'Groom's Instruction Manual' helps men avoid conflict during pre-wedding period

McClatchy-TribuneAugust 17, 2013 

“The Groom’s Instruction Manual” by Shandon Fowler.

Whether your wedding is large or small, there comes a time in planning where it may feel less like a momentous occasion with the love of a lifetime and more like a business venture that can’t possibly turn a profit.

This is normal, says Shandon Fowler, a “veteran groom” from Beaufort, S.C., who has written the “Groom’s Instruction Manual” published by Quirk Books.

Thankfully, as Fowler notes, a handful of remedies are built right into the engagement process to help ease this stressful time.

Getting schooled

Most people consider couples counseling to be for serious conflicts only. Yet, as you’ve probably read in just about every self-help screed ever published, the best way to solve problems is to head them off from the start. During an engagement, that means understanding what’s behind the feeling that you’re meant for each other.

If you’re getting married under auspices of your religious faith, said faith may require some level of counseling – either alone with the officiant or in a larger class filled with couples preparing for marriage. Whatever you do, it’ll likely be elementary and may occasionally seem bizarre, but you’re well advised to take the process seriously.

Not only will it give you insight into your relationship (How do you achieve balance as a couple? What do you expect from marriage?), but it may also give you more talking points the next time somebody asks you what you like so much about your fiancee.

If you plan a secular marriage, or if your faith doesn’t require any special counseling, you can still find professionals who will see you and your fiancee for a nominal fee. If you feel like you’re flying blind into impending marriage, this cash outlay could be money well spent.

Of course, if everything’s just peachy, don’t force the issue. Some people need counseling and know it. Some people don’t think they need counseling but do. And some people just don’t need it.

Keep the romance alive

When you’re planning an event for 100 guests or more, it’s easy to lose track of the “little things” – including the very precious love that brought you and your fiancee together. During the engagement, go out of your way to remind your fiancee of the passion and deep feelings that first sparked your romance.

Of course, if you’re the kind of guy who’s uncomfortable with words like “passion,” “romance,” and “deep feelings,” we can talk in more practical terms: You may reach a point in your engagement when your fiancee is so stressed out that she no longer responds to your romantic overtures. If that occurs, go out of your way to remind her of the passion and deep feelings that brought you together. Here’s how:

Go on dates. Spend some quality time alone together. Dinner and a movie, a picnic in the park, surprise skydiving lessons, even take-out Chinese food with a movie rental can fit the bill nicely. Make a promise to each other that you will not discuss the wedding for the duration of the evening.

Go out with friends. If you and your fiancee have been grappling with tough decisions mano a mano, invite a gang of your closest friends to blow off some steam with the two of you.

Give her massages. She’s stressed out. You have strong hands. It’s really not that hard.

Give her a day at the spa. She’s stressed out. You have weak hands but a strong credit card. It’s really not that hard.

Buy her flowers. Almost all women like getting flowers, especially when there’s no particular occasion, so order or pick some up and surprise her.

Consider dance classes. Dance lessons will get you in peak condition for the all-important first dance at your reception, and it’s impossible to go home from these classes without getting a little action.

Write your marriage vows

Most people opt to follow the traditional vows – to have and to hold, for better or worse, ’til death do you part, etc. But if you’re looking to fan the flames of passion, few activities are more effective than drafting wedding vows straight from the heart. If you and your fiancee want to try it, follow these guidelines:

Establish ground rules. Discuss what the vows should be with your fiancee and/or your officiant. A good rule to follow is to focus on your fiancee’s most positive qualities. Zingers like “I promise never to complain about your cooking” will not evoke riotous laughter when you’re standing before an entire congregation.

Write the words down. Even if you’re a state debate champion, you’ll never know how stressful it can be to stand at the altar (or under a huppah) with the rest of your life on the line. You may be convinced you have your vows memorized, but keep a hard copy in the inside pocket of your jacket, just in case.

Practice. You’ll be speaking the vows to your bride, but dozens or hundreds of guests will be listening right along with her. In fact, your officiant may even hold a microphone to your lips, amplifying the vows for the entire audience – so now is not the time to be stammering. By preparing in advance and reciting your vows at least a dozen times, you won’t find yourself tongue-tied on your wedding day.

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