The Five-Minute Rule

Why Men Can't Stand Wedding Planning

Thursday, February 22, 2007
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Five minutes. That’s the amount of time I can handle talking about my upcoming wedding without feeling like my head is going to explode. Don’t get me wrong — I’m entirely interested and want to be involved in the process, I don’t have the slightest symptoms of cold feet, and I pride myself on being helpful, especially when it comes to such an important day in my life. But there’s something about talk of water glasses, seat cushion colors, cupcake displays, table widths, Chinese lantern lighting, and appropriate party favors — matches or magnets? — that sets my head a-spinning.

And it’s not just me. I’ve checked with my cousins and close friends who’re getting or recently were married, and they say the same thing: five, maybe 10 minutes, and that’s it — the head explodes. Why is this? Why do men have trouble dwelling on particulars and napkins, specifics and fork types?

We — well, my fiancée — have been planning for at least six months now, so I’ve had ample time (certainly more than five minutes a day) to dwell on the details. My initial assumption was that men have a hard time investing so much thought and energy into what will be less than eight hours of our lives. Sure, it’s a day to remember forever, but it’s still just a day, and it goes against masculine common sense to invest so many more hours of time and precious brainpower — let’s not even get into money — in a mere blip on the radar screen of life. But that answer wasn’t satisfying. Something deeper is going on.

So I did some Google-ing in search of “wedding groom counselors” and “wedding planning nightmares.” All I found was groomzilla, so I searched “groomzilla opposite.” No dice, though I did find one article that suggested today’s weddings were such a far cry from the way things were done until the 1950s, the time when individualism of each sex started to take hold and love, rather than economic or social motivation, became the reason for matrimony. Author Stephanie Coontz wrote: “Marriage is now based on the love of two partners who have an equal say in determining how their commitment will work. As a result, constructing a marriage is now a more personal undertaking — but it is also more precarious.” Makes sense, I guess, but it doesn’t really answer my central concern of men versus women in the wedding planning realm.

And then, last Thursday, we went to see Saral Burdette, our celebrant. (And perhaps the first part of the planning process I thoroughly enjoy because, I think, we’re finally dealing with the spiritual, meaningful meat and potatoes, not the actual, physical meat and potatoes.) Toward the end of our two-hour meeting, I brought up my problem, wondering if she had any insight after 14 years of officiating and more than 700 weddings. Not surprisingly, she did.

Burdette explained she’s read a bunch of recent brain research that shows men are more task-oriented, as in, “Tell me what to do and I will do it.” (That would explain my standing offer to handle all the wedding planning in the span of one week.) But women’s brains work on a wider level, allowing them to see the big picture — the forks, the seat cushions, the coffee cups, the seating arrangements, the flowers, the lighting — all at once. So when it comes time for the lady to talk to her gent about the myriad aspects of planning, her knight in shining armor turns into an exploding pumpkin. (And then his princess devolves into stressed-out bridezilla.) He, on the other hand, is perfectly capable — and even better, Burdette has read — at getting single tasks done efficiently and quickly. But only one at a time.

She suggested brides might have an easier time hashing out details with their girlfriends, rather than irritate their grooms-to-be with nightly details. But Burdette also advised it would behoove my fiancée and me to set up a particular day of the week — such as Tuesday — and plan for an hour of chatting about the wedding. At least then I can prepare myself.

Most of all, though, Burdette explained the whole wedding planning process is a true rite of passage, a lens through which the rest of our lives together can be seen. So if we can get through this without my head exploding, then, it appears, we can make it through anything. Bring on next Tuesday.

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