In 1992, a day off usually meant crushing malt liquor cans into the living room carpet while my roommates helped me polish off a case of the cheap stuff.
Other items on the agenda: food and beer runs to the corner convenience store, occasional bouts of drunken idiocy and a revolving kaleidoscope of sports TV and weird comedies. Imagine throwing three silverback gorillas into the same cage with a keg.
It was beautiful. It was chaotic. It was not, however, the substance of which bridal dreams are made.
So how is it that on a Saturday in January I found myself with a bridal magazine in hand, taking notes on which flowers would set the tone for my October wedding?
Nobody who knew me 16 years ago would have predicted I'd be spending my weekend this way, contemplating how many harvest wreaths would be overkill at the reception. Not even my guy friends who have walked down the aisle could have guided me down this flower-strewn path. Their advice: Show up on time, nod in agreement when your future bride declares a preference for a wedding day detail, and keep your head down. Make sure there is beer in the fridge and a copy of Fight Club nearby to throw on the TV in times of estrogen-laced emergency (read: when you have to do anything involving the wedding in any manner, i.e., actually helping to pick out your own tuxedo).
For my married friends, the foxhole attitude seemed to work out well. As one buddy once joked with me, "As the groom, you are an important part of the wedding day. So are the bridesmaids' dresses."
I cannot lay credit or blame for my current state of affairs upon my fiancée, Erica. She has never laid a guilt trip on me — nor would anyone who knows us use the word "henpecked" to describe our romance.
No, the truth of the situation is far more jarring. While working through this comparison of my past and present self, Erica has pointed out the most difficult of realities to admit: I was the one who wanted the traditional aspects of a planned wedding in the first place. While her anticipation has grown after finding a ceremonial location that she truly likes, she would have initially been just as pleased to run away one weekend and elope. The push toward a location, lists and the lot was mine, and mine alone.
Since our November engagement, I have had a hand in more of the planning than most grooms can claim, or would even desire. I came up with ideas for the flower arrangements — warm harvest colors mostly, but we're not going for a "barn dance" theme here. You have to be careful with orange. I suggested the maid of honor's sash color (golden green), and my mother's dress shade (blue, to go with her eyes), and the men's suits for the wedding party (black with neutral silver ties to accent the light hints of blue in Erica's gown).
And though it took a few weeks for her to scout the wedding location I thought she'd like, Erica quickly proclaimed the Valentine Richmond History Center "the place" after her visit.
I suppose my current role as "wedding planner/groom" emerged from my choice to go into the field of art and design in the first place. Terms such as "visual balance" and "juxtaposition" rarely go hand-in-hand with the stereotypical male role. And, in the end, I know that "just showing up" is not what Erica would want from me. My efforts at photography, the portrait I painted for her 30th birthday and the plant bench I made to encourage her burgeoning interest in gardening — these are the things that have made my future bride happy. My hope is that what I can offer to the wedding will do the same.
So onward to tuxedos, to centerpieces, invitation designs and to the dizzying array of catering possibilities. While I cannot claim to be in league with Project Runway 's Austin Scarlett (who has now gone on to a lucrative career designing wedding gowns), somewhere down the line I have become one of those guys who actually knows who he is.
Still, I do have concerns about where this sort of involvement in planning could lead. Oh, God … what if I have a daughter? What if I find I have a knack for organizing a "sweet sixteen"?
Damn, where's my Fight Clu b DVD?