Columnist Ben Fahy gives a man’s take on weddings. In this column: why grooms to be should stop hiding and join in the planning
Not long ago I looked at photos of my parents’ wedding from the early ’70s. It was a fairly formal, religious occasion held in front of a small group at the local church, and was followed up by a much less formal, less religious shindig later on. Like many unions from that era, it looked simple, traditional and pretty serious (mothers-in law didn’t seem to smile back then).
While many traditions remain in place today, rules in our era have loosened, and informality, originality and personality are more common. That’s great, as it gives couples more opportunity to experiment, but it has also led to a vast array of options and higher expectations for awesomeness. Modern weddings can sometimes be as complicated – and expensive – as organising a manned mission to Mars.
Many men choose the easiest, safest (but least-interesting) option: the time-honoured tradition of sheltering in a type of wedding cocoon, handing responsibility for all decisions to the female of the species, then bursting forth like a besuited butterfly on the day.
That’s each person’s prerogative, but in my experience, getting there is just as enjoyable. It’s hard to imagine a talk about flower arrangements with your future wife could be construed as fun. But anyone who has ever travelled overseas has probably experienced what I like to call ‘the hardship effect’ (which also applies to organising a wedding).
At the time, the tortuous overnight bus journey with an old lady drooling on your shoulder, the Delhi belly on the five-day trek or the stonking argument you had with your partner for experiencing too much of the culture seem like absolute hell. But those memories remain much more vivid than all the occasions when everything was easy – and cement you as a couple.
Organising a wedding can be a difficult, stressful process that’s full of tough decisions. Friends, acquaintances and relatives must be ranked, budgets need to be adhered to and sacrifices need to be made (white tigers or miniature ponies?). But every glass can be half full – not empty. And, like travel, it’s a process. It’s good and bad. It’s the sum of its parts.
Just like any relationship, getting the most out of this romantic high-water mark requires a degree of involvement. Or, for even better results, commitment. As tennis star Martina Navratilova said, ‘The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.’Put simply, there aren’t too many of those moments in life like your wedding, and it’s an event that is regularly looked back on. So while it’s probably easier for a future groom to turn on the rugby when the talk turns to table settings, my advice to the men is, make it your wedding as well. By getting involved, it will probably have more significance for you in the long run.
So speak your piece. Reach a consensus. Write some vows. Think about the right location. Look for rings. Help choose the music. Try and get the life-sized margarine sculpture across the line. It probably won’t be easy, but nothing that’s worthwhile ever is.
After the giddiness subsides, after the dress is put away and photos are framed, there’s a life to live, a partnership to curate. As The New York Times said in a story for the 20th-anniversary edition of its Vows section: ‘Every bride and bridegroom is beautiful; every husband and wife is exhausted. At a wedding, everything is new. And later, is anything new?’
Thankfully, yes – there’s home purchases, grandchildren, life. In the meantime, think of planning a wedding as a microcosm of a relationship, with its ups and downs. Navigating the choppy pre-matrimonial seas and sailing on with memories of how teamwork made it happen is a great way to begin the rest of your life – start as you mean to go on.