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Relationship Guide
March 2004:
It’s the Groom’s Wedding, Too
by Claire Hatch
Claire Hatch, MSW is a licensed social worker and mediator who specializes in working with couples. She counsels people by phone around the world and in person in her Seattle area office.

Claire will be happy to answer your relationship questions in this column. Please send them to claire@clairehatch.com or call her at 425.823.2273.
Want more relationship help? Then The Bridal Sanity Workbook is for you. Claire shares wisdom from her pre-wedding counseling experience and her work with troubled marriages.


"I don’t know how I can get through to Dave that I need more help," said Carla, who will be married in August. "He doesn’t begin to understand what it takes to make a wedding happen. Either that, or he doesn’t think it’s a man’s job. What can I do? I want this to be OUR wedding, not my wedding."

Chances are you know exactly how Carla feels. Your fiancé is probably not on the web finding the date of the next wedding show, in Barnes and Noble browsing wedding books, or on the phone to reception locations.

At first, you may feel like a kid in a candy store and enjoy having a free rein. But after a few months, reality sets in and you think, This is really a big load for one person. You find yourself feeling resentful. And even a little lonely.

"This sounds so weird," said Terri, a June bride, "but it seems like the closer we get to our wedding day, the less we have in common. Neither of us is feeling terribly romantic. Sometimes, I wonder how much he cares—not just about the wedding, but about me and getting married."

This is the point where brides start to lobby for more participation from their fiancés. And the wedding magazines, websites, and chat rooms they turn to have plenty of advice about this problem:

  • Tell him how much you need him.
  • Appeal to his sense of fairness—you shouldn’t have to do it all.
  • Give him limited choices. Rather than overwhelm him by having him look at every photographer you are, ask him which two or three he likes.
  • Delegate tasks that you don’t care about and perhaps he does, such as transportation or music.

 These are all helpful ideas—I’ve even used some of them myself! But making it "our wedding" takes more than sharing the work. It takes sharing the decision making. This is much more difficult than delegating tasks. After all, you’re bound to disagree about some part of the planning.

Some couples who truly plan their weddings together find they have vastly different ideas. What if you want the Four Seasons and he wants the beach? What if you want 200 guests and he wants only immediate family? You want your fiancé to participate, but if he disagrees about something you’ve got your heart set on, that might not be the kind of participation you imagined!

It can be tough to compromise when you’ve got a certain vision in your mind. When I was planning my wedding, my mother and I decided that a visit to the florist would make a perfect girls’ afternoon out. Then at the last minute, my fiancé decided to join us.

I was surprised that he wanted to come, but I was even more surprised when he had his own opinions about the flowers! Unfortunately, they were the exact opposite of mine. (His vision: Orange and yellow, full and bushy. My vision: Pastels, minimalistic and dramatic.) I have to confess that I initially greeted his opinions as touching, but not to be taken seriously. In this case, he was the one who had to remind me: It’s OUR wedding. In the end, I got my colors, and he got his bushy bouquets.

Now that I’m a pre-marital counselor, I hear about the groom’s reality every day. A lot of times, they’re not so much clueless as resigned. A lot of men keep to the periphery of wedding planning because they don’t expect their opinions to be taken seriously. "I figure, the more I stay out of the way, the less trouble I’ll get in," said Carl. "I’m just going to sit tight and wait till it’s over."

I’m guessing this not the way you want your fiancé to feel. If you really want your wedding to be a partnership, the ideal time to start is at the beginning. Sit down together and talk about what you would like your wedding to be like. Ask your fiancé how he sees it and really listen. Draw him out. Try to understand his perspective, even if it differs from yours. He might have some ideas you never thought of. Consider how this might enrich your wedding. Find out what he really doesn’t want.

For areas in which you disagree, ask yourself, What is the core of what each of you wants? For example, if you want your wedding outdoors and your fiancé doesn’t, what is it about being outdoors that you want? Is it the drama of a mountain backdrop? Or the simplicity of it? Is there some way you can get that feeling without being completely outdoors? Try to brainstorm as many ideas as possible before you decide.

While you’re at it, talk about the realities of wedding planning. Discuss the fact that men and women often have different approaches. Is this true of the two of you? How do you each feel about that? How much work are each of you willing to do? Do you want to go all out, or do you want to keep more life balance? (Remember that whatever you start with, weddings tend to grow in size and complexity.)

If you really want your fiancé to be involved in your wedding, get ready to compromise. And when you think about it, now is the perfect time to learn how. Because that’s what marriage is all about.

Read previous Relationship Guide articles


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