A Gentleman Walks Down the Aisle: A Complete Guide to the Perfect Wedding Day

A Gentleman Walks Down the Aisle: A Complete Guide to the Perfect Wedding Day

by John Bridges, Bryan Curtis


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This guide will shape even the most baffled groom into a well-mannered gentleman, from engagement party to reception and every blessed event in between.

He may not have been dreaming of this magical day since childhood, but a groom's role in his wedding is as important as his bride's. This guide will shape even the most baffled groom into a well-mannered gentleman, from engagement party to reception and every blessed event in between. Authors John Bridges and Bryan Curtis even offer advice for every male member of the wedding party. Fathers, groomsmen, ring bearers, and guests, take note! Bridges and Curtis have included everything a gentleman should know to skillfully assume his role at a wedding.

He will learn:

  • How not to propose
  • The truth about bachelor parties
  • Who pays for what
  • Tips for a pitch-perfect toast
  • How to calm an indignant mother-in-law
  • When to stay quiet and when to speak up
  • Dozens of phrases a gentleman should never utter
  • What to wear and when to wear it
  • The secret to a perfect thank-you note

Don't let the blur of tux fittings, place settings, family gatherings, and monogramming overwhelm the simple objective of a wedding. A Gentleman Walks Down the Aisle will help him understand the delicate art of being a man on one of life's most important days.

The groom and his fellow gentlemen may find themselves left to their own devices as the wedding day approaches, but their role is every bit as important as arranging the flowers or selecting the font for the wedding invitations. For the groom, the fathers of the bride and groom, the best man, the groom's attendants, and even the gentleman who participates in the celebration merely as a guest, this book explains what to do, where to stand, what to wear, and what to say.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781401600631
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 05/02/2011
Series: The GentleManners Series
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 4.70(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

John Bridges, author of How to Be a Gentleman, is also the coauthor, with Bryan Curtis, of seven other volumes in the best-selling GentleManners series. He is a frequent guest on television and radio news programs, always championing gentlemanly behavior in modern society. Bridges has appeared on the Today Show, the Discovery Channel, and CBS Sunday Morning, and has been profiled in People magazine and the New York Times.

Bryan Curtis is an author and the president of Dance Floor Books. He is the author/coauthor and editor of more than 25 books, including My South, My Southern Food, Classic Wisdom for the Good Life, Classic Wisdom for the Professional Life, and the popular GentleManners series.

Read an Excerpt

A Gentleman Walks Down The Aisle


Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2011 John Bridges and Bryan Curtis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4016-0445-5

Chapter One


The Groom

A gentleman never simply assumes that he is going to be married; he always asks the bride before making the announcement.

* * *

Even if he is certain he has already won his loved one's heart, a gentleman remembers that a marriage proposal is best shared by two people, and two people only. A gentleman never catches a lady off guard.

* * *

A gentleman always remembers that a wedding—like the marriage that follows it—is basically about two people, no matter how many other people get involved in the decision making.

* * *

If a gentleman has never met his fiancée's parents, he at least makes their acquaintance before the wedding is announced.

* * *

A gentleman does not consider an e-mail message a proper introduction to his future in-laws, especially one that says, "Hey! Check me out on Facebook!!"

* * *

During the initial planning for the wedding, the groom and the bride-to-be work side by side. As the planning proceeds, however, he knows that he may sometimes be left on the sidelines.

* * *

When it comes to the actual wedding ceremony, the groom follows the instructions of the minister, priest, rabbi, judge, justice of the peace, or other officiant leading the ceremony.

Regarding arrangements for wedding parties, the flowers for the ceremony, or any matter related to the reception, unless the decision grates fiercely against his personal convictions, the groom quietly acquiesces to the wishes of the bride or the advice of the wedding planner.

* * *

If the wedding planner's advice grates fiercely against his personal convictions—or his hopes for the wedding day—the groom carries his concerns directly to the bride, since she and her family are most often the wedding planner's employers.

* * *

If the groom has concerns about the wedding plans, he expresses them as soon as possible and as clearly and directly as he can. (If the groom has serious concerns about the wedding plans, he does not say, "okay, honey. Whatever you want.")

