Beliefnet

This is the second installment in an engagement-to-wedding journal by Michael Kress.

I am about halfway through what will be a 13-month engagement, and I have not yet booked our honeymoon, chosen what my attendants will wear, or arranged transportation for our "officiant," as the wedding magazines refer to our rabbi. That makes me a bad groom, or at the very least an ineffective or apathetic one.

But of course, these judgments come only from those same wedding magazines, which still see the wedding as the purview of the bride. In this world, the groom is relegated to acts directly related to him--that he therefore has a clear interest in, such as choosing his attendants--or that divert him with honeymoon planning and arranging the limousine, neither of which is central to the big day itself.

It's eerie how uniform the wedding industry is in perpetuating these strict and outdated gender roles--from the magazines to the caterers to the salespeople in Macy's houseware department. Word to Modern Bride magazine: My male friends and I cook, plan to share parenting duties equally, and even talk about our feelings. Don't you think we might be interested in the biggest day of our life thus far?

I knew the problem was insidious when I bought a copy of the book "Inviting God to Your Wedding," written by Martha Williamson, creator of "Touched by an Angel." Imbuing our wedding with a strong dose of spiritual meaning has been a constant refrain of mine since before we were even engaged, but I've found it's easier said than done sometimes. I thought the book might help. Flipping to the table of contents, though, the final chapter's title caught my eye: "A Few Words to Men," written by the author's husband. Et tu, Martha? Apparently, spiritual meaning is also the bride's primary terrain, with the groom neatly packed off to Chapter 29.

Believe it or not, I have opinions about my wedding: what it will look like, what it will feel like, how it will be presented, what will be said and who will be saying it. The same goes for what my home will look like when Stephanie and I set up a household together. I will eat on those dishes as much as my wife will. Shouldn't I care what those dishes look like or whether our pots and pans suit our needs?

I can't say that Stephanie and I are clones when it comes to interest in wedding planning, but our division of labor (and interest) doesn't break down along classic gender-role lines; ditto for most of the couples I know. Sure, she may be more interested in flowers than me, but I was more of a driving force behind our desire to get married in a synagogue, rather than a catering hall or hotel ballroom. (Jewish weddings can take place anywhere, not only in a house of worship, but it was important to me to stick with a synagogue for ours.) Each of us may be involved in various parts of the wedding planning to different degrees, but this variation reflects our unique individual interests--not someone else's ideas of what men and women should be like.

And even when it comes to those things that one of us takes the lead in, we both remain involved to some extent. Stephanie is not about to surrender all honeymoon planning to me any more than I am going to ignore catering-related decisions just because of prescribed gender roles.

I'll admit that my opinions about such things as floral arrangements are neither deeply held nor well-informed. I look at sample centerpieces, liking some and disliking others, without any measurable level of passion. One thing I do know, though, is that I don't appreciate it when vendors talk right through me, as if I had no interest in the wedding details and would be odd if I did.

I know there's a basis for the wedding industry's obsessive focus on the bride. It has for generations been the case that the bride and her family planned, paid for, and hosted weddings. And grooms have not had a shining record in participating in wedding planning. Most have probably not cared to do more than plan the honeymoon and their attendants' tuxedo styles. But the world is changing. Grooms' families tend to share at least some of the wedding cost, often a large chunk or even half of it, and today's men are increasingly involved as well.

The world may not have veered away from the traditional model entirely, but there's no doubt that it has changed noticeably in recent years. It seems strange to me, then, that those involved in the massive wedding industry have not seemed to budge at all. So make way for the groom: I need to weigh in on china patterns and floral arrangements before I have the time to mull over liquor choices at the reception or our rabbi's mode of transportation.



I'll admit that my opinions about such things as floral arrangements are neither deeply held nor well-informed. I look at sample centerpieces, liking some and disliking others, without any measurable level of passion. One thing I do know, though, is that I don't appreciate it when vendors talk right through me, as if I had no interest in the wedding details and would be odd if I did.

I know there's a basis for the wedding industry's obsessive focus on the bride. It has for generations been the case that the bride and her family planned, paid for, and hosted weddings. And grooms have not had a shining record in participating in wedding planning. Most have probably not cared to do more than plan the honeymoon and their attendants' tuxedo styles. But the world is changing. Grooms' families tend to share at least some of the wedding cost, often a large chunk or even half of it, and today's men are increasingly involved as well.

The world may not have veered away from the traditional model entirely, but there's no doubt that it has changed noticeably in recent years. It seems strange to me, then, that those involved in the massive wedding industry have not seemed to budge at all. So make way for the groom: I need to weigh in on china patterns and floral arrangements before I have the time to mull over liquor choices at the reception or our rabbi's mode of transportation.

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