November 18, 2011

Grooms Get Respect in Canada

In the ongoing war* between the U.S. and Canada over which nation is more groom-friendly, Canada has just scored another victory.

*The aforementioned war is "ongoing" only as of this morning, and occurs solely in my mind.

Zosia Bielski at The Globe and Mail has sought to define the term Groomzilla and pose some great questions about groom involvement in the planning process.

Groomzillas fight back: What's wrong with getting involved?




In her article, Bielski makes note of "a new breed of groom-centric bloggers and wedding planners [who are] hoping to redefine the zilla moniker and shift attitudes around male involvement in the pinkest of industries in the process." A number of my colleagues and I contributed thoughts and opinions for the article, so don't be surprised when you see mention of The Man Registry, Groom Groove and Temple of Groom, among others.


- - -

On another note, TGS is in talks with The Knot about bringing some more groom issues to their national and regional magazines with the Ask the Groom column. So if you feel so inclined, tweet @ TheKnot or post a note on their website and tell them you want to see Ask the Groom in their future issues. And if you have a question that I can answer in my snarky and brutally honest fashion, you can always email it to me.

Past ATG posts include:


Great weekend!
b

November 4, 2011

All Men Report to the Sidebar: Breaking into @TheKnot

This past weekend, 2Es and I took a drive over to the Grove shopping center here in LA, an outdoor mall where the fountain dances to Sinatra tunes and Mario Lopez interviews B-celebrities. We made it seem like the primary purpose of our trip was to purchase an iPhone case, but we both know that was bull.


The last time we browsed the magazine rack at Barnes & Noble was two years ago: a young clueless engaged couple looking to steal ideas from the best weddings of 2008. These wedding dates in the upstairs coffee lounge at B&N would span a few hours: 2Es would flip through The Knot or Modern Bride for inspiration, and I would blog about how wedding magazines are completely devoid of male interests.

Not so much this time...

Feeling the groom love with The Man Registry, The Plunge, and  

Granted, it's a sidebar, buried in a sea of full-page wedding gown photos ... but I'll take it. In fact, I'll do more than that. I'll call it the culmination of 2+ years of providing a male voice in the industry. And I won't stop there; I'm going to continue to hound the lovely ladies and occasional gent at The Knot about the "Ask the Groom" column that I've been promoting for over a year now. And we'll see how far we can push this envelope.

So stop by your local wherever (yes, this is the national Winter Issue of The Knot, not the regional issue) and pick up a copy and flip immediately to page 38. Hell, flip all the copies at Barnes & Noble or Rite-Aid or newsstand to page 38. And then hit up The Knot (via Twitter or via their Facebook page) and tell them you want more groom content. Especially from that Groom Says guy. You know he's looking for writing gigs now...

***A special thanks to Amy Eisinger, Associate Editor at The Knot and author of the aforementioned article.

- - -

A personal note: If you're in New York this weekend, please root on my Dad and the other 40,000+ runners competing in the New York City Marathon on Sunday. This is Dad's third marathon this year (Miami being the first, Boston the second), and I couldn't be more proud of him. What an amazing achievement. 

Enjoy the 55 degree weather, runners!

October 8, 2011

Weekend Wrap-Up

I told you you'll never truly get rid of me. Stop trying.

In lieu of a final Crossing the Aisle post, we've got a mini Weekend Wrap-up, beginning with a farewell tribute to The Groom Says on GroomsAdvice.com. 

My Favorite Posts from The Groom Says

Fellow groom pioneer Chris Easter (co-founder of The Man Registry) has been a good friend and drinking buddy since I began this wedding journey two years ago. Having an appreciation for odd and borderline offensive humor, Chris first asked me to guest post on Grooms Advice back in January of 2010, and we've been coming up with more and more man-centric, immature content since then ... including one post about Kellie Pickler's wedding video that deeply hurt one of Kellie's hardcore fans ... who may very well have been her mom. 

More feelings we hurt, 
then the more hits we get, see?
Now write, monkey, write! 
- Chris Easter

[the haiku above is fabricated]

So thanks to Chris for the generous tribute and the kind words. And readers, please continue to keep up with TMR and GroomsAdvice.com. Remember that Chris has a slew of gift options available on his registry site, all at ridiculously good prices. 

- - -

Check out: How to dress a groom (Spongebob underwear not included) on MarthaStewartWeddings.com.

- - -

And for readers in the Western Great Lakes/Minnesota and Wisconsin region, I've got the 411 on an event in your hood that might pique your interest.


This Thursday, October 13th, the Independent Wedding Association is hosting a Wedding Fair and (infinitely more important) Groom's Night at a bocce, bowling and bistro joint called Pinstripes. (Sounds like we need a Pinstripes in LA.) Rather than a stuffy, convention hall feel, the IWA boasts a cocktail hour atmosphere with an emphasis on the grooms. Yes, that means (but is not limited to):
  • Unlimited bowling (that alone is worth it)
  • Suit fitting and groom grooming demos
  • Cigar and drink sampling
  • S'mores bar
  • Boutonniere alternatives (perhaps they've seen my Out of the Box collection?)
  • Wedding lounge recommendations
  • And a FREE companion ticket for your 2Es ... or your man date


Tickets are a more-than-reasonable $15, and all the info is on their website @ independentwedding.com. If any of you Great Lakers end up going, be sure to email me a shot of whatever man cave the IWA's got set up over there.

- - -

For tickets and event inquiries, please contact Becca Dilley (Founder of the IWA) at dilley@gmail.com. Be sure to tell her The Groom Says referred you. I get free s'mores with each referral.

