“What do you think honey; white oriental lilies with white roses; or red roses with baby’s breath?”

“It’s a difficult choice — what do you like most, ” he says, taking his own very long and deep breath.

It may not be a hard choice but already the groom has won some brownie points with his fiancee by showing interest in the bouquets, and helping to plan their wedding. He could have said “I don’t know”, which loosely translates to: “I don’t really care about that stuff, baby. Whatever you want.”

This scenario is one of many typical wedding planning conversations, and the groom’s response will almost certainly reveal his real care factor to his bride-to-be. “She’s not really looking for your opinion, ” Mark Connelly writes in his book, The Last Decision You’ll Ever Make. “She’s already formed an opinion, which will be the ultimate decision. Your question just shows the small amount of interest, which is all she really wanted from you.”

It sounds easy; and planning a wedding can be relatively smooth sailing if it’s done with good communication and some humour, so the whole production isn’t taken too seriously. This can also help prevent a fire-breathing, control-freak of a bride. “If your partner is stressed, annoyed, or upset with you for other reasons (which, of course, she will not tell you about) then you can be sure that anything you say will be given the worst possible interpretations, ” Connelly notes in his groom survival guide.

“If your stressed bride insists that ‘there’s nothing you can do’, ask her calmly if she can show you her to-do list. Go through it with her and I’m sure you’ll find a few things you can handle.”

One of the major catalysts of a wedding downfall is the dream that nothing will go wrong. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the wonderful, ” Connelly says. “There is this image of a perfect wedding and that’s where you get caught up, where every little detail has to be right and if something goes wrong it ruins your whole day.”

Connelly, 34, is a lawyer turned writer who is also a campaign director for the online community-based organisation GetUp! Australia. An American now based in Sydney (he’s married to an Aussie), he says his own wedding planning started within 24 hours of his proposal to Charmayne.

He says while the book is prone to exaggeration, irony and parody, it’s not an idiot’s guide to planning a wedding but rather a tongue-in-cheek look at very real and common wedding scenarios that normally arise after a man pops the question. “It’s not all puppy dogs, rainbows and sunshine. If I had written a book on the basis that guys were really into their wedding, this would be a bit of fiction, not self-help, ” he says.

“The old tradition of the bride’s family taking care of everything, while that still happens, is less and less frequent, and that means guys are getting pulled into it a lot more and we basically have no idea about anything.

“When I went to look for what books were out there, it was more for traditional weddings geared towards women; and what was out there for guys was written by the same people who wrote the traditional wedding books. I didn’t think there was anything written for men and to men.”

There’s no use of the term “bridezilla” (Connelly doesn’t believe in it), and he says what is far more useful is why women are getting more stressed. “What if they’re acting differently or acting upset, what are the causes of that, ” he says. “She is trying to put together a massive event, while probably working at the same time and having to deal with her family on an intimate basis ... and if guys can understand that a bit and can try and do things to help understand; and instead of saying ‘she’s a bridezilla’, doing something to make things better.”

The Last Decision You’ll Ever Make is not the kind of guide that needs to be read from start to finish; its light-hearted approach allows an easy flick through with certain chapters becoming more relevant as the preparations roll along.

Starting with The Proposal: The Last Decision You’ll Ever Make, the 16 chapters cover everything from The Ring: The “Fifth C”; to The Reception: The Most Expensive Party You’ll Ever Have; The Folks: Parents Just Don’t Understand; The Big Day: Too Fast, Too Furious, and finishes off with The Rest: You’re [email protected]$#ing Kidding Me, There’s More?

Unless you plan (and have the funds) to have a $1 million wedding like Brad and Jennifer, or Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ $2 million bash at a 15th century castle in Italy, the chapter on The Budget: And You Thought Lehman Brothers Was Bad, will give practical hints on how to watch your dollars so your budget doesn’t double.

To help blokes understand the significance and importance of the wedding, Connelly has littered the book with pop culture references, including one from Fight Club for the bucks’ party — The First Rule of Bucks’ Night Is ... You Don’t Talk About Bucks’ Night. The Second Rule of Bucks’ Night Is ... You Don’t Talk About Bucks’ Night — as well as The Godfather, Seinfeld, When Harry Met Sally and The Wedding Singer. “That’s how guys think and talk. If you’ve ever been around a table with a bunch of blokes, it’s mostly about pop culture, ‘Oh do you remember that thing from The Simpsons, or did you see Family Guy last week’, or they will quote some line from Top Gun completely out of context, ” Connelly says.

“The great advantage Australians have is the tradition of taking the piss and not taking yourself too seriously. It’s not things going wrong at your wedding, it’s your attitude towards it.”

Mark’s survival tips

- Don’t do anything that would be done at a child’s birthday party (theme cakes, magician, clown, pinata, pin the tail on the drunk uncle, etc).

- It’s your wedding and what anyone else did or wants you to do doesn’t matter.

- Don’t write your own vows. Often, self-written vows sound like lovesick high-school students practising metaphors for English class.

- If you get a chance to do a tasting with your bride, jump on it. You get to try a bunch of different food and get credit for “being involved”. Don’t forget to sample the wines, too.

- If you treat wedding planning like a war, it will feel like a war, especially with an “us vs them” mentality.

- Be sure to select groomsmen who will look out for you, run interference and take care of things you don’t want to deal with on the wedding day.

- If you need wit or wisdom to polish up your toast, a quotation or a line from a poem is a fine way to go. Just don’t make it too sappy or generic.

- It goes without saying that neither you nor your bride should be slobbering drunks at your reception. It douses the mood just a smidgen.

The Last Decision You’ll Ever Make $24.99, Allen & Unwin 


© The West Australian

More wedding inspiration at The West Australian Wedding Guide.


First published in The West Australian March 5, 2011.