Sunday, May 3, 2009
Tying the Knot
The tickets for our wedding arrived this morning. Not for the event itself – it’s a strictly invitation-only affair – but for the flights taking my entire family, including my 88 year old Mother and baby Izzy, to Los Angeles for the ceremony in August.
To be honest, Joanna and I weren’t planning to risk the stability of our relationship by tying the knot. Having lived together in loved-up harmony for the past five or so years, neither of us wanted to break the equilibrium by exchanging vows. We are already very good at ‘love’ and ‘honour’ and I’ve long resigned myself to ‘obey’; but our friends convinced us that, apart from the arrival of Izzy, there was the “till death do us part” issue: namely, inheritance tax. Apparently wives are exempt from this final grasp of the taxman, whereas live-in partners bear the full burden.
So the invitations are at the printers and the caterer booked. This is the first of my four weddings that I won’t be paying for, thanks to the very kind generosity of my wonderful future in-laws, who are throwing it at their house in Laguna Beach. We’re both looking forward to what will be a joyous informal celebration with friends and family.
It’ll be a sharp contrast to my previous three ceremonies. Last week I found a photograph of my first wife and me at our Tibetan wedding on top of a mountain in the Himalayas with white silk scarves round our necks sitting tanked up with rice beer next to a picture of the Dalai Lama. Exactly one year later we legalized the event in Wandsworth Registry Office. The registrar sounded exactly like Alan Whicker, with a slow nasal drawl, pausing portentously between each syllable: “Do you soh-lem-ly sweeaar?” he whined, reducing us and our half dozen witnesses to helpless giggles.
Then there was the state occasion. Greg Dyke wrote about it in his autobiography. It started out as a quiet country wedding. 350 guests and a quarter of a million pounds later, the firework display nearly set fire to the village. We even had a bishop. The congregation was full of soap stars and celebrity chefs. One well-known actress sat down in her pew next to her agent. “How many photographs did they take of you?” he whispered. “Two or three”, she said. “Get back outside and go round again,” he hissed. And she did. Marco Pierre White cooked the wedding breakfast as a present.
My final wedding will be at sunset overlooking the sea in Jo’s parents’ back garden, with only family and friends, including my divorce lawyer. In fact he and his wife are joining us on our honeymoon. Not because he’s anticipating starting work straight after the wedding (which he pretty much did last time), but because my last divorce was drawn out over so many years, he and I have become very good friends. Maybe his wedding gift will be a pre-nuptial agreement.
Knowing that Jo wouldn’t receive her protection against tax until after the ceremony, last week I decided to protect her position by redrafting my Will. My lawyer gave me a nasty shock. Apparently in the almost certain event I die before her, the new Mrs Gutteridge won’t be entitled to the inheritance tax waiver. Despite forsaking the Californian sunshine forever for the interminable Northumbrian winters and bearing a British child, the taxman insists her legal domicile will always be America. That means that when I go, Izzy’s family home might have to be sold to pay the tax. For the first time in my life I have found a reason to vote Tory: that is, unless Mr Cameron reneges on his promise to increase the IHT allowance.
Mind you, we’re still getting married anyway – we’ve already got the plane tickets.