October 3, 2011

A First Anniversary and a Reflection on Two Years

When I started this blog back in September of 2009, it was meant to be a light read for our wedding guests and a distraction for fellow grooms who might stumble upon it. In addition, I hoped to entertain my fiancee (my 2Es) by exposing, exaggerating, spinning and capitalizing on our adventures, our discoveries, and our missteps as first-time wedding planners. And that was it. Those were the elaborate plans I had drafted for this virtual project.

Between then and now, it's become something else. A year before our wedding date, publishing an initial post on The Groom Says, I knew a few things about weddings; today, a year and a day into marriage, I know more about weddings than a man could ever want to know. And I'm glad that I'm able to offer advice on attire and decor and venue load-in times. I'm glad that there are male voices in the wedding world and that, in some respects (and in some parts of the country), we're leaving the pink-toned, cutesy, bride-centric weddings behind. We're making weddings more collaborative. If I've played even the smallest role in that movement, then I'm pleased.

2Es and I celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary yesterday. We drove to Big Bear Lake on the 30th, packing enough clothes and equipment for an entire Cub Scout troop, and set up camp in the pitch black of the Pine Knot campground. We were verbally assaulted by a park ranger and took the difficult course down a rather steep mountain on crap mountain bikes and, despite our over-packing, neglected to bring chairs -- but we had the time of our lives. Our anniversary was spent very simply in each other's company, reliving the perfect and not-so-perfect moments from our wedding, crafting vegan s'mores from Kmart-brand products (graham cracker pie crust, dark chocolate bar, vanilla frosting) and talking about the changes we've made in each other's lives. I've made her more socially anxious; she's converted me into an aisle-seat lover. I don't even remember what drove me to window seats in the past. That alone is an argument for marriage.


I write this on the same day that my fellow Angeleno and more popular wedding blogger Becca signs off of her own blog, A Los Angeles Love. Unlike her, I guess I'm not prepared to divorce myself completely from The Groom Says. "This space has been so important to me over the last two years," she writes, and I couldn't agree more. Like Becca, who began ALAL roughly at the same time that I did, this has been a place to share successes and failures alike ... to vent, to laugh, and to practice a craft that I love. I've made friends who will forever remain friends. I've loved sharing these experiences with you all, and I'm so appreciative of those of you who've made it a worthwhile journey.

But 2Es and I have plans. We have life plans and career plans, and while the latter does involve writing (in fact, it depends on it), it doesn't involve coordinating weddings or promoting groomsmen gifts or advising on formalwear. But it does involve supporting my family, and one cannot do that with a humorous groom blog that brings in zero income. So while this may not be a final farewell, it is a revised mission statement of sorts. I'll stop in from time to time. I'll post on occasion. The blog will continue to exist here in cyberspace with miles of archives to read through should one have an entire weekend to kill. 2Es and I still have to publish our wedding photos somewhere, for chrissake. And I've got to get The Knot to start responding to my emails with more consistency. I'm not "done" done.

You know, a little under a year into The Groom Says, I contacted a wedding industry leader (whose assistance and support I've greatly appreciated over the last 24 months) about joining an elite club of wedding bloggers. She said, regretfully, that the group did not permit any male members because "the grooms tend to drop off the face of the planet right after their wedding." And I guess I can't argue with that principle ... except that I've seen just as many bridal bloggers put their blogs to rest post-wedding. I think it has very little to do with being a male blogger and much more to do with moving on.

"I think how much you enjoy your wedding
depends on how much you're involved in the planning of it." 
- 2Es

until then, readers, whenever that may be,
brian

September 19, 2011

Groom In-A-Box

OK, to be fair, I didn't realize that my most recent post and my three week absence made it seem like 2Es and I had been swallowed by Hurricane Irene ... until now.

Let's resume business as usual.

- - -

In my early teens, while I was climbing trees and raiding refrigerators and NOT having contact with women (late bloomer), my now-wife was having an affair ... with a rather complex stat sheet:

OCCUPATION: Pro Rodeo Team Roper
SKIVVIES: Briefs
PERSONALITY STYLE: Laid-back charm; old-fashioned values; well-mannered and quick with a compliment; kinda shy

This stat sheet doesn't just come with a man. It also comes with an owner's manual.


That's right, my better half was engaged in a pubescent relationship with Cowboy Clint, one of eight Boyfriends In-A-Box. Clint comes (as advertised) in a box. And he, like his fellow escorts Firefighter Frank and Athletic Al, comes with a list of vital statistics, a greeting card (which Clint himself signed), a flower sender's card (which Clint himself signed), three missed call messages (Clint is so sad he missed you a third time), and both a 5x7 and a wallet-sized photo.

Did I mention he's a cowboy?

He's a BF for the BF-less.

Collect all eight! Herpes not included.

Had it been me, I would have gone with Corporate Craig or Doctor Dave, someone who could provide for me financially at the fragile age of thirteen.

"Your Boyfriend In-A-Box is guaranteed not to lie; cheat; 
forget a date; be late; complain when you're late; flirt with 
other women; hog the remote; spit; insult your friends; grunt;" 
... and so on and so forth.

I guess what troubled me most, stumbling upon Clint's box when we purged our apartment this weekend, was the thought that I might not rise to the high standard that Clint has set. After all, why wouldn't she tell me about Clint before we got married? Why did I have to dig him out of some forsaken memory box and yank the truth out of her? How can I possibly compare to some man in a ten gallon hat and jean-on-jean who doesn't lie and never grunts. I grunt constantly.

OCCUPATION: Groom Blogger
SKIVVIES: Boxer briefs
PERSONALITY STYLE: Has obsessive-compulsive tendencies; no values or morals or ethics to speak of; eats with elbows on the table and loves a good smoothie; kinda weird overall

In short, I'm keeping a close eye on 2Es. The cat's out of the bag and Clint's back in the box. And, help me god, if he sends one more goddamn greeting card...

