It's My Wedding, Too!

By HCTG Staff Writer Christine Brenneman

Real Men Plan Weddings.

It used to be that if a man popped the question (preferably on one knee), produced a ring and made it to the wedding on time, he had discharged his groomly duties. Young brides enlisted their mothers as partners in designing the wedding, and the men stayed out of it. In fact, the groom was expected not to participate. If for some reason he felt compelled to voice an opinion on wedding matters, his future wife and mother-in-law might very well have dismissed him, tsk-tsking disdainfully about the folly of a man mucking about in women's business.

Welcome to the 21st century. These days more grooms are taking on a larger role in the wedding-planning process and there isn't much tsk-tsking going on. No longer is the Big Day perceived as simply the bride's moment to shine—or her sole responsibility to create. The wedding belongs to both bride and groom.

Why this change? Our culture has slowly shifted in ways that effect how people plan their weddings. As we all know, the age when most people marry nowadays is slightly older, couples often pay for their own weddings, and the majority of engaged women work full time at demanding jobs. "Couples today are on an equal basis intellectually, financially, and time-wise. They really are a team," says Carolyn Kinnaird, a wedding planner with Carefree Bride in San Rafael. "About a third of the weddings we do are heavy on groom involvement, and in most of the rest, grooms take some interest in things like the budget, catering, bar and music."

Other wedding coordinators agree, and cite similar statistics for this growing trend. Apparently, over the last decade the involved mate has become standard, with men taking on some to all aspects of their wedding-day arrangements. For many twosomes, it comes down to which person has more time or flexibility in his or her schedule to devote to the numerous phone calls, meetings and decisions required to put together a marriage celebration.

Grooms: they produce, direct and star.

"I didn't ever think of not being involved in the planning," says Gary Mandelstam, who works in technical sales in the software industry and was active in orchestrating his fall 2002 union. "Since I had a little bit more free time, I talked to people during the day about contracts, and tackled stuff I could do on the computer, like sending out the "save the date" announcement, designing the invitation and typing up the wedding program. I worked with the music people, too. I'd talk to my fiancée at night or during a hike, keeping her up to speed on the status of the things I was working on. We made decisions together and I wouldn't have had it any other way."

Bob Glaser, a programmer and analyst in Mill Valley, took over planning his June 2002 marriage largely because he and his wife-to-be were short on time—they only had three months to plan their ceremony. Using his email to contact numerous vendors, he became the point person who dealt with caterers, florists and others, going to his fiancée for final approval. The upshot? Glaser felt a sense of pride during and after the wedding. "There were a lot of little touches that I added that no one else had thought about," he says.

Likewise, sales rep and San Ramon resident Kent Mays adopted an active role in laying out the details of his momentous day—and he couldn't have been happier with his decision. "I took care of the entire seating chart, among other things," he explains. "It was cool because at the wedding I could say, 'I did that' and 'I ordered this.' We got nothing but compliments that day and I had a feeling of personal ownership. Plus, my planning took a ton of stress off my fiancée."

Stress: bonding under pressure.

Of course, grooms are hardly immune to the mounting anxieties as holy matrimony approaches—especially when they're managing a lot of the details. Mandelstam admits, "It was a bit stressful for me, mainly because there was so much to be done in a limited amount of time. Basically, the week before our wedding we worked literally non-stop."

Although stress may temporarily put a crimp in an otherwise harmonious relationship, the bride and groom usually benefit when they go through this matrimonial trial by fire together. Tobey Dodge, who runs The Wedding Connection in Woodland Hills, is a strong proponent of couples sharing this process: "Not only does the groom gain a greater appreciation for what it takes to put an event together, the couple has an opportunity to negotiate and work through something complex but worthwhile. This is a skill that every marriage requires if it's going to succeed long-term."

The Payoff.

Taking part in the ups and downs of designing a wedding seems to leave most grooms feeling deeply satisfied. The sense of control, and ultimately fulfillment, that they derive outweighs any stress or mixed emotions they might have experienced leading up to the event. "I think planning your own wedding makes it more fun," explains Mays. "You're not just showing up that day clueless about what's going on. Because I was so involved, I didn't stress out during the wedding, and that made the day go more smoothly. I could just relax and enjoy."

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