Groom’s Guide: Wise Guys
Insight from grooms who stepped up to the wedding-planning plate and lived to tell the tale | By Dan Engler
The goal for our July 30, 2005, wedding at the Central Eastside Industrial District’s Studio Ten-Fifty (defunct) was simply to throw a smashing party with as little pretense as possible. I booked a photographer and spent hours ripping CDs (remember those?) to the iPod, but my principal planning task was stockpiling beer in our basement. Each time I hit Fred Meyer I’d fill a cart with whatever brew was on sale that week. By the time the wedding rolled around, there was a beer mountain as tall as I was, which we then stuffed into every car headed to the venue. It was also 90 degrees and the AC couldn’t keep up with our guest list, so all those icy foamers paid off in spades.
It’s impressive, I know, but it turns out I’m not the only Renaissance man about town. I spoke to three grooms who also rolled up their sleeves, got to planning, and actually enjoyed themselves in the process. I mean, why let Bridezilla have all the fun destroying the nuptial Tokyo? These are their stories.
My wife, Hannah Aultman, and I got married May 26, 2013, at Mt Hood Organic Farms—I was in charge of the band, booze, and buses, among other things. Wedding planning means making a bazillion decisions you’ve never had to make before and may never make again. It’s basically attempting to go through a 500-item checklist without slaughtering each other in the process. Hannah wrote our list on a big sheet of poster board that she hung on the wall and nicknamed the Eye of Sauron, because it was always staring at us anywhere in our apartment. Luckily I’m good at helping people make decisions—I’m a management consultant, so that’s essentially my job. In a certain sense I treated my wedding like a work project and my wife like my client. She was busy with med school, but the perfectionist in her still wanted to nail every detail. So what I could do was go out and learn as much as possible, and then come back and say, “Here are the best options and here are the tradeoffs—what do you want to do?” I just really wanted to be helpful more than anything else.
I also wanted to be involved in the things that really mattered to me. I’m an avid guitar player, so booking a tight band was important, and I wanted them to have a repertoire that stretched from the mid-’60s to the ’90s. Out of the approximately 70 Northwest bands I looked at, Pressure Point Band really popped, so we booked them ASAP. I also wanted my friends to dance, and the critical ingredient is definitely alcohol. We got a couple of kegs from Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River, my mother-in-law picked out a few wines, a favorite bar helped us choose two signature cocktails (Pimm’s Cup and a cranberry lemon drop), and we stashed a bottle of scotch for Hannah’s dad and a bottle of gin for mine. Most important, we stocked twice as much as we expected people to drink to make sure we didn’t run out. I then arranged the transportation (First Student school buses—they were the cheapest, had the most character, and let us bring booze onboard) because I wanted to make sure everyone could let loose without having to worry about driving.
All planning aside, as soon as your wedding starts you should get out of the way. Your vendors are pros (like the fantastic Kelly Wilde of June Lion Photography), your friends are your friends, and at some point you just have to trust these people to do what you asked them to do. They may even surprise you in great ways. Pressure Point let me get up and play lead guitar during “Mustang Sally,” which I hadn’t expected but was a total blast. —Peter Maxwell
Our October 26, 2013, wedding was at Postlewait’s in Canby, but my wife, Morgan Yost, was living in Seattle for most of our engagement, so it was natural for me to take on some local tasks, like checking out venues and meeting caterers. (We picked Cha Cha Cha! because the owner, Javier Hurtado, was so helpful and accommodating of our budget. Our guests still rave about the food!) It wasn’t “You’re going to do this and I’m going to do that,” it was “We’re getting married in six months, so what needs to happen and how can we help each other?” I wanted to show Morgan I was capable of doing things as a team, because that’s what we’ll be doing for the rest of our lives.
That said, having dabbled in photography myself, our wedding photographer was a very important choice for me. We went with Bryan Rupp, who’s a personal friend, but we also knew his high standards would meet our own: images that reflected the personality of our wedding (simple, colorful, community) and would still look classy 40 years from now.
