Stag-night tears, tantrums over his morning suit, barneys over bottled beer… If you thought bridezilla demands were insane, brace yourself for a new breed of monster, rampaging down an aisle near you.
How many stag dos is acceptable? One? Two? What about 52? Fine, according to Dave Riches, 39, from Warwickshire. ‘Mine was a year-long stag do,’ he says. ‘In the 12 months leading up to my wedding, I had a stag do every single weekend – Blackpool (twice), Cardiff, Skegness, Birmingham, Solihull, Leamington (many times) and Coventry. It was my idea and my mates spurred me on. My wife thought it was ridiculous – she still does – but it was legendary.’
Dave isn’t the only guy who’s prepared to push the boat out when it comes to his nuptials. While brides have long been tarred with the ‘diva’ brush, more and more men are going the full Mariah Carey with their big-day plans. ‘Perfectionism and wedding planning go hand in hand, but we’ve noticed an increase in grooms wanting their say in how things are done in the run-up to getting married, and really going over the top when it comes to their stag dos and receptions,’ explains Georgie Fowle, co-founder of Addo Events, which specialises in weddings with budgets of £80,000-plus. ‘In 2019, it feels as though men are getting much more hands-on, wanting to get involved in everything from catering to their outfit. If it doesn’t go their way, major tantrums can follow – we’ve seen them.’
It’s not just the stag do that’s weighing heavy on their minds. Last year, over a third of grooms visited a spa or salon the month before their wedding and 61 per cent hired a personal trainer (only six per cent kept up the sessions post-honeymoon, FYI). Others have taken more drastic measures, such as the groom from Bournemouth who was so intent on looking buff in his suit that he embarked on a really strict version of the Dukan (low carb) diet in the run-up. He ended up roaming the streets of Prague on his stag do, looking for quark, a staple of his new diet, and was so desperate for food by the time the wedding came around, he went wild – he’s actually holding canapés in the pictures. His bride even made a quip about his ‘ketosis breath’ in church.
London-based wedding planner Louise* has seen it all, and then some. ‘I had one groom cry because we couldn’t get The Kooks, who are his favourite band, to play at his reception. It was peak festival season and they were already booked elsewhere. He made a huge fuss and ended up behaving like a teenager.
‘Another time, a groom stormed out of a cake-tasting event at a luxury London hotel. It started off well, but once the couple had sampled all the cakes, he kicked off – he wanted a plain vanilla one and the bride wanted more variety. After he’d left, the bride was really apologetic but I was mortified because the hotel manager saw it all and I’d booked the appointment. I ended up going ahead with their wedding but I was sorely tempted to pull out.’
Arguments are par for the course for these Groomzillas. According to a poll of more than 1,000 recently married men, 91 per cent of grooms admitted to an upset with their best man before the wedding, while one in five huffily claimed their best man ‘didn’t help enough’. The most common cause of arguments? Disagreements over suits, apparently, which suggests that men are feeling the sartorial pressure, too.
Katie Tottenham, who also co-founded Addo Events, isn’t surprised, ‘In recent months we’ve had a groom request no less than four changes of outfit, beating any bridal wardrobe we’ve seen in years of wedding planning. This particular groom wore a morning suit for the church ceremony, followed by a kilt of family tartan for the reception, changing into black tie for dinner. He ended the day in a going-away outfit, switching the black-tie trousers for bespoke handmade ones. The bride? She stayed in one outfit.’
Jane, 31, from London got married in 2018. ‘Rob was a bit of a Groomzilla in the run-up to our wedding. He refused to go with the venue’s caterers as he thought their food wasn’t up to scratch – I thought it was fine – and insisted on making his own Marmite butter for each table to go with the bread. When it came to seating arrangements, he learned calligraphy in order to handwrite the table plan, name places, invitations, orders of service and menus. We’d been kindly gifted bottled beer for the day from a friend who owns a brewery, but Rob didn’t like the labels so made his own – with roses for England (he’s English), shamrocks for Ireland (I’m Irish) and an illustration of where he proposed in the background. The day before, he rearranged nearly every table setup that my bridesmaids and I had done because “they weren’t neat enough” and the greenery wasn’t pointing the right way. But while he was incredibly pernickety, I have to say, I actually really enjoyed the day as I didn’t need to worry about a thing.’
