Like that day you got into the college you wanted to attend or when you drove a car by yourself for the first time, or when you finally beat your old man in a game of pickup, there are days that will forever be imprinted in your memory. One of those pivotal times might have been the moment you met the love of your life or when you made love for the first time together. And now that you've finally decided to get married and asked her to be your lifetime partner, an even bigger day is coming up: your wedding day.
Though women often get the rep for being obsessed with every tiny little detail of that date that's written everywhere you can see — on the calendar, those save-the-dates you're picking from, you name it — it's important for men to be involved in the planning process, too. Even if you don't have a preference on wedding colors and could basically eat any cake or meal that's put in front of you, your wedding day is the first time you join together as a married couple, presenting your union to those you love. Plus, it's important to remind your bride-to-be that you're with her every step of the way, support her choices and want to make sure the day is a remarkable, memorable experience.
If you're not sure about what to do, where to step in and where to let her take the lead, wedding planning experts share their best tips for grooms:
1. Focus On Communication
After the proposal, you both probably spent a few good weeks bathing in your 'we're engaged!' excitement. As a thrilling time where you get permission to be talk endlessly about your relationship and dream about the future with whoever will listen, deciding to get married is a huge step for any twosome. Consider that period the 'honeymoon' period before the real work begins. Planning a wedding might not seem like it'll change your relationship in a big way, but for most couples, it becomes a challenge. Not only are you balancing all of the other things you used to balance before you got engaged — working, your friendships, your workout routine, your home — but you're also talking about place settings, invite lists and flowers.
That's why Lydia Redmond, director of wedding sales at The Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Naples says it's super important for couples to keep your communication open and clear. Many couples decide on ground-rules for when they can talk about the wedding and when they can't, treating it not as a third addition to your relationship, but part of your current regimen. However, this doesn't mean that you should just nod along and agree with everything your partner wants to do, just to avoid any argument or a disagreement. In fact, your bride is interested in your opinion more than you think, especially since she wants to make sure it's a day for the two of you and not just for her.
"In some capacity, the groom has to contribute his opinion. Many times the grooms I work with feel that they handled the proposal and now they are done. Plus, they want the bride to have whatever she wants because they know 'happy wife, happy life,'" says wedding and event planning Danielle Rothweiler. "However, most brides I work with want to know what their groom thinks about anything from the linens to the flowers and other details that their groom probably doesn't care about. Brides can feel hurt by this even though it's not personal at all, so a groom needs to do his best to contribute something without his bride having to beat it out of him."
2. Be Supportive Of Spousal Stress
Even if you are contributing to the wedding planning, more often than not, brides and their families often take the brunt of the work to put the big day together. And while she couldn't be happier to marry you, she's also going to go through periods of high-stress, deal with unexpected frustrations and struggle to keep everything together. In fact, many brides feel a sense of relief after their wedding day because now that the fanfare is over, they can get back to their routine and settle into a more relaxed married life. Because you probably won't feel as much of the burden of spreadsheets, appointments and people to manage, Rothweiler says it's essential that you're there for her and to be as supportive and understanding that you can be.
"Listen to her vent, even if you think the problems are not really problems at all. Make surprise reservations at her favorite restaurant for just the two of you. Plan special weekends together where you don't talk about the wedding, and just enjoy each other. She can't think about planning anything else right now, so you have to step up and plan dates and time together," she explains.
Not sure you can afford much anything else than the wedding right now but want to help her relax? Or you want to pitch in and lend your help, but you have no idea where to start? Most grooms aren't sure where they are needed the most, and that's OK, but it never hurts to ask. "Offer to help even when you don't know what you could possibly do. Don't guess here, just ask flat out: 'What can I do that would help you with the planning'? Reassure her what a great job she is already doing and never tell her things like 'I'm sure it'll be fine,'" Rothweiler says.
3. Be Mindful Of Family (And In-Laws)
When you say 'I do' to that beautiful woman you love so much, you're also saying 'welcome' to a set of in-laws. Every person comes with their family and not only will you be helping to plan an important day for your relationship, but for your relatives, too. This often comes with a big set of expectations and ideas that Redmond says have likely be in their dreams long before their daughter met you. This is where learning to compromise will be helpful, but also an opportunity for you and your bride to decide what type of wedding you'd like to have based on your relationship and history, and not on clippings her mom cut out of a magazine a decade ago.