A gentlemanly groom knows that it is his job to add to the delight of the wedding day—not to its difficulty.

* * *

If a gentleman is not well acquainted with the parents of the bride-to-be, and until he is told to do otherwise, he addresses them as "Mr. and Mrs. Brown."

* * *

Once Mr. and Mrs. Brown say, "Call us Jerry and Marcia," a gentleman addresses them by their first names.

* * *

If Mr. and Mrs. Brown say, "Call us Mom and Dad," a gentleman does so—provided there are not already a "Mom and Dad" in his life. If such is the case, he feels free to say, "What about Jerry and Marcia?"

At the very least, as the planning for the wedding begins, the groom makes sure it is scheduled for a day that is open on his calendar. If said date is not open on the groom's calendar, he changes his calendar, unless he expects to be deployed to a war zone or is anticipating major surgery.

* * *

A gentleman understands that his wedding day will be unlike any other day in his life.

* * *

When planning their wedding, a gentleman and his spouse-to-be always talk about money—almost as soon as they talk about love.

Traditional Duties of the Groom

• Ask the bride to spend the rest of her life with him, in mutual, unalloyed bliss

• Pick out and present the engagement ring

• Ask the bride's father, her mother, or both her parents for her hand in marriage—if that is what the bride wishes him to do

• Introduce the bride to his own parents, if they have not met

• Introduce the bride's parents to his own parents

• Give his honest opinion as to the overall plans for the ceremony, especially if he and the bride are footing the bill

• Keep his opinions to himself otherwise, unless the wedding plans conflict with his moral convictions or fill him with unease

• Help pick out the wedding rings

• Select his best man, ushers, and groomsmen

• Plan and make arrangements for the honeymoon in collaboration with the bride, unless he has accepted the risk of planning the trip as a surprise

• Help develop the guest list

• Help his own mother understand that there are real limitations to the size of the guest list

• With cooperation from the bride and/or the best man, coordinate rental or purchase of formalwear or suits for his attendants

• Participate, gladly, in the process of registering for gifts

• Participate in pre-wedding parties, as requested or required

• Assist his own parents in planning for the rehearsal dinner

• Remember to obtain the wedding license

• Approve the plans for the bachelor party

• Make an appointment, well ahead of time, to get his hair cut—at least two days before the wedding

• Pick up his formalwear for the ceremony, well in advance, after trying it on at the shop, to make sure it fits

• Show up on time for the wedding rehearsal

• Attend the rehearsal dinner, prepared to make an appropriate toast

• Attend the bachelor party

• Arrive at the wedding ceremony on time

• Make sure the best man has the ring

• Participate in the ceremony, as directed by the officiant and/or the wedding planner

• Take his place in the receiving line at the reception, greeting guests and making introductions as necessary and appropriate

• Dance with the bride, his own mother, the mother of the bride, the maid of honor, and various bridesmaids

• Make sure to leave the reception in plenty of time to get to the airport or the hotel's honeymoon suite

• Do his part in writing the thank-you notes

What the Groom Traditionally Pays For

• The engagement ring

• The bride's wedding ring (she pays for his ring)

• His share of the bachelor party, if it involves travel (unless the members of his wedding party make it clear that he is traveling as their guest)

• The bride's bouquet (unless her parents insist on paying for all the flowers), as selected by the bride and designed by the florist of her choice

• Flowers for the mother of the bride and his mother, if they wish to wear them

• His own formalwear for the ceremony

• Ties and gloves for his attendants (unless they are included in the rental of their formalwear)

• A gift for the bride, presented to her, in private, after the rehearsal dinner

• A gift for the best man and for each of his ushers and groomsmen

• A thank-you gift for the minister, or other officiant at the ceremony

• All honeymoon expenses (unless the bride and he are sharing the costs)

Connubial Costs Who Pays for What?

The days are long gone when it could automatically be assumed that the father of the bride would serve as Mr. Moneybags, covering every imaginable cost related to the wedding ceremony and the ensuing reception. If a father wishes to make such a commitment, that is his choice, of course. It is an offer that, in most cases, the bride and groom will gladly accept, the groom offering a handshake and saying, "Mr. Fierstein, you are very, very kind."

