Spinning plates. Herding cats. Juggling while riding a bicycle. All three are tricky tasks. But none is more difficult than planning your own wedding.
For almost a year, my partner and I have lived in a state of anxiety. At first, it was of the fleeting variety. Occasionally you would stop dead in your tracks and be filled with dread. A laundry list of 1,000 things to do would flood the brain. Church, reception, flowers, rings, suits. It keeps coming.
"Ach, it's months away," you muse out loud, probably trying to convince yourself as much as anyone else. "No need to panic."
Fast forward to a month before the wedding and anxiety status has been ratcheted up to "perpetual". Oddly, that list still seems as long as your arm, despite a sizeable wedding debt accrued and rooms full of marriage paraphernalia. Painting the Forth Bridge is starting to look like a minor Sunday afternoon chore by comparison.
Wedding planning is unlike organising any other event. Seldom do you have to ensure everything is just so while also being the main attraction. The stage manager and the headline act. In a way, you're Bob Geldof, marshalling goods, services and egos to be in one place at one time while also strapping on a guitar to belt the hits.
Mercifully, unlike the actual Live Aid, Phil Collins will not be hopping on Concorde to play drums in the afternoon in New York. It was an option, but far too expensive. And I'm telling you now – wedding cakes don't come cheap.
Another problem is that it will never quite be as good as someone else's wedding. Or so you fear. It will be great, of course, but the seeds of doubt are sown by others. Our budget is modest, but there are a few nods to extravagance. A vintage Rolls Royce too and from the ceremony. Why not? Yet you hear whispers of other weddings that seem to have been under-written by Donald Trump. Fireworks, 15th century Italian castles and dancing white horses. The Cold War has nothing on the wedding arms race. By the same token, weddings in my parents' generation were much more austere. The local chapel followed by the town hall, and maybe a shared key of ale. No five-star hotels or sweet tables to rival Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. So you're left with a feeling of ennui, with both envy and guilt gnawing away at your soul. Only a wedding, it seems, can do that.
Never will you have to adopt more personalities, making a wedding a thrilling prospect for an actor. The problem is most people are not very good actors. You need to be a diplomat, having the wherewithal not to make the wedding equivalent of a curtsey when a firm, pumping handshake was required. I'm thinking chiefly of who to invite, a political conundrum as messy as a Cabinet reshuffle, and then where to seat them – a joyous task to be left to the last possible moment. Speeches require you to be a bon viveur and wit, photographs expect you to be a catalogue model and friends and family – variously – want the angelic son, embarrassing teenager and boisterous co-worker. Exhausting.
Aside from the wedding, nothing else matters. Every penny of spare cash dumped into a seemingly bottomless pit, and any culinary largesse beyond sharing a tin of baked beans is frowned upon as if Marie Antoinette indulgence. Sadly, thanks to the Tour de France and Olympic triumphs, I have been bitten by the cycling bug. Now is not the time, though, to broach the prospect of buying a £1,000 hybrid bicycle and ill-fitting Lyra.
I bemoan all this as if I'm orchestrating the thing. Far from it. To say I am the equivalent of a plumber's mate – standing blankly holding a monkey wrench while the real professional works furiously beneath the sink – would probably be over-playing my part. I've been entrusted with finding a disco DJ and my own suit. My already betrothed male friends tell me this is as traditional as hurling confetti at the church, a reflection of how incompetent men are rightly considered. My partner has done 99.9% of the heavy lifting. A bulging, elastic band-bound folder she carries around everywhere testament to the Herculean task. It underlines why she is brilliant, and why this series of minor gripes won't matter a jot in less than a month's time.