A new era of the hands-on groom-to-be

IN THE boom, brides planned their wedding.

It was a plush affair with chocolate fountains, and horse-drawn carriages. Many wanted something different, and better than their friends.

The recession has calmed things down with budget-conscious couples tending to share the load. And a new phenomena has emerged: the hands-on groom-to-be.

“Men are more involved, but that’s a good thing,” says Colette O’Leary of Elegant Events. “ Men are particularly good at negotiation. They’re good at saying, ‘If you don’t reduce the price we’ll move to another venue’,” she says. “The brides often just stand there, saying, ‘I want it, I want it, I want it.’

Rosemary Meleady of theweddingplanner.ie agrees. And with an average total spend per couple, of €24,000, negotiation is pretty important.

“Especially as couples tend to start out with a budget of around €15,000,” says Meleady.

Men, she says, now tend to make the initial contact.

“They jump in, call the venue, and start the arrangements, but two or three months before the wedding, they leave it all to the bride. In one case, where the guy had booked the venue, the venue rang the bride to check he had her permission. She laughed. She was working a 55-hour week, so hadn’t time to do anything.”

According to both wedding planners, the girly details, like the bridesmaids dresses, the flowers and decor, still tend to fall to the woman. But what happens when, for whatever reason, men have an input in all of the arrangements?

John O’Gorman, a quantity surveyor, 33, married 30-year-old Regina, a secondary school teacher, last December in Adare. Living in Perth, the duo had to delegate to their families, and to wedding planner Kate Deegan. But they kept very strict control of the proceedings. “We both love micro managing,” says John. “I didn’t want to leave the stress to Regina, but in a way I was greedy. I love organising and problem solving. We wanted a relaxed atmosphere. And we wanted, particularly, to remember those who weren’t with us.

“My grandmother has passed away, as has Regina’s brother. The priest brought it up at Mass, and I mentioned it in my speech. That was important.”

John organised the music — which included a quartet and a choir, and, for a bit of fun, he laid on a comedy act, the Celtic Singing Waiters, to perform during the meal.

He found an excellent band and, when it was time to vacate the ballroom at 1am, he had organised a traditional band to play in the bar, so instigating a sing-song.

When the couple first left Ireland, they lived in Hong Kong for a while, before moving to Australia, so the theme of the wedding was travel. The invitations looked like passports — the cake was a stack of suitcases, and they had a photo booth taking passport sized pictures.

Unusually, though, John got involved in an awful lot more.

“Regina wanted my opinion on the colour of her dress, and that snowballed,” he says. “I found myself sitting down with the bridesmaid’s fabric, checking the texture, and how it should be cut, and how it should hang. I had no wish to understand the art of dressmaking, but it made Regina happy to have someone to talk to about all aspects of the wedding, any time. I know she appreciated it.

“I don’t think the experience changed me, but I now realise how much planning goes into a wedding. And I think being so involved has helped the communication between Regina and myself.

“The experience has made me more conscious of the need to spend quality time with Regina. But has it made me more romantic? I don’t think so. I’ve always tried to be romantic. For our engagement we went to Hamilton Island for a week. I hired a helicopter, to take her for a picnic, and that’s when I proposed.”

Steven McGuill, who works in a phone store, married Ciara, a nursing home carer, on Sept 26, 2012. He had no option but to get involved, because he was chosen to appear on Don’t Tell the Bride, on RTÉ television.

“We’d had a wedding booked the previous year,” says Stephen. “But we cancelled when I lost my job. I like to organise, but we’re both very dominant. Organising a wedding together, we might have killed each other!”

The couple married with their toddler son, Jayden, in attendance. The first, planned, wedding was to have been at the Fairways Hotel in Dundalk. But Stephen, loves soccer. So he decided the ideal venue was Oriel Park, home of the local team.

“I wanted us to be married on the pitch,” he says. “But that plan fell through. Instead, on the wedding day a minibus took Ciara to the Dundalk Football Club.

“I had a dressing room done up with something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, and she changed into her wedding dress there. She was then transferred to Dargan Castle.”

Born in Glasgow, Steven wore a kilt, and the flowers included a thistle. He had no problem choosing a menu — turkey, with steak for the top table. But what was it like having to choose a wedding dress for his bride — as well as bridesmaids’ dresses?

“That was really difficult,” he says. “Especially the bridesmaids’ dresses. My budget — a total €10,000, was running out, and it was hard finding a dress that fitted everyone. We nearly went with a dress they all hated, but luckily, in the last shop, we found nice purple dresses.”

Ciara was thrilled with the castle, though she had initially wanted a church wedding.

“The only thing I regret, was that, with the wedding being so hectic, Ciara never got to dance with her father. And she never threw her bouquet to the crowd. I minded that more than she did. The worst thing was that, filming the programme, you have to spend three weeks apart. That was hard.”

What was it like, finding his softer side? “I don’t think I changed at all,” he says. “I was always soft, and Ciara would always have known that. Luckily, she loved the dress I chose. It was amazing to have been able to do that for her.

“Ciara has always known I’m romantic, but I think people watching the TV programme were surprised by my soft side. People have told me they cried when they watched it. They said it was so emotional.”

Dominic McNeill, 34, a marketing director, was always going to be involved in organising his wedding to Kathryn Church, 35, a lecturer and researcher, on Aug 21, 2010.

He’s a passionate party giver and as a student, organised underground parties for 400, which were sponsored by a Canadian brewery. But the wedding was very much a joint effort.

“We knew what we wanted, and what we didn’t want,” he says. “I worked in a posh club which was like an impersonal wedding factory. We didn’t want that.

“I’ve been to weddings where the couple were too stressed to enjoy themselves. I wanted ours to be a party. And I wanted it to reflect who we are. We brought in elements of our life together.”

The wedding was based in a marquee in the garden of Katch’s childhood home.

“My father-in-law, Michael, was the operations guy,” says Dominic. “Katch and I were the creative directors. We’d have a meeting with Michael every weekend, and review the plans and statistics.”

Dominic and Katch spent time in Swaziland. They loved Zulu music, and found an African choir who sang at the traditional village church. Dom, who is Scottish, wore a kilt and hired a piper.

Their first holiday together, back in 2002, was spent in Cuba.

“On National Day we were in a random village drinking real mojito with the locals. So we gave the guests mojito and Pimms when they arrived back at the house. It helped kick- start the party. And I gave the groomsmen Cuban cigars, instead of the traditional cufflinks.”

They had enjoyed time in Italy. In honour of that, they borrowed a Fiat Cinquecento, dating back to the 1950s.

“And we had Limoncello, a liqueur from the south of Italy, on all the tables,” says Dominic.

Dominic is aware how lucky he is, that Katch welcomed his input. “She’s cool,” he says. “I have friends who weren’t involved at all, because their partners had an idea of this perfect white wedding.

“The wedding day is the most important day of anyone’s life – and not just the bride’s. I’m lucky that Katch appreciated that.”


Yvonne Young, group assistant director of nursing, University of Limerick Hospitals Group and National Sepsis TeamWorking Life: Yvonne Young, group assistant director of nursing

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