New Zealand Weddings writer Ben Fahy brings a male perspective to wedding planning. In this column, he urges grooms to get amongst the planning.
You plucked up the courage to ask her, you have the answer you wanted and that engagement ring is now safely positioned on her finger. But if you thought proposing was the difficult bit, think again gentlemen. You still have a wedding to plan. And while it doesn’t seem like a particularly manly pursuit, especially to the quintessential Kiwi bloke, there’s so much the groom can – and should – do to stamp his mark on the event to make it more memorable for the couple, their respective families and all their guests.
For me, the entire organisation process – from choosing the hors d’oeuvres to writing the vows, designing the rings, finding the location and everything in between – was a microcosm of our relationship. It was all about division of labour, about playing to each other’s strengths, pleading your case when required and then either eventually giving up, claiming victory or, more commonly, meeting somewhere in the middle. Men aren’t generally renowned for their focus on details or their ability to multitask, and women often have a more rigid concept of what their perfect day will entail, so it makes sense for your fiancée to take the lead when it comes to organising your celebration. But that doesn’t mean you should idly stand by as all the decisions are made. After all, it’s your wedding too and, as one wise man once said, you only get to experience your first wedding once. Unfortunately, if she’s been dreaming about her wedding day since she was eight, compromise might not be an option for some men. The only piece of advice worth listening to is to do exactly as you’re told. But ladies, it pays to remember that despite what you might have learned from watching cliché-ridden romantic comedies, your man can actually be quite useful at times, both in the early stages and as you get closer to the big day. What’s more, if you both spend time talking through the options, he’s likely to have a few good ideas.
If we’re talking about a ‘normal wedding’ – perhaps halfway between a barefoot beach ceremony with a few snarlers chucked on the barbie afterwards and an über-traditional love fest on the well-manicured lawn of a luxury lodge – the average celebration of love for New Zealand Weddings readers costs around $32,000. Maybe you’re marrying into a family of super wealthy Russian oligarchs and won’t need to worry about a budget. It’s more likely, however, that money will be the most important – and problematic – aspect of your wedding, so it’s vital that you and your fiancée sit down at the outset and talk about what you want and whether you can afford it.
For most men, it’s fair to say the thought of organising one’s own wedding is not particularly enticing. But despite being slightly cynical about the whole process at the beginning, I found getting involved and helping to make some of the decisions was actually a lot of fun and made the day itself even more special. Fighting my corner wasn’t always easy, but in the end, working as a team to put on a big event that we were both proud to host seemed to bring us even closer together. Of course, all weddings are different and each couple will take on varying responsibilities depending on their interests and areas of expertise. But no matter how much of the organisation has been left in feminine hands, there are certain things the groom won’t be able to escape. In the early stages, you’ll both need to decide on the number of guests you want to invite, and then whittle down the guest list if you realise you can’t afford to invite them all. You’ll also need to choose a date and a location for the ceremony, the reception and, as is often the way these days, the day-after shindig. Plus you might need to decide on and help organise the celebrant, photographer, caterer, the type of booze on offer, the music – both for the ceremony and the reception – and the honeymoon location. While many weddings stick to a tried, true and ever-popular traditional formula, it’s often the small details that make one wedding stand out over the next. Spending some time thinking about how you can add a touch of yourselves to the occasion will help create a unique vibe and character. And it makes sense to focus on the areas where you can add some value. At my wedding, for example, we had a tongue-in-cheek Mills and Boon theme, so I decided my main areas of responsibility would be to help design and write the copy for the invites, source 120 Mills and Boon novels and conduct a nationwide search for five top-quality stripy op-shop ties for myself and my groomsmen to wear. (Sadly, the meat raffle was vetoed – although I have seen it done to great effect.) On the other hand, my wife chose to focus more on other things, such as the cake, the table decorations, the bridesmaid dresses and the flowers. Despite deciding to concentrate on certain areas, none of the decisions relating to the wedding – aside from the choice of wedding dress – were unilateral dictates that were made in isolation. They all involved plenty of discussion and a bit of toing and froing until we reached a consensus. And, as a foundation for what’s to come, good communication is key.