August 26, 2011

Crossing the Aisle, Vol. IX

We're gonna make this a quick one, kids, cause Irene is a-comin', and we need to get the hell off the Carolina coast.


So here's a few links to get through the weekend.


Groom-Friendly Designs on the Bridal Blogs

THE ULTIMATE SOUTHERN ESCORT CARD FINALISTS: HONEY BEE INVITES, PART II
via Southern Weddings Magazine
Despite my vegan lifestyle (or not despite, but rather contrary to that lifestyle), I have to share this escort card idea from Honey Bee Invites. Give the Southerners what they want: a big ol' piece of fried chicken.

(Also check out this entry in their Southern Escort Card contest: s'mores to go, with separate styles for the mens and the ladies.)

Groomsmen: reaching new heights ... via Sparkle & Hay

COMMENT ATTACHER UN NOEUD PAPILLON
via 100 Layer Cake
Even if you don't appreciate fine foreign cinema, you're likely to enjoy this mini French flick on how-to tie a bow tie.

Mid-wedding food truck break ... via Green Wedding Shoes

FAVOR IDEA: PROPOSAL FLIP BOOKS
via Aisle Say on Brides.com
Ok, so not a brand new idea (one that I mentioned before in my DIY Magazine article), but a new interpretation of it + a video to get the full flipping experience.

And because I have to...

NERD CHIC AT SECRET HEADQUARTERS
via The Knotty Bride
I posted about this earlier in the week, but I'm shameless: 2Es most recent engagement shoot was featured on TKB last weekend. Nerd chic. Video games. And a food truck devoted to bacon. It's not groom-approved. It's a groomgasm. (Groom orgasm.)

Stay dry, everyone.
-brian

August 23, 2011

Real Groom Issues: Proposal Pressure

Last Monday, my new friend Alison at The Knotty Bride brought up a "real bride issue": brides' satisfaction (or, in this case, dissatisfaction) with their groom's proposal. It's clear Alison's hit on a sensitive issue, one that 30+ women have weighed in on in the past week.

From Alison:

Were you absolutely thrilled with the way your marriage proposal went down? Were you in any way disappointed, but possibly feeling guilty about feeling that way? On the flip side, do you feel that there’s undue pressure on men to perform up to the standards set by videos you see showing incredible proposals caught on film?

The first two questions are important, no doubt about it, but as a groom blogger, I'm of course primarily concerned with the last. Are grooms under unfair pressure to deliver a kick-ass proposal? Do men need to plan and execute a proposal "story" worthy of years of bragging and boasting? I decided to throw my own two cents in -- plus give voice to some men who've been through the process. Enter Earl, Tim, Josh and Hunter.

EARL: We put so much pressure on ourselves, don't we? The proposal, the wedding, the wedding night, honeymoon, gift registry, seating charts and so on. Why is it that the Marriage itself seems so unimportant during all this activity?

Why do proposals matter to begin with? Well, popping the question kickstarts the wedding process, so that's part of it; and for some (women), it's a measure of how much your partner loves you. The trouble is -- can men actually buy into that philosophy? Does the size of our love correlate with the size of a ring, or the size of the proposal?

HUNTER: The proposal should be something that is a personal moment between you and your wife. It's not about impressing her; it's about making her feel like the most special person in the world. It's time to look inward and get creative.

Hunter's right. Or Hunter should be right. "Personal," "special," and "creative" seem like the right elements for a memorable event. "Impressing" should be an added bonus, right? After all, we can't determine what will or will not impress. We can't read minds, sadly.

TIM: [The proposal didn't need to be] hugely elaborate, but I felt like it should be something more than just a, "Hey, by the by, you want to, you know, get hitched?" I felt like it had to be a little more impressive than that.

JOSH: One kick ass proposal earns you a lifetime of points ... or at least a year and a half's worth. 

Our expectations (for women) and assumptions about those expectations (for men) are shaped by so many things, it's altogether impossible to create a rubric by which to judge proposals and thereby qualify them as good or bad, fulfilling or disappointing, impressive or ... less than so.

EARL: Just the fact that we deal with weddings almost every day puts added pressure on us both. We hear about proposals at every appointment. Brides love to tell their stories, and we love to hear them ... but it adds to the performance anxiety.

At a certain point, we men have to ask if women even know what goes into the planning of a proposal: the secrecy, the family approval, the cost, the ring, the timing, the logistics, the contingency plan, the (optional) recording of the event, and so on and so forth.

HUNTER: How long I spent planning the proposal is a joke in my family because I decided the day I was going to propose about 10 months before I did it. I wanted to do it on the 5 year anniversary of our first date in the fall ... but I decided that in January. Of course that had to be the year all my friends proposed, so Dana got to watch everyone else get engaged and wonder what the heck was wrong with her man.

It's not uncommon for women to pick a special date or occasion and assume that it's going to happen on that date -- telling their friends, I just have a feeling he's going to do it! (For our Legally Blonde fans, we'll call this the "Elle Woods syndrome.") This doesn't directly add to our stress, but it will inevitably fuck with our minds if things don't go according to the events as they play out in your head.

TIM: I also wanted to propose on New Year's Day.  That felt like a good day for popping the question.

Then there's added pressure from proposals popularized by YouTube, The Today Show and all forms of social media. If Ann Curry tells us it's romantic, we figure we owe our girlfriends/wives at least that much.

Throw in the nerves bit, and we've got all odds against us. The anxiety alone is enough to drive any sane person into a state of paralyzing terror. For several (or, in Hunter's case, 10) months, we've had this secret on our hands -- and this pricey piece of jewelry in our pocket -- and then we have to explain, in a matter of seconds, why we want to spend the rest of your life with you. That last part isn't hard, by the way, but it's comparable to writing vows. Times ten. You want those words to be stellar. You want them to be "personal," "special," and "creative" ... and perhaps "perfect."

