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Metrosexual Matrimony
When modern men prepare to wed, many wax, tan and help plan. Here come the "groomzillas"
Copyright © 2005 Time Inc. All rights reserved.

September 2005

By Jeremy Caplan, with reporting by Leron Kornreich and Christopher Maag

By the time Pasquale Pignatelli visited luxury clothier Hickey Freeman for the final fitting of an $1,800 custom-made worsted-wool suit, he had devoted as much time perfecting his wedding outfit as his fiancé had spent selecting her bridal gown. Pignatelli, 29, a cargo salesman, also carefully chose his groomsmen's and ushers' outfits and bought white-gold bracelets to accessorize them. He arranged for them to get eyebrow waxings and manicures on the day before his Sept. 