Often when I ask grooms-to-be how the wedding planning is going I’m answered with “I’ve had my suit chosen, and I know what time and where to turn up” the rest of it has been dealt with by their intended.
We have all seen the “Don’t tell the Bride” farce on TV. More often than not making a mockery of any males’ chance of planning a perfect day, it’s quite obviously all set-up.
After your bride-to-be has said yes and accepted the ring (often even this is a joint choice these days!) the first seeds of planning are planted. The piles of Autocar and What HiFi are soon matched by an abundant cornucopia of Bridal magazines. Just the briefest look at the cover of Bride, You & Your Wedding, Bridal Guide, Perfect Wedding and Wedding Ideas will be enough to reassure you that you are no more than a bit part, an extra in the proceedings, all the covers feature glamorous “Brides” (models) in their stunning dresses, not a groom to be seen.
Obviously, there is always the exception that proves the rule, a few grooms (me included) are much more pro-active in the planning, my wife and I even chose her dress together. Having seen over 1000 Brides in all sorts of wedding dresses over the years Natasha decided that she trusted me more than anyone to help her chose. I’m not alone, I have spoken to at least two other couples who did the same.
Other elements that grooms are often entrusted to source for the big day include; Transport, do remember this has to be practical guys! The photographer, videographer and obviously jointly the venue. Having sat in on many of Natasha’s consultations I can conclude that 95% of grooms have little or no interest in flowers and are given a small choice in the buttonholes, but only if it’s the right choice.
So often overlooked it’s no wonder a Grooms’ interest in wedding plans wanes after the venue is chosen, only to pick up again briefly when asked to choose his best-man, ushers and on the day of the stag party.
So, here is a handy cut out and keep groom guide from a married man who has also worked in the wedding industry for over 20 years and has been to around 1500 weddings, I hope some of it helps.
When picking a best-man think of it like a job interview. Don’t automatically give it to your best mate, he might not even want to do it. Chose someone level headed, sensible and mature. He is supposed to be looking after you, not the other way around.
Don’t stay up the night before your wedding with your mates drinking. Sure, have a couple of drinks but get an early night. Hungover isn’t a great way to spend your wedding day.
Have your own schedule for the wedding day and share it with your groomsmen. Factor in travelling time. If you are having a civil ceremony you will need to be at the venue to meet with the registrar 30 mins before the ceremony for your pre-wedding interview. I would always recommend getting to the ceremony whether church or venue an hour before. If it’s a church ceremony then your ushers will have to hand out orders of service and greet guests at the door, it’s a nice touch if they show any VIP’s (grandparents etc) to their seats.
Before the day make sure you know who sits where. You can also work this out at the rehearsal.
Tradition dictates (more relevant for Church weddings) that the Brides family sit on the left and the grooms on the right. Often this formality doesn’t stretch beyond the first couple of rows.
The first right should be for the Grooms parents/step parents plus best man, and depending on how long the pew is maybe grandparents/ushers.
Behind them will be the siblings and partners, and then uncles, aunts, and then friends.
I would always advise keeping at least one usher at the back of the room to assist any later-comers or helping with anyone needing to slip outside with a restless baby!
On the left side will be the Bride’s mother (if mum arrives at the same time as the Bridesmaids have an usher there to walk her down the aisle) also keep in mind if it is raining ushers can help Bridesmaids stay dry so bring golfing umbrellas!
Remember to leave enough space for each of the Bridesmaids, the last thing you want is for them to walk down the aisle and not have a seat. Depending on space this should be on the first or second row on the left. Make sure there is also space for Dad and that they all have orders of service on the seats waiting for them.
The Bride and Groom don’t sit down during a civil ceremony and only sit during readings at a Church service. Normally this will be a pair of chairs already at the front, but at the rehearsal check with the vicar/priest.
Put both rings into one box, you don’t really want to be carrying two bulky boxes.
Have a check-list of things written down before you leave wherever you are getting ready.
