12 MAY 2001, Page 53

Words of wisdom

Toby Young

I'm sitting in the Blythe Road Restaurant in Brook Green when my mobile rings: it's my ex-flatmate, Euan ReHie, calling to tell me he's just got engaged to my ex-girlfriend, Lucy Sykes. I congratulate him. It's always nice when two people you introduced to each other end up getting married, even if you were going out with one of them at the time.

When I get home it occurs to me that as someone who's been engaged for over a year now I'm in a position to offer Euan all kinds of useful advice. So I call him and leave an extremely long message on his answering machine.

The first bit of advice is to tell as many people as he can before it ends up in the papers. I announced the fact that I was engaged to Caroline at my leaving party in Manhattan and, because the party was written up in the New York Times, it appeared in print before we'd had a chance to tell everyone. To this day, people still complain that they had to read about our engagement instead of being told about it in person. Among Caroline's friends, this has contributed to the view that the poor girl has got herself mixed up with some ghastly self-publicist.

Secondly, don't have too long an engagement. By the time Caroline and I eventually tie the knot on 21 July we will have been engaged for 15 months. When I proposed, Caroline insisted on a lengthy engagement as a condition of accepting since it gave her plenty of time to back out in case she changed her mind. In retrospect, though, I think that even she would agree that 15 months is too long. They say that, if you can survive the first year of marriage, you have a pretty good chance of staying together for the rest of your life, but to my mind surviving a long engagement is a far more arduous test. The problem is it gives you too much time to argue about the wedding arrangements.

Caroline and I have squabbled about everything, from the date — she initially wanted an even longer engagement — to the number of people invited. Our latest spat was about the music. I've hired my friend 01ly Claridge to be the DJ, but I also wanted a live band called Duck to play. Fronted by a charismatic Irishman called Patrick O'Neill, Duck do cover versions of classic rock hits from the Seventies. Unfortunately, Caroline thinks the fact that she and her friends weren't born by the time most of these tracks were originally recorded means they won't be able to dance to them. I got Patrick to send me a video of Duck's latest performance in the hope that this would help change Caroline's mind. However, the sight of me and Euan playing air guitar as Duck belted out a cover of ACDC's 'Highway To Hell' has failed to convince her for some reason.

The third piece of advice I offer Euan is to make sure the wedding is covered by Hello! People cringe at the prospect of attending a Hello! wedding, but secretly I think they rather enjoy it. I once covered a friend's nuptials for the magazine and he forced me not to tell anyone because he didn't want his snooty relatives to think he'd consented to something so naff. The upshot was that when the relevant issue of Hello! came out it looked as though I'd written about the wedding surreptitiously. I got my revenge by inventing titles for all his aunts and uncles that were reprinted verbatim beneath their pictures.

Unfortunately, Caroline and I aren't exactly Hello! material, but Lucy is the fashion editor of American Marie Claire and has lots of celebrity friends. If that's not mouth-watering enough for the Marquesa, Lucy's twin sister, Plum, who's a contributing editor at American Vogue, has just got engaged herself so the two Of them could have a joint wedding. I would have thought the prospect of these 'It' girls getting hitched simultaneously, surrounded by the creme de la creme of the fashion world, would be enough to get Hello! on board. Anna Wintour could be the maid of honour and Alexander McQueen and John Galiano could dress up as bridesmaids! In order to sweeten the deal, I even offer to write the accompanying text, creating bogus titles for all Euan's relatives.

A few hours later Euan calls to thank me for my advice. He thinks my first two points are excellent, but says he doesn't think he'll be placing a call to Hello! I tell him it's a mistake he'll regret for the rest of his life.