By: Richard Zafrani

So you’ve asked the girl of your dreams to marry you and now your life is in pre-wedding mode. While you may be wondering what married life will have in store for you, you probably already realize that just about all the wedding preparations revolve around the bride. For most grooms, that idea that monumental decisions about the dress, the makeup, the flower arrangements, the hairdressing, the menu and the tablecloths will be made without their input, is just as well. But on the other hand, if you think that you have no more to do than throw on a suit, show up on time and sign on the dotted line, you may be in for somewhat of a surprise.
Of course you’ve already gotten through the hard part – finding the right bride – but there’s still much more to get done before you begin your happily ever after. So for all you neglected grooms out there, use these tips and reminders to help make the road from engagement to wedding as smooth and glitch-free as possible.
Don’t Wait ‘Till the Last Minute
The wedding itself can’t take place before the scheduled date (as much as you’d sometimes like it to), but most of the preparations that are often forgotten until the last minute can certainly be made ahead of time. These include:
  • Appointing a master of ceremonies
  • Selecting the two witnesses
  • Asking the kohanim of your choice to come up for the recitation of Birkat Kohanim (the priestly blessing)
  • Inviting distinguished guests up to the huppah to recite berachot
If you backup your favorite CD’s and important data, then you’ll certainly want to back up some of your wedding essentials in case something happens to the “original.” Some of those essentials, of course, have no substitute, such as your bride (and mother-in-law…), and bringing along an extra ring is probably too costly an insurance plan. But obtaining an extra ketuba, for example, is definitely a good idea. You’ll also want to have a list of alternates in place in case one of the witnesses or people selected to recite berachot can’t make it, or don’t show up on time.
Bear in mind as well that although many jobs can be performed while under the weather, this is not the case with hazanut. Have a backup plan in case your hazan wakes up that morning with a sore throat. At very least, ask the DJ to bring along a recording of the traditional hymns so he could play them if the hazan puts himself on the disabled list.
The same goes for the band. Take the time to prepare at least a couple of hours’ worth of your favorite songs on mixed CDs or an ipod in case your music pros don’t show or experience technical difficulties.
Stay Tuned
Even if you’re getting married on Sunday, traffic is always a concern. During the week before the wedding, you might want to tune in to the news occasionally to check out for threatening weather forecasts, major sporting events, rallies or marathons that could affect you and your guests’ travel plans on your wedding day. Alert all essential personnel (close friends, relatives, rabbi, witnesses, photographer, hazan, band, etc.) of possible delays and urge them to allow plenty of extra time.
Essential Wedding Kit
Spices, wine, glass to break, tallit; all of these essential items used during the ceremony fall squarely in the groom’s domain (though often the caterer provides the wine and the glass). Assign a friend or family member to bring and/or arrange for these to be in place well before the ceremony. You’ll have enough on your mind that day.
Don’t “Repeat After Me”
It’s the most important part of the wedding ceremony, and probably the most important part of the wedding, but many grooms don’t think about it until the rabbi dictates the text to them under the canopy. Make the most important verbal statement of your life sounding like a pro by learning the text of “Hareh at mekudeshet…” (the betrothal declaration recited before giving the ring or coin to the bride), well in advance until you know it as fluently as the lyrics to “Happy Birthday to You.” Don’t be intimidated – it’s just Hebrew: “Harei at mekudeshet li bitaba’at zu kedat Moshe ve’Yisrael,” (if you use a ring) or “Harei at mekudeshet li bekaspa haden kedat Moshe ve’Yisrael” (if you use a coin).
You also want to make sure you understand what these words mean, being that they are what turns your fiancée into your wife: “You are hereby betrothed to me with this ring/coin, in accordance with the law of Moshe and Israel.”
Get to know as well the text of “Im eshkahech” which the groom traditionally recites before breaking the glass. You can look it up in Tehillim (137:5-6): “Im eshkahech Yerushalayim tishkah yemini. Tidbak leshoni lehiki im lo ezkirechi im lo a’aleh et Yerushalayim al rosh simhati. – If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right [hand] be forgotten. Let my tongue stick to my cheek if I fail to bring Jerusalem to mind at my time of joy.”
Glass Chards Can be Painful
Speaking of breaking the glass – make sure it is wrapped in a thick napkin before you even think about stepping on it. You want to spend the next few hours using your foot for dancing, not watching a doctor surgically remove pieces of glass from it. (We’ve all heard the stories…)
Left Speechless
Even if you have no intention of including toasts at your reception, you should prepare a few remarks to your guests anyway. This way, you won’t look like a deer caught in the headlights in the event someone toasts you and you feel compelled to say a few words of your own.
Protect Your Gifts
Many brides and grooms spend a lot of wedding planning time on registering for gifts, and guests spend a lot of money buying those gifts. Keep your gifts safe! Any thief can recognize where and when a wedding may be going on. Some couples hire security to watch the table on which the gifts are placed. If you don’t want to go this far, at least place the gift table in a high traffic area, and assign a friend or family member to take all the gifts to a secure location.
Friendly Words of Advice for Your Friends
It’s a great idea for the guys to bring you a drink during the dancing to keep you fueled up. But alcohol dehydrates, so tell them to stick to water. Also, every drink should be accompanied by a napkin to wipe up spills. It just takes a little bit of water to turn a dance floor into a skating rink.
Chances are your friends are already planning to lift you up on a chair, which is a nice idea – unless you’re on the large side, in which case they should drop the idea. (Um, let’s rephrase that: in which case they should think of something else.) When lifting is appropriate, it should be done by four lifters of equal strength (and sobriety) who will coordinate together.
Get Through Security
If you have a honeymoon planned for sometime after your sheva berachot, be sure to book tickets under the name which will be on the bride’s government identification at the time. The last thing you want to hear at check-in is, “Sorry Miss, that’s not your name.” It’s happened before. Even though she’s technically “Mrs.” now, if her identification still has her maiden name on it, that’s the name you want on her ticket.
Help Out and Chill Out
Don’t wait until after the wedding to be a good husband. Be available if your fiancée needs help, and be understanding if she needs support. Wedding planning is a great time to hone your flexibility and compromise skills which are essential ingredients of a happy marriage. Remember that the average wedding lasts about 5-6 hours, but your marriage will last – please Gd – for many, many long years. What happens in the years and decades after the wedding is far more important than what happens at the wedding, so don’t get carried away with the details or be difficult with regard to the many decisions which need to be made.
And perhaps most importantly of all, keep it cool… and fun. Stay relaxed, and you’ll help her stay relaxed. Don’t let the stress of wedding plans get you too bogged down to enjoy the time spent together. Try to have fun and don’t forget to put all the small details in perspective. This will keep you both in the right mindset for embarking together on the exciting, lifelong journey of marriage, and filling your home with all the smiles, happiness and laughter that you can fit between its walls!