Watch out, brides: Here come the grooms

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The good old days are gone, boys. It's not enough anymore to pop the question, ride out the engagement, then appear at the altar all goo-goo eyed and suave in your penguin suit. The times, they are a-changin'.

Just ask Scott Geesey.

He's researched photographers, hired musicians and made the hotel reservations for his August wedding to Catey Galatola. "It was definitely a mutual endeavor," says Geesey, 37, a lawyer at the U.S. House of Representatives.

So mutual, in fact, that Geesey broke out of the macho mold and chose the couple's china, sort of. The couple, who live in Odenton, were having trouble finding something they liked until Geesey stumbled onto the winner.

"It was something simple," he says of the pattern, "so that 10 years from now, no one will laugh at it like they did at my high-school prom tux." Geesey used a similar technique to find their crystal.

"I was so psyched that he was even interested," says Galatola, 26, an advertising account executive in Baltimore. "Scott's been great. We pretty much divided things, and he's taken responsibility even down to the registering."

Geesey drew the line at the flowers, though, saying he wouldn't know if they looked good anyway.

"The groom's role has changed tremendously," confirms Millie Martini Bratten, editor of the 66-year-old Bride's Magazine. "Years ago, it used to be the bride and her mother doing the planning, the father pays, and the groom just showed up. Now we're seeing team wedding planning."

To capitalize on the grooms' new role, several years ago Bride's began putting out an annual groom supplement with its magazine. But the latest Grooms was only 12 pages, while Bride's made news for the size of its record-breaking 1,271-page February/-March issue.

But there are other places where men can turn for the latest wedding advice. David Knickerbocker is the 31-year-old founder and publisher of a new men's magazine, For the Groom. "Men are a lot more involved today. They're sharing the responsibility in trying to plan," says Knickerbocker, who lives in Connecticut.

Knickerbocker has never been married or even engaged. He got the idea for the magazine from a 1995 sitcom that had a groom lamenting the lack of men's wedding guides. He saw an untapped market, and his advertising background kicked in. After some research and a stint in business school, For the Groom was born.

The quarterly publication, which made its debut in January, features the male version of articles that brides have been reading for years. Stories in the summer issue include "Waist Removal," "Keeping the Faiths" and "Guy Time."

Wedding experts agree that the groom's role has been evolving since the late '80s. Three factors have contributed to the change, they say. Couples are marrying an average of six years later than they were two decades ago and have developed strong opinions and tastes. More couples are paying for weddings themselves, with as many as 35 percent of them footing the whole bill. And these days, four out of 10 couples are living together, making joint decisions a more common experience.

Scott Geesey says he's involved because it's fun to work on projects together, and because "if something goes wrong, [he'll] have some clue as to what's supposed to be going on."

Ashley Long, who's getting married in September, says joint planning sets a tone for the marriage. "It goes to respect," she says. "It's an indication of how you're going to make decisions in the future. It's a stepping stone."

Long, 30, and her fiance Scott Cotter, vice president of finance at an Internet start-up, have shared much of the work. The couple, who live in Towson, both chose the reception spot, picked the band and selected gifts for their attendants.

"I've definitely had a lot of input," says Cotter, 28. Long, a lawyer, describes it as veto power.

"In terms of who makes the ultimate decision," she says, "I narrow it down, and he gets the final say." By narrowing the field for Cotter, Long says she gives him realistic ways to be involved and still keeps the traditional bridal hold on the event.

To get a groom involved, it's helpful to play to his strengths, says Bratten, herself married for 13 years. "If he's a great writer, ask his help in writing thank you notes. If he loves to cook, send him to the caterer," she says.

But there are still those who think the groom is sorely out of place in the planning process. "I always tell my grooms," says Sherri Minkin, a wedding consultant at Glorious Events in Owings Mills, "that the best groom is one who keeps his mouth shut and says, 'Yes, Honey.' "

Minkin, who's been in the business for more than 20 years, says she's seen some change lately, but it's more on the side of the woman. "Lots of brides today want to include the grooms, but ... he's just doing it to pacify the bride," she says.

Tim Maloney, 25, disagrees. "It's my wedding, too," he says. "You're going to remember this for the rest of your life."

Maloney, who works for MBNA America, has been helping plan his wedding to Meghan Grannas, a first-grade teacher, since last November.

"When we first started, both of us decided it was going to be 50/50," says Maloney, who lives in Perry Hall. "She said, 'You're going to be as much a part of this as I am,' and everybody was pretty happy." He says Grannas, 23, might be slightly ahead in the work for their July wedding. But Maloney is no slouch.

He's planned most of the ceremony because it's in a Catholic church, and Maloney's Catholic. And they both chose the caterer and the flowers.

"Tim was involved from the very beginning," says Donna Grannas, Meghan's mother. "That's the way today's generation is being brought up."

When Grannas, 49, married her husband Robert, 52, in 1971, things were different. "I did all the planning," she says. "I don't even think he cared. It was part of the times. But now, because he sees all the involvement, he feels a little left out."

For his part, Robert Grannas jovially announces he's "got all the bills covered."

But no matter which half of the couple does what, Knickerbocker says it's crucial to keep one thing in mind: "Don't let yourself get so caught up in the planning that you forget what it's all about."

And what it's about, says Bratten, "is making each other happy."

Sources for the involved groom

Among the sea of bridal guides, finding resources designed for the groom-to-be is still a fairly daunting task. As David Knickerbocker, founder of For the Groom magazine, says, "No guy wants to be caught dead reading a bridal magazine." Instead of donning dark glasses and hiding with a copy of Bride's, try these:

* For the Groom: As a national wedding magazine for the modern male, FTG is a lonely and singular voice. The quarterly publication offers articles you'd find in bridal magazines but tailored to the groom, including fitness tips, finance guides, romance boosters and wedding to-do lists. Available at major booksellers and drugstores, $3.99.

* My Wedding Companion (CD-ROM): Scott Geesey of Odenton found this software especially helpful in arranging the seating chart for his wedding. "You can put in the probability of each guest actually showing up," he says, and it spits out a configuration with a scientific basis, something that might appeal to the less-sentimental man. Available from Five Star Software, www.fivestarsoftware.com, $44.95.

* Marylandweddings.com: While this site is still filled with phrases like "bridal registry," it offers grooms access to local vendors and articles with ideas specifically for Maryland couples. And it's on the Internet. Guys can sit in the comfort of their own home and surf as many bridal sites as they want without fear of the word getting out, and there are many to surf. Best of all, it's free.

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