Weddings are an exciting time. You may never look more dapper than when you’re wearing a tuxedo or a debonair, custom-fitted suit on your wedding day. And it’s likely that as beautiful as your future wife is, she may never look more beautiful to you as when she walks down the aisle.
It’s easy for you to picture that moment in your life but there’s a lot to do before you get to that point. The reality of planning a wedding is about to hit if it hasn’t already – that means months of planning, meetings with venues and vendors, and stress. Other than showing up, looking good, and saying “I do,” you want to know what your responsibilities in the wedding will be to make sure the big day goes as smoothly as possible.
Have no fear, this guide will show you everything you need to take care of as the groom. Word of warning though: this is only a guide and if your future bride wants you to take on more wedding responsibilities it may be best to provide your input on what shade of chartreuse would look best for the bridesmaid’s dresses.
Traditional Duties of the Groom
These are all the duties that are traditionally assigned to the groom. Assume that these are your responsibility. Some are obvious and some aren’t so obvious.
- Best Man, Groomsmen, and Ushers – This involves choosing your groomsmen, best man, and ushers. Think about all the great moments in your life and chances are that several of these guys were part of them. Choosing your best man can be a difficult choice to make but in the end, decisions have to be made. Not to mention it’s always possible to give some cool and unique groomsmen gifts to make everyone in your wedding party feel special. One thing to consider is the number of groomsmen you will have. The majority of the time this number is based on how many bridesmaids your fianceé plans to have on her side.
- Wedding Attire – Tuxedo or suit is a big decision to make and depends on whether you are having a formal wedding or a more relaxed ceremony. Selecting the attire for your wedding party is as important as picking your own wedding duds. There will be plenty of pictures taken before, during, and after the ceremony so make sure your best man and groomsmen are looking as GQ as you by investing some time in selecting the best look for them.
- Gifts – We know, you are the best gift your bride could ever hope for and she will tell you the same thing – but get her a special wedding gift. She will think more of you and her decision to marry you (if that’s possible) with a sentimental gift. Your boys can’t be left out of the gift giving either – make sure to get them unique (and ideally customized) groomsmen gifts that are not only cool but also functional. They’ve done a lot for you and likely sacrificed their own time and money to be part of your wedding so it’s only right to reward them with a gift. They will return the favor someday if they haven’t already paid it forward. Don’t forget the ushers either.
- Guest List – Deciding on who to invite to the wedding can be the source of a lot of strife. Do you want a big wedding with your third cousin twice removed invited, or a small wedding with only close friends and immediate family? Generally, the more the merrier but also the more expensive the wedding. Everyone attending your wedding is expecting something good to eat and drink to celebrate your nuptials with you and your new bride so consider cost if that’s an issue.
- Wedding Rings – The universal sign that you’re off the market is your wedding ring. For some men, this can be their only piece of jewelry that they own and intend to wear for the rest of their lives. There are a lot of decisions to make when it comes to your wedding band. The metal, width, and finish are a few of the variables in play when selecting the right ring. Do you want something traditional or more ornate? Do you need a ring that matches the wedding band of your bride? We‘ve all heard stories of guys losing their wedding bands. Don’t be that guy and take care of your wedding ring like your life depended on it because if you lose it you’ll never hear the end of it.
- Honeymoon – There you are sipping Mai Tais on a tropical beach or taking a dream trip across Europe with your beautiful wife. The two of you, alone in your own little piece of paradise. You can see it, smell it, and taste it but there’s a lot that goes into planning a honeymoon. Where, when, and how are all questions to be answered. Where will you go? Beach, Europe, or a big city are all strong options when it comes to a honeymoon. Another option many couples are opting for is called a minimoon where they stay close to home and take a more traditional honeymoon later, which is not a bad idea if extended time off of work isn’t possible or the money would be better spent somewhere else.
