Thursday August 5, 2010
Style Tips for the Groom and Bridal Party
At some point in the history of marriage, the perceived roles of bride and groom became cemented, for better or worse: That is, while your bride zealously plans the most memorable day of her life, you’re somewhere on the periphery of all the action.
Certainly, if you feel a little pensive about poking in and seeing where you can be of assistance, most folks won’t blame you. After all, it doesn’t take a Bridezilla to assume complete ownership over the big day’s proceedings, whether you like it or not.
If your fiancée takes on a more visible role, think of yourself as an important behind-the-scenes project manager—in many ways, you’re going to be equally responsible for planning the kind of party that gets everyone reminiscing 20 years from now. Also, you’ll want to keep things from getting too girly—the proceedings are going to need a requisite dash of masculine chivalry and your own special touches. And, even if you don’t get major props from all the people who think showing up was your most demanding task, you’ll both know better.
A Groom’s Responsibilities
Matt LaPlanche, 29, remembers his wedding day with a mixture of horror and amusement. “I think, like most people, I believed that the wedding was the bride’s territory,” he said. “So during the several months of pre-planning, it was like…everything Alyssa told me went in one ear and out the other.”
The disaster that was LaPlanche’s wedding started out fairly innocuous: He made all the stock mistakes grooms are apt to make, i.e. waiting till the last minute to pick a best man, or not checking to make sure that he and the groomsmen had coordinated tuxes. Certainly, these might make any bride cringe, but nothing that couldn’t be smoothed over, right?
Wrong. Apparently, there were a few other things LaPlanche neglected to do, such as pay the clergy fees, get the bride’s bouquet and going-away corsage, and plan the honeymoon trip. “Alyssa was livid!” he said. “I had no idea the bridegroom was supposed to do so much. These were traditions I was completely clueless about.”
Luckily, a few brief phone calls and connections with an airline company stopped any potential crises in their tracks. But, for good reason, LaPlanche remembers the whole fiasco as the most mortifying experience of his life.
His story might be more extreme than most, but clueless grooms and pre-wedding jitters that rule out resourceful planning actually are quite common. While the typical bridegroom maintains a hands-off approach when it comes to the big day—preferring to let his bride handle all the boring minutiae—recognizing that he does indeed have an important role can take heaps of stress off everyone’s shoulders, including the overburdened ones of the frazzled bride-to-be.
“What a lot of men don’t realize is that planning a wedding for anywhere from 10 to 1,000 guests is a full-time job and then some,” said Amy Cervantes, a wedding planner in San Francisco. “A lot of brides prefer to take control of that process, but there are invariably things that fall through the cracks, which is why there are traditional duties that are delegated to the groom.”
It might be news for most people, but some of the roles that bridegrooms are accustomed to taking on, according to Cervantes, include getting the bride’s engagement and wedding rings; paying the clergy fees; picking out the flowers in the bridal bouquet and going-away corsage, as well as boutonnieres for men in the wedding party and flowers for all the women; picking out all the necessary accessories—ties, cuff links, etc.—for the men in the wedding party; planning the honeymoon trip; and paying for the rehearsal dinner. And that’s just the short list!
“The thing to keep in mind is that these are traditions dating back to our parents’ and grandparents’ times,” Cervantes said, “Gender roles have changed a lot since then…and lots of couples are choosing to personalize their weddings and do away with a lot of time-honored practices, so it’s important for a bride and groom to stay in communication about who’s doing what.”
And who gets to be the ultimate decider?
“Talking it through is important, but given that most women consider their wedding day to be the most important day of their lives…it’s probably best for the groom to defer to the bride,” Cervantes said.
Clothes Make the Groom
First things first—forget the invitations or renting the right hall for the ceremony. A groom’s ultimate statement is his sartorial style, according to Kyla Berman, a Santa Cruz, Calif., wedding planner whose specialty is helping grooms pick out their perfect tux.
