It's not just women going into wedding overdrive

Forget the bride here comes Groomzilla! Carrie’s set the date for her big day, and hopes are building for couples across Britain. But it’s not just women going into wedding overdrive

  • Across the UK, 735 couples are expected to get married on Monday June 21 
  • Andrei Benson says men have had more time to get involved in the last year
  • Wedding planner claims it’s an outdated concept that it’s just the bride’s day
  • From choosing bride’s dress to colour scheme, Groomzillas share their plans

Weddings are back! After a year of disrupted events and postponed parties, planning is reaching fever pitch in thousands of households across the UK.

But this year’s bumper crop of nuptials presents bigger logistical challenges than ever. With 735 couples expected to get married on Monday June 21, the earliest day all restrictions can be lifted according to the Government’s post-lockdown roadmap, and up to a million people expected to tie the knot this year and next — including the Prime Minister and his fiancee Carrie Symonds — competition for the best venues, suppliers (and even guests) has never been fiercer.

Enter the Groomzilla. We’ve all heard of his female equivalent — the tantrum in a tiara who bosses her bridesmaids, overrules her mother and throws a hissy fit at the slightest hint of a hitch. But with more time than ever for wedding prep, and with crucial planning meetings happening not in the flesh but on Zoom, there’s never been more opportunity for men to muscle in on the pre-wedding action.

And boy can they rival their brides for wanting to control every detail!

Self-confessed Groomzillas share their wedding planning, as 735 couples prepare to get married on Monday June 21. Pictured: Groom Leighton Jones with his bride Jo

Business development manager James Kearney, 29, is the first to admit that his other half Gertruda, 27, is usually the more organised of the pair. But since he proposed last June , he has shocked family and friends with his intricate spreadsheets detailing his plans for their May 2022 wedding.

The couple, from Colchester, met at a music festival two years ago and are now expecting their first baby in October.

‘I’ve surprised myself with how much I’m embracing being a Groomzilla,’ James says.

‘Part of the reason for taking charge is that, unbelievably, Gertruda, who is originally from Lithuania, has never been to a wedding in her life.’

While massage therapist Gertruda, who has only ever seen weddings on television and in films, was keen on a church ceremony followed by a reception at a village hall, James had his heart set on doing the whole thing at a hotel.

‘I’ve really had to sell this concept to her and came up with a shortlist of six venues, detailing their pros and cons on my wedding spreadsheet and giving them marks out of ten when we viewed them during a break in lockdown restrictions last year.

‘As soon as we set foot inside the first, a golf and spa resort in Suffolk, I knew that it was the one, and although Gertruda insisted we should still see the others, in the end she agreed I was right.’

James has set a budget of £10,000 for the big day, and the pair have already sent ‘save the date’ cards to their 50 day guests and 100 evening guests.

Leighton Jones and his wife Jo (pictured) who live in Daventry with their three children, had a £25,000 travel-themed wedding for 130 guests 

‘Gertruda wasn’t too sure about my choice of mauve for the colour scheme, but I’ve talked her round,’ James says. ‘She said she wanted rustic colours such as brown and green, so I thought mauve was a good middle ground — and also that I’d better compromise on something!

‘The only thing that Gertruda has chosen entirely herself is her wedding dress.’

While planning their wedding, James has drawn on his pool of family and friends to help make their day special.

He says: ‘On our wedding day, a professional photographer I often work with will take pictures, while a singer-songwriter friend of mine is going to play acoustic guitar when Gertruda walks down the aisle, and a 30-minute set while our guests eat dessert.

‘All of this is detailed on my spreadsheet, with a long list of other items still to sort including menus, favours, flowers, a cake, reception drinks and the all important honeymoon with my new wife and our baby.’ Gertruda simply needs to make it to the hotel — if not the church — on time.

When Leighton Jones married his wife Jo in a £25,000, travel-themed wedding for 130 guests, pre-pandemic, he sanded down huge logs to make cheese boards for the wedding breakfast.

Leighton, a 42-year-old performing arts director, admits the only thing he let Jo choose was her wedding dress. Pictured: The couple

It was the finishing touch to an extravaganza he planned entirely by himself — from designing the novelty wedding cake to ordering the flowers, taste-testing the feast of Greek mezze and Spanish paella for the wedding dinner, to booking a trumpeter and sourcing just the right themed decorations for the marquee . . . from Uruguay. He even chose the lilac dresses for their bridesmaids.

The label ‘Groomzilla’ was well-earned, he admits.

‘The night before the wedding, I took an entourage of friends and family with me to decorate the marquee, but none of them dared do anything with the fairy lights, hay bales, decorative suitcases, signposts or flowers for fear of risking my wrath,’ he confesses.

‘Jo’s best friend was our chief bridesmaid — and the first person to call me a Groomzilla.

‘The label stuck, but I took it as a huge compliment.’

Today, the couple live in Daventry with their three children aged three, 20 months and three weeks.

‘The only thing I let Jo choose was her dress, but even then I gave her strict instructions that it had to fit in with the vintage 1950s travel theme of our wedding,’ admits Leighton, a 42-year-old performing arts director.

Wedding planner Andrei Benson, said with lots of people being at home or furloughed in the last year, men have had much more time on their hands to get involved. Pictured: Catarina and Luis Neves in Lisbon

‘I got carried away with the detail in the marquee, even buying vinyl records from Uruguay to include in the decorations because our favourite dance is the tango and that’s where it was invented.

