We're now several months into our wedding planning, and everything is going beautifully. And by "beautifully," I mean nothing is being done at all, and I don't even want to think about it anymore.
Apparently I'm not the only one. The few times I've tried to get John to talk about wedding plans, a translucent, milky film comes over his eyes, like an inner eyelid, allowing him to sleep standing up.
The whole thing has been very frustrating for me, and it all came to a head one day while I was reading People magazine on the toilet. I flipped to the "Star Tracks" section and saw a little blurb about The Office star John Krasinski. He had recently become engaged to actress Emily Blunt, and the magazine wanted to know all about their wedding plans.
"Whatever she wants to do is fine," he said. "After all, it's her day."
That's what he said. "It's her day." Because that's how awesome he is. He was thinking about staying home and taking a nap, but, by God, if Emily wants to wear a pretty dress and pretend to be a princess, he'll take a quick shower and head down there. It's all about her.
And of course the magazine just gushed over his response, because not giving a shit is so romantic: "Wouldn't we all like a fiancé like him?" You bet! Who wouldn't want to plan their wedding with the groom sleepwalking through the whole thing, too weak to escape?
And that's when I realized something kind of, well...ugly. As much as we bitch about how indecisive and unenthusiastic our fiancés are about wedding plans, we don't actually want them to be involved at all. In fact, we do everything we can to exclude them. We get together with every woman we know—sisters, girlfriends, mothers, mothers-in-law—and we just commandeer everything, because men don't know how to do this. Oh sure, we've never planned a wedding either, but we'll do a better job because we have secret Wedding Hormones that are produced by our fallopian tubes. Men, on the other hand, have Dumbass Genes, and would wear a "Free Mustache Rides" T-shirt to the wedding if left to their own devices. The nicest thing they can do is stay out of it because, after all, it's our day.
So what do we want, anyway? Do we want our fiancés to be invested in a significant way? Or are we so addicted to the fairy tale that we don't want to give up a single decision? How can those two positions live in harmony? How can the guy ever win?
Here's the thing, Cinderella. It's not your day. It's your wedding. And unless you're planning on marrying yourself, that day belongs to both of you.
Yes, I know, your fiancé doesn't care. He shrugs his shoulders, he doesn't have a preference. He doesn't seem to want to make decisions. But why?
Personally, I think it's because he's terrified. Chances are you're already emotionally out of control and paralyzed with unrealistic expectations, so that piping up with the wrong suggestion now could be life-threatening. He's seen enough eye-rolling at this point to shift into self-preservation mode. It's safer to disengage than make a mistake.
Men have already had it made very clear to them that they just don't get it. And I'm not just talking about weddings. You see it over and over again in the media, particularly in advertising, where the stupid husband/sensible wife archetypes run rampant. He's an idiot who won't ask for directions, and she's the smart one who humiliates him at every opportunity.
To be fair, every stereotype builds on some real behavior that exists widely enough for us to recognize it. So I concede that there are men in the world who forget your birthday or think a vacuum is a great gift. But that's not every man. And even those who do make those mistakes are not oblivious to your needs all the time. After all, if he really didn't care about what you wanted in life, would you be marrying him?
But there's another reason men don't offer much in the way of an opinion, and it's actually much simpler: You're asking the wrong questions.
If you've been reading my column, you know that I almost swallowed my tongue when I found out how much our wedding was going to cost. When those quotes started coming in, I realized that the wedding we'd talked about was completely out of our grasp, and that we were just going to have to boil it down to a handful of things that were important to us.
I decided to ask John for help. I wasn't expecting much, but I had to try. I didn't want the responsibility of deciding what mattered to both of us.
I told him we had to make some choices. We just couldn't have it all. We couldn't afford the top venue and the live music and the great food and the spectacular honeymoon. So I asked him, "If you had to pick the things that mattered most to you, what would they be?"
I fully expected the glazed eyeballs and vacant stare; I thought he might even try the old, "As long as I'm marrying you, nothing else matters"—which is a lovely thing to say, unless you're saying it to get out of answering a question. But to my amazement, he immediately said, "The menu matters to me. And the music."
And at that moment I realized there are aspects of the wedding that really do matter to the man you're going to marry. Okay, maybe he isn't plugged into what the bridesmaids are wearing, and he's probably not going to lose it if we go with teal instead of cornflower. But holy crap, he has dreams, too. Maybe we should stop being princesses for five minutes and think about what would also make him happy.
The bottom line is, I don't want this to be my day. I want it to be ours. And that means I have to allow him to invest himself in the things that are meaningful to him. Maybe it's just the music, or picking the flavor of the cake. Whatever it is, give him that. Stop micro-managing the joy out of everything.
And the upside to all of this—besides creating something with your future husband, not just planning an event he shows up to—is that you don't have to do it all. The more you engage him, the more you trust him and allow him to participate, the more you can focus on things that have meaning for you. And everyone will be happier than you ever thought possible.
Except of course his mother, who will still think he's settling.
- April Winchell has been a talk radio host, a sitcom writer, an advertising executive and the voice of hundreds of animated Disney characters. In October of 2009, she created the hit website Regretsy.com, which led to the publication of "Regretsy: Where DIY meets WTF" in April of 2010. Even though she has been writing professionally since 1989, she still finds talking about herself in the third person really uncomfortable.*