive political issue, this is an institution that still carries a lot of potency and significance.
The cocktails, too, were potent, but despite that the speeches passed off without incident, which is always rather disappointing. I have witnessed best man's speeches that are brilliant, and ones that are terrible, and, truthfully, both are thrilling. Actually, for all the great jokes and clever stunts, I shall never, ever forget the best man who stood up to address the reception in the great room at the British Museum and was so overcome by the occasion that he totally froze. And I mean totally.
As my friend Johnny pointed out on Saturday night, there is an arc that some speeches follow: they go from bad, to awful, to excruciating until they become anecdotes to be related again and again. I have been a best man four times in my life, and it is truly a nerve-wracking experience, having to find jokes and stories that will appeal to two or three diverse groups of people. Nevertheless, I have a pretty unblemished record. Apart from the time, at a reception in a Lakeland hotel, I inadvertently proposed my toast not to the bridesmaids, but to the barmaids. No one seemed to mind...Reuse content