Dear Mary | 30 March 2017

Q. As an artist I’m indebted to my sponsor. I also like him, but not his habit of ringing me up when he has friends in the room, asking me to describe, for example, a party I’ve recently been to and then putting me on loudspeaker. It’s a good thing that he considers me to be entertaining, but I draw the line at being required to act the stand-up comic to an invisible (even if appreciative) audience. My mother says ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’. Can you rule Mary? — Name and address withheld A. You are not a human jukebox available to churn out anecdotes on demand.

Your problems solved | 22 June 2016

Q. A friend’s daughter is marrying soon. She and her husband-to-be, both art-lovers, have dispensed with a wedding list, instead asking that each of the 200 guests give something they have made. My husband and I are loath to add to the mountain of garbage the young couple will feel honour-bound to find roomspace for. Would it be kinder to come empty-handed? — M.D., Wiltshire A. The request may be less naive than you think. It would be well worth storing 198 pieces of grot if, for example, David Hockney and Bridget Riley were to be among the guests and delivering something handmade. Meanwhile you could compromise by knocking up

The rise of groomzilla

We had been engaged for maybe three weeks before it became apparent I’d be the one throwing hysterical wedding-related hissy fits. In no time, I had turned from a reasonable sort of chap into a wailing, screaming princeling, demanding white-gloved waiters, palm trees and a grand entrance by vintage Rolls-Royce. Like the hideous creature that pops out of John Hurt in Alien, so groomzilla was born. At least, this is according to my soon-to-be wife. My soon-to-be mother-in-law now refers to me as The Dauphin, and there was a tussle over zebras. My point was, why shouldn’t we have a few scattered around the lawn, serenely grazing in the background,

Your problems solved | 2 June 2016

Q. We moved recently and new neighbours invited us to join them for dinner at a nearby restaurant. I planned to offer a contribution — perhaps to pay the cost of our meals — but no explicit arrangement was made beforehand. Our friends began by ordering champagne for themselves, while we confined ourselves to glasses of wine. One of them had turbot, which was twice as expensive as any other main course. Without consulting us, they ordered successively two bottles of Chassagne Montrachet. The bill when it came revealed that these had cost £62 each, and the total came to about £350. I produced my card, which was laid beside

The moths are coming!

Last month a friend invited me to lunch at the Garrick Club. As an impoverished writer, I don’t get many offers like this, so the week before, in a state of anticipation, I took my good suit out of the cupboard to check it wasn’t too rumpled. To my horror there were two holes the size of a five-pence piece in the trousers. Moths! I tore through my wardrobe and found web-like trails all over my coats, suits and sweaters. ‘No!’ I cried and shook my fist at the heavens. This year we’ve enjoyed the warmest winter since the 17th century, so you may not have been snuggled up in

Your problems solved | 4 February 2016

Q. My husband-to-be and I both work full time. We are getting married from his family HQ and his kind mother has effectively done all the planning. She’s done it all with superb taste and efficiency so I am loath to be critical about the one thing I don’t like. She has ordered laminated name badges for all the guests, to be handed to them as they arrive at the reception, and is adamant they must be worn. She says they will help the elderly guests, but these make up only a tiny percentage: most are in their twenties or thirties. Do you agree that name badges would give an

Dear Mary: Another way to deal with a maddening blackhead

Q. Might I suggest an alternative solution to E.B. of London’s problem (3 October) about the person sporting a ‘maddening’ blackhead at a poolside party? Surely a more tactful way of drawing the man’s attention to the blackhead would have been for E.B. to pretend she thought it was an insect that had landed. On failing to shoo it away, she could have exclaimed that it might be a tick and he should remove it and then offered to assist in this operation. The nuisance could thus have been dealt with without the poor man even discovering that he had an embarrassing zit. — J.P., Stratford upon Avon A. Thank

