Do you remember that scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral where Hugh Grant goes to buy a present from the American's wedding list? "Lots of lovely things around the £1,000 mark," says the snotty assistant in the showroom.
"And what about the £50 mark?" Hugh replies nervously.
She, supercilious worm, gestures across the counter. "You could get that pygmy warrior over there."
Hugh's eyes light up. "That? Excellent!"
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"If you could find someone to chip in the other £950," says the worm. "Or our carrier bags are £1.50 each. Why don't you just buy 33 of them?"
I was only nine when the film came out and this introduction to the concept of the wedding list was a far more instructive lesson than any of the rude bits in it. The expense! The weird items people choose! The obsession with cut crystal as if it's the Twenties and we live in an Evelyn Waugh novel!
In the 24 intervening years between Four Weddings and today, people have become even huffier about the wedding list, as increasing numbers of couples live together before getting hitched and the assumption is they have quite enough towels between them. (We should all be grateful we weren't invited to Kim Kardashian's wedding to that basketball player, by the way, because she included a Baccarat vase for $7,850 on her list. Unless you were there and you bought the vase, in which case, splendid choice. Well done you.)
If you want to have a list, have a list and say so in a grown-up manner.
Royal couples don't have wedding lists, even though poor Meghan may be longing for a pastel pink Le Creuset casserole dish. She and Harry will presumably follow Kate and William's lead and set up a charitable fund for people to donate into.
Although obviously people still send them presents from around the globe. When the Queen got married in 1947, Gandhi sent her a piece of yellowing cloth which Queen Mary assumed was a loincloth and deemed "very vulgar". In fact, it was just a bit of material he'd spun himself to celebrate Indian independence a couple of months earlier. Gandhi was evidently one of those slightly annoying guests who ignore dinner plates and buy off-list.
My point is that we should stop being so uptight about lists. Often, these days, an invitation arrives that says: "Your presence at our wedding is present enough, but if you'd like to give us a gift we have a list at so-and-so." Please. That is coy and awful. If you want to have a list, have a list and say so in a grown-up manner. It's a celebration and if people want to give you a present – be that a tea towel or a loincloth – then how lovely.
You may also get an invitation with couples saying they don't want any presents but would welcome a contribution towards their honeymoon or even a house deposit. I've heard dark mutterings about this from elderly aunts, but this is silly. Couples probably do have knives and forks already, but they may be struggling to get on the property ladder (or afford a holiday abroad) and so welcome any help. Far more sensible to ask outright for that than set up a list of things they don't need. You can't live in a William Yeoward decanter, can you?