The Groom’s Guide

Much has been written for and about brides and wedding etiquette, etc. Often times it is the bride and her family who do most of the planning for your wedding. But, as an involved groom, you can participate in the whole process. Your bride-to-be will surely appreciate any and all help you provide. The partnership skills developed between the two of you during this process will help you work as a team throughout your marriage. It’s also important that you both discuss finances, budgets, expectations, and preferences early on in the planning process.

Many grooms (and brides) have asked us a variety of questions regarding wedding planning. Here is an attempt to consolidate these and other issues specifically involving the groom.

The Ring

Probably the first thing you do as a groom-to-be is propose and most-likely give your future spouse an engagement ring. This can be done in many different ways, places, and methods. Only your imagination will limit how you actually pop the question. This is something you and your fiancé will remember your whole lives, so be creative. Note that you do not necessarily have to have a ring to propose. Some brides prefer to be in on the selection process and some prefer to simply have a wedding ring and not wear an engagement ring at all. Selecting the rings together will ensure you are both happy with the choices. Your finances may also dictate the timing of purchasing rings.

Engagement rings can be any size, shape, gem, and price. If you want a traditional diamond ring, check with local jewelers, etc. for choices. There are 4 Cs – cut, color, clarity and carat. Most jewelers will recommend spending about two months’ salary for a diamond engagement ring. But, some very beautiful rings can be had for much less (depending on the salary). You could spend anywhere from several hundred to many thousands of dollars. This depends purely on your choice and budget. There’s no need to go broke on one of the first items in your wedding planning.

The Expenses

The next big thing is to discuss the wedding budget and size with the bride and her and your family, depending on who is going to pay the bills. Clearly define who is going to pay for what and how much. Then stick to it. There is no reason for anyone to go broke for a wedding. First let us say that in today’s weddings, it is common for the bride and groom to help pay for expenses and if they are older and have been away from home for years, they may choose to pay for the whole wedding.

That said, if the bride’s parent(s) pay for the bulk and the budget goes down the older, more traditional way, here’s what the groom and/or his family would pay for.

  • the bride’s engagement and wedding rings
  • an engagement party (family)
  • a bachelor dinner
  • the rehearsal dinner
  • the groom’s attire for the wedding (tux or suit)
  • the attire for the groom’s mother and father
  • the bride’s bouquet
  • boutonnieres for the men in the wedding party
  • corsages for the mothers and grandmothers
  • the marriage license
  • clergymember’s or judge’s fee
  • a wedding gift for the bride
  • a gift for each of the groom’s attendants
  • accommodations for any of the groom’s attendants who have to travel from out-of-town
  • honeymoon transportation (to airport, etc.)
  • the complete honeymoon

The Attendants

One of the important decisions by the groom is selecting his best man and attendants/ushers. Rule of thumb is one usher for every 50 guests. You will then need to organize the attire they will wear (rented tuxes, etc. and go for fittings). Attire should be coordinated with the bride and the overall formality of your wedding. Generally, one of the duties of the best man is to return any rental clothing after the wedding. See Formal wear discussion below.

If you are asking friends/relatives who live far away, you should also provide for their lodging and perhaps help with other travel expenses. They, however pay for the cost of their wedding clothing.

The groom can also arrange for transportation to the ceremony and reception for the wedding party. Perhaps a limo. Coordinate this with the bride and the best man.

Some grooms have asked about the best man duties. Some can include:

  • Organizing bachelor party (or dinner, which is optional).
  • Paying for your own wedding attire.
  • Helping groom dress for the ceremony.
  • Making sure the groom, groomsmen and ushers are at the ceremony on time & dressed properly.
  • Driving groom to ceremony if need be.
  • Presenting envelopes (from the groom) with fees/tips for people like the officiant (just before or after ceremony).
  • Carrying the bride’s ring down the isle and handing it to the officiant.
  • Signing the marriage license, along with the Maid of Honor, as a legal witness.
  • Giving the first toast to the couple at the reception and reading aloud any congratulatory notes.
  • Dancing with the bride after the groom and fathers have danced with her.
  • Driving the couple to the airport or hotel if they need a ride on the way to their honeymoon.
  • Taking care of any tickets, keys, etc. the groom may need later.
  • Organizing the return of all rented formal wear.