Diary – 6 August 2015

My Cambodian daughter and her husband have just got married again. Wedding One was a Buddhist affair in our drawing room, complete with monks, temple dancer, gold umbrellas, brass gongs, three changes of costume and a lot of delicious Cambodian food. That was family only, so this time she had the works: the full meringue, 200 guests, village church (she sees no conflict between Buddhism and Christianity), marquee, fireworks. Time was when wedding guests were the parents’ chums and the bride and groom went off as soon as the cake was cut and the bouquet thrown. Now the parents’ friends don’t get a look in. Not on day two either,

Dear Mary | 26 March 2015

Q. When sending wedding invitations, does one put the full titles on the card, or can one just put, for example, Jane and John having addressed the envelope to Mr and Mrs John Smith? Isn’t it strange that all one’s old wedding invitations are nowhere to hand when one needs them? I would really appreciate your advice. — K.T., Sherborne, Dorset A. I have it from the highest authority that these days first names on the cards themselves are perfectly acceptable. Q. A client whose wife has left him invited me to dinner at his new flat. He presented me with three fairly disgusting courses, all ‘cooked’ by himself, one

Spectator letters: Why we should subsidise weddings

Let’s subsidise weddings Sir: Fraser Nelson (‘Marrying money’, 15 November) points out that marriages tend to last longer than cohabitations and that this is a good thing. But there is only one obvious difference between being married and merely cohabitating. If you are married you’ve been through a marriage ceremony and if you’re not you haven’t. The marriage ceremony brings the couple together to make vows to each other before God (optionally), the representatives of the state and their gathered families and friends. But crucially at these ceremonies the wedding guests also formally commit to supporting the couple in their marriage. This is a very beautiful thing in itself but its

I’m off the booze. My daughter insists that I walk her down the aisle – not vice versa

The vicissitudes of getting old are linked to the mystical innocence of childhood as one daydreams the precious time away. I’m a daydreamer par excellence, and lately I’ve been thinking non-stop about my daughter. She’s getting married this week and I’m off to London for the festivities. Solipsist that I am, it’s nice to think of others for a change. It’s the nature of prestidigitation to mix one’s self and one’s children — I’ve got one of each — and I thank my stars that there’s only one bride, as I read with amusement that three gals in Massachusetts exchanged vows although no state in America has yet to pass

My 50 weddings

A couple of weekends ago, I went to my 50th wedding. Everyone I have mentioned this to has pulled a rather strange face, as though to say, ‘You count the weddings you go to? What unhinged variety of cross-eyed lunatic does that?’ But like so much of lasting value in life, this began with a conversation in a pub. Back in 1997, I was moaning to my old friend Terence about how many weddings I was having to go to. People I knew simply wouldn’t stop getting married. So how many in all? asked Terence. I don’t know, said I. It could, and probably should, have ended there. But the

Dear Mary: How will I know if he really loves me?

Q. To ask for money in lieu of a wedding present (Dear Mary, 3 August) is ghastly, but an established couple can overcome the issue by having a list at John Lewis and converting presents to vouchers. Thus a toaster can be readily converted to something else, even some groceries from Waitrose. For those offended to be asked for cash, a suitable sum can be used to buy a voucher, from John Lewis or a St James’s wine merchant or an art gallery. If you’re really offended by being asked for straight cash, however, a ticket or scratchcard for the National Lottery would make the point well, with a high

Gay civil partners should resist pressure to ‘upgrade’ to marriage

Apparently I’ve proposed to my civil partner. He claims that on BBC Radio 2, on the Jeremy Vine show (he thinks it was the JV show) I expressed myself in terms which presumed his prior acceptance. I can’t remember a thing about it — on live radio one does tend to throw these thoughts out heedlessly — but my partner swears I said, ‘Oh yes, well I suppose we’ll have to get an upgrade.’ He found this a graceless way of popping the question, and has forbidden me from using the term ‘upgrade’ again. Ah well. But in that case, if not ‘upgrade’, what shall we call it? ‘Conversion’ appears