Angela Ryan took a deep breath, gave herself a final look in the mirror and then opened the dressing room door to show off the floor-length, ivory, strapless, hand-beaded bridal gown she wore.
"Ohh. Wow," said Vernon Ledtke, clasping his hand over his mouth. It was expensive, she told him, more than she planned to spend. It's OK, he told her, it's perfect.
"Let's get it," he said. Then he kissed her.
Ledtke was not only Ryan's partner in wedding planning, but the groom. Unlike engaged couples of the 20th century, whose nuptials were often organized by the bride and her close friends or family, the Waterford, N.Y., couple is selecting everything -- from the dress to the flowers to the cake to the music to their rings -- even their engagement rings, together.
Partner planning has grown in popularity in the past five years, with 40 percent of couples now making joint decisions about the wedding day, says Darcy Miller, editorial director with Martha Stewart Weddings. This is, in large part, because couples are marrying older and paying for the wedding themselves, so having a mutual say seems natural.
"When the couple creates their wedding together, they are reinforcing their bond," says Judith Sherven, co-author of The Smart Couple's Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams (New World Library, $14.95).
Sharing ideas and desires, joining together in researching the different elements of the celebration and resolving conflicts allow couples to get to know one another on a deeper level, adds Sherven.
"A marriage is supposed to be about the couple, and the wedding represents the marriage," says Michael O'Connor of Schenectady, N.Y. He and his wife, Jenny, planned their wedding together more than two years ago. "If the woman is doing all the work, it segregates it and makes it like it's her day and not our day."
Typically, the groom weighs in most heavily on the food -- especially the cake -- how the bar is stocked and the music, says Kathleen Murray, senior editor with the wedding planning Web site TheKnot.com.
If conflict arises, experts suggests dividing some of the duties, that way both the bride and the groom are involved in planning, and each gets to customize certain aspects. And for couples to remember that they are planning the day for themselves, most importantly, and for their guests.