EARL: All your partner really wants is the romance. It doesn't matter if it's a man or a woman. Unfortunately, romance is defined differently by every partner. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to find out what romance means to your partner. Easy peasy.

Peasy for some, not so peasy for others. Ladies know this: some men get romance, and others just don't. Some men know how to relocate a Starbucks interior to a wooded area to resemble a first date, and some can stage and choreograph a song and dance in the middle of a park in New York; other men, as one bride commented on Alison's post, will pop the question in the frozen meats department at Costco.

EARL: This was the second "trip" for Leslie and I both. Thank God her Ex didn't rent a hot air balloon in Paris and propose under the lights of the Eiffel Tower while Train performed "Marry Me" in the balloon with them. I went for the romantic spontaneous approach, I woke her up at midnight on our anniversary and proposed while she rubbed sleep out of her eyes.

Earl hits the nail on the head. Romance is defined by your relationship. And for those women who complain about a disappointing, disastrous, romance-free proposal ... did you expect more from your partner? Or did you simply want more from your partner? Did you want something you knew he couldn't deliver?

JOSH: I definitely [felt the pressure] ... but it was more pressure I put on myself. Honestly, pulling off a kick-ass proposal was as much for me as it was for Alyssa. You get one chance to do it, and now we both have this story for the rest of our lives.

HUNTER: She was of the mindset that, if I like it, then I should put a ring on it. Anything more was gravy. But once you make a turkey the gravy is easy and it makes it so much better ... OK, that may have been the worst romance analogy ever.

Of the four men represented here, one staged an elaborate get-together and dinner with both families; a second took his bride to Mexico for a surprise beach trip; another changed his plans last minute and popped the question on a bitter cold morning in Astoria, Queens; and the last shook his wife awake in the middle of the night. Each proposal is romantic in its own personal, special and creative way. Ask any of them (because I neglected to), and I imagine they'll say that none of their proposals were perfect by any means. But all had some idea what their partner expected and what "big gesture" they were capable of. And none of them pointedly blame their wives or women or wedding bloggers or even society at large for the undue pressure they may have been under.

So ladies -- from a man who's been there -- some advice:

(A) You know your man, so be realistic about your expectations. If his idea of a date is running errands and then going halfsies on a deli sub, then know that you may not get that hot air balloon ride over Paris.

(B) Tell your guy if you have certain expectations, like I would like my parents to be there when "it" happens, or I don't want it to be a big spectacle event.

(C) But don't make specific requests, not about time or place or execution. And don't hound -- it's not motivating.

(D) Heart > Theatrics

(E) And hey, if you have a specific vision about how things ought to play out, maybe you should forgo the traditional proposal and do what Gill and Justin did and propose to each other at separate times. It worked for them. Just requires a conversation beforehand to iron out the details.

If the proposal is in fact our way of showing you how much we love you and want to marry you, then let it be that: our way, inspired by you. Therein lies the romance.

- - -

THANKS to Earl, Hunter, Josh and Tim for their input
THANKS to Alison for the inspiration

- - -

to read more about the drama behind proposal planning,
read through my own proposal story:

August 22, 2011

Cufflink Winner + When Zombies Take Over Engagement Sessions

So I thought of a new engraving option overnight for the Cufflink Contest (remember: it was a 2-line limit, 15 characters per line):

blame it on the
a-a-altitude

OK, whatever, I'm in vacation mode.

Thanks to all who entered both here and on Facebook! I printed out all of the submissions, read them aloud at a poetry slam (yes, that really happened), and let the crowd determine the victor.

RUNNER UP

You're hot baby
My sleeves agree
- Teresa R

THE WINNER!

Note to self:
< 98.6 = zombie
- Beth L

So Beth (because slam audiences love zombies) gets two FREE Thermometer Cufflinks, c/o of BridesVillage.com. Don't forget to check out the other bride and groom gift options available on their site.

Side note: not all of BridesVillage's products have thermometers.

- - -

Also ... Teresa (honorable mention above) shared an awesome engagement shoot link that I could not help but re-share here. It's an instant Groom Says favorite because it challenges our expectations of engagement portraits ... and because it involves bludgeoning a zombie to death. 

And he JUST bought that suit, too.

So congrats, Beth! And congrats unnamed engaged couple ... for having a love that is stronger than the chokehold of the undead.

cheers
brian

August 20, 2011

Cufflink Contest + E-Session News

Alright, a couple quick notes from the east coast:

1. No pressure, but we've got some great entries for out Thermometer Cufflink contest, sponsored by BridesVillage.com. Leave a sweet idea for a personalized engraving (2 lines, 15 characters per line) on either the original post, The Groom Says Facebook page, or both!

Top the other entries, and you'll walk away with a kick-ass pair of these, customized with your smart-ass engraving:


Contest ends Sunday at midnight, PST. Winner to be announced Monday.


2. As many of you know, 2Es and I own and operate our own photography business (responsible for 95% of the images you see on this here blog), and we're thrilled to announce that our most recent "Nerd Chic" engagement session is featured on THE KNOTTY BRIDE this weekend. Check out the post HERE.

3. Oh, and scroll through recent posts to read through Justin and Audrey's French wedding recap (in two parts). English speakers welcome.

Alright, I'm on vacation. No one bother me.

Have a great weekend!
brian

August 17, 2011

Justin et Audrey: a one-of-a-kind French countryside wedding (Partie Deux)

The eight o'clock alarm sounded in all three rooms simultaneously, and the unspoken fact that we (we being three groomsmen and the groom himself) got at best 3-1/2 hours of sleep just hung in the air. We were visibly exhausted. I pulled Justin aside and told him, Don't worry dude. You are superhuman on your wedding day. You have the strength of ten men. Ten strong men. Not weak men like us. You're gonna be greatDon't fall asleep. My breath smelled like last night's canned beer.