The Formal Wear

While you can certainly get married in a suit you already own, some other dressy clothing, a military uniform or cultural clothing like a kilt, most grooms choose to wear something more formal, i.e., a tuxedo with all the trimmings. They can be single or double breasted. You can buy your own if you think you will have lots of occasions to wear a tux, but most grooms and attendants rent them. If you want everyone to match, and if a groomsman will wear his own tuxedo, the shirts and accessories should all be rented, since colors, styles, ties, studs and cuff links will vary. The groom/groomsmen clothing should match the formality of the wedding and the time of day of the wedding/reception. For instance, morning, daytime or early afternoon weddings may call for a cutaway or stroller jacket and striped pants instead of a traditional tuxedo.

A good men’s formal wear store is usually the best place to rent your wedding clothing, because they have large selections and sizes, can do quick alterations and can recommend appropriate attire for your situation (time of day and formality). The groom and groomsmen should be measured for formal wear three months before the wedding. It’s best to rent all clothing from the same store. Most stores you rent from will provide postcards with the brand name and style number of the tuxedo included for out-of-town men. Then, these attendants can visit their local formal wear store for measurements using the same brand jacket (most stores are happy to do this) and send the card to the appropriate formal wear store. Then, they should arrive a few days before the wedding and go to the tux store for fittings to allow time for final alterations. Jacket sleeve length and pant length are always altered. In general, the wedding clothing should be picked up 2-3 days before the wedding and everyone should try them on and be sure all accessories are accounted for. The rented tuxedos are a package deal, which means you get all the clothing and accessories for one price. Ask about other “specials”, like rent six and get the groom’s free or other such deals.

In formal weddings, everyone, including the fathers, wears the same formal wear. The accessories are what differentiate the groom and perhaps the best man from the rest of the bridal party. The groom can wear a different color or fabric on the cummerbunds, vests, suspenders and/or bow tie. He can also wear a hat, carry a cane or even wear a cape. The groom’s cummerbund or vest might match the trim on the bride’s gown, especially if there is rich embroidery. The pleats of a cummerbund always are worn facing up. A popular option is a colorful solid or patterned vest, which can also be bought as gifts, so the groomsmen can wear them again after your wedding. Some choose to have the tuxedos match, but all the vests be of a different design (they can be the same color), chosen by each groomsman to fit their personality.

The best man and groomsmen (and ushers) wear the same flowers in their left lapels. The groom’s may be a different variety or color. Or, instead of a boutonniere, you may prefer to tuck a pocket square in the jacket’s left breast pocket.

Formal shoes should always be worn with a tuxedo; heavy business shoes are not appropriate. Shoes may also be rented with the tuxes. Formal shoes are sleeker, lighter and generally a plain slip-on black. Socks should match the color of the trousers.

The shirt is traditionally pleated with a tuxedo, although there are also plain white, with or without the need for cuff links. Allow one-half to one inch of shirt sleeve to show beneath the sleeve of the jacket. Shirts can close with a stud or buttons, and the cuff links may match the stud or have some other design that suits the wearer’s personality. The collars can be wing, lay-down or stand-up. All are paired with a bow tie or ascot, except the mandarin-collar which has a jeweled-button closure.

Have each attendant come into the store to check the fit of his formalwear and all accessories. You can do this all together or separately, as they have time. The shirts should hug the neck and if it’s too tight, ask for a color extender. Pants should touch the top of shoes and break once about 5 inches above the ankle. They should be hemmed, never cuffed. Waistbands are generally adjustable. Jackets should fit snugly, yet have room to move comfortably with no bulges or buckled lapels. Jacket sleeves should end at the wrist bone and each have the same number of buttons. Be sure to check all rented clothing for stains, fabric snags, holes, or other damage before leaving the store. Then appoint an attendant (generally the best man) to return all formal wear to the store on time. This is usually done the first working day after the wedding. There is generally a penalty for late returns and perhaps an extra charge if the clothing is damaged or seriously stained (blood, grease, etc.). Most other food and drink stains, sweat, etc. can be dry-cleaned out and are considered normal wear. Be sure any deposits left are returned/refunded.

The Gifts You Need to Buy

The groom should give a gift to each of his groomsmen. It’s traditional to provide identical items to each, however the best man gets something extra special. And a ring bearer might need something less sophisticated than the other men. Some suggestions include: cuff links, tie clip or tac, desk accessories or name plate, leather or gold engraved business card holders, pen/pencil sets, letter opener, key ring, engraved picture frames, beer mugs, shot glasses, money clips, belt or wallet, etc. Or, things they can use up but are fun like: sports or concert tickets, restaurant gift certificates, movie theater or video rental certificates.