In addition, I really enjoy creating and crafting things, so I built yard games like cornhole and a variation of skee-ball with pipes and tennis balls, made signs out of reclaimed wood for things like our menu and key locations at the venue, and assembled a photo booth: I hung a decorated-sheet background, stuck a camera on a tripod with a big studio light behind it, and attached the remote trigger to a long wooden handle so our guests could click the button themselves. Wedding planning can be stressful, so it was therapeutic for me to work with my hands a little bit.
Everybody has a little something they can contribute to the process so that inevitably the wedding will show off who they really are. That’s the natural outcome when you look at the people you know and the things you know how to do and translate it all into a wedding rather than picking a wedding and asking, “How do I fit myself into that?” —Brian Zaro
One reason I was as involved as I was in my August 17, 2013, wedding was that it took place at my house. My dad has a small vineyard, Cubanisimo, near Salem that I helped with while growing up. I’m proud of it and knew it would be a great place for a party (they do private events for non-family, too), so despite the fact that my wife, Casey Calhoun, and I live in New York and 95 percent of our friends are on the East Coast, I persuaded her to take advantage of the free venue with views of the Willamette Valley and Mount Hood.
Overall, it’s not so much that I was in charge of certain things as we just did it together. To my mind, it’s way more foreign to think of a life event that big and take a backseat than to be very engaged. But one of the things I did “head up” was contingency-plan tenting. I’m a type-A personality, so I did extensive research (looking at lowest price, ability to cancel last-minute, familiarity with the venue, etc.) and got input from my dad and our wedding planner, Nadya Ly of Creations by Ly, to go with the Party Pros. Ly actually gave us many great vendor recommendations, like the economical First Student school buses for transportation (they aren’t air-conditioned, so I’d suggest putting cool fans in your hotel gift bags) and our photographers, Joe Rumore and Britney Gardner of Turn Loose the Art. I way underestimated how important professional photography would be. What with guests’ cameras and iPhones, I figured our wedding would be memorialized every which way to Sunday. But not only were the pro photos fantastic, Joe and Britney were wonderfully calming.
I also helped organize the rehearsal party at my mom’s place in nearby Dallas. It was a big country-chic BBQ for everyone, with hay-bale seating, food from Washington Street Steakhouse & Pub, and a band, the FlexTones. It was definitely great, but as someone who also hosted white-water rafting and golf during his wedding weekend, my advice is to focus on balance to ensure you have enough energy for the wedding itself. —Maurice Collada
A Few (More) Good Men
“Initially I was a little resistant to engagement photos (cost, seemed unnecessary), but when Jessica had me think of inspiring locations, I mentioned the Maryhill Overlook in the Columbia Gorge—as an architect I’m always drawn to striking landscapes and structures. Bryan Rupp’s pictures ended up being beautiful, unique, and very us. Since then, Jess asked me if I wanted to design our save-the-dates and invitations, and I was emphatically on board.”
Drew Hastings—will marry Jessica Snyder August 23, 2014, on Mount Tabor
Dream a Little Theme
“One day we were joking around about ideas for the wedding and I said, ‘What if we did a Harry Potter theme?’ As things moved forward, we realized how fun and unique it could be (e.g., liquid luck shots at each seat), but we kept it subtle so that guests who didn’t know Harry Potter would think it was just part of our overall outdoor/rustic vibe.”
Max Tidland—married Elizabeth McCoy June 22, 2013, at his family’s farm in Camas, Wash.
“I spent a day in our Northeast Portland backyard branding our initials into chopped wood rounds that we then featured throughout the wedding, like on the program table and bars. My wife designed the metal brand, and I used our chiminea to heat it up.”
Joe Rogers—married Roz Ramberg August 10, 2013, at Peterson Farms in Woodland, Wash.
Simple by Design
“Unbeknownst to us, the date we picked for our elopement was Presidents’ Day (and we had already booked our Maui honeymoon tickets), so the courthouse was closed and we ended up renting the upstairs lobby at the Gerding Theater. It was just the two of us (plus our friend/officiant, photographer Leah Verwey, and a Gerding manager/second witness) in a moment that went exactly as we hoped it would. Then we hopped over to Higgins for burgers and beer.”
John Patrick Pullen—married Jenni Husen February 13, 2013, at the Gerding Theater at the Armory