“Depending on whether it’s an indoor or outdoor wedding, whether his personal style is simple or more flamboyant, there are virtually hundreds of options for the bridegroom when it comes to his attire,” Berman said.
Deciding on his attire shouldn’t have to be a high-pressure task, but it’s the most imperative one for a groom—and most grooms wait until the last minute before they start thinking about their getup.
“At first, I didn’t think getting a tuxedo would be that huge of a deal,” Hector Garcia, 35, said. “After all, the wedding is the bride’s day—and everyone’s busy looking at her. But a week before the wedding, getting a fitting for a tux was like pulling teeth because there apparently were a lot of weddings during that time in my area.”
So Garcia decided to settle for a suit he’d worn a few years prior at one of his sister’s weddings. “Luckily, the fit was fine,” he said. “But something that I forgot to take into account was that since I was the groom, I was supposed to look better than every other guy there. And, of course, every other guy there was wearing a tuxedo…looking just stellar compared to me!”
Los Angeles-based personal shopper Arin Gelder suggests that a groom start thinking about his garb at least six weeks ahead of time, and consult with the bride on what to wear, depending on whether the ceremony is formal or informal, during the day or at night.
“The good news is that you don’t have to get stuck on the formula of tuxedo with bow tie. For semi-formal weddings or small ceremonies, a groom generally can wear a nice, sleek suit,” Gelder said. “During the daytime, for a semi-formal wedding, colors like white or gray are preferable; but if it’s an evening ceremony, a black dinner jacket and tie and cummerbund that match the colors of the bridal party are the way to go.”
And for a formal evening? “At night, a black tuxedo—that’s one tradition that’s not gonna change anytime soon,” Gelder said.
And, of course, get a suit or tux that flatters your figure. “Women aren’t the only ones who have to worry about getting the right fit,” Gelder said. “I don’t know how many grooms I’ve seen wearing cuts that are absolutely wrong for their bodies.”
Tailor Charles Fairchild—who keeps men looking dapper in his Palo Alto, Calif., shop—recommends that tall, stocky grooms with broad shoulders and muscular frames pick looser jackets, avoid narrow ties and constrictive collars, and select trousers that have pant legs with wide silhouettes. Slender grooms can opt for a classic look with a double-breasted tuxedo with high shoulders, high rise in the trousers, and a vest or tie. Shorter grooms will want to elongate their bodyline by going for wide peak lapels, single-breasted jacket and pleated trousers.
“A lot of men get easily embarrassed because they might not know how to tie a bow tie or might not know what to do with cummerbunds or cuff links,” Fairchild said. “If you’re having trouble with formal attire and accessories, practice, practice, practice! Do it at least a half-dozen times before the wedding—ask your tailor, ask your bride-to-be or anyone who will be able to help!”
Aloysius Henry, 28, recalls that when he wed his long-time sweetheart, Charlene, three years ago, he took some important tips from his mother. “She told me, ‘Be prepared, because you’ll have to be standing for long periods of time and will want to have comfortable shoes.’ She was right!” he said. “So instead of wearing a brand-new pair of dress shoes, I wore them a handful of times before the ceremony to make sure I’d broken them in.”
Wedding Rings: Your Perfect Statement
Now that you know exactly what you’re going to be wearing, the next priority on the list is the wedding rings. According to jeweler Lula May in San Diego, the ring is the quintessential symbol of a couple’s union, and great care should be taken to avoid generic statements. “Going for simple is always good, but adding a special touch, like an inscription of a favorite song or the date you both met each other, brings up the value so much,” she said.
Options such as matching bands, hand-carved rings and tricolor banding abound these days, but figuring out what’s right for you might take some extra digging.
“First of all, the couple should talk it all over before purchasing the rings, since personal tastes run the gamut,” May said. “Also, be aware that different material has different advantages. For instance, weight fluctuations are not unheard of as you get up there in years, and gold stretches ever so slightly over the years in such a way that it won’t ruin the pattern of your ring, and the ring won’t necessarily have to be resized.”