Odin dragged me into the supermarché to grab a quick breakfast, and while we were in line, we put the finishing touches on our toast, which (because we're both creative individuals) had assumed a number of shapes, sizes, colors and one-liners over the last few weeks. We had decided that we would do separate rehearsal dinner toasts and a combined wedding toast, opting to keep the latter short and sweet. We finalized our plans, ran back to the car -- croissants in hand -- and headed up to the reception space.

Upon our arrival, Co-Best Man and I immediately got to work on the ceremony arch; we consulted with Justin on location, dragged our asses outside and got to work. Our onlookers on the other side of the barbed wire fence were pleased to point out our mistakes as we toiled over various lengths of white tubing.

wedding crashers 

It all seemed so manageable -- with the four of us plus Justin's friend Matt and Groomsman Vince pushing through the to-do list -- but at the same time, it was an insurmountable amount of work: decorating the arch; pulling the ceremony benches out of storage; jumping on said benches to plant them in the uneven ground; wiping the mud off of them after said jumping. And then ... setting up the keg. Arranging the escort cards. Folding menus. Preparing hors d'oeuvres. Fastening paper flowers to low-hanging tree branches. And so on.

And then, as it was just beginning to take shape, it began to rain.

I don't want to make it sound more tragic than it was. Bride and groom had been planning on rain for over a week now, so this was no surprise. But with the change in weather came an extended to-do list, which involved turning a reception space into a ceremony slash reception space.

[click to enlarge]
 Homemade details: escort card doilies; ceremony backdrop; hand-drawn, fold-out menus; gift (mail) box; and wedding favor name tags

I kept an eye on the clock and gave Justin a "hard out" time of 2:15, as we still had to return to Metz, freshen up, grab our formal attire and get back here before 5. We had 45 minutes in Metz, and in that 45 minutes, Justin and Baptiste would shower, I would iron (typical), and Odin would run over to the supermarché to pick up lunch, paper towels and soap. We had an agenda. And we had a very small window of time. 

More homemade details: a Polaroid camera w/ mini prints, literally dozens of disguises on sticks, and a guestbook filled with the best images and quotes imaginable

An hour later we were back in the car and back on the road and headed back to Saint-Hubert, where we would have about 20 minutes to complete the transformation from men to groomsmen, from "dude" to "groom." Odin and I stuck Justin in a room upstairs and then ran downstairs and through the reception space, through a throng of guests (all in formal wedding attire, all wondering what the hell we were up to) and into the bathrooms, which were also equipped with showers. We spent five minutes finding the light switch and another five just soaking ourselves with hot water. We didn't have towels (and the paper towels that Odin had purchased were still upstairs), so we dried ourselves with the clothes we were just wearing and then ran through the rain and mud (because now it was embarrassing to run through the field of guests, now that we were in undershirts and socks) and up to the second floor, at which point Justin brilliantly blurted out,

Thanks for showing up, guys. I'm getting married in 5 minutes.

[cliquez pour agrandir]
This collage does no justice 

But then it was strangely perfect again -- like the feeling I had walking down the streets of Metz at dawn, at once enamored with the scenery and at the same time fairly certain that I was going to get mugged. We were rushed and it was raining and our dress socks were caked with mud -- and crap, the snaps on these goddamn suspenders just won't snap -- but it worked. We were in this bunk room of sorts, with fifteen single cots topped with bedspreads and metallic "homeroom" lockers on the near wall. Six men (two American, three French, and one soon-to-be French-American) using each other as mirrors and fussing with the JCrew ties that Justin and I had picked out months earlier. In that moment, it just came together.


Justin went on into the space while the rest of us huddled in a room near the main entrance -- the bridesmaids, the groomsmen, and ring bearer Paul -- and fastened our boutonnieres to our suspender straps and then made our grand entrance ten minutes later. The procession was quick, and the officiant -- a young politician, hair cut short, wearing a sash -- asked us all to sit. I swear he said something about Charlemagne discovering Saint-Hubert but the rest went right over our English-speaking heads. When prompted, we passed their rings from person to person, holding them in our hands and blessing them while the ceremony carried on. And after the officiant read out the names and occupations of the entire wedding party, and once the dozen of us had signed a document that said -- well, I have no idea what it said, to be honest -- then Justin and Audrey were officially Justin and Audrey.

We had our hands in everything pictured here -- and no, we didn't wash them in advance

Mission number one was ensuring that J&A were not working during their own wedding reception, so Baptiste and I hustled into the kitchen and passed hors d'oeuvres and stocked the bathrooms with soap and towels while some burlier men figured out how to move the keg and Co2 indoors without disconnecting the cables.

We ate and we mingled and at some point Odin and Baptiste took off to pick up the pigs and returned 90 minutes later, having taken a wrong turn down a dirt road (no fault of their own) and then waited for the "pig man" to pull the pigs off the spit and wrap them in foil.

Even the vegan couldn't help but observe the cultural celebration that is the pig carving. You'll find the FOG in the background of the b&w photo above, putting his butchery skills to work.

We ate more and danced to primarily American Billboard hits. Toasts were made and champagne was had and cigarettes were smoked and Justin performed a three-song medley as a gift to his new wife. A cheese cart was wheeled onto the dance floor, along with some righteous cakes made by 18-year-old dessert prodigy Valentin. And at some odd hour of the morning, I assumed the role of DJ and got a small group back on the dance floor for the next couple (?) hours. Someone kept refilling my champagne glass, and I swear to god it wasn't me.

