Episode 2: The Awakening
I know that it's happening now, that I'm really getting married, because I've had my first anxiety dream about the big day. In it, I opened my suitcase on the morning of my wedding and realised with a sickening jolt that I'd packed my dirty gym kit instead of my suit, shirt and tie. It didn't require the services of a psychoanalysist to work out what it meant.
Since the birth of our first child five months ago I have put on weight at an alarming rate. So much so that doing up my trousers now calls for an exclusion zone to safeguard my future wife, and any sundry houseguests unfortunate enough to witness the scene, from injury caused by the Exocet missile of another button pinging across the room after capitulating under the pressure of what can only be described as a middle-aged paunch.
Suits that once made me feel like a million dollars now mock me from the rail in my wardrobe, alongside shirts that snigger in the knowledge that their collars would cut off all blood supply to my head. For the first time in my life I'm seriously contemplating the prospect of trousers with elasticated waistbands.
Like any man, I want to look my very best on my wedding day; to show my wife that she's made the right choice and to be able to prove to our children what a good-looking guy their dad once was. I've been assured that three-piece suits are slimming, and that the sins of a lifetime of childish snacking might be safely concealed under a waistcoat. The problem is, I'm now deeply worried about blinding one of my in-laws if I give in to the dessert course at the reception.
For the first time in my life I'm seriously contemplating the prospect of trousers with elasticated waistbands
The answer, of course, is to make more of my gym membership than the single calorie I might burn a year from carrying around the membership card in my wallet. The problem is, I detest gyms as much as I love bacon sandwiches.
But there is more to my rising stress levels than simply the question of whether I will be able to fit into the marquee without the assistance of a flat bed truck. The romantic, idealised version of my own wedding has always involved being somewhere beautiful and bathed in sunshine, surrounded by my family and friends. And despite being occasionally downbeat enough to make Nostradamus look like a poster boy for Prozac, I pride myself on having rather a lot of the latter.
Unfortunately, budget dictates that friendships have to be weighed. In effect, it's like editing down all the enjoyment and treasured experiences in your life to a point where who remains on the list is determined by one question: when did you last see them? It has taken on the form of the most awful reality TV show elimination process, measuring the fun had with some against the time spent with others. It makes me think that, subconsciously at least, it is why I have put off getting married for so long - that and my questionable taste in women.
If I'm to invest in an ensemble capable of concealing my newly earned bulk I want something I'll wear again, without looking like a member of staff at Downton Abbey
I have been invited to weddings in the past, only to be later uninvited because the couple in question had made a mistake and gone over their limit on numbers. All that left me feeling was that I ranked somewhere between 130 and 140 on their league table of friends. Similarly, I have been to others where I've looked around and wondered how many guests were charging a day rate to attend.
As it stands, we've decided to avoid the issue completely by inviting far too many people in the hope that a) we're getting married in a remote corner of Scotland and that will put a lot of people off, or b) I might be very wrong about the number of friends I have.
At least we've now found a church big enough to accommodate everyone. The drawback is that it comes with a minister who is insisting that we let the "light of the Lord into our lives" before marrying us. He's adamant that we go on a weekend-long religious refresher course in order to remind ourselves why we're getting married and what commitment really means. I would have thought our baby daughter and the combined bill for the marquee and catering would have sufficed. I simply cannot wait for our next trip north when he suggests "we get to know each other better".
Of course, a site visit will involve a continuation of the rumbling spat with my future in-laws over my point blank refusal to wear a morning suit. None of my family and friends owns one and if I'm to invest a four-figure sum on an ensemble capable of magically concealing my newly earned bulk, I want something I'm liable to wear again without looking like a member of staff at Downton Abbey.
I keep telling them that if nothing else it will help the ushers distinguish the guests of the bride and groom: penguins on one side, extras from The Sopranos on the other. There'll be no problem spotting me, however; I'll be the one in the dirty gym kit.