DON’T tell the bride but men are now taking an interest in planning their own weddings, writes David Walsh
A dilapidated three-ring circus pitched in a pub beer garden was a ballsy choice of reception venue, I had to admit, and the Cirque de Soleil-style acrobats swinging idly overhead did little to dampen the illusion of a bargain basement Balearics nightclub in the middle of rural Hertfordshire. The vintage-loving bride was less than enamoured with her husband’s choices – and who could blame her?
With just two months until my own wedding, I’ve forsaken watching repeats of BBC 3’s Don’t Tell The Bride. In truth, the once guilty pleasure of watching men make sport of themselves and their spouses for a meagre £14,000 stipend has become excruciating. To add to my discomfort, I read the other week that the Bafta-nominated programme is seeking to snare more couples to appear on its tenth series later this year.
Most viewers find it entertaining that a groom, having been handed all the levers of control, would not think twice about spending £2,000 of the budget on a stag weekend to Spain, leaving his other half to an Indian takeaway and a few tins of beer for her hen do.
If I’m honest, I too would probably be tickled by it were the shoe now not on the other foot. Broadly speaking, Don’t Tell The Bride seems to be doing all it can to reinforce the view that all contemporary men are as inept, selfish and emotionally barren when it comes to matters of the heart as their starchy predecessors.
If the trend of ever-more saccharine marriage proposals is anything to go by, however, men are more receptive to the business of getting married than most realise. So, surely then, the natural progression is male encroachment on wedding planning? More to the point, planning it well. That said, there is a very fine line between not caring at all and caring too much, as I’ve found to my peril.
I am reliably informed that my dad had no inclination to plan any of my parents’ wedding day in 1982. His input entailed picking out a suit, choosing my uncle as his best man and arriving at the church on time. So, imagine my surprise (read horror) to discover that, as the next in line of the Walsh clan to get hitched, I have become what’s now being coined as a “groomzilla”.
You know, the one. The male counterpart of the unhinged, slightly psychopathic perfectionist bride who orchestrates every detail of her wedding day to the minute like a German train timetable.
I don’t care much for the sobriquet. It’s even more maddening when there’s more than an element of truth to it. There – I admit it. It’s printed in black and white. I am a little too obsessed about the nitty-gritty of mine and my fiancée’s day. But am I really alone on that score?
Like a forlorn Homo erectus wearily dragging a ball and chain, men have evolved from the days of nuptial ignorance into creatures who care far more about the intricacies of their wife-to-be’s big day then they care to publicly admit. Men are just as hands-on with wedding planning as their brides, in spite of what Don’t Tell The Bride would have you believe.
Of course, most engaged men probably wouldn’t admit it although I’d wager most have leafed through the stack of bridal magazines their better half has amassed – much as men do at the doctor’s surgery with a 2005 copy of Cosmo.
Recognition of a problem is half the battle and in that spirit, I’d be remiss in not mentioning that my meddling has not always had the results I’d envisioned. In one misjudged interjection, I suggested a champagne colour bridesmaid dress over her preferred charcoal to add a bit of colour to our spring wedding. On arrival, it turns out a garment that looks like tobacco-stained net curtains isn’t quite the look “we” were going for.
During the many standoffs with my fiancée, I’m also reminded that I was the one who wanted the big white wedding with all our family and friends rather than opting to elope to a beach somewhere hot (FYI, we’re getting married in a monolithic Catholic church instead).
My future brother-in-law, who got married himself four months ago, told me he had a bit of a diva moment over his wedding venue as he “didn’t think it was romantic at all”, having perched on the benches outside it drinking underage during his misspent youth (incidentally, his application for Don’t Tell the Bride was rejected on the grounds that he was “too normal”).
On the upswing, my pursuit for perfection has had some positive outcomes. For example, my hard sell to pay a little more than budgeted for a decent photographer lead us to hire a snapper whose work was beyond my fiancée’s wildest expectations. So good was the photographer’s canon of work that I even got to hear those three little words all men love to hear: “You were right.”
There is some light at the end of the tunnel, and fortunately it isn’t a Deutsche Bahn high-speed train. I have yet to produce spreadsheets of costings, interfere with flower choices, wedding cakes or, heaven forfend, have the slightest thing to do with the choice of wedding gown, accessories and so on (I did find one groom who vetoed the dress when I read up on my condition).
Admittedly, there is still time though. We have still to sort out the seating plan and decorations so I’m sure my neuroticisms will find a way to take over. I just need to step back and relax, I’m told. As my wife-to-be reassures me, I will have my special day.