Sorry men, but unless you’re Brad Pitt, you’ll just have to accept you’re likely to be completely upstaged by the dazzling damsels. But, given the number of photos that will be taken of you, you’d be a fool not to make an effort to look good. Increasingly, the old-fashioned style rules aren’t so strict, and these days it’s often about what you feel comfortable in, so choose your outfit based on the vibe you want to create. Jandals and an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt are fine if your wife is in similarly relaxed attire. However, if it’s a formal or semi-formal occasion, you’ll need to spend at least a day organising something for you and the groomsmen to wear. Like many sartorial decisions, it’s always wise to have a female on hand to check if you’re on the right track and that you match the bridesmaids. For many weddings it makes sense to hire some elements – from suits and shirts, to ties and shoes. But if you want to add some character to the outfits, get each of the wingmen to borrow a set of old cufflinks from his dad to wear as accessories. And if you really want to make an impact, why not splash out and buy a stylish new suit – or maybe even a tuxedo – that you can wear on other, post-marital occasions.
If you pass all the legal requirements to get married, all you actually need to do to seal the deal is say the words, ‘I, AB, take you, CD, to be my legal wife or husband,’ during the ceremony in front of a marriage celebrant and at least two witnesses. And, if you want to throw a few more classic ‘in sickness and in health’ lines into the mix, you’ll be able to organise that with your officiant. Basically, your vows can be as long or as short, and as serious or as humorous as you want them to be. Now, a wedding is an extremely public display of affection and commitment, and the vows are an important part of making that declaration. I recommend taking some time to write them yourself instead of going with the default option, because it gives you a rare opportunity to think a bit more deeply about what you love most about your partner and then put those feelings into words. Of course, you can also allude to this in your speech, but if you’re aiming to create a truly memorable wedding, it’s always a nice touch to spice up what is typically the most serious segment of proceedings by making your vows personal and original.
The groom’s speech is a defining moment of any wedding. For many men, unless you do a lot of public speaking, it’s likely to be the most nerve-wracking element of the day. Of course, each speech will be different depending on the oratorical ability of the groom, but there some general rules to follow. Firstly, think about what you’re going to say beforehand and write some notes. Secondly, don’t picture anyone naked – that’s just weird (and it doesn’t work). Thirdly, make sure you thank everyone who made the effort to attend, especially those who travelled long distances, as well as your MC, groomsmen, family, in-laws, and anyone who helped organise the event or set things up. You’d also be wise to compliment the bridesmaids on their stunning appearance – and then it’s on to the important bit: praising your bride for all her amazing organisational efforts and telling the crowd a little bit about yourself, your new wife and your relationship. Search online for advice on wedding speeches, and you’ll find tips like ‘talk about your feelings for her’. If you’re not comfortable doing that, you can’t go wrong with a bit of self-deprecating humour (an open admission that you’re punching well above your weight always goes down a treat). And if you’re really struggling for romantic inspiration, liken your wife to things you already love, like scallops wrapped in bacon, hitting a booming drive straight down the middle of the fairway or redeeming your sushi, coffee and Subway loyalty cards on the same day. The best man and maid of honour will probably tell a few embarrassing anecdotes about how the greatest love of all kicked off in their speeches, but the guests always want to hear a few of these stories from the horse’s mouth. Remember, no matter how much humour you bring into it, it’s important to finish on a serious note. When you’re sweating over what you are going to say and how the crowd will respond, it may seem hard to imagine that you’ll actually enjoy the experience. But you don’t get the undivided attention of your friends and family very often, and everyone wants to see the groom deliver a stunner of a speech. So embrace the opportunity and take comfort in the fact that it’s almost always an easy crowd.
Some grooms are happy to turn up to the wedding in a Toyota Hilux. But for others, stepping out of a ‘78 Dodge Charger with your besuited mates beside you is the ultimate James Bond moment. It’s one of the only times in your life that you’re allowed to hire a few outrageous cars for the afternoon, so if it’s something you’re keen to tick off the bucket list, now’s your chance. Just make sure you book them early. Once again, it all comes down to the size of your budget and your priorities, so if you want the sweet ride, you might have to sacrifice the wagyu beef, the reception at Cape Kidnappers and the trained lions to bring the rings up to the altar. If you’re trying to save some cash, ask around to see if any friends or family have access to some hot wheels, and are willing to let you borrow them.
Buying a ring can be quite a frightening experience for a man, especially if the one she likes equates to a third of your annual salary. If you’re not sold on any of the rings in the shop, there are plenty of jewellers who will design something original and special. Once you’ve chosen the appropriate piece of metal together for your wedding bands, it’s usually the groom’s job to give them to the best man before the ceremony. There’s always a collective sigh of relief when the best man pulls the rings out of his pocket – so don’t forget to keep a close eye on their whereabouts.