On the other hand, the couple may find themselves feeling more than a trifle uncomfortable with such a situation, perhaps because they have questions as to the frailty of the father's finances, or perhaps because they simply envision a simple celebration—or even an elaborate one—at which they will be serving as the hosts. Such is quite often the case when the bride and groom have already set up housekeeping, or when they are both already well embarked on their professional lives.

What's more, they may have good friends, or a well-meaning aunt or uncle, who wish to participate in making the magic happen. If such is the case, there is no reason the father of the bride should feel neglected, displaced, or affronted. Neither is it the business of any outsider to comment on the financing of the festivities.

It is essential, however, that all parties involved in the partying be clear as to how the expenses are being shared. Such matters are best handled up front and straightforwardly. For example, the couple may simply state, as graciously and lovingly as possible, "We're looking forward to throwing our own reception" or, "We hope you'll understand that we want this wedding to be our own gift to our friends."

Without breathing too obvious a sigh of relief, the father of the bride may respond by saying, "You are two wonderful people. Let's talk about the specifics as soon as we can. You know Mollie's mother and I want to be part of this wonderful moment, in whatever way you'd like us to be." Both he and the bride's mother will understand, of course, that it is the wedding of a new couple that is in the works—not a replay of their own nuptials from decades before.

If the couple is in charge of their own budget, however, it must be a budget they can readily handle. The groom, caught up in the potential romance of the moment, does not commit to more than he can logically afford to pay. Nothing could be more embarrassing, at the end of the day, than for him to find himself forced to approach the bride's father, much less his own, with a handful of overdue bills. He hopes to not establish a precedent he will inevitably come to resent as the years grow long. A gentleman understands that patterns set during the planning for a wedding are patterns laid for life.

If, however, it is the bride's parents who are underwriting every aspect of the wedding, the groom expects only to cover those expenses that are traditionally his own. If such is the situation, it is not his responsibility to worry about the bills. If he must vent, he shares his concerns privately with his best man, who, in the best of situations, is also his best friend.

When it comes to the seating at the wedding ceremony or the guest list for the reception, the gentleman asks his bride specifically how many invitations his family may send.

* * *

When a gentleman asks how many invitations his family may send, he repeats the question, asking, "Does that mean Mom can send one hundred invitations, or does that mean that Mom can invite one hundred people to the ceremony?"

* * *

When a gentleman gets a frank response to this question, he conveys the answer directly to his mother.

* * *

If the gentleman's mother is not happy with this answer, he intervenes, as diplomatically as he possibly can, knowing all the while that it is the mother of the bride, as hostess for the ceremony, who has the ultimate word.

* * *

If his own mother is asked, as mother of the groom, to wear yellow, and even if she loathes yellow, the gentleman-groom says, "Mom, please wear yellow. It will just make life easier. Please do it for me."

* * *

If a gentleman does not own formal clothes, he rents them, reserving the suit well ahead of time.

* * *

If a gentleman expects to wear a bow tie at his wedding, he learns how to tie it—and practices tying it—well before the wedding day.

No matter how imaginative his bride may be, a gentleman always attempts to steer her away from lime green tuxedoes or color-coordinated wedding ensembles.

If a gentleman is given his preference as to the dress of his wedding party, he declares gray tailcoats for a prenoon wedding, "strollers" for an afternoon wedding, black-tie for an evening wedding, or white-tie for a ceremony commencing after 7 p.m. (For full details, please see chapter 5.)

The Big Question

There can be no more important decision for a gentleman than choosing the moment when he will ask a lady to marry him. The moment may be highly dramatic, complete with a four-course dinner and the presentation of a diamond ring. Or it may come more quietly, during a walk on the beach. Either way, a gentleman knows that the timing must be right and that he must choose his words wisely. He must avoid any suggestion of "popping the question," as if he were only asking her to marry him as a brilliant, spur-of-the-moment inspiration.

Whether he has thought to bring roses and an engagement ring or whether his action is spontaneous, a gentleman says something like, "I've been thinking a lot about this lately—about you and me, and I want you to know how much, and how deeply, I love you. I want us to be married, and I'm hoping that you feel the same way too."