Especially if your parents and her parents are paying for the majority of the wedding, Rothweiler says that getting the budget talk out of the way ASAP is important, as it sets the tone and the stage for everything else. "Figuring out the budget is the first step in wedding planning, and if the groom's parents are going to contribute, he needs to be the one to find out those details before starting the planning process. Many parents on the groom's side want to cover expenses in some capacity, and the most popular ones are the engagement party and rehearsal dinner. Get that talk out of the way before picking a date or planning a detail," she says.
And once you pencil in how much you're going to spend, remember that now you're not just planning a wedding just-the-two-of-you, but you have many other players now. And while some of their opinions will be something you should consider, you also can have discussions on how to be flexible. "It's important to listen to your parents or her parents and figure out what is truly a priority and what's really important. Understand that the second you take a dime from someone, they get to have a say in your details. If you want what you want, then you cannot take money from anyone. Think of those people like investors. If you don't want someone telling you how to run your company, you can't have those. And if you don't want someone telling you how to do your wedding, then you can't take a penny from anyone," Rothweiler says.
RELATED: The Groom's Guide To Getting In Shape For His Wedding
4. Be Selective Of Who You Invite
Every couple figures out how many people they'd like to attend differently. You might have colleagues that you want to invite, while she may really want to invite everyone from the group that she volunteers with on Tuesdays. Her parents might think it's a good idea to invite every last cousin, while yours might want to fly in distant relatives from overseas. Coming to an agreement on who you will invite and how many people you'll have at your wedding is often the first battle in wedding planning. It's important to remember and be considerate of your respective family sizes: if she is one of four and you're an only child, or she has 10 aunts and uncles and you only have four, your 'sides' might be uneven. And that's OK — as long as you respect each other's desire to invite certain people over others.
Another important decision to make in the beginning is who will stand by you at the altar and who you will honor by asking them to be part of your wedding day. It's a big deal — these folks will be in your wedding photos forever more — and one that you shouldn't take lightly. "Even though the decision should be mutual, the groom has to select the people he wants on his side of the wedding party. It's really important not to wait until the last minute because often times I have brides waiting to decide if they want four bridesmaids or six, because the groom doesn't know the amount of groomsmen he will have," Rothweiler says.
5. Be Budget-Conscious — But Flexible
While some couples decide to go big for their big day and spend upwards of $50,000 very quickly, others don't have the money (or don't want to spend it on a wedding) for a huge affair. The important part of wedding planning is to make sure that you understand what you're willing to spend and stick to it. "Be upfront and honest. Just like you would figure out how much you could spend on a house, you have to figure out what you can spend on a wedding. It doesn't matter what things cost, it matters what you can afford," Rothweiler says. "Figure out what that number is that doesn't throw you into credit card debt for the next 40 years and understand that most final payments are large and will need to be in cash or paid via money order."
However, Redmond suggests not spending all of your budget before the day gets there, and instead, save some of the unplanned reserve fund. "This would be for the unexpected, but welcome higher number of RSVPs, possible vendor fail, additional hour of entertainment because the party is so great that you want to extend for an additional hour. Which also means you will need to pay for an additional hour of bar," she says.
6. Make Sure Your Groomsmen Work Together
One stress that your bride definitely doesn't need? Collecting and organizing your groomsmen. From picking out what suit you'll wear to making sure they arrive on time to all events, you should be the ringleader and not involve your partner with any stresses that happen along the way. "The groom should also take the lead to ensure his groomsmen are organized with their attire, fresh cuts and shaves, and ensuring all are properly fed and hydrated prior to the festivities," Redmond says. "The groom should also be following up on duties delegated to his most trusted compadre, making certain all the important boxes are checked."
7. Plan The Honeymoon From Top To Bottom
While some couples may choose to plan their honeymoon together, traditionally, a groom will surprise his bride with an amazing trip. It all depends on how you want to work it out as a couple: maybe you pick the location together, but you're in charge of flights, hotel and activities, or she just wants to be whisked away and you put it together yourself. Make sure to keep in mind your honeymoon when you're planning your wedding at the start — setting aside the right amount of money to make sure you actually have a memorable and luxurious experience, instead of waiting until the last-minute and planning something lackluster than won't be a testament to your love. You also want to make sure that your wedding budget doesn't completely wipe you out, leaving no room for a honeymoon fund. Need some recommendations? Try checking out the AskMen list of the best honeymoon destinations.