Rings, readings, speech are the main ones. Contrary to popular belief you don’t actually need rings to get married, but wouldn’t fancy your chances if you forget them!
If you are hiring your suits, the day that you all get them, open them, try them on. Don’t leave it to the day of the wedding. A very well-known high street suit hire company are renowned for making mistakes. I have seen a 6ft2” usher in trousers for a 5ft10” man and it wasn’t’ ideal. If you are hiring shoes, or have new ones wear them in, make sure they don’t rub and cause blisters.
If they are your own new shoes scuff the bottom of them or score them to get some grip; going AOT in the church aisle isn’t a good look.
Cut the tags off of your suit, yes even the YSL one on the sleeves, nobody needs to know it’s a designer suit!
Learn how to tie a tie, cravat or bow tie well ahead of the wedding morning. Make it part of the groomsmen pre-wedding prep to have a tie tying session together with YouTube. Agree on the knot, Full or Half Windsor are best and learn it until it’s as easy as your shoe laces.
The same with the pocket square if you are wearing them, there are several different ways to fold them so agree on one, all learn how to do it and stick to it, it’s not rocket science but I have seen a bunch of astrophysicists struggling with it.
The pockets on your suits WILL be sewn up, that’s for a reason, don’t get the pen knives out and start slicing them open. They are sewn up to keep the line of the suit and to prevent you putting bulky items in your pockets. The only one you might need to unpick is the one your pocket square goes in, if you have them. Leave the rest alone!
On this note, please don’t put your phone/wallet/keys/charger/hipflask etc etc in your trouser pockets, we (photographers) can see the bulge and no matter how pleased you are to see us it’s not a good look and you will see it in your wedding photos.
Men’s buttonholes go on your left (easiest way to remember is that women are always right so by default you are left) They also DO NOT go through the buttonhole (I know, go figure) but they pin to the lapel using the pin provided by the florist, it’s easy to do but might be worth a practice before the day or a YouTube. You cannot pin them to yourself (even if you take your jacket off) you will need to help each other.
Allocate a groomsmen/Usher or appoint an MC to keep things on track. Someone who has good time-keeping and is responsible and authoritative, a colour sergeant in The Royal Marines should do the trick, someone loud and confident will suffice if you don’t know anyone of military rank.
This MC will be responsible for making sure everyone is inside the ceremony room/church before the ceremony begins, making sure than everyone takes their seats for the wedding breakfast, announcing you both into the room and introducing the speeches.
After the speeches he/she can help to move your guests and liaise between the wedding band/DJ and the photographer/videographer and venue staff to make sure first dance happens on time. It isn’t the responsibility of the band/DJ or photographer to initiate the first dance and getting things going on time will give you plenty of time to dance the night away!
The order of speeches is usually. The Father of the Bride, The Groom and The Best-man and these normally happen after the meal. Consider having them before the meal if any of the speakers are particularly nervous and won’t enjoy the wonderful meal you have paid for!
As a groom it is your responsibility to thank your guests for coming and pay homage to anyone who particularly helped with the day, for example a friend who maybe helped with the stationary or cousins who spent the night before decorating the wedding breakfast room. Don’t forget to thank the Bridesmaids and your own attendants, your parents and new in-laws and most importantly don’t forget to wax lyrical about your beautiful new wife (I have seen this forgotten a few times!!)
As a best-man your job is to amuse the expectant crowd. It won’t be too hard, they are all on your side, most have had a few drinks and none of them paid to see you. Don’t get your jokes and ideas from Google, avoid the cliché lines (warm seat, paper in hand, upper hand joke etc. etc.) as many of the guests will have heard them all before (not as many times as me) and they are impersonal. Try to keep your speech personal, funny but not overly insulting and never insult the bride or her family. Be aware of the younger members of the crowd and play to your strengths, find a theme that ties the speech together. Don’t make it too long, leave them wanting more and always wrap up on a high, singing your friends praises and how pleased you are for them as a couple.