- Marriage License – Getting a valid marriage license is as important as anything you do for the wedding, including showing up. Without it, you might as well forget about your happily ever after. Every state is different so the best thing you can do is use the internet once you know the city, district, and county where you plan on getting married to find out where to go and what to bring with you to get the license. Timing is also something to consider. There is usually a waiting period before a license is issued and once you get the marriage license it’s only good for a certain amount of time.
- Bachelor Party – Let the fun and games begin. The planning of your bachelor party should never be the responsibility of the groom. If it is then you need to reconsider who you selected as your groomsmen and in particular your best man. While you aren’t in charge of planning your version of “The Hangover” you should provide your input. If you aren’t the outdoorsy type of guy then a weekend getaway to unplug in the wilderness wouldn’t be much fun. It’s also important to consider what your attendees would enjoy as well. Adult entertainers are always a possibility but you should clear it with your fianceé and the significant others of those in attendance. No need to end your marriage before it starts or cause others to get divorced in the name of holy matrimony. If scantily clad females are off the table then there are other options like taking in a game at the local ballpark, a weekend getaway to a nearby casino, a round of golf, paintball, and go-cart racing all followed by an evening of revelry at the local bars. The planning of the bachelor party and the planning of it should be the least stressful item on this list.
- Transportation – Getting your wedding party to the ceremony and to the reception (if necessary) falls on the shoulders of the groom. Not that you have to be everyone’s chauffeur, but making sure your groomsmen and ushers have reliable transportation is important. This is especially true if you chose to have your bachelor party the night before the wedding. Verifying the whereabouts of everyone involved on your side of the aisle may be a challenge. Once they’re located getting to the big event shouldn’t be.
- Greeting Guests – Everyone came to see you or at least you were part of the main event. The least you can do is smile and shake hands as you greet and thank everyone for attending your wedding. They thought enough of you and your wife to take time out of their busy lives to spend your big event with you. Make a conscious effort to be friendly and personable even if they only came for the free food and drink.
- First Dance – It’s time to put on your best impression of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire as you begin your life together with the traditional first dance with your new bride. If you aren’t a gifted dancer then try taking a few lessons with your fianceé before the wedding. This is a pretty cool date night and lets her know you care about your wedding…not a bad idea to put a few brownie points in the bank for later. As a couple, decide on the song and what type of dance you’re going to do then practice until you can’t get it wrong. You and your bride will look stunning as you lead her around the dance floor. Everyone will be watching you so put in a little extra effort in the preparation for this part of the reception.
- Groom’s Speech – The chance to thank everyone at once for attending your wedding while calling out a few specific people that are especially meaningful in your life, including your new bride is what the groom’s speech is all about. It’s not a presidential state of the union address so don’t make it more than what it is. The groom’s speech should be no more than a couple of minutes of sincere heartfelt thanks. Include members of the wedding party, the parents of the bride, your parents, siblings, and anyone else that has been meaningful in your lives. When to give your speech is up to you and your bride. Traditionally this has been at the reception after the ceremony and after the father of the bride’s speech.
- Cake Cutting – The standard photo op of all wedding photo ops is the couple cutting the cake together. This is often times right before they feed each other a piece of the cake and smearing a little frosting on the other’s face. We won’t get into the symbolism of the cutting of the cake and what it meant in the dark ages but couples do save the top layer of the cake and enjoy it on their first anniversary. The cutting of the cake is generally the last event of the night and lets guests know that it’s almost time to turn the lights out, the party’s over.
Besides these traditional groom responsibilities, consider other big decisions like choosing your wedding and reception venue, entertainment, and catering for the event. You may be able to leave these details to your fianceé, depending on how much input you both desire. Weddings, especially yours should be fun. Follow this guide and have fun planning it as well. Good luck and congratulations.
Eric Montgomery is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and served 7 years as a Marine Corps infantry officer. After leaving active duty he joined Bullets2Bandages, a veteran-owned company which sells personalized products made from spent military ammunition – like .50 caliber bottle openers, keychains, and customized tap handles. The success of that original company led to what is now a top supplier of unique customized gifts for the aspiring gentleman, Groomsmen Central.
Also published on Medium.