Leading Article: Auntie wakes up to unromantic realities

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The Independent Online
THE odds are stacked against marriage these days. Not only does it seem increasingly unpopular, but those who choose matrimony are more likely to end up divorced. A recent survey found that getting married in London with customary trimmings costs about pounds 11,000, and about pounds 7,000 elsewhere. Add in the stress of organising a walk up the aisle, the horror of taking on in-laws and it is a wonder anyone bothers. The current box office hit Four Weddings and a Funeral presents marriage as a triumph of the ridiculous over good sense, aptly summing up the difficulties of this once-hallowed institution.

Many people faced with the uphill task of constructing and maintaining a successful marriage may have felt a little heartened by the BBC's gesture of support for it. A week's leave for the event, plus pounds 75 in shopping vouchers, was Auntie's wedding present. Demonstrating a curious combination of trendy and fogey behaviour, the corporation was finally bullied last week into also giving the gift to homosexual couples. Only then did years of matrimonial beneficence come to light.

Suddenly the old dear began to look slightly senile. In this age of fierce commercial competition, there seems little room for such kind gestures. With the usual rent- a-quote Tory backbenchers pouring invective at their favourite target, the BBC management suddenly woke up to the world of the Nineties. Yesterday they surrendered, and suspended the practice of giving wedding presents to staff, gay or straight.

Many people, particularly poorer single parents facing imprisonment for not paying the licence fee, will have little sympathy for the loss of pounds 75 to newlyweds. Why, they might justifiably ask, could honeymoons not have been taken from annual leave? But a few will still be saddened that a harsher, modern reality has driven romance off the BBC balance sheet.

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