When I got married more than three decades ago, the prospect of organising everything suddenly loomed like a runaway railway engine screaming down the track, consuming everything in its path.
Well, maybe I exaggerate a little. But as we discussed the when and where and who of it all we decided it was our day and we would do what we liked. We’d been going out together for more than six years so there was no need for a long engagement. The day was set for just over a fortnight later, we invited our respective close families and three newspaper workmates, swearing the latter to secrecy, and took a day off work for the wedding. I even did the catering for the score of us present.
We had a great day.
Since then weddings have become increasingly more complicated. When I told my hairdresser last year that my son had just got engaged she asked when he was getting married.
“In about 15 months,” I said.
“Well they’d better start booking everything now,” she told me.
Someone who knows the truth about that is Mark Connelly who has just written The Last Decision You’ll Ever Make – A groom’s survival guide. There’s a nice wedding day photo of the author and wife Charmayne in the front of the book, so clearly he’s a survivor himself and writes with the voice of experience.
The title itself is telling, semi-indicating that the groom, while important in the overall scheme of things on The Big Day, probably isn’t going to have to decide too much at all. His “last decision” was proposing.
The enemy these days is the wedding industry. Everyone is in for a slice of the action. Even my brief exposure to it amazes me. The magazines, the websites, the books, the specialty stores, the venues, the expos, the packages, Or, as Connelly observes “a cabal of businesses eager to exploit the couple’s desire for a ‘special day’ into an aneurism-producing, cash-sucking vacuum.”
Father of the bride seems to have been let off the solo financial hook. Couples are getting married later in life and are taking on the responsibility for financing their own weddings, perhaps with some parental input from both sides.
The book covers all major areas of concern starting with the proposal paradox. “Most women want the man to propose, of his own accord, but want it done to her timetable and on her terms.” A nice restaurant meal or thoughtful breakfast in bed “maybe overshadowed by your failure to propose.” Just don’t do the sports stadium proposal, Connelly warns.
Then there’s the ring. Resizing of a family ring is a given but completely resetting its stone could offend the family. “Check first and don’t presume.” Prince William was a good boy.
Sometimes for brides there’s been so much planning and build-up to the wedding that a certain amount of let-down is inevitable and she suffers extreme reactions – “a symptom of seeing the wedding only as an end in itself, and not as the beginning of a marriage”. Connelly advises breaks from wedding talk. “Make time for talking about your life after the wedding.”
Groom duties and wedding chores are spelled out but there are other areas where grooms can also do their bit – setting up a website to provide guests with further information like directions, hotel information, things to see and do in the area, a link to the gift registry.
Other chapters deal with the guest list (don’t invite their kids), the budget (Don’t leverage your future for the trappings), dealing with the professionals including contracts with caterers, reception venues, photographers, transport and even wedding insurance (“which doesn’t cover cold feet or a crap marriage”.) Then there’s the reception, the best man, the bridesmaids, the parents, the bucks’ night, the toast, the Big Day. There’s plenty of good information laced with a sense of humour.
Lastly, there’s the rest. And that includes the vexed question of gifts. A gift registry can solve the dilemma for some. But with so many couples marrying later, chances are they already have plenty of toasters, electric jugs, etc.
“If that’s you it’s absolutely fine to suggest cash as a wedding gift,” Connelly says, but he recommends a little sublety – a wishing well or designating a purpose for a contribution such as a piece of furniture or a work of art or some aspect of the honeymoon rather than putting your bank account number on the invitation.
Oh, and check if the passports are current if you’re heading overseas on a honeymoon. It could be a bit early to start divorce proceedings…
This is a fun book and not just for grooms.