Also, starting the search early—probably shortly after you’ve decided on where your wedding is going to be held—will save your bride a great deal of stress, since she’s probably going to be busy making a variety of other arrangements for the wedding around the same time.
Adam Spencer, 37, recalls that after choosing a pair of simple platinum bands, he wanted to figure out a way to make them more romantic.
“At first I thought it might be nice to have a quote from our favorite song or something poetic in that vein,” he said. “But then I got the perfect idea. Azucena is a composer—so I did some research and decided that I’d engrave the first few notes of a song that she wrote for me into both the rings. When she saw the rings at the wedding, she started to bawl—nobody else got the significance, but knowing our rings express something that is so uniquely ours makes me feel like a million bucks.”
Just One of the Guys?
The most important decision you’re going to make at your wedding—aside from what you’ll be wearing—is selecting your best man. It might sound like a mere honorary title for your favored buddy, but the best man has a meaty role in all the festivities. Aside from planning your last fling of freedom (the bachelor party, that is), the best man is the guy who takes care of the rings and gets you to the church on time. And while it’s your responsibility to pay the church fees, the best man is the one who does it on your behalf. Aside from making sure all the guests have transportation to the reception, he gives a congratulatory speech at the reception and also makes sure that honeymoon plans are squared away and whisks you and your bride to the airport after all the merriment comes to an end.
“This is a critical role,” said Brooke Crenshaw, a Los Angeles-based wedding planner. “The best man is a reflection of the groom’s character, so it’s important to choose prudently here. You might be tempted to select your fun but flakey buddy Bruce, but maybe your brother John would be a wiser bet because he’s more reliable and would make a better public speaker.”
And if you have a long short list of potential best men to choose from? “It’s a big decision, but it’s probably not going to be the end of the world for Bruce if you decide to choose John over him,” Crenshaw said. “Besides, there’s plenty of room for your friends in the wedding party.”
According to Crenshaw, the groomsmen—who also double as the ushers—have a number of important roles as well, which include letting the groom share his pre-wedding jitters, making sure the groom gets his measurements at the tailor, decorating the getaway car and dancing with single female guests.
“It might sound like a ton of grunt work, but the groomsmen are kind of these exemplars of male chivalry, in a way,” Crenshaw said. “They make sure that everyone’s relaxed and happy, including the groom—so it’s important to choose wisely here, too!”
Her Right-Hand Man
So you’ve made good with the bride by picking your own outfit, buying the rings and coordinating the groomsmen—but the more difficult tasks are yet to come. It’s time to navigate the rockier waters…yes, we mean dealing with the bride.
“It’s unfair to assume that all women are monsters before their wedding day,” said Todd Cleary, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based wedding planner. “But it’s safe to say that most of them are going to be stressed out in the months preceding the date, and are probably not going to want to be distracted by much. But rest assured—there are things the groom can do to help her get it together. And, trust me, she will appreciate the help!”
The consensus is that the secret to a successful wedding is avoiding conflict between the bride and groom, even though plans that fall through and the stress of spending tons of money easily could contribute to a sore exchange.
“It simply isn’t worth it to argue about who makes it to the wedding list, for instance,” Cleary said. “If you want to start your marriage off successfully, you’ll need to be willing to make compromises…such as being OK with not inviting some of your long-time friends to the ceremony because of space concerns. As long as you can both put everything in perspective and say, ‘We need to make a few sacrifices if we want the wedding to work,’ you’ll be fine.”
“It was an eye-opening experience to share the responsibility of planning the wedding with Steve,” Chana Tibbs-Pollock, 27, said. “He was such a sweetheart about the whole thing, and going through those last difficult months together made me realize how much I loved this man.”
Steve’s advice to bridegrooms: “If you’re in doubt about your partnership, all it takes is planning a wedding together to see if you have what it takes to stay in for the long haul.”
Photo credit: Vanessa Joy Photography