It could've been 4am when I called it quits; it could have been 6am. All I know is, Odin said I had this scary look in my eyes as I sat alone outside the bunk room. Of course, I explained the next morning, my BVC (blood viognier content) was through the roof

 première danse comme mari et femme

Descending the stairs the following morning, looking (I imagine) like a lesser and more hungover version of myself, I found an entire crew of people cleaning up the chaos from the night before ... the "crew" being a fourth of J&A's guests, some who had been up since 7A.M., and others like me who had been avoiding the inevitable and only recently rolled out of bed. I mumbled bonjour to a few people, found Justin, ate a banana and got to work again.

Over the course of the next few hours, we returned the space to its original condition -- as if we'd all done it a hundred times before. Then we all went outside and sat down at wooden tables (cows in moo-ing distance), set out glassware and china, and made a small dent in last night's leftovers. More toasts were made; costumes were donned; and we celebrated Baptiste's birthday in rustic style.

The traditional American "brunch" the morning after a wedding never seems deserved; a bunch of people who pigged out the previous evening agree to meet up ten hours later and pig out again. But this was different. This new family, loosely connected by Justin and Audrey, had labored for hours to restore order to the Saint-Hubert reception hall, and this was our reward. This made perfect sense.

la famille

Dishes were washed (again) and cars were packed and farewells were said, and we departed for Metz in the mid-afternoon. Odin and I threw our clothes into our suitcase and duffel bag, respectively, and Uncle Boobs accompanied us on the 10-minute walk to the Gare de Metz, where J&A were waiting for us. The five of us lingered on the train platform until the last possible moment, reflecting on a rather unbelievable week, and then we boarded and were gone.

Audrey's friend Carole was kind enough to lend Odin and I her pad for the evening in Paris. We took a short walk in the rain, ended up at a wine place, and I disappointed a waitress when I asked, in a further disappointing French accent, if we could have two glasses of the cheap one? I blew my last remaining euro on a large glass of something-or-other. Seven hours later, I woke up, showered, left the flat, boarded two trains and a shuttle, spent an hour with an array of French TSA officials, and made it to the gate with time to spare.

And on the eight-and-a-half hour flight to Philadelphia, when the sweet stench of garlic and red onions set off some kind of alarm and caused a premature landing in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean -- inflatable rafts and life jackets and all -- I knew that it was worth it.

- - -

Photos by Brian Leahy (obviously) for Joanna Wilson Photography

Groom-Friendly Giveaway: Thermometer Cufflinks!

If there's one thing men love, it's shiny jewelry ... particularly when that jewelry is functional. Real men call that "fashionable functionality."

So today on The Groom Says, we have a special treat for all the real men out there -- and for all the ladies who want to gift something to the fashion forward men in their lives. BridesVillage.com, a great resource for wedding accessories, has agreed to give one Thermometer Cufflink Set to one of our loyal readers.

(Yes, as in, there are thermometers in the cufflinks.)

(Yes, they are both working thermometers.)

[click image to enlarge]
"Wow, is it like super hot up here at the altar, or is it just me?"

The thermometers are mounted into polished silver sidewalls and are seriously bad-ass, technically speaking. And to top it off, the cuffs come with a silver-plated, lightweight polymer case that comes with custom engraving and is virtually indestructible. 

(Okay, I made up the "virtually indestructible" bit.)

The Groom Says: never lukewarm

To enter our GROOM-FRIENDLY GIVEAWAY, just leave a note in the comments section below and/or on The Groom Says Facebook page, telling us what you might engrave on the case. It can be humorous, sentimental, clever, offensive -- just keep it to 2 lines, 15 characters per line (letters and spaces are both considered characters). I'll be picking the best one from the bunch, and that person will receive a (wait for it) FREE pair of Thermometer Cufflinks (w/ engraved case) from Brides Village

So comment below AND/OR comment on the TGS Facebook page. Do both, and that'll give you two separate chances to win ... provided you come up with two awesome (separate) engraving ideas.

Go on. Get creative.

And once you've done that, you're entered! Reward yourself by checking out the variety of groomsmen gifts available on Brides Village ... like this 1GB USB Flash Drive Keychain (geek groom) or this Deluxe Travel Cooler (outdoorsy groom). I'll announce the winner on Monday, August 22nd.

Let the comment wars begin.

- - -


Groom-friendly giveaway courtesy of Brides Village. Contest ends midnight PST on Sunday, August 21st. In full disclosure, Brides Village has provided me with a pair of these sweet cuffs (pictured above) in exchange for this post ... so I know first-hand how bad-ass they are. They'll most likely make an appearance at the next Twitter "Meat-Up."

August 15, 2011

Justin et Audrey: my BM gets hitched in the land of wine and cheese (Partie Un)

On the eight-and-a-half hour flight from Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport to Philadelphia -- and on the subsequent five-hour flight from Philadelphia to LA -- my fellow passengers and I were consumed by the smell of garlic. I was immediately self-conscious but then thought, Wait, that's not possible. As promiscuous as this may sound, my hands had touched a million things (note I didn't say "a million people") between noon Friday and noon Monday: benches, mud, arugula, hors d'oeuvres, doilies, dish detergent, discarded doors, discarded veggies, two cats, two wedding rings, five Paris Metro railings, ten champagne bottles, dozens of TSA bins, and countless glasses of the most amazing viognier. The idea that I was the source of the smell was inconceivable...

And yet, the odor of a hundred peeled garlic cloves haunted me, stuck to me, boarded this Transatlantic flight with me -- Out, out damn garlic! -- along with just the faintest hint of raw onion. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's rewind a bit. 

