Guys On The Wedding-Bell Blues

It’s supposed to be the happiest day of your life — but what if disaster strikes? These guys faced plenty of obstacles before making it down the aisle to their happy brides. Read on…

By Dave Singleton

ure, everyone’s laughing at the reception when blushing bride and elated groom are feeding each other wedding cake between sips of champagne. But what about two hours before the ceremony, when the groom was pacing back and forth with cold feet and the bride was awash in tears from a bad case of nerves, talking about calling the whole thing off? That’s what happened to Sally and Mark, two 32-year-old Californians who almost didn’t make it down the
The delay seemed to us — and the attendees — like an eternity.
aisle. Hearing stories like theirs reminds me of an adage that seems particularly apt for weddings gone wrong: “Comedy equals tragedy plus time.”

Recently, I spoke to men about their wedding day memories and what almost kept them from making it to the altar. Their varied experiences are definitely funny (“yeah, it’s funny now,” as one emphasized while relating his story), a little bit scary, and often, quite touching.

The one thing all these stories have in common? To their credit, the guys rebounded from potential disaster and refocused on what eventually did work out to be the best day of their lives. To these cautionary tales, I added some helpful tips from Monday morning quarterbacking grooms on how to avoid these same potential calamities on your big day. Read on…

1. “I got cold feet”
“I thought the idea of cold feet was a joke,” says Mark. “I’d seen it played for laughs in movies, but the possibility it would happen to me? Never would have believed it.” But oh, it did — and in a most obvious way. Mark is a fairly reserved guy, not given to grand displays of emotion. “So when I broke out in a flop sweat, turned beet red, and started pacing a couple of hours before the ceremony, everyone noticed. Word got back to my then-fiancée, Sally, and she flipped out. She heard a couple of her bridesmaids use words like ‘unsure’ and ‘miserable,’ and that was it. She freaked and broke down in hysterical tears.” The church became like a soap opera set, and the wedding was delayed for an hour and a half with a cloud of doubt swirling about whether it would actually occur that day. “The delay seemed to us — and the attendees — like an eternity,” Mark recalls. But despite feeling mortified about their melodramatic ways, the bride and groom talked things over, pulled themselves together and made it down to the aisle, exchanged “I do’s” and headed to the reception, where they were able to laugh about it later.

Tip for coping on your own wedding day: “Have your doubts before the big day,” advises Mark. “During my engagement, I avoided any thoughts that were even remotely ‘cold feet-ish.’ If I could do it again, I’d indulge in some serious, healthy panic a week beforehand.”

2. “At the moment I was supposed to say ‘I do,’ I was in the emergency room”
“All went great leading up to the wedding,” says Michigan resident Michael, 33. “My groomsmen arrived for a long weekend of revelry and we had a blast partying. The morning of the big day, we decided to play a very spirited game of hoops — and in the middle of a shot, my buddy ran into me hard, causing me to fall and break my arm. I was in excruciating pain, but even so, my first thought was: ‘Oh geez, Linda (my fiancée) is going to be so pissed.” Michael rushed off to the emergency room, where Linda (in a tracksuit with full wedding makeup and hair) met up with him; he was released a few hours later. Despite the fact that their wedding dinner had proceeded without the bride and groom attending, the couple retreated to their honeymoon suite, where Michael popped pain pills and Linda watched reality TV shows. “Our moms quickly arranged a nice post-wedding brunch for the next day, so we got married at 1 p.m. — less than 24 hours later than originally planned. The wedding cake tasted delicious after the eggs and bacon,” recalls Michael.

Tip for coping on your own wedding day: “Be extra-careful on the big day,” warns Michael. “Too much is riding on the event to risk hurting yourself.”

3. “I had a few drinks to calm down before the ceremony and ended up drunk”
“I remember this wedding where the groom got drunk beforehand…oh yeah, that was me,” says Florida native Andy, 25. “I didn’t plan to drink. I was a little wired at the hotel before getting dressed, so one of my groomsmen offered me a gin and tonic, saying one was good to calm the nerves. So I had one — and then another. My dad stopped by for a quick visit and poured us both a bourbon… and then another. I didn’t think about it; I didn’t feel a thing. I got dressed and felt fine. On the car ride to the church, I felt that awful ‘head spinning’ feeling and started to laugh, which my pals encouraged as a way to ward off my nerves. But by the time I had to walk down the aisle, I was weaving and laughing out loud in church. I slurred my words and had a hard time keeping a straight face as the preacher started in with the vows, especially when he said “lawfully wedded wife,” which sounded to me like “awful wedded wife.” My soon-to-be bride touched my arm and pinched me so hard that (fortunately!) I sobered up fast. Things got better at the reception. I had one sip of champagne at the toast, and then two cups of coffee. But the photos — which show me making weird facial expressions and out of sync with the wedding party — serve as a lifelong reminder of my wedding-day drinking disaster.”