A gentleman makes sure the lady knows that he wants this, the most important decision of their lives, to be a mutual one, the beginning of a lifetime of shared decisions.

Five Things a Gentleman Does Not Say When Proposing Marriage

• "I've sown all my wild oats now, honey. So I guess it's time for me to settle down."

• "You know, sweetheart, neither of us is getting any younger."

• "Friends tell me I'm afraid of commitment, but I'm ready to try this with you."

• "I know you've been waiting a long time to hear this. So, will you marry me?"

• "I promise you, if you marry me now, you'll never regret it."

When proposing marriage, a gentleman refrains from talking about "settling down." He does not suggest any regret at putting his bachelor days behind him. The past is not the subject of the conversation at hand. The topic under discussion is the joy and excitement of a lifetime together, shared by two people in love.

* * *

A gentleman knows that it is not the cost of the ring that matters. What matters is that it makes the bride-to-be happy in the way he intends to make her happy, and that she loves it in the same way that she loves him.

Seven Essential Guidelines for Buying an Engagement Ring

1. A gentleman does his research before even considering the purchase of an engagement ring. Not only will it very likely be the most costly gift he has ever purchased; it is also a token of his devotion, one that his bride-to-be will treasure for the rest of her life. He will give it at least as much attention as he gives to shopping for a car.

2. As the time comes closer for buying the engagement ring, a gentleman listens and watches closely, in hopes that he will purchase a ring that is precisely the one she wants. If he still needs additional guidance (does she prefer yellow gold, platinum, or white gold?), he consults her friends, hoping they will keep the conversation in confidence.

3. A gentleman sets his budget before walking into the jewelry store. (Pre-shopping online may be helpful in this regard.) Buying a ring that costs four times as much as he can afford is not a demonstration of lifetime devotion. It is a guarantee of financial distress.

4. A gentleman buys from a reputable jeweler. If the price seems too good to be true, what looks like a first-class diamond may well turn out to be a cubic zirconia. A reputable jeweler will appreciate a gentleman's asking questions about cut, color, clarity, and carat weight, known as the "4 C's of diamond buying."

5. If a gentleman is convinced that a family-heirloom diamond is the stone he wishes his intended to wear, he presents it proudly, saying, "My great-grandfather gave this diamond to my great-grandmother on their 50th wedding anniversary. I hope we can pick out the setting together."

6. A gentleman does his best to determine his bride's correct ring size, recognizing full well that the bride herself may not know what size she wears. He asks for the jeweler's guidance in purchasing a ring that is of a medium size. If it turns out to be too large or too small, the gentleman immediately reassures the bride- to-be, saying, "We're going together, tomorrow, to have it resized."

7. A gentleman purchases insurance for the engagement ring. The bride-to-be may insist that she will never take it off. But she will.

A gentleman knows that the presentation of an engagement ring is not a laughing matter. A diamond ring hidden in a scoop of frozen yogurt may seem amusing in theory. A chipped tooth and a trip to the oral surgeon can rip the romance out of any gesture.

Six Things a Gentleman Does Not Say When Presenting an Engagement Ring

• "I know it's not much, but it's all I could afford." • "There's a tiny flaw in it, but the jeweler promised me nobody could see it." • "Hope you know we're gonna eat a lot of ramen noodles before this thing gets paid off." • "If this doesn't prove how much I love you, nothing will." • "You better not lose this." • "Is it okay?"


Excerpted from A Gentleman Walks Down The Aisle by JOHN BRIDGES BRYAN CURTIS Copyright © 2011 by John Bridges and Bryan Curtis. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


I. The Main Man: The Groom....................1
II. The Supporting Cast: The Best Man, Ushers and Groomsmen, and Even the Ring Bearer....................65
III. Paternal Guidance: The Father of the Bride, the Father of the Groom....................101
IV. The Honour of Your Presence Is Requested: A Gentleman Guest at a Wedding....................135
V. Dressing for the Day: What to Wear, When to Wear It, How to Wear It....................167
VI. Terror in a Tuxedo: 10 Wedding Day Disasters, and How to Avoid Them....................191

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