- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Some grooms are better than others. Some become groomzillas.

Groomzilla, of course, comes from bridezilla — pop culture’s word for those demanding, hypercontrolling brides whom wedding planners know all too well. More grooms than ever are asserting themselves in planning rituals, these professionals say.

Grooms in general no longer hang back about expressing opinions on matters that traditionally are the business of the bride-to-be and her mother. They tend to like “tasty” matters, such as testing options for food and wine to be served at the reception but opt out when it comes to managing the nitty-gritty details such as dealing with printers, caterers and the like.

Then there is the groom who goes the distance — and beyond. One fellow destined for the groomzilla hall of fame insisted on selecting the bride’s wedding dress.

Worse is the groom who came drunk to a morning ceremony and, after marrying his bride, took her out to celebrate and “let men hit on her,” according to Vickie Jackson of Dolphin Dream Weddings in Lahaina, Hawaii, on the island of Maui.

“The next day, she wanted to get the wedding annulled. However, Hawaii doesn’t allow those, so she had to wait and divorce him.”

Halfway to that dismal outcome is the groom who insisted on deciding the site, menu, wines, bar options, music, decor, wardrobes and choreography of the ceremony.

“He also increased the guest count without informing the bride,” recalls Patty Speirs of Every Last Detail Wedding & Event Coordination in Salinas, Calif. Also, when the bride went along, jokingly, by telling her fiance, “Fine, whatever you want,” the clueless groom replied in turn, “It’s your wedding, too,” Ms. Speirs reports.

This fellow might qualify as what Chicago planner Claudia Antony calls “a groom-dracula” — someone as rude and insensitive as he is demanding.

Perhaps such grooms think they are being generous, taking responsibility off their fiancees’ minds. The facts of financial life these days often have the engaged couple paying for everything rather than relying on parents. Often, it is the groom-to-be who insists on cutting back on costs.

“There are nice groomzillas,” Ms. Jackson insists.

One man secretly took care of all the arrangements for a surprise wedding in conjunction with the bride’s family. It was a highly unusual situation, says Ms. Jackson, who calls “horrid grooms” a minority.

The groom in this case, Jason Alvarez, a logistics-management specialist in the U.S. military, had known his intended for several years. Both had been married before and had young children.

“We both knew we wanted to get married to each other, but I wanted it to be special,” he says.

He asked her parents for their blessing and told them how the wedding would happen: an underwater proposal on one knee in scuba gear, with an engagement ring in a Ziploc bag and a note reading “Will you marry me? I love you.” Fortunately, she said yes - by nodding her head.

Mr. Alvarez already had planned a sunset wedding to take place barefoot in the sand at Kapalua Bay in Maui, had brought her wedding dress, his shirt and a family heirloom ring and had arranged a gourmet celebratory dinner - just the two of them - on the beach afterward. The bride’s parents were in on the arrangements from the beginning, as was the wedding planner.

Few grooms are as imaginative, however well-intended their efforts.

“The macho code has been that they can’t admit they’ve thought of their wedding day, even though they have,” says a sympathetic Katy Baker of Adagio Weddings & Events in Sacramento, Calif. “And they’ve been told that the day is all about the girl, and that’s so wrong. That’s too much responsibility to put on the bride. Weddings are about the bride and groom, so we need ways to celebrate the guys.”

Before meeting with any couple, she has the man and woman each separately make up a list of at least five things he or she always pictured being part of a wedding - and asks the groom-to-be for at least seven. As a result, “I’ve had karaoke, mechanical bulls, hot rods, bagpipes, kilts with no underwear and a few other requests that are not repeatable. All suggestions are on the table.”

“The point of the exercise is to give the guys a voice and get them to both look seriously at what they really want to see happen that day,” she says.

Rob Johnsen, co-founder of an online wedding-planning company (mywedding.com), was a self-admitted groomzilla when he married this past summer.

“We saw it as the opportunity to throw the biggest party of our life, so early on, we decided it was to be a 50-50 endeavor with both of us spotlighted,” he says, speaking for his bride as well and calling his role a “fun” job. “Another positive note is you learn decision-making as a couple.”

The couple used a wedding planner, “but it still was a ton of work,” he says. The planner was a necessity because his fiancee, a film producer, lives in Los Angeles and he lives in Seattle. They spend three days a week together.

Arranging matters on their own using the Internet proved a boon for Jaraame Beaupre, 26, and Michelle Plant, 23, both Washington-area management-technology consultants. Mr. Beaupre — who says he never found a good book for grooms and used brides’ advice books instead - and Miss Plant were “a team” who researched everything themselves before making their final choices.

The couple were married last month in Lovettsville, Va., in a stone manor house after looking at six sites, interviewing nine photographers and checking out seven caterers. They wanted a formal late-day ceremony and sit-down reception-dinner, and they wanted to keep prices down by cutting corners “without anybody noticing.”

“No way were we going to borrow for this,” Mr. Beaupre says.

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