I Love You. I Hate You.

Even if you have a Ph.D. in multi-tasking, planning a wedding is a logistical nightmare.

I don’t care, whatever you want. Those are the words that nearly signed my now-husband’s death certificate when we were planning our wedding.

Like most (semi-delusional) brides, I thought that planning was supposed to be a mutual effort, and every time he glanced up from the couch (beer in hand, game on) while I was making any one of a million decisions and said “I just want it to be fun,” I nearly took his head off.

Even if you have a Ph.D. in multi-tasking, planning a wedding is a logistical nightmare. “It’s probably one of the most stressful times of your life,” says Beverly Ann Bonner, a master bridal consultant at Norwood’s The Wedding Beautiful. Sure, it’s only one day, she says, but it’s the day that you’ll think about—and people will talk about—for years to come. Now that’s pressure.

Add to it a fiance who has a conflicting style of planning—or not planning, as the case may be—and you could
easily find yourself in the eye of a perfect storm of hairy meltdowns and screaming matches.

Some of that friction is just unavoidable, the experts say. “The planning process is an important stage for a couple to go through. This is kinder-garten, and it’s how you learn how to be married to each other,” says Allison Moir-Smith, a Brookline-based bridal counselor and author of Emotionally Engaged: A Bride’s Guide to Surviving the “Happiest” Time of Her Life (Hudson Street Press, 2006).

“It’s the perfect sort of sandbox for a couple to learn how to play in, and you’re going to throw sand in each other’s eyes. It’s a part of it. And you’re going to kill each other at times and that’s how you build a marriage.”

The good news is that if you’re newly engaged, you do have a chance to head off some of the ugliness. “The strategizing phase is really important,” says Hanna Fogel, a marriage and family therapist in Brookline. “I would put a lot of emphasis on the planning for the planning.” In other words, she says, you need to set goals and guidelines—and discuss individual expectations—right from the get-go.

But for those of you who missed that item on your to-do list, and are ready to kill your fiance before you even say “I Do,” here are some practical suggestions to sync up your planning styles and make it down the aisle alive:

YOU: Hard-core Planner.
You TiVo all the wedding reality shows … and actually watch them.
HIM: Slacker.
Why do we need to send a save-the-date?

Unfortunately, this is the most likely scenario. “Grooms tend to take a back seat in the planning process,” says Tasha Bracken, a wedding planner at Simple Details in Waban. “I would say most brides are control freaks, but they still think their fiances are not helping as much as they should be.”

He’s not off duty after buying the ring, after all. “I usually tell brides to give grooms a particular project to be responsible for—something that isn’t a huge time crunch and doesn’t have to be done so far in advance,” says Bracken. The honeymoon, for instance.

“Find a place where he is genuinely interested. He may be really into music and you can give him that task and give it to him completely. And let it go,” says Moir-Smith.
Then try to hold your tongue. “Don’t micromanage him. You’re not his mommy. If you badger him like a little boy, you’re marrying a child, you’re not marrying a partner,” she says.

If all else fails, think of the positive: “At least the bride will get everything her way,” says Bonner.

YOU: Slacker.
Think you can buy your dress the week before the wedding.
HIM: Control freak.
Manages the planning process as closely as his Fantasy Football team.

Historically, this has been the rarest of species. But these days, with more couples paying for their weddings, the groom has resurfaced to take an interest—sometimes, a controlling interest—in the details.

Even if you’re okay with that, there are probably some things you would like your way—so speak up. “Choose what areas you’re really interested in, what’s really important to you,” says Moir-Smith, and then take back con-
trol. “If you really care about your dress, great. If you really don’t care about the rest, really be okay with that. Know yourself.”

Then sit back and relax. “Great, someone else is doing the work. You show up for the day and you look good,” says Bonner. “Just realize they’re the leader, the manager in this particular project.”

YOU: Control freak.
Armed with a clipboard 24-7.
HIM: Control freak.
Armed with a clipboard 24-7.

Wrestling over the party favors is no fun; squabbling over the color scheme is torturous.

“I tell every bride I work with, choose the three things that are non-negotiable—for example, dress, DJ, color scheme,” says Moir-Smith. “And he gets to choose three things that are nonnegotiable. And at that point you each have your own domains. And once you do that, you have to genuinely give over control.”

But if you’re butting heads over a mutual nonnegotiable—he wants chocolate cake, you must have vanilla—it’s time to talk. “It’s all about compromise,” says Bracken. “You have to both figure out what’s negotiable and what’s not, and try to meet somewhere in the middle on things that you just can’t budge on. That way, hopefully, everyone is able to get what they want.” Chocolate at the rehearsal, vanilla at the reception.

YOU: Slacker.
Figure this will come together somehow.
HIM: Slacker.
Figure this will come together somehow (in other words: you, the bride, will do it).

If the two of you make the characters in Reality Bites look like overachievers, it’s time to bring in the backup. “If they are not big planners and do things by the seat of their pants, this is not one of those times that you want to do that,” warns Bracken. In other words, hire a wedding planner. “Spend the money,” says Moir-Smith. “Or let your mothers do it. Give them a brief list: I like these colors, I prefer beef over fish, and this is the time of year we’d like it. Be a guest at your own party.”

If all else fails, and you’re ready to throttle your sweetie, remember that the tussles are not necessarily a bad thing. “I think it’s really healthy and important,” says Moir-Smith. “Fighting over the wedding planning is how you discover each other’s differences. There is an opportunity for growth and closeness and a deeper connection and intimacy through the wedding planning process.”