Groomed For Success

Our own recently married Joe Keohane explains how to work with your man—not for or against him—to get through the oft-treacherous wedding planning process without calling it quits.

Who doesn’t love weddings? They are, after all, insanely intricate, horrendously expensive beasts that wreak havoc on the emotional well-being of all involved. A cynic could argue the modern ceremony is just a ruthlessly efficient mechanism for extracting money from love, with the added benefit of converting reasonable people into something else entirely. Bridezilla is the popular term, but I prefer to call it Wedding Derangement Syndrome (WDS). Symptoms include irritability, a sense of martyrdom, and near-hysteria over things like frosting and napkin rings. In the end, though, after WDS takes its toll on even the strongest relationships, the Big Day typically flies by smoothly (ours did). So why not make the ramp-up less stressful? Here, from the male perspective, is a fail-proof script for keeping prenuptial WDS in check.

The plot: My wife and I subscribe to what we call the Irish wake school of wedding planning: It’s less about the corpse, more about the party. You might think otherwise, but the important thing is to sit down early and decide exactly what kind of wedding you want. Be candid and firm—his proposal showed he can handle your stubborn streak—and set concrete goals. Whatever you do, don’t opt for a “perfect day,” because beyond being unattainable, the very notion of perfection is incalculably stressful. Also, refrain from using phrases like “this is my day” and especially “princess,” which will never, ever be endearing.

The cast: My brother-in-law agreed with my mother and sister early on that he would have absolutely no part in the wedding planning beyond picking things up when called upon. A friend of mine, on the other hand, secured a room, found a band, and handled the catering. I was in charge of finding a great DJ who would agree to not, under any circumstances, play “We Are Family” or anything by Billy Joel. In other words, we all knew our roles up front. Determining your fianc’s specific duties is mutually beneficial: You can hold him to his responsibilities, but you can’t flip out when he doesn’t know the difference between tiger and calla lilies. Decide on a division of labor, write it down, and sign it. Done.

The audience: There’s no way around it: Guest lists suck. Because your family is likely paying for the wedding, you have an innate advantage (hello, fourth cousins thrice removed!). Don’t use it. And do your best to refrain from impugning the character of his friends to justify cutting them from the list. Your fiancé is likely already catching enough crap from male associates for getting married in the first place; the worst thing you could do is drive a wedge between him and his friends. Be as coldly methodical as you can, and though it seems absurd, try not to make it too personal. That said. . .

The unsavory characters: Be prepared for anything. The bride and groom aren’t the only people who can get wildly irrational—potential guests are also capable of sneaky and shameless maneuvers. I once knew a mother who, when given an insufficient number of slots for her friends, started calling relatives and convincing them to RSVP “no,” and then appropriating those openings for her friends. Here’s another classic: calls from the un-asked bemoaning their invites were “lost in the mail.” Do your best to find humor in these situations—no matter whose side the nefarious would-be guests are on—because I guarantee you’ll be laughing post-wedding.

The wardrobe: If you have to risk being trampled by bargain-hunting dress-buyers, the least your guy can do is try not to look like a college sophomore at his first formal. Cheap suits photograph poorly, and rented tuxes are degrading. Make him buy his own outfit. Trust me, he’ll thank you later. Plus, it’ll win him points with your mother, and that, as we all know by now, is invaluable.