- - -

Justin and Audrey met in a classic film poster and bookstore on Hollywood Boulevard in the spring of 2010; Audrey was visiting Los Angeles at the time with two friends from France. (Pas une coïncidence.) They played pen pals for several months, sending each other gifts and postcards and YouTube links, speaking occasionally by Skype at 2am PST. Shortly after 2Es and I tied the knot on October 2nd, Justin visited and soon after proposed to Audrey in France. And just over nine months later, the two were married (see J's hand-drawn invitation above) in the Moselle province in Saint Hubert -- a village just thirty minutes from Audrey's home in Metz. There is nothing traditional about their road to marriage, and (likewise) there was nothing traditional about their rain-soaked, homemade August wedding. 

As I mentioned in my rehearsal dinner toast, I've never known a bride to welcome two complete strangers into her apartment the week of her wedding, let alone allow them to dominate the living room. But because the French don't believe in stress (le stress), Audrey permitted Odin and I, International Co-Best Men, to crash on her spacious sofa and spare the expense of a hotel room. Occupying the modest apartment in the days leading up to her wedding were Justin, Audrey, Audrey's one-of-a-kind roommate Baptiste (who is both appropriately and inappropriately nicknamed "Uncle Boobs"), two Americans with little to no French under their belt, and Django. 

Django traded room and board for this photo shoot, which he later described as "suffisant"

I arrived a day later than expected due to an incident with a suspicious odor (no, not garlic -- sulfur) on the first leg of my trip. I met Odin at CDG; together we bused to the Gare de l'Est station and took the hi-speed rail to the northeast corner of France; and when we rendezvoused with the bride and groom on the Gare de Metz train platform, they led us down cobblestone streets between pre-war buildings to Audrey's 4th floor apartment. I unsuccessfully convinced myself that I was both alert and prepared for a tour of the city before passing out on the couch for god knows how long. 

Over the course of the next five days, Odin and I would discover the secret to the romanticized French lifestyle: bière et cigarettes at any given pub or restaurant, followed by a leisurely stroll (toujours avec la bière et les cigarettes) down worn and weathered alleys bathed in pools of auburn light, retiring no earlier than 4:30 in the morning and waking up no later than 8. Recovering from a trip to France involves a great deal of sleeping -- and no, it isn't the jet lag. 

We spent Thursday afternoon with les Américains -- namely, Justin's family from Maryland -- exploring the city, eating pasta, drinking beer, walking down the fleuve de la Moselle (the Moselle River) and through the Centre Saint-Jacques, and futzing with a life-sized chess board at Metz Plage, the city's "built-in beach" throughout the month of August. Then we scurried to La Brasserie FLO for the dîner de répétition, where the crowd was half American and half French, and where the intermingling of those distinct halves was prompted with flowing beer and wine. 

Bridesmaid Nathalie kickstarts the intermingling

I woke up the next morning at an unfriendly hour to an empty apartment (even Odin had scampered off somewhere), so I shaved and showered and dressed while Django terrorized a plastic hair band. Audrey and Justin returned to the apartment -- appearing somewhat frazzled for the first time that week -- and asked if I wanted to go with them. We were headed to their wedding site, though I didn't know it at the time. We raided a neighbor's refrigerator, packed the trunk and corners of the car and filled our laps with a month's worth of groceries, wine, a keg and a Co2 tank and drove half an hour outside of Metz to a farming village with a population of maybe eight. 

Justin and the Roquettes

The groom put us to work immediately and gave us various chores in the kitchen -- including but not limited to peeling, dicing, chopping, washing, cleaning, dressing, food processing and saran wrapping. 

Groom Justin getting his hands dirty -- and the remnants of his labor.

We would use a dish; we would wash a dish. Even the industrial-sized kitchen we had been blessed with was struggling to keep up with us. 

Odin prepping a monster bowl of hummus

unboxed shit. We put up signs. Audrey pointed, and we worked. 


In a matter of hours, we had turned a fridge full of groceries into five shelves of prepared dishes. 


At a certain point, Odin turned to me and said, "Dude, it's 9 o'clock." I almost said, "A.M.?" Bride, groom, co-best men and a few friends had worked for nine hours straight. Most of us didn't get out of there until 10:30 in the evening; Uncle Boobs stayed behind to arrange some architectural lighting in the space.

And it was right around then, or maybe on the drive back to the city, that I discovered what the whole Best Man thing (Co- or not) is all about -- realizing that it had so little to do with standing up at the altar, or about handing off the rings at the right moment. It's about rolling up your sleeves in the 48 to 72 hours before the ceremony and doing whatever needs to be done. It's about keeping the groom's head in a good place and keeping the mood light and the music loud. And it's about dragging the groom kicking and screaming out of the reception hall on the eve of his wedding when he says that he wants to stay for like two more hours and get more stuff done.

We went out that night, no surprise, and met Baptiste and Justin's friend Matt at a bustling pub near the town center. We closed the bar and got kabobs and (French) fries and meandered through Metz, which is both eerie and perfect at that hour. We came across a pop-up badminton game in a plaza and shot the shit until (again) 4:30 in the morning and toasted our friend with each round of beer. We sat on the steps of old buildings and discussed politics and economics and peed in the street, and then we put Justin to bed. He was getting married in twelve hours.

- - -

Stay tuned for Part II -- coming Thursday! Revenez jeudi pour la Partie Deux!

August 13, 2011

Proposal Vid Contest

There are just over two weeks left to enter Robbins Brothers' Share the Love video contest ... which rewards grooms who put a ring on it and have the video to prove it.


"For consideration, all contestants can submit their proposal video to Share The Love thru August 31. An internal panel of judges will select the top five videos which highlight an overall emotional connection to the video content, creativity with planning and executing the proposal and the recipient’s reaction."

So dig up your proposal video, gents. Or -- in the instance that you didn't film the big moment -- contact a local film director and promise him half of the grand that you'll undoubtedly win when he films your marriage proposal slash impromptu alligator wrestling on the banks of the "Amazon" River. Cut, edit and send before August 31st!

