Wedding Planner for Guys

Like a 'Nam flashback, it was a savage little scene that left me jangly and tense, even now. I was at the mall laying in a few Super Bowl party supplies -- tub o' dip, banjo, jodhpurs, toilet plunger, paintballs, a live chicken, the usual -- when I was nearly decked by a woman storming out of the stationery store. She was scanning a checklist with such intensity I expected her to reach the bottom then eat it, lest it fall into the wrong hands.Behind her, caught in the undertow, bobbed some hapless geek, a sheen of sweat coating his forehead, his eyes wild and spooked, roiling orbs of white surrounding a pinprick of pupil. From his tortured posture it was obvious his spine was shattered in several places and only the ferocious iron will of the woman kept him upright. As they passed, he perceived my pity and silently mouthed the words, "Shoot me."Just another happy couple in the throes of wedding planning.January being the traditional month for such things, I soon noticed the mall was swarming with similar couples. The betrothed. Men, broken and weepy, desperate to just go home. Women waving their Home Shopping Network diamond chip engagement bands at anyone crossing their path, all the while fuming that they're unable to find a company that will release white doves outside the church that just don't fly around willy-nilly but hover overhead spelling out the word 'Forever.' Is that too much to ask, for cripe's sake?!There was a time when engaged men were not involved in anything post-proposal that didn't involve kegs and strippers. The bride-to-be, her friends, her mother and other assorted allies established a NORAD-style nerve center where all reconnaissance, infiltrations, rentals and place settings were plotted out to the last detail. Anyone who couldn't grasp the ramifications of organza or the significance of a trousseau were denied access.But through the gradual Oprahization of society, men are now often expected to pitch in with energy and ideas. Shoot me.This in no way should be viewed as a knock on marriage. Marriage is dandy. I've been at it twelve delicious years. When you find someone wonderful, hang on like a summer cold. This is a swipe at weddings. What was once a lovely spiritual ceremony rooted in tradition, has fallen under the sway of the floral-catering-gown design industrial complex, which is ruled by an evil cabal of aging cover bands specializing in "Captain and Tenille" medleys.As someone who's been through it and survived, allow me to offer a bit of advice to my bewildered brethren. First, early on in the planning process, volunteer to help. But do it in such a way, that if the bride-to-be is drinking a beverage when you extend said offer, it sprays out of her nose and she begins coughing like Keith Richards before his wake-up smoke, then she just stares at you, mouth agape.It's an old married man's trick. When you really want to weasel out of doing something, appear eager to participate, then screw it up beyond recognition. After you do laundry and her favorite Donna Karan silk blouse comes out looking like a mini-dress for Barbie, you aren't asked to do laundry again.Same with the wedding planning. If you volunteer to hire the bouncers or organize the mud wrestling at the reception, you'll be banished -- gently, with thanks -- from the inner sanctum. At most, you might be given some token task to keep you busy and out of your intended's hair. You might be asked to find a photographer. How tough can that be, right? Hint: don't skimp.Peruse the phone book for a legit photographer with references. Don't hire some bartender you know who has a Polaroid, a police sketch artist who's moonlighting, or like I did, a children's photographer because he worked cheap. Which answers the most frequently asked question of anyone glancing through our wedding album, "Why is everybody on a pony?"Don't make people take a number before entering the receiving line, even if it does mean speedier service. At the reception, don't act disappointed when nobody pops out of the cake. It's not that kind of cake. During the toasts, don't try to get a "chug, chug, chug" chant going.And don't repeat my mistake when it comes to the gifts. I was unaware of the whole bridal registry deal, so we're tearing open presents and we have all these dishes that are exactly alike, and I'm screaming about this freaky coincidence. "What are the odds?" I quiz my wife repeatedly, "What are the odds?"Twelve years later and she still hasn't let me forget. But really, what are the odds? The whole Flinstone set, even Dino.

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