Wedding Advice for Newly Engaged Couples: Brian Leahy of the Groom Says

How long after your got engaged did you begin planning the wedding?

As soon as I put that ring on her finger – even on the plane ride back from Europe — I could see those wheels turning, visions of theme and décor dancing in her head. (And, of course, she’d made several versions of our guest list months before.) So I asked her if we could take a week to simply enjoy our engagement. One week to be an engaged couple without all that bothersome wedding planning looming over us.

But even a few hours into our week of “wedding planning celibacy,” [Editor's note: Heh.] I could sense something was wrong. She yearned for the budgeting, the organizing, the stress, dress, the cold sweats at night. So I went out the following morning and bought my little masochist as many wedding magazines as I could find. That was probably the best decision I made throughout the planning process.

How did you determine the wedding’s budget and who contributed what?

2Es worked out an initial budget, but it had ridiculous goals like “spend $100 on flowers” and “find a dress on Craigslist.” I wasn’t going to let that happen.

So instead we set a ceiling – a number that we didn’t want to exceed – and by the time the wedding rolled around, we’d pretty much hit that number. Thankfully we had both sets of parents contributing to the big day, so we didn’t have to take out a loan or sell our asses on the streets of Los Angeles (and yes, in some areas my ass does sell better than hers. [Editor’s note: West Hollywood, I presume?]).

Could you share some wedding planning advice for newly engaged couples?

You are not obligated to abide by any tradition (bouquet toss). You are not obligated to play any song (the Macarena) or serve a particular course (cake). This day is yours, wholly and undeniably, so make it yours. Make it unique and personal and let it resemble who you guys are as a couple.

My sister called after the honeymoon to thank us for not hosting the typical, tired, traditional wedding. She told me how much she appreciated the decisions we’d made and that the event reflected both of us. It was that obvious that we had both contributed to the final product.

Where did you splurge and where did you save?

We splurged on food, no doubt about it – not that we had a choice… catering ain’t cheap. About 75-85% of our guests were coming from out-of-state and spending quite a bundle on flights and accommodations, so we wanted them to feel taken care of. Food and booze were both plentiful, both at the rehearsal dinner (at The Smith in Manhattan) and the reception, where we did a buffet-style dinner.

Could you share some wedding day advice for newly engaged couples?

You know, all of our married friends warned us that our wedding day would fly by, so we were prepared for that disappointment. Oddly enough, our day tiptoed by. We checked the clock at one point, assuming the reception was almost over, and it wasn’t even 10pm!

To avoid the fly-by wedding, do two things. First, surround yourself with people (your wedding party, your day-of coordinators) who can handle problems when they arise without asking you how to address them. And secondly, do a series of walk-throughs with your fiancé/fiancée so that you’re both knowledgeable about the day’s events and what’s expected of you. Otherwise you may find yourself stumbling through your own wedding, putting out fires and wondering what happens next.

Could you share your favorite photo from the day and tell us why you love it?

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Image Courtesy of: Noah Devereaux

This photo represents two things: (1) all of the elements that were working against us in the week before the wedding, and (2) the fact that none of our guests noticed or gave a crap about any of it.

Having planned our wedding from across the country, we paid a quick visit our ceremony venue on the Tuesday before the big day and stopped dead in our tracks when we turned the corner. The streets were in trenches – wide, unattractive, 20-foot-deep trenches. In fact, the entire city of DUMBO (a trendy little neighborhood in Brooklyn) was gutted in an effort to resolve some sewage issues (yum), and our venue manager (another source of major contention – too complicated to delve into here) hadn’t thought to inform or warn us of the construction taking place JUST outside our door.

There was a moment of stress, tears, hair-pulling, cursing at the top of our lungs… which turned into laughter. It was maniacal laughter, sure, but laughter nonetheless. Sure, the walk from the ceremony venue to the reception loft (a gorgeous 3-block stroll down cobblestone streets and beneath the Manhattan Bridge Arch) had been compromised with barricades and exposed pipelines, with machinery and mounds of dirt.

But it was out of our control. What was in our control was going to be amazing – that we knew. And what wasn’t in our control – well, we decided to officially not give a shit.

It’s no surprise that our guests didn’t care either; our parents were supportive; and my father-in-law offered to make a sign out of cardboard as a means of addressing the giant green dumpster in the room as opposed to hiding or ignoring it. He also wanted to wear a construction hat to the wedding, but we put a cap on that idea [Editor's Note: Party Poopers].

The sign itself – with “construction” misspelled and the corrective duct tape – is just the icing on the cake.

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Thank you, Brian! Your wedding must have been so awesome and incredibly personal. And thank you for sharing your great advice about holding out for the wedding that you want – sometimes, in all the planning, that can be the hardest thing to remember.

Would you like to ask Brian any questions about his wedding experience? Leave a comment and we'll try to get back with you! Check out The Groom Says for some laughs and inspiration and be sure to follow The Groom Says on Twitter.