Visit Robbin Brothers' website for more details.

cheers,
brian

August 12, 2011

A Preview of Next Week (un aperçu de la semaine prochaine)

This past weekend, Best Man Justin became Groom Justin ... which means that I got to spend an amazing week in the northeast of France with some amazing people ... and it means that we've got a lot of catching up to do.

What's happening next week on TGS?

1. my best friend gets married (parts I and II)


2. we give away some sweet ass cufflinks

3. we meet this guy


4. we re-define the role of the (Co) Best Man

5. more business with my yankees hat [video included]

6. did I mention that sweet giveaway? [custom engraving included]

and

7. I get back in the kitchen ...


... where the husband belongs

See you next week y'all!
-brian

July 29, 2011

Crossing the Aisle, Vol. XIII

Just a heads up, boys and girls: The Groom Says will be on vacation next week. I'll be traveling to Best Man Justin's wedding in Metz in the northeast of France. Let's just call it research and leave it at that.

You should see the Best Man. (via Junebug Weddings)


Groom-Friendly Designs on the Bridal Blogs

We kick things off with a cool couple: Erin and Jason.

ERIN & JASON'S AUSTIN RECORD STORE ENGAGEMENT
via Katherine O'Brien Photography
Grooms gotta love this record store theme -- and Katherine's photos are stellar.

BBQ, ROCK 'N ROLL WEDDING
via Ruffled Blog
The only thing that can top a Texas record score engagement session is an outdoor, Texas BBQ wedding with musical icon table numbers. Check out the full gallery of images.

Old New York groom style ... via Green Wedding Shoes 

THE COOLEST GROOM BOUTONNIERES YOU'LL SEE THIS WEEK
via Austin Wedding Blog
AWB gives us a much-needed reminder that boutonnieres need not be boring.

And on that note...

Hand-sewn felt boutonnieres ... via Green Wedding Shoes

HOW TO: TIE A BOW TIE
via Southern Weddings Magazine
Terrified of bow ties, groom? You're not alone. Take a few tips from the ladies at SW Magazine.

This groom got mad style ... via Junebug Weddings


Have a great week next week, ya'll. Keep an eye out for updates from France!
-brian

July 28, 2011

Last Minute Groom Gifts (an abducted 'Ask the Groom' post)

Because The Knot hasn't yet realized just how lucrative this opportunity is -- to have an Ask the Groom column on their site where their 800 million+ brides can post questions about their fiance -- I've been forced to steal cries for help from their community message boards. Here's one from a troubled Knot user.


- - -

What the heck to get my groom?

My wedding is 12 days away. I have nothing for him. We agreed to spend $100 on each other a gift. I was set on doing a boudoir photography shoot! I (thought) I had a photographer, but she got shady and flaky and ended up booking up instead of returning my calls. Anyway, I have no idea what I am going to do now. Every other photographer I have talked to charges at least $250, and I just can't afford that here at the last minute. Ordering something online is kinda risky since we are so close to the wedding.

What did you get your groom? ANY suggestions? Anybody pull off their own b-pics?


     - lexa10, Alabama

- - -

Hi Lexa,

Congrats on the upcoming wedding! Clearly you're in crisis mode. Let's problem solve. 

To address that last question first -- I think do-it-yourself boudoir might be one of those things a person does because it seems like a great idea at the time but then regrets later in life (see: joint bachelor/bachelorette parties).

You don't have to look far to see where homemade, DIY boudoir has failed miserably in the past:

Don't make me show the other photo.

A spin on that idea, though, if you have your heart set on boudoir -- you could ask him to shoot it for you. He may not be Andy Warhol, but the final product won't be as important if he's the one behind the camera. I don't know any grooms who would turn down that opportunity.

But if you wouldn't let him hold your camera (let alone shoot with it), know that there are a million other options out there, and none of them involve shipping and handling. Also, don't give this gift any more weight than you already have. Your groom surely won't hold a grudge if, in the chaos of planning, you neglect to get him anything. You'll have plenty of time to make it up to him. 

Some ACTUAL suggestions? Ok, fine.

MAKER'S MARK HITS THE MARK. I know lots of brides go for the booze, and while I'm not a huge whiskey guy, I think a high-quality bottle (well under the $100 budget) is a swell idea. A shot before the big event is the perfect cure for a stiff, nerve-wracked groom. Attach a note that reads, Try to save SOME of this for tonight.

OFF-TOPIC. Don't do the socks for "cold feet" or the wrought iron ball-and-chain gag gift. Why? Because it's too on the nose, for chrissake. A gift like that says I'VE GOT WEDDING ON THE BRAIN. I'M CONSUMED BY THOUGHTS OF WEDDING. I HAVE NO OTHER ORIGINAL THOUGHTS. Try to get something off-topic; in other words, think of it as a "just because" gift: a book he's been talking about (or maybe one you think he might like); a sweet new piece of camping or hiking gear if you guys are outdoorsy types; or a man-centric magazine subscription. Or something unexpected but still "him." A gift like this says Who knows you better than me? -- as opposed to WE'RE GETTING MARRIED TODAY! ARE YOU NERVOUS?!?!?!?!?!?

A NIGHT OFF. As involved a groom as I was, the last two weeks of wedding planning was like a drawn out nightmare. Everything demanded our immediate attention. We had a to-do list that would seemingly double or triple in size overnight. Every so-called "spare" moment was reserved for a wedding-related conversation. So consider organizing a relaxing morning/afternoon/night off with your groom -- one in which catering emails go unanswered, seating charts aren't revised and conversations have absolutely nothing to do with the wedding. See a movie. Bar hop. Trapeze. Whatever you decide to do, chances are you'll probably enjoy this gift even more than he does.

- - -

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