Now the grooms are getting in on the planning
Groom-to-be Conor Healy has what he calls an "expansive" definition of "something blue."
"It all started because I said I wanted blue ties. But it was a lot harder than I thought to get a certain shade of light blue," says the San Ramon, Calif., banker, who has been eagerly engaged in every organizational aspect of his July wedding.
His fiancee, Heather Vilhauer, who likes the hue because it will match her groom's eyes, was amazed at his highly specific azure ambitions, taking him through multiple floors of Britex Fabrics in San Francisco to find the perfect shade. It was a decision that would affect the color of the dresses for the seven bridesmaids, two junior bridesmaids, and three flower girls, not to mention the table linens and decorations for their event.
"It kind of dominoed," he says, "so I get teased for therefore having chosen the colors and the flowers."
Indeed, such decisions usually are considered the bride's domain. Yet as relationships evolve and more couples pay for their own celebrations, the notion of the "bride's day" may be fading away into the figurative photo album of the past. Now, instead of just getting fitted for the tux and showing up on time, more grooms are helping choose the cake, the location, the music and more.
Many brides think it's a turn for the better, not worse.
"It's fun that he's so excited," says Vilhauer. "We talk through all these decisions, and it helps it go a lot more smoothly."
Jolene Rae Harrington of California's "Here Comes the Guide" wedding-planning resource says she's seen two major shifts in bridal decision-making.
"When I started 18 years ago, back when most parents were paying for weddings, the mother of the bride had a lot of influence," she says. "Then we started seeing working women showing their independence, and taking more control.
"Now, as relationships have evolved and both bride and groom are often contributing financially, wedding planners aren't dealing with the dynamic between the bride and mother or mother-in-law as much as a dynamic between the bride and groom."
Harrington has noticed that men are stepping up to the plate at bridal fairs, asking questions instead of grudgingly following their fiancées around, carrying brochures and samples.
She even had one groom who wrapped the Guide book in pretty paper and gave it to his sweetie at Christmas to pop the big question. "Using a planning resource as a way of proposal? That's a pretty good sign he's going to be involved," Harrington says.
Lisette Saavedra, who is marrying her best friend and "best thumb-war opponent," Anthony Spizuoco, in mid-July, says the shift toward mutual responsibilities may be a reflection of the way we operate in society today.
"Women are having increasingly important career lives, relationships are partnerships, and it's increasingly important to have a partner to meet you halfway on this aspect, too," says Saavedra, who works in property management. The San Francisco pair will celebrate their union with a barn dance and feast on a farm near Portland, Ore. They realized early on they needed to divvy up the tasks according to individual talents.
"Lisette is great at decorating and designing and working out the vision of the whole thing," Spizuoco says. "I have no concern about flowers, the colors. So I chose to work on the invites, I designed the website - my first time, which was excruciating, by the way."
They're also viewing the event as a way to express their own identities rather than follow a cookie-cutter scenario. A friend is officiating, they'll have a buffet-style country dinner, and the day before the wedding they'll get the keys to the barn to go in and decorate.
"Everyone in our wedding party is going to get in there and work on it, everyone's involved," Saavedra says. "I didn't want it to be my thing or his thing. We're basically throwing an epic party for our family and friends."
Most wedding planners see this as a good thing. Moira Gubbins, longtime owner of Parties, Parties, Parties in San Francisco, says most of her clients are in their 30s and 40s, well-established, and know what they want in an event.
"More and more, it's not the woman driving everything," she says. "Now men are into food choices and music. One groom I had recently remembered table linens from another wedding I did - they were an upscale gray, more masculine - and he reminded his bride of that.
"It used to be guys would only say what kind of beer they want."
Obviously, guys will be involved in wedding planning when it's a couple of gay men. Bernard Edward Burns and Michael Daw, of Oakland, were married at San Francisco City Hall in October, with an elegant luncheon reception.
"It was a mutual thing - I kind of had an idea of what I thought would look best, and Michael had the checkbook," jokes Burns, who works in the wedding industry designing bridal gowns. "I like planning things, so when it came time to put it all together, all I had to do was figure out the colors."
The pair worked with Chanda Monique Eddens, owner of A Monique Affair in Oakland, specializing in same-sex weddings. She always gets input from each partner but still thinks one usually leads the way.
"At least one person has been dreaming about their wedding day forever. I don't think that's ever going to change," she says.
To be sure, you can't underestimate the bridal veto power.
"All this said, as much as [grooms] are involved and owning part of the wedding and supporting brides as never before, the bottom line is that it's still ultimately the bride who decides," says Harrington.
"It's her fantasy wedding. You don't hear about little boys growing up dreaming of their wedding day. The bride's ultimately going to get her way."