So why are so many men suddenly going gaga over their big day? Therapist Sally Baker has some insight: ‘Weddings are a far cry from what they used to be,’ she explains. ‘They’ve become a status symbol – who can afford the very best wedding, with the most innovative ideas, entertainment and food? People want a legacy – a way of proving their worth – and it’s often those who feel unable to do that in their daily lives (think: men working in well-paid, service-driven industries) who feel this most strongly. In that sense, weddings become a way of affirming our value and proving to others who we really are. When you think about it, a wedding is the perfect stage to play out all those desires.’
Of course, social media plays a part, too. ‘Thanks to social networks, we’re not experiencing anything alone any more,’ says Baker. ‘There was a time when you could have a low-key wedding and nobody would know, but now everything’s plastered over the internet – if not by you then by your guests. There’s unrivalled pressure to be bigger, better and more flamboyant, and people are finding themselves struggling to keep up.’ Many, it seems, can’t compete, with the average British wedding now costing more than £30,000 and one in five Brits taking out a wedding loan of £9,000 or more to help fund it.
Anyone suspecting that their partner is becoming increasingly obsessed with their big day should take note, according to Baker. ‘When I hear of grooms suddenly becoming overly controlling in the run-up to the wedding, the root of that is almost always anxiety, because an extreme desire for control never comes from confidence or security,’ she says. ‘Really confident, relaxed people are often happy tying the knot in a low-key, understated way. Sudden Groomzilla behaviour can indicate an underlying lack of self-worth, in which case it’s wise to find out what exactly is driving that behaviour – overblown responses in any context are never a good sign.’
Don’t forget either that what goes up must come down. ‘On average, weddings take around 13 months to plan, with the day itself proving a real outpouring of attention and love,’ reminds Baker. ‘But that post-wedding comedown will rear its head eventually and so will the mundanities of everyday life. My advice? Remember that this isn’t the pinnacle – it’s only day one.’
And if ‘till death do us part’ suddenly feels like a very long time to spend with Groomzilla? Then there’s always Gretna Green…
Four celebrity Groomzillas show how it’s done
The engaged Queer Eye presenter (above left) has spoken about how his Groomzilla behaviour sent his fiancé Ian Jordan (right) to A&E with an anxiety attack. The doctors asked, ‘What were you talking about before?’ and Ian said, ‘He’s been talking about the wedding!’
The rapper not only shut wife-to-be Kim Kardashian out of the final wedding plans for their extravagant Italian do, he reportedly had a tantrum on the day, demanding that lights (which had taken four days to install) be removed, along with a £90,000 music system. The wedding music was played from an iPod.
Apparently the singer’s wife, actress Jessica Biel, had no say when it came to her engagement ring or wedding dress – both of them were chosen by Justin ahead of their multimillion-dollar celebration. The keen wedding planner also chose the venue – a luxury hotel in Puglia, Italy.
The rugby player said he was ‘like a Groomzilla’ before his 2018 wedding to fitness expert Chloe Madeley, revealing he was prepared to book Craig David – who charges upwards of £100,000 a show – to perform, although there are no reports that confirm whether the star did actually play.
How men became over-groomed
- Quick pint before the service.
- ‘You may now kiss the bride’.
- A romantic breakfast in bed the next day.
- Confiscating the groom’s phone ahead of the stag.
- Activated charcoal water the night before.
- ‘You may now upload to social media’.
- A panicked scroll of the wedding hashtag.
- A ‘Tom’s Stag’ online document, set up by erm, Tom, for everyone to add to.
Report by Sophie Goddard