Episode 4: the vote
One thing they don't tell you about getting married is that a separate set of vows are required before you embark on the process of planning a wedding. And when it comes to pre-wedding vows, silence is the one that most obviously applies to the groom.
I am lucky that my girlfriend and her mother have taken it upon themselves to handle the bulk of the organisation - and very fortunate that my future in-laws have offered to cover the major costs. But you have to trust me when I say that everything you think you know about the person you are about to commit your life to will be turned upside down as the clock ticks down to the big day.
After an adult life spent in a state of perpetual conflict with successive girlfriends, I consider myself utterly blessed to have finally found a woman I not only love and lust after but who refuses to argue with me. We've disagreed on things, of course, and I'm not proud to say that I've upset her at times, but it is to her eternal credit that she differs from me utterly in her ability to let water wash under the bridge and put a positive spin on even the most trying situations.
Well, that's changed. I've seen a different, steelier side to her as 1 September comes hurtling towards us like a runaway train. It's said that a wedding is all about the bride but what's not spelt out is that the build-up is all about the bride and her mother. As the prospective groom you are a spare wheel, a minister without portfolio, a man whose opinion counts for nothing. My future father-in-law knows the drill clearly after 35 years of marriage because every time we've travelled to Scotland to discuss plans, he has removed himself to the garden to mow the lawn.
One example of my pre-wedding impotence has been my opposition to a wedding list. Getting married so far from home means virtually all of our guests will be travelling a long way at no little expense. The last thing I'd therefore expect from them is to fork out even more money on stuff we haven't got any room in our house for anyway. Added to that, I'm 41 years old and have acquired pretty much everything I need in life: three sets of golf clubs, a back-breaking collection of old vinyl and virtually every pair of adidas trainers ever produced.
What I wear is not down to me. It is, thanks to the evil genius who decided I should write this column, down to you. You will decide the ensemble in which I bid farewell to my life as a single man
But no, my objections to an utterly self-indulgent menu of presents have been overruled on the grounds that there are elderly relations who will want nothing more than to shell out on expensive kitchen equipment or overpriced wine glasses that will only get broken in the dishwasher.
Like most men, I'm a see it, like it, buy it and get out of there kind of guy - and so a painstaking tour of a central London department store was never going to be my preferred way to spend a Sunday afternoon. My mood was not improved by the looks of blank incomprehension that met every suggestion I made, whether it be that a cheaper model of a given item might be the way forward, that we might have a perfectly good one already or, when all else failed, "Who the hell in their right mind is going to drop £450 on a cake mixer?". But what really took me aback was that all such protestations were met with the same deadly brand of bride-to-be logic: "But it's what I want".
It was the same with the invitations, only if I'd bitten my lip any longer I wouldn't have been left with anything to kiss with at the altar. My job is putting magazines together; one magazine every week, in fact, containing many thousands of words, colour photographs and distributed nationally with one of Britain's biggest-selling Sunday newspapers. Organising a few lines of text for a wedding invitation, RSVP card and a simple booklet of information for guests would, I foolishly presumed, be a doddle, especially given my sister works in print and her partner is a graphic designer.
But instead of being an item easily ticked off the list, I have spent the best part of two months trapped inside a Bermuda Triangle-like hell of blood-boiling indecision, nit-picking alterations, counter corrections and changes in direction from the bride-to-be and her mother. Making decision by committee has in turn necessitated a series of grovelling phone calls and apologetic emails to my increasingly exasperated sibling, not to mention an unwanted crash course in the minutiae of pantone colours and printing techniques such as foil blocking. As I've pointed out to my beloved, it's now so late we're going to have to email everyone anyway.
There was, however, one thing I felt sure I would retain dominion over, and that was my wedding attire. After a very informative and helpful session with a personal shopper at MR PORTER, I was satisfied that the choices had been expertly narrowed down to a short list of three possible suits, two pairs of shoes, four shirts and three ties. But alas, like all aspects of this wedding, what I wear is not down to me. But on this occasion, it's not about my bride-to-be either. It is, thanks to the evil genius who decided I should write this column, down to you. You will decide the ensemble in which I bid farewell to my life as a single man. Please be kind, I've had a tough few weeks.