ON the way to her wedding ceremony last weekend my daughter, who appeared much less nervous than me, chatted to the chauffeur, as if determined to keep him calm.

Before we'd gone very far we learned what he'd done in his previous life, the vintage of the wood-panelled, leather-upholstered Bentley he was driving, how other brides behaved on their big day.

The conversation turned to marriage about which my daughter said she was realistically optimistic. Or was it optimistically realistic? But when she asked the chauffeur if he was married there was an awful silence. Then, eventually, he said that he was divorced, that he and his wife had simply grown apart.

It was one of those moments in which my daughter reminds me of myself. She likes to compare me to Larry David, the embarrassment-inducing star of Curb Your Enthusiasm who can be guaranteed to say the wrong thing to the wrong person in the wrong place.

I don't see it myself. But it's true, I have been known to accuse women of being pregnant when they've simply put on a pound or two. It's an easy mistake to make. It's also one my daughter does her best to prevent, informing me in advance of any encounter with members of the female sex who is with child and who is not.

Weddings are occasions ripe for such gaffes. That, though, was the least of my worries as we drove into Edinburgh Royal Botanical Gardens. A few days earlier they had borne the brunt of the 100 mph gales that had ripped ancient trees up by the roots and thrown them presumptuously into the air as if they were long johns freed from a washing line.

By all accounts the Gardens looked like a lumberjack's backyard. In other circumstances, observed my daughter, wearing her artist's smock, it would have made an interesting project, perhaps the basis for a Turner Prize submission. On the eve of her nuptials, however, it was not quite what she had envisaged.

Such are the anxieties weddings inspire. But despite the bad publicity they routinely attract, they seem to be all the rage. In the past few months several friends have taken the plunge. One was in his eighties. He and his partner were married immediately after breakfast by the justice of the peace with whom they were staying. One minute they were eating Weetabix, the next they were Mr and Mrs.

Another friend got married after he turned 90 which, you might say, was leaving it dangerously late. My daughter, I must emphasise, is not in that age bracket. Nor are the majority of her friends, many of whom got married recently or are soon to be married. Clearly, theirs is the most hopeful of generations.

I, myself, am allergic to weddings. I say this without much experience of them. Most that I've attended have been pleasant affairs, usually presided over by a minister who is unconvincingly determined to show that presbyterianism is not all sturm und drang. The most memorable of them was when a Communist friend married into the Wee Frees. There was not in a dry eye in the charmless church as the congregation howled for the minister, who delivered his sermon like a judge delivering the death penalty, to get a move on.

Being irreligious, my daughter and her partner chose to be married by a humanist which one of my nephews, obviously influenced by the proximity of so many exotic plants, misheard as a "botanist". He may have stumbled on to something. The readings were not taken from the Bible, which is over-rated as a source of marital guidance, but from popular poems and songs: Burns, the Beatles, Winnie the Pooh. Nor were they any less meaningful than anything Solomon has to offer.

Traditionalists will doubtless throw up their arms in shock and horror, emphasising solemnity and seriousness and all that jazz. Were there ever two more awful words than "holy matrimony"? The days when we could only be hatched, matched and despatched with a minister or priest in attendance are long gone. All we need do now is say "I do" and sincerely mean it and go on our way rejoicing.