Tip for coping on your own wedding day: “If someone offers you a drink before the ceremony, pass,” advises Andy. “Or really make sure you just have one that does not turn into two or three.” You don’t want to mess up the ceremony in ways that your wife — and a host of incriminating photos — will remind you about forever after.

4. “My best man’s toast turned into an impromptu roast”
Etiquette experts tell us that the wedding toast is a singular opportunity for those nearest and dearest to the bride and groom to take firm hold of a microphone and share with the attendees some loving, funny, and terribly sweet sentiments. The goal is to melt the hearts of even the most callous amongst those attending. Alas, that doesn’t always happen the way it should.

“I don’t know what got into my best man Johnny,” says Virginian Keith, 38. “He started off by
Most people in the room knew he was referring to my ex.
telling me he loved me, but then continued by saying, ‘I hope you’ll be happy — really happy — if this is what you really want. You know, who can know what’s best for someone else, right?’ Then he paused for a couple of seconds, which seemed then like an interminable amount of time, and dug his foot deeper in his mouth. He turned to my wife and said, “Jennifer, I hope you will make him happy, ‘cause he’s knocking himself out for you. He’s had enough craziness in the lady department to last a lifetime.’ Most people in the room knew he was referring to my ex. I’d ended our engagement two years prior after an ugly breakup. Jennifer’s face was suddenly frozen, and a pall came over the room. After pausing again and mumbling something about lasting love being what we all want, Johnny finished by raising his glass and saying, ‘to Keith!,’ completely ignoring the fact that the toast was supposed to be to both of us. He added, ‘And Jen,’ but it was clear he was hesitant about her.”

Tip for coping on your own wedding day: Screen the speakers before they start making toasts! It’s wonderful to be surprised by touching words from those you love on your big day, but check in with them beforehand to set appropriate expectations so that whatever they say doesn’t turn your reception into a featured clip on Weddings Gone Wild. A tacky toast can change the energy at your reception or dinner from glorious to horrifyingly uncomfortable in just a few seconds. As a starting point, make sure your main “toaster” knows that sex, drugs, alcohol, exes, and that ridiculous video you shot during a frat party are off-limits. The “toastees” deserve a fitting toast, not an unexpected roast.

5. “What went wrong? Everything!
“Mark and I lived together for several years before marriage equality became legal in our state,” says New Yorker Steve, 45. “We were pleased to finally plan a fun wedding for 60 friends and family members. But ‘fun’ isn’t the word I’d use to describe what transpired that day:
  • It was 90 degrees and several guests almost passed out from the heat. Many were clearly overheated by the time they got to us.
  • My grandparents were an hour late for the wedding, and since I so wanted them to share our day with us, we held the ceremony just for them.
  • While waiting, one of my über-religious relatives came up to me and tried to talk me out of going through with it.
  • A groomsman showed up still hung over from the revelry the night before.
  • My best man forgot our rings at the inn where he was staying.
  • My divorced parents argued in front of others about the seating, because mom didn’t want dad’s new wife seated in the same row with her.
  • One of the legs of the table holding the four-tiered cake weakened when someone bumped into it and the cake fell, turning into a big pile of carrot cake and cream-cheesy white mush on the floor.
  • Our DJ’s sound system went on the fritz, so we had to wait an hour while he called a friend and got it replaced. (So much for the wedding dances!)
  • The dinner was erratic. Some were served right away; others had to wait up to 45 minutes for their food. Timing for the evening was completely thrown off.
At one point, I went to the bathroom and heard two guests through the window talking about how it was the biggest wedding disaster they’d ever seen,” recounts Steve. “But after dinner, a friend came up to Mark and myself and reminded us of what Carrie Bradshaw once said in Sex and the City: ‘The worse the wedding, the better the marriage.’ At that, we burst out laughing. By the end of the evening, it had all worked out. I was so grateful that we’d gotten married. Truly, the rest of it didn’t matter. Now the tale of our wedding has become a great story that gets better every time we repeat it. Every couple needs one of those, right?”

Tip for coping on your own wedding day: The lesson here is that you can’t plan ahead for your wedding’s unforeseen emergencies, even when they pile on and create a catastrophe for you and your guests. When this happens, the best wedding gift you and your sweetie can possibly give yourselves is: perspective. It’s not about the food, music, flowers, or even occasional lapses of good guest manners; rather, getting married is about the lifetime commitment you’re making to each other.

For the other side of this story, read: 5 Women's Wedding-Bell Blues.

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit his website and send your dating questions and comments to him at
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