Groom’s Guide: Wise Guys
Insight from three Utah 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 in Portland was simply to throw a rockin’ party with as little pretense as possible. I hired a photographer I knew and spent hours ripping CDs (remember those?) to the iPod, but my principal planning task was stockpiling cases of beer in our basement. Every time I went to fetch a few sundries at Fred Meyer, I’d fill a cart with whatever brew was on sale that week. By the time the big day rolled around, there was a mountain of beer as tall as I was, which we then stuffed into every car headed to the venue. The big day was a scorcher and the AC couldn’t keep up with our guest list, so that cache of icy foamers paid off in spades.
I was quite proud of my job well done, but it turns out I’m not the only groom to tackle wedding to-do’s with such aplomb. I spoke to three other gents who also rolled up their sleeves, dug in, and actually enjoyed themselves in the process. Here are their stories.
Eat, Dance, Love
Photographs by Heidi Gress / HMG Productions
My wife, Erin Evans, and I tend to do everything together and run ideas by each other, so it wasn’t unusual for us to plan our September 1, 2013, wedding together. Erin wanted me to be involved, too. We made a list of the things that needed to be done and shared the responsibilities.
Erin said I could be a little bit of a “groomzilla.” I definitely had opinions about certain things. I didn’t want a garter toss, and I didn’t want a DJ because I think sometimes they can take over a wedding. Instead, I used Virtual DJ on my computer to create two playlists: one for the cocktail hour with songs from concerts we’d attended, and another for dancing including our first dance song, “The Way You Look Tonight,” by Frank Sinatra.
I didn’t want a seated dinner, either; I think they can be a little stuffy, and it’s awkward sitting next to people you’ve never met and will never see again. We wanted Italian food, and we are friends with the owners of Cannella’s, one of our favorite places to dine, so we hired them to do the catering. We gave them an idea of what we wanted and let them run with it. Servers walked around with platters of food, and everyone raved about it. Erin wanted a gluten-free option, so they made risotto cakes that our guests loved. My favorites were the Grandma’s 5 Layer Lasagna and the meatballs. I think food is an important part of a wedding, and Cannella’s did an amazing job.
One of our biggest to-do’s was determining a location. I had hoped to have the ceremony and reception at the same place, but it wasn’t working out that way. For the ceremony, we settled on the McPolin Farm in Park City, located behind the iconic white barn. After attending a few events at Studio Elevn in downtown Salt Lake, we decided to have our reception there. The space is a blank canvas. They let us do whatever we wanted, and that freedom was really nice. But it also meant we had to fill the space, so we went to Lynette LaPoint at Refined Vintage Events. Erin fell in love with her vintage furniture. The day of the wedding, Lynette brought in all the furniture, set it up, and made sure everything looked great.
You have to get involved in the planning and take part in things you enjoy. Maybe you’re into music, so you find the band or make a playlist. Or maybe you like photography, so you nail down a photographer. Focus on things you like to do and it will be enjoyable. Make it your wedding, too—put your personality into it. —MIKE LEIBSLA
Photographs by Saans Photography
I plan a lot of events for work, so planning our June 14, 2013, wedding with my wife, Jessi Maddock, came naturally. We did hire a wedding planner, too: Ashley Lloyd with Attention 2 Detail Events. She was a huge help on our big day at the Natural History Museum of Utah, and she was by our side for everything along the way. She spent countless hours helping us with DIY projects.
One of the biggest projects my wife and I did was design our invitations. I work in marketing and Jessi is a graphic designer, so we developed a “brand” for the wedding: an ampersand symbol. We used the ampersand to tie everything together; it was on our save-the-dates, invitations, programs, and signage.
Before I proposed, I came up with the code words “Project Lemonade” so I could talk about the proposal on social media without Jessi knowing about it. We wanted to incorporate that theme and the color yellow in our wedding. We served Arnold Palmers with lemonade and sweet-tea vodka and had a lemonade bar with different flavors. We also used the hashtag #projectlemonade.
I’m used to planning events on a work budget, not a personal one, and we were on a pretty tight budget for the wedding. It forced us to get creative with ideas like using wine bottles for the centerpieces, which tied in with our giant corkboard guest book. Our planner made the board in the shape of an ampersand
and guests signed the corks.
I planned the groomsmen’s attire and picked clothes that the guys would all wear again. I chose the bowties and we got shirts and shoes from Macy’s. My cousin and sister-in-law handled all the flower arrangements. One of my college roommates is a country singer in Texas, and he came to town to sing in the ceremony and perform a mini-concert as we transitioned from the ceremony to the reception. And we hired Saans Photography to capture the day, whom I have a relationship with through work.
A lot of grooms just let their brides do all the planning, but getting involved is a great way to start making major decisions together. It really helped develop our communication skills, and we discovered that we collaborate really well. We were able to work together as a team to create something pretty
awesome. —ANDREW ADAMS
Photograph by White Noyes Photography
My wife, Renay Alpers, and I were both stationed in Afghanistan for work the majority of the time we were planning our August 31, 2013, wedding at the Castle Park Events Center in Lindon. Planning from afar is pretty tricky. There is an 11-hour time difference, which meant a lot of phone calls with vendors early in the morning or late at night.
We couldn’t do any tastings from overseas, so choosing a caterer basically amounted to comparing prices and looking at a bunch of menus online to see what dishes various places offered. That’s how we chose Catering by Bryce. Luckily, everything turned out delicious. They even catered to a few of our guests with specific diet requirements, and they prepared a special meal for Renay who is a raw vegan.
Unfortunately, pictures and descriptions online are often very different in real life. When Renay got back, she had to verify a lot of things to make sure they were what we thought they were. She had trouble communicating with the photographer we originally booked, so we hired White Noyes Photography five weeks before the wedding. We hired Dippidee to make the cake and a bunch of desserts a week and a half before. I came home on August 17, just two weeks before the wedding. I helped Renay arrange all the flowers and create all of the decorations. Our families and her bridesmaids helped, too.
Some stuff was easy to nail down overseas. We hired Burch and Sons for our carriage, booked hotels for our guests, and made our honeymoon reservations. Renay is a graphic designer, so we designed the invitations together and she letterpressed them when she returned home in July. I wanted to keep the groomsmen’s outfits pretty casual, so I just sent all the guys a blueprint of what I was thinking—gray pants and vests, white shirts, boat shoes, and bowties—and left it up to them to put something together along those lines.
Grooms need to take a little off of the bride’s plate so she’s not overwhelmed. Even just showing some interest in what your fiancée is working on helps a lot. I tried to pitch in as much as I could so Renay wouldn’t be too stressed. —DAKOTA HOWEY
Photograph by Erin Kate Photography
“I like to say that I’m a commercial fisherman and choose to practice dentistry as a hobby. My family has been commercial fishing in Bristol Bay, Alaska, for three generations. My wife recently graduated with a doctorate degree in physical therapy at the University of Utah, and she is also a professional fisherwoman. In 2002, my brother and I established Libby Brothers Salmon Co. We catch, process, and sell our wild-caught Alaskan salmon. We provided salmon for the wedding dinner—it only made sense to serve one of the freshest, most pristine products at such a special event. We also had pear salad, mashed sweet potatoes, and pies made with Alaskan rhubarb from my wife’s parents’ garden.”
—JUSTIN LIBBY; married Katie Ronsse October 6, 2012, at Sundance Resort