"When I was a little girl I always envisioned it as 'my wedding,' where I would make all the decisions and my faceless groom would show up when I told him to in the suit that I picked out and he paid for," said the Beachwood, New Jersey, social worker and bride to be.
"Flash forward to now — my fiance has an opinion on EVERYTHING," MacHugh said, endorsing that approach with this caveat: "He's a huge procrastinator and doesn't understand that planning a wedding takes a boatload of work, time and co-ordination. He believes every small detail will fall into place without any effort on our part."
So goes the dilemma of many modern-day grooms. No longer on the sidelines, they're ready, willing and able to participate, but what's a groom to do when he hasn't been planning every detail of his dream wedding since boyhood, has never shopped for or worn a tuxedo and doesn't know his carats from his karats?
"My advice for all you grooms out there? Listen to your bride. She knows what she's talking about. If she tells you that at the eight-month mark you should have picked a venue, she's right. If she's droning on about getting your frat brothers' addresses for save-the-dates, you really need to get them to her. And never, I repeat, never call her a bridezilla," advises the 26-year-old MacHugh, who's getting hitched Oct. 10.
Some grooms are happy to leave the details to their partners, said Kristen Ley, a "wedding broker" who works with couples and vendors in the Atlanta area. But if you want an active groom in the lead-up, get him in the planning loop from the get-go, she urges.
"If he doesn't feel included, he won't be, and when it comes time for him to chip in, the interest won't be there," Ley said.
Let him put that tool chest or George Foreman grill on the wedding registry, or don suspenders or wacky colored socks on the big day if he so chooses, Ley suggests.
Above all, grooms can't have their wedding wishes fulfilled if they don't speak up, said Danielle Rothweiler, a wedding and event planner in West Orange, New Jersey.
"The No. 1 thing I always tell grooms is that they MUST be vocal when planning a wedding," she said.
It's been awhile since Eric San Juan was a groom. He's been married for 15 years, but he wrote a new book aimed squarely at grooms: "Stuff Every Groom Should Know," part of a series of handy manuals from Quirk Books.
Try these pro tips from San Juan:
POPPING THE QUESTION
San Juan acknowledges there's no one way, but he's not a huge fan of stunt proposals. The kind that actually involve the public, that is, like asking via Jumbotron at a ballpark. Your proposal may just go viral for the wrong reasons.
"You risk putting the person you're asking in a really awkward situation. Maybe he or she isn't in the same place. Maybe the answer won't be yes," San Juan said in an interview.
If you want the proposal photographed or filmed, find a photographer or videographer willing to shoot in secret to preserve the moment.
Also, consider going old school and asking your partner's parents for permission to pop the question.
And never steal another couple's thunder. Proposing at the wedding of a friend, relative or colleague is not a good idea, he said.
PICKING A TUX
Do you even need one? Traditionally, they're worn after 6 p.m. Morning or afternoon weddings call for a morning suit, usually dark grey.
Renting a tuxedo is cheaper and ensures groomsmen will match, but a custom tux is a nicer fit and worth the investment if a groom thinks he'll wear it again, San Juan said.
With arms down at the sides, fingertips should reach the bottom of the jacket, he said. Pants should hit the tops of the shoes. Silk is the desired tux fabric for summer, while cashmere, wool and flannel are popular for winter.
Rock the bowtie. It's the classic option. And don't fear the cummerbund. Modern 'bunds are sleeker and more flattering than they used to be.
"Most men are not particularly well-versed in getting a tux," San Juan said. "Don't go into the process with the I'm-not-going-to-ask-for-directions mindset."
THE MAN CRY
There may be tears and they may be yours, guys.
"The ideal man cry is a cry that is in control. It's not blubbering," San Juan said.
A groom should avoid talking if his voice is going to crack. He should pause to compose himself. Man tears are awesome; "squeaky man voice, not so much," San Juan said.
Dab, don't rub. Surely the best man remembered the handkerchief to gently pat at tears. Rubbing reddens eyes.
And avoid loud honking when nose-blowing.
"If you really can't stop sobbing, visualize something totally un-sad to get yourself back in the game," San Juan advises.
DRUNK COLLEGE FRIENDS
A groom's side is often full of the guys he used to raise hell with. A generous tip for the bartender will help ensure they get cut off before the point of no return, San Juan said.
Stay on top of the toasts pre-reception to avoid the colorful or awkward ones. And grooms should rely on their best men to police the unruly.
"You can't completely avoid some degree of madness when it comes to your friends, but hopefully the best man can handle it," San Juan said.
As for a groom's imbibing, he should pace himself. Don't down a full drink after every toast. Old buddies taking an open bar to the limit is one thing. Joining them is a mistake.
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