Friday, October 17, 2008

Groom's guide to wedding planning

In the not-too-distant past, grooms-to-be weren't included in the decision-making for their own weddings, often because they had no inclination to take part. Times have changed, and so have grooms. The nineties groom regards his engagement as a partnership. He is just as likely to supervise the decorating of the wedding cake as to buy the airline tickets for the honeymoon. Besides, when you're looking forward to a marriage of equality, and a celebration that you're probably helping to pay for, it makes sense that you should be involved in the wedding planning.

Start by making it known that you want to be included in decisions and work parties. Have a couple of good, long brainstorming sessions with your fiancée. Narrow down your likes and dislikes and set parameters: once the wedding planning gets into high gear, more and more compromises will blur your initial goals. If the two of you have a strong, united sense of what you want, then you'll weather these changes without regrets.

Getting started

Consult with your fiancée to organize a plan of attack and divide up responsibilities. When deciding which jobs to do, focus on your areas of expertise (culled from business or hobbies). You may even choose tasks that fall into the legendary realm of the bride, such as ordering the flowers or choosing the bonbonnières or favors. Consider yourself a blazer of trails for grooms yet to come.

Keep all notes, quotes, and receipts together. Liaising often with your fiancée is imperative in order to keep on track with deadlines and budgets. Look for leads on wedding products and services; use your network of friends, relatives, and colleagues for word-of-mouth recommendations. However, always personally check out a source: relying on someone else's opinion can be hazardous.

The invitations, flowers, wedding clothes, cake, reception menu, limousine, and keepsakes all tangibly reflect the personal style of, ideally, both the bride and the groom, so contribute as much as you can to the choice and, in some cases perhaps, the manufacture of them. Your input is equally important at the gift registry; you'll be using the tableware, appliances, and so on, for a long time, so make sure you're involved in choosing them.

Choosing your wedding party

You can have your best friend (male or female), your brother, your sister, your father, even your grandfather, as your best man (or "honor attendant," if female) if you so desire. You can even have two honor attendants, rather than one best man. This role entails a lot of responsibility, so choose someone who is reliable, hard-working, and a real swell guy (or gal). He (or she) will be a lot of help to you with some of the bigger jobs requiring a good second opinion and/or another pair of arms or set of wheels. Two-man tasks might include checking out formalwear, limousines, catering equipment, and hotel accommodations for out-of-town guests, picking up liquor orders, and helping to decorate the ceremony and/or reception sites.

The traditional rule of thumb is that there should be one usher for every 50 guests. However, it is not necessary to have an equal number of ushers and bridesmaids. Not always do good friends and honored relatives measure out equally between bride and groom. Every wedding procession can have its distinctive style. If there is one more usher than maids, for instance, perhaps one maid can precede a pair of ushers, or the ushers can both escort the maid, one on either side of her. Don't compromise your wedding party selection for the sake of symmetry.

The groom's traditional duties

Some of these may no longer be solely the groom's responsibility; for instance, the modern bride will probably want to have a say in the honeymoon plans and participate more actively in the toasts/speeches.

  • Choose your wedding party (best man and ushers)
  • Organize your family's part of the guest list.
  • Organize and pay for the marriage license.
  • Buy thank-you gifts for the best man and ushers.
  • Organize the honeymoon.
  • Make sure the best man has the checks, in envelopes, to be given to the officiator, the musicians, and anyone else rendering a service to be paid for immediately after the ceremony.
  • Get to the wedding ceremony on time.
  • In the receiving line, stand at your bride's left and accept congratulations graciously and with brevity.
  • The groom is usually the second person to propose a toast. After the master of ceremonies has toasted the bride and groom, the groom rises, thanks the MC, and then proposes a toast to his bride. He also responds to toasts to the bridal couple.
  • Cut the cake with your bride. (The groom usually holds the cake knife, with his bride's hand poised on top of his.)
  • Join your bride for the first dance, then dance with various relations: first your mother-in-law, then your mother. (After that, as you dance with the maid of honor, the best man should dance with the bride, and the ushers should join in with the bridesmaids.)

Great ways to get involved and personalize your wedding

Here are some new ideas for participating in the wedding plans and preparations, as well as some interesting digressions from tradition.

  • Draw the map (if needed) to be included with the invitation.
  • If you're a great cook, create something to enhance the menu for the reception or rehearsal dinner: platters of hors d'oeuvres, a cake for the sweet table, or a delicious punch.
  • If you're an artist (either professionally or as a hobby), consider making the cake topper, designing the cover of the wedding programme/reception menu, or drawing up personalized wine labels.
  • Build a free-standing garden lattice screen as a backdrop for the head table.
  • Wire up strings of lights with individual battery packs, or bolt garden spotlights to wooden bases, for decoratively lighting the reception room.
  • Help your parents organize and host the rehearsal dinner.
  • Write a short addition to your vows, perhaps quoting Shakespeare's Sonnet 116, scriptural verses from The Song of Songs, or even Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How do I love thee?" from Sonnets from the Portuguese.
  • Arrive at the wedding ceremony with the bride, as European grooms used to do for centuries.
  • If you're a Christian groom, you have more options than ever for making your entrance at the wedding ceremony. The conventional way is to walk in with the officiator and take your place at the top of the aisle. You may, however, opt instead to join the processional, escorted by your parents, as is done in the Jewish ceremony; or escort your bride or meet her halfway up the aisle; or escort the mother of the bride up the aisle just prior to the start of the processional music.
  • Send your own telegram to your bride to be read at the reception, declaring your love for her.
  • Give a joint toast with your bride.
  • Don't remove the bride's garter with your teeth. Nineties etiquette has the groom being handed the garter by his new wife, tossing her handkerchief instead, or dropping the ritual altogether.
  • Give your boutonnière to your grandmother before leaving for your honeymoon.
  • Write half the thank-you notes.

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