‘When I told friends we were getting married, several of them asked if I’d been given the job of organising the DJ, which was about the extent of their involvement in their own weddings,’ Leighton adds. ‘They were gobsmacked when I told them: “No, I’m doing the lot.” ’

Some brides might bristle at their demotion from traditional duties, but Jo was more than happy to relax on a hay bale while Leighton did it all. ‘When we got back to our room on our wedding night, I told Leighton: “Oh my God, I can’t believe it’s all run so smoothly and I didn’t even have to do a thing!” ’ she says.

If the Groomzilla existed before Covid, the pandemic has only added to his ferocity. ‘There’s a real trend towards grooms stepping into the limelight now,’ says wedding planner Andrei Benson, who’s worked with hundreds of couples over the past decade.

Catarina and Luis Neves (pictured), who live in London, had a £20,000 wedding in 2019, with Luis taking charge of every detail 

‘It’s an outdated concept that it’s just the bride’s day. With lots of people being at home or furloughed in the last year, men have had much more time on their hands to get involved.’

Indeed, men are increasingly enjoying the trappings of the Big Day and its build-up just as much as women.

Earlier this month, for example, high-end jewellers Tiffany announced their first ever range of male engagement rings, featuring diamonds set in titanium and platinum bands.

And with the father of the bride no longer expected to shell out for everything, couples are having to take charge of the finances too. Spreadsheets have become as crucial as stag dos.

‘There’s a perception that wedding planning is all pretty flowers and dress fittings,’ says Andrei. ‘But it also involves a lot of logistics and admin, which is a side that, in my experience, grooms love.

Matthew Lewis and Amy (pictured), who live in Pembrokeshire with their two daughters, spent £12,000 on their wedding for 150 guests in July 2014

‘They might set up online surveys to find out their guests’ favourite food or music, build a wedding website, or create a spreadsheet to keep track of RSVPs and menu choices.’

A recent survey of grooms by revealed that 17 per cent of men admit to taking control of their wedding.

This time two years ago, Luis Neves was in the thick of wedding paperwork, planning his £20,000 wedding to bride Catarina in August 2019.

‘I was engrossed in everything, from the church ceremony to the caterers, the naked wedding cake, canapes, photographers — you name it,’ says Luis, 31, a communications manager who lives in London.

Staged in the gorgeously romantic setting of the Royal Greenhouse in Lisbon, Portugal — which Luis chose — the wedding was meticulously planned, despite others’ lack of faith in him.

‘I can remember Cat’s parents eyeing me with suspicion because I was organising it all, and I could see them thinking maybe this wedding isn’t going to go quite to plan. But it did. It was fantastic.’

Luis thought of every detail, even booking a spray tan for them both on the eve of the Big Day.

Matthew even broke the last wedding taboo by choosing his wife Amy’s wedding dress, costing just £70 from a second-hand shop. Pictured: Matthew and Amy

Catarina laughs: ‘People kept telling me: “Oh, it will be stressful planning a wedding!” but it wasn’t at all because Luis did it all.’

Another self-confessed Groomzilla is private tutor Matthew Lewis, who even broke the last wedding taboo by choosing his wife Amy’s wedding dress. At just £70, it came from a second-hand shop.

‘I’m always looking around for good value and I saw this dress in the window. I thought it looked lovely and suggested Amy should go and have a look,’ says Matthew. The couple, both 36 and former secondary school teachers, started dating when they were in the sixth form and now live in Pembrokeshire with their two daughters.

‘Unbelievably it was her size and she loved it, although I didn’t know until our wedding day that she’d actually bought it. I got my wedding suit from the same shop for £50 — it was pink and a bit of a shock to most people, not least my dad!’

They spent £12,000 on their wedding for 150 guests in July 2014, which included a clifftop ceremony followed by a music festival-themed outdoor reception with three marquees and a picnic lunch.

Amy admits she was confident in Matthew’s organising skills and quite happy for him to take creative control of the wedding. Pictured: The couple

Amy admits she was confident in Matthew’s organising skills and quite happy for him to take creative control of the wedding, including sorting a joint stag and hen gathering at a sports training camp in Lanzarote, and their honeymoon in Sweden.

Having agreed on the music festival theme, Amy sat back while Matthew designed the invites and organised the venue, photographer, marquees, loos, three headline bands and a wedding website.

When Andrew and Roxanne Brearley were planning their September 2017 wedding, two years after he proposed in the Lake District, Roxanne admits she could barely keep the date in her head.

Meanwhile, Andrew morphed from being disorganised day-to-day into an ultra-efficient Groomzilla, right down to making his own fudge for the wedding favours.

Roxanne’s only input was to accompany Andrew to a wedding fair, where every vendor addressed her rather than him — and some were downright rude.

‘I was amazed at how the vendors ignored him, even when I told them he was in charge,’ recalls Roxanne, 37, assistant manager of a hot tub company who lives in Maidstone with Andrew, 38, an insurance claims handler.

Andrew and Roxanne Brearley (pictured) had 60 daytime guests attend their £15,000 ceremony and reception in a 15th century hotel in Canterbury

Andrew adds: ‘The majority were very dismissive towards me, telling Roxie: “Oh, you’re not trusting him to plan things, are you?” ’

Thankfully, as Roxanne admits, nothing could hold Andrew back.

‘He immersed himself in the whole thing, taking lots of calls from suppliers and putting things in my diary such as food tastings.

‘I’d have been happy with a low-key register office wedding or an elopement as I’d never been one of those girls who grew up dreaming of getting married.

‘But Andy wanted a huge spectacle and had a specific idea in his head of a traditional white wedding with a twist and lots of fun, including music and lawn games for our guests to play.

They had 60 daytime guests to their £15,000 ceremony and reception in a 15th century hotel in Canterbury, and double that in the evening.

Roxanne adds: ‘We had an understanding that if he wanted something fancy, he’d have to organise it — and that’s what he did. I just had to show up!’

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