AS HECKLES go, it wasn't one of his best. But it was definitely one of his most surreal; like Spike Milligan only without the medication.

The bride's father - yes, the Munchkin was heckling at a wedding - had just begun to wax lyrical about his beautiful daughter when my own precious little cherub suddenly shouted: "Where's your house?" before collapsing back into his chair roaring with laughter (until his dad clamped a hand firmly over his mouth, although he may well have been going for his throat).

To make matters worse, the father-of-the-bride misheard the bizarre heckle and, thinking someone had shouted "Where's your hands?", removed the offending digits from his trouser pockets forthwith.

As wedding faux pas go, this is minor league stuff. And it doesn't come close to the Munchkin's own previous best heckle at his cousin's christening: a high church affair involving endless chants and dirges during which the vicar asked "Do you renounce Satan?" and my angel yelled back a succinct but telling "No!".

It seems heckling at a wedding (christening or, heaven help us, a funeral) is one thing, but not shelling out the best part of a week's wage on a lavish gift is something else entirely. It is, you might say, a faux pas too far.

According to a new survey by the credit card company Goldfish, the average Briton now spends £80 on a wedding gift for a pal, with Londoners flashing £103 of their cash and us traditionally tight-fisted Tykes bringing up the rear with a "measly" £62.36.

I say measly with emphasis because I think that £62.36 is not measly at all. It is in fact far too much to spend on a wedding gift that will probably never see the light of day again until the couple dig it out to throw at each other during the divorce.

And anyone who spends more than £100 is either clinically insane (the official medical diagnosis is, I believe, more money than sense) or is feeling guilty because they have slept with the bride, the groom or both, which must equate to a tumble drier at the very least.

I don't mind telling you that we spent considerably less than £62.36 on gifts for the happy couple whose wedding speeches the Munchkin decided to heckle, and we are not just talking distant pals here, we are talking blood relatives.

I could argue that this was a second marriage and that the couple have kept independent homes for some years and have more stuff than they actually need. But it wouldn't be an entirely honest argument because, first or second time around, loaded with worldly possessions or not, I still wouldn't have parted with any more dosh.

It seems to me that every occasion these days is about buying stuff. Whether it is a wedding, Valentine's Day or even Easter (whatever happened to giving your kid a chocolate egg?), the success of the occasion is measured in money spent.

Another recent wedding, which we thankfully weren't invited to, had a minimum gift value of £35 and guests were told they would have to pay extra if they wanted to attend the reception (well, food doesn't grow on trees you know, or at least the grey, dried up chicken usually served on such occasions doesn't). The couple were apparently hoping to raise enough money for a holiday of a lifetime. If I had been a guest, I think I might have coughed up £17.50 and told them to buy a one-way ticket.

All of which, I'm sure, makes me sound like a stingy old bat. And maybe I am, but at least I'm a stingy old bat with principles. I'm not refusing to spend hundreds of pounds (which, incidentally, I don't have) on gifts out of meanness. I'm doing it because I don't believe that a remote control car or a doll that says "wee-wee" has anything to do with Easter, or that you have to express your feelings with a credit card on February 14.

And I'm certainly not going to add my two pennorth to the £40 million wedding gift industry for the sake of a salad bowl that will be left to gather dust in the attic for the rest of eternity alongside a set of steak knives and a box of silver napkin rings.

And just so you know, the father of the bride's house is in Aberdeen. Where his hands are, however, is anybody's guess.

Updated: 09:33 Tuesday, May 20, 2003