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Weddings now a union of greed

I recently attended a wedding where tradition was bucked on a number of counts: a private family Mass preceded the main event, which started at 8pm; speeches were short and dinner was a buffet of burgers, chips and ice cream.

Most unusual of all, guests were implored not to come bearing gifts. "Your presence is our present," read the invite. It was a sentiment that lies close to my own heart.

I've always found the tradition of wedding gifts, wedding lists and their love children -- bank account details and honeymoon funds -- greedy and crass.

They belonged in a bygone era where couples were barely out of their teens when they walked down the aisle. They didn't cohabit before marriage and they needed a few bob to keep the wolf from the door, rather than a Bird of Paradise ice sculpture on the head table. Crucially, they belonged in a time when attending a wedding didn't come with the implied price tag of hundreds of euro.

Consider the bill: there's the day off work, the new frock, blow dry, overnight stay in the impossible-to-find Ballynawotsit House (we won't get into flying to a remote part of Tuscany), alcohol, more alcohol and, of course, The Gift, or rather your contribution towards the overall extravagance of the event.

Couples forget that weddings are a financial drain on their guests. And an emotional one, too. After the extended church service, it's off to the hotel but, alas, the bride and groom aren't there yet. No, they're having every possible permutation of their family tree photographed while you are sitting in a hotel bar trying to enmesh yourself in the motliest of motley crews.

It's acute social anxiety squared, and its only remedy is alcohol, and lots of it.

By the time the married couple arrive at the hotel -- some three hours later -- your vision is blurred, your tights are laddered and ding, ding, ding: dinner is served.

And so you segue into the next social minefield. Invariably, you're plonked at a table where your only knowledge of those sitting next to you is a calligraphy-scrawled name card.

After that, there are speeches that seem to go on for days and drunken, sweaty uncles who want you to dance to Come on, Eileen.

And in return you are cordially invited to pay up to €1,000 (extras included) for the privilege. The average spend on the gift alone is €150-€200, but you can forget about buying something meaningful.

These days, couples expect you to contribute to their honeymoon in Bali; lodge cold, hard cash into their bank account or, worse, consult their wedding lists.

And for what? An unremarkable meal, a bag of sugared almonds and a feeling of misplaced gratitude.

With the modern wedding expecting so much more of guests, a gift should be the very least of these expectations.