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guys guide to wedding planning

A Groom's Guide To Planning A Wedding

Everything you need to know to make it to the altar with both you and your relationship in one piece.

Photo: Janae Shields Photography / The Knot

Wedding planning is all about picking your battles. The key is knowing when to have an opinion, when to help and when to walk away. Millions of men get married every year and have lived to share the survival tactics we’ve laid out here.

Welcome to the madness of wedding planning. You probably have some questions: Wait, we’re spending $600 on a cake, which is made with flour and eggs? Why does my fiancee -- the intelligent, amazing woman I love -- now talk about things like “calla lilies” and “tussy mussy” bouquets? And most important: What do *I* need to do? It’s easy to lose perspective, it’s easy to get confused, and it’s easy to get lured into debates, fights or even teary meltdowns that make no sense. (Who cares if peonies are out-of-season and roses have to be subbed in? Wait, did I just say that? What is a peony anyway?)

Your Game Plan

So what’s important -- and what do you actually need to do? Between now and D-Day, stick to this game plan and you’ll be set.

Pitch In For The Big Three: You know the 80/20 rule, right? Basically, 80 percent of your wedding’s costs will come from 20 percent of the decisions. So the trick is to help your fiancee with the right 20 percent. That means pitching in on the Big Three: the guest list, the date and the venue. For these, you need to do more than just say, “Sure, honey, that sounds fine.” Here’s the drill: The guest list Deciding who’s in, who’s out and how to divvy up the spots with your families essentially requires you to rank everyone you’ve ever known in order of importance. She can’t do this without you -- her DNA makes it impossible. The fastest way to cut down the list with minimal tears? Adopt a policy of no kids, no coworkers and no dates (unless you know them). The date Be the voice of guy reason here: For the sake of your guests, don’t schedule the wedding during a hard holiday, March Madness, the World Series, the Super Bowl...or any NFL playoff weekend, really. The venue This fancy term for party spot drives most of the costs. Ask if you can bring your own booze, use your own caterer and how they handle parking. Ask these three questions and -- BOOM! -- you’ll earn instant credibility with your fiancee, and you can doze off for the rest.

Draft and Manage Your Team: Choosing your groomsmen is like the ultimate fantasy football draft. You have a first-round pick (the best man), and then you fill out the roster with the rest of your best buds. A few guidelines: Even if you’re not close, include your brother (and hers -- seriously). There’s no law that says you must have the same number of friends, as long as the final count isn’t you: 1; her: 12. When in doubt, friendship trumps etiquette. The latter is fungible; the former isn’t.

Pick the Music: This is an important one: The music can make or break the party, and if it’s bad, it can undo $30,000 worth of planning. Give the DJ a do-not-play list that includes “Like a Virgin,” “I Will Always Love You” and “Lady in Red.” Not only is that last one a cliché, but your bride won’t be in red. Awkward.

Salvage the Registry: Gravy boats. Teacups. Extra sets of towels. These will be your punishment if you neglect the registry. Your fiancee will (probably) want to register at the traditional shops like Pottery Barn, Macy’s and Useless Pewter -- and that’s fine. But you can also register at places like Amazon.com or Target (where you can ask for aaaannnything), or for honeymoon funds.

Choose Your Ring: How much cash have you blown on TVs, watches, Doritos or laptops? Those items are perishable (well, the Doritos are questionable). Your wedding ring is not. Make it a good one.

Write Your Vows: Do it only if she insists. Use basic words, speak honestly and focus on the four Fs: forever, fidelity, falling in love and freaking out. Maybe it’s the three Fs....

Get Fit: You’ll be photographed more on this day than on every other day in your life combined. The next week, you’ll be naked more than any other time in your life. ’Nuff said.

Finda a Tux: Get a good tailor, opt for timeless over trendy, skip the cummerbund, go easy on the colors, avoid pleats, stick with a simple collar (turndown or spread) and think long and hard about whether you really want to wear a bow tie. As for your groomsmen? Your bride will have some thoughts on how to coordinate with the bridesmaids...defer to her.

Plan the Honeymoon Take the lead on this job -- it’s a winner. Unlike wedding planning, there’s no etiquette, no formalities, no nagging moms who bicker about appetizers. Book waaaaay in advance and consider a half ’n’ half (where half the trip is adventure and half’s on the beach).

Buy Groomsmen Gifts: No flasks. It’s cliché and they probably already have seven. Also avoid pens, shot glasses and money clips (it’s presumptuous to overhaul someone’s cash-storing methodology). Better bets: knives, cuff links, golf crap and -- my personal pick -- a nice weekend bag.

YOUR “DO NOT TOUCH” LIST

For both your sakes, dodge all the bride-y stuff. Highlights include:

The invitations: See George Costanza. When grooms get too involved with picking out the stationery, people die.

Coordinating the bridesmaid dresses and flowers: If you have an opinion on this, be sure to coordinate the flowers to your dress too.

Her dress: You should help her with her dress the day you let her draft your fantasy football team. She’ll put a gun to your head.

The cake: You’re the taster, not the decider. This is one of the all-time best deals that men have in life, right up there with not having to wear heels and being able to pee standing up.

The flowers: Cymbidium orchid, peony, geranium, Chinese lantern and Japanese lantern -- those mean nothing to you? Good. That means you’re a groom.

90 percent of what’s in The Knot: (Sorry, ladies! You know I love you.)

YOUR EXTRA CREDIT

For when she’s super-stressed and you want to get back on her good side.

Surprise Her With A Massage: Or flowers. Or dinner. Not because you need to, or it’s a special occasion. Just...because.

Practice the First Dance: Dancing is like a piña colada: As men, we’re not supposed to like it, but under the right circumstances, it’s fun. And this is the right circumstance. Take lessons with your fiancee (everyone does it). Own it.

Be A Buffer: So you have an overactive mother who wants to chime in on every decision, insisting that the cake is vanilla? Your mom, your problem.

Don't Boff the Stripper: Your most important job was to propose. Your second-most-important job: avoiding jail time, a new son and herpes. Play by her rules. This is not a battle you want to fight.

Curb the Sarcasm:I know, trust me, I know -- it’s hard not to laugh at all this. Your fiancee will be quoting articles like “900+ New Centerpieces!” (That’s not an exaggeration. This article exists.) But remember: Even though it seems silly, it’s hard work. While you have it easy, she has a new part-time job. At least pretend to be excited about the flowers or cake, and be thankful that she’s handling so much of the dirty work.

Buy Her a Bridal Gift: Don’t make the classic rookie mistake of getting caught empty-handed when she gives you a gift at the rehearsal dinner. Safe options include jewelry, a framed photo (it better be a damn good frame -- and photo) or a gift her mom or best friend helped you pick out.

-- Jeff Wilser; the editor of groom website ThePlunge.com and the author of The Maxims of Manhood and The Man Cave Book. You can follow him on Twitter at @JeffWilser.

See More: Groom Basics