This isn’t an article about being a husband—because I haven’t even had that job for a year. But this is an article about that strange time in your life when you definitely aren’t single anymore but you aren’t quite married, either. This is about getting safely though unchartered waters.
Having spent a little more than 14 months engaged, and successfully navigating a seemingly endless wedding planning period en route to a spectacular wedding to a beautiful girl, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on being a groom. And I’m here to help.
First and foremost, as groom-to-be, you will now be the target of sage advice from every married man you’ve ever met. Of course, not all advice is equal. Seek out the people in your life whose marriages you’d most like to model your own after. What you’ll find is more than relationship advice or ways of getting through the wedding-planning process. You’ll gain perspective that will help you prioritize what’s important and, in a time of sheer craziness, rationalize what’s happening.
Also, having a reliable network of friends and confidantes will help you establish some perspective as you face a myriad of traps on the road to your wedding day: decisions about engagement pictures, wedding venues, dinner menus, and the tie your brother will be wearing. Navigating these decisions can be tricky—there are limitless wrong answers you can (and will) provide.
Whether the decision to be made is part of a test (of which there are many) or truly a decision where your input is valid (rare), your actions will confirm to your fiancée that she’s marrying a great guy, or that you’re a complete idiot when it comes to this stuff and, frankly, more of a burden than an asset. Trust me, keeping yourself in the prior classification will save you many a frustrating conversation with your blushing bride.
Follow this guide to answering every question correctly:
Your fiancée is always right
Upon getting engaged, my father gave me a single piece of advice: “If she’s happy, you’re happy.” And while it sounded like clichéd old-married-man speak, it was dead-on. Even the most even-keeled of ladies will undergo at least one emotional explosion while planning the wedding. Being smart will help ensure you’re never at the center of the swirl. There is no more powerful phrase than “Whatever you want, baby/honey/sweetie/dear.” If you can keep her happy, you will add years to your life.
Choose your battles
No matter how much you think you hate (or love) calla lilies, there are better, more strategic battles to win—like guaranteeing that your reception playlist includes “Livin’ on a Prayer” or that you’ll be offering a distinguished microbrew at the bar. Save your energy for decisions that matter.
Other suggestions for ways to contribute while not getting in the weeds:
Assemble your crew
From your bachelor party to the best-man speech, these guys can make or break the few moments you get during this process. Make a point to talk to your fiancée about whom you are considering and why. This will establish a pre-approval should your wedding toast turn into a 25-minute Friars Club Roast. Ask her how many bridesmaids she will have before asking anybody to be in your wedding. If you don’t need to assemble a football team’s worth of groomsmen—don’t.
Organize your bachelor party
Thanks to The Hangover, Las Vegas is no longer an option. That’s a good thing for two reasons: 1) That was only going to get you in trouble, anyway; 2) You’ve just bought yourself a few months of planning something much more, um, tasteful. Your fiancée understands that unless you’re involved, who knows where you’ll be going.
Earn your participation badge
You don’t need to take part in everything, but making guest appearances will keep you in good standing. If you’re registering for gifts, you’re probably camping out for hours in a department of a store that you didn’t know existed. The key is to participate enough to be involved, and infrequently enough that your voting rights are revoked.
Add a personal touch
You can rest easy knowing that with or without your sign-off, invitations will be mailed, a ceremony will be planned, and a menu will be assembled. Throughout these decisions, your input may or may not be sought—but asking if you can “help” is dangerous. Do you really want to spend a Saturday afternoon comparing stationery samples? Avoid an impossible situation by volunteering to take on the guys’ wardrobe, the music, and the bar offerings. This isn’t your cue to purchase a clutch of ironic tuxedo tees or organize the ultimate Van Halen playlist—you’re not in high school. This is your chance to ensure a reception experience that matches your tastes and guarantee you aren’t dressed like a dork.
Plan the getaway
The culmination of all of this hoopla is an amazing trip. You can play the role of Superman by taking this off of your fiancée’s plate, or at least ease her burden by spending a few months as a part-time travel agent—putting together a variety of options that you will both enjoy. Remember, your fiancée is allowed to make decisions without you, not vice versa, so keep her in the loop before you book anything.
Enjoy being engaged
This is a rare time in your life when everybody around you is excited. Don’t take it for granted.
Your wedding day will be both exhilarating and a blur. It’s incredible how a relationship can start with a “Hello” and end with an “I do.” Enjoy your day, especially the time with your bride. Be easy on yourself. You’ll probably botch something along the way, somebody will be late to your wedding, and something will, undoubtedly, go wrong. You have to roll with it. Many great, unplanned things will happen as well. Enjoy them.
And every once in a while, take a step back and a look around at the smiles on your guests’ faces. If you are like me, you’ll look around and wonder how you got there. And you’ll realize just how fortunate you are that you did.