Some people have the groomsmen also usher people into the church, in which case the above ideas apply. Some people have separate ushers whose only job is to usher people into/out of the church and are not also groomsmen. They should also be given some token gift which can be smaller/less expensive than the groomsmen gifts if you like. Some of the above may apply, or perhaps cigars if they are smokers, perhaps a framed picture of the wedding party with them in it, or if nothing else, a boutonniere for their lapel and a thank you card later expressing your gratitude.

The groom also generally gives the bride a gift. Besides the obvious engagement and wedding rings, other gifts often include: engraved wristwatch, pocket watch, pearls, gold bracelet, necklace or earrings, locket, cuff links, jewelry box, money clip, two champagne flutes, a scrapbook filled with relationship and courtship mementos and photos, wallet, camera, leather passport holders, luggage, or music box. Some untraditional gifts can include season tickets to a favorite sporting event or to the theater or concerts, health club membership, sports equipment like skis or bicycle, etc.

The Guests

Both you and your bride (and perhaps her family if they are paying) need to decide on the number of guests who will be invited to the wedding/reception. Then, you can decide on how many will be invited from the groom’s side (family and friends). Guest numbers may be limited by the size of the reception facility. Once this is done, you need to compile the names and addresses of all the guests you will be inviting. This can be done with your parents also.

If the number of guests is greatly uneven (one side having many more than the other), you may want to make adjustments on who is paying for what at the reception. That is, if the bride’s parents are paying for the reception and her side has 20 guests and yours has 150, you and/or your family will probably want to help pay for reception expenses.

Another job the groom can help with is traffic control. Directions/maps should be provided to the ceremony and reception site(s). They can be included in the same envelope with the invitations. If either is held at a private residence, parking may be an issue. If shuttle buses or other mass transit are required, the groom can coordinate this.

If either of you have out-of-town guests, you can arrange for a block of rooms to be reserved. Coordinate this with the bride and perhaps the reception site if it is in or near a hotel.

Help the bride in writing thank you notes to your guests for the gifts you receive. Personal, hand-written notes are essential. Your guests took the time and thought to give you the gifts, so you take the time to thank them in a timely manner.

The Bachelor Party

Today, many grooms are opting out of the drinking/naked women version of the bachelor party. Instead, many go for camaraderie, like a sporting event, a golf weekend, or a black-tie only dinner in an elegant restaurant. Some have also opted to have a Jack and Jill celebration which includes both men and women. The bachelor party is usually hosted by the men in the wedding party, however if they do not live where the wedding will be held, or cannot afford to host it, the groom can decide to handle the event.

The Rehearsal Dinner

Generally, the rehearsal dinner is given by the groom’s family. If space and/or finances are limited, only the members of the wedding party need to be invited. But, the guest list usually includes your attendants and the spouses of married attendants (or live-in partners), the immediate family on both sides (parents and siblings and their partners), parents of children in the wedding (young children are optional), and the officiant and his/her spouse. Most people also include out-of-town guests arriving for the wedding (or plan some other function for them to attend the night before the wedding). If you want to expand it, you can include grandparents and special aunts/uncles too. The purpose of the rehearsal dinner is to have an opportunity to visit and relax with those closest to the bride and groom, so you can decide how many people that includes. It can be anywhere from a formal sit-down dinner to an informal buffet, or a backyard barbecue or lasagna party. This is also the occasion where most bridal couples give the gifts to their attendants.

The Marriage License

Virginia Beach Wedding License

Chesapeake Wedding License

Norfolk Wedding License

The Ceremony

Check all last-minute details with your groomsmen and family. Give the best man any envelopes for payment to the officiant, etc. after the service. Also give the best man the bride’s wedding ring to present at the ceremony. Go over any special seating arrangements for family members or others with the ushers. Double check that you have the marriage license (to be signed after the ceremony by the officiant and your witnesses).

Virginia ABC License

VA ABC License Information

The Honeymoon

Discuss with your fiancé where (and perhaps when) you should go on a honeymoon. Again, budget may be an issue. The groom generally pays for the entire honeymoon. Then, get busy with the arrangements. If going out-of-the-country, you both may need passports and/or visas and shots, etc., so plan ahead. Check with a number of travel agents for special, honeymoon packages at your destination. If renting a car at your destination, find out ahead if there are any restrictions (age, credit card payments, etc.). Some rental car companies will not rent cars to people under a certain age. Arrange for traveler’s checks and find out about ATM machines at your destination.