I used to think I understood what a posh sensibility looked like: what curtains the upper class favoured; what they ate, drank and wore. They have weird pockets of tightness – orange juice is a special-occasion drink – and moments of stupendous extravagance. I had an affair once with an aristocrat who spent 35 grand on a sofa. This was in the 90s. You could have bought a one-bedroom flat and still had change for council tax.
Since the invention of Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds, I haven’t understood any of it. I cannot comprehend how you spend £27,000 on takeaways in eight months, as Johnson is alleged to have done. Wouldn’t you look at all the boxes piling up and think: “Jesus, I could have bought a jetski. I could have endowed a scholarship in … I don’t know, something I’m interested in, and lived for ever in the memory of people who also found that thing interesting. Instead, I just digested it.”
Interiors-wise – the velvet, the gold wallpaper, the incredibly noisy stripes and patterns – if you lived like this pair, you would never be able to forget the outlandishness of your spree, existing in this constant cacophony of your own extravagance. Any time you spilled your dinner, you would watch your wastefulness compound: the insane cost of the thing that never made it to your mouth, plus the 50K rug you just ruined. It would be fine if Johnson and Symonds weren’t the spilling type, but just about the earliest public insight into this relationship revealed that at least one of them is.
And so, even if its announcement wasn’t exactly met with unalloyed festivity, their forthcoming wedding should at least be a psychosociological spectacle. The prime minister, we know, is chaotic with money, which is the polite way of saying as tight as a gnat’s chuff. Johnson is the kind of man who will ask an intern for a cappuccino and never pay them back. On one fondly remembered occasion, the organisers of a dinner had to threaten to sell his legendary meanness as a diary story before he would pay his share.
You can picture the wedding plans in the hands of such a person: a scant glass of an indeterminate fizzy drink before the service, then acres and acres of hungry, thirsty time, stretching ahead of the guests like the Sahara, until they finally, after hours of milling and photos, land at sustenance, only to find it is a mirage. It’s a pay bar.
Symonds – and obviously I am guessing here – will not want such an arrangement. She will not want anything prefixed by the word “quiet”. She will not want advisers in her ear, delicately suggesting that, for Johnson’s third time round, discretion is the better part of valour. She will want nothing less than the full Duchess of Cambridge, with extra drama: Johnson brought in on a chariot shouldered by his political enemies; Theresa May and Keir Starmer dressed commemoratively in designer sackcloth; Dominic Cummings walking ahead, sweeping or licking the ground, maybe.
The problem with weddings, if you buy into the idea that they have to cost a lot in order to convey devotion, is that they have to cost more than you can afford. If your wedding costs exactly as much as you can afford, that isn’t enough to express the lavishness of your love. This problem intensifies when you are Johnson and Symonds, people for whom the concept of “what can we afford?” seems to hold no meaning, since budgeting is a fluid and elastic principle based on who can lend them what before the Daily Mail finds out.
It is quite a challenge even to wrap your head around the excess required to meet the demands of the couple’s assorted tastes and vanities, plus a quasidictatorial display and the urgent message of this-time-he’s-serious. I am already worrying about their goodie bags. I am thinking a Brexit celebration coin, a Mr & Mrs snowglobe and a macaroon, but what the hell do I know?
I got married for the second time on a really tight budget – the register office did a Wednesday afternoon special for £48. It was just like a regular ceremony, except you weren’t allowed to pick your own music; you had to choose between R Kelly and Pachelbel’s Canon. Then we got a bus to the pub, except my new Mr had brought a ceremonial sword for my son to cut the cake with, I think to persuade him that the whole enterprise might not be a completely terrible idea after all. Anyway, that got us kicked off the bus, so we had to get an Uber, blowing a hole a mile wide in our transport budget of £1.50 each. We also managed to lose the sword.
There is nothing about that day I would have done differently. Oh, wait, maybe I would have double-checked the invitation email – I managed to miss off all the surnames from W onwards, which was more or less my whole family. But nothing else.
It is lunacy that weddings have to be expensive. Johnson and Symonds don’t have to bankrupt themselves for this, but it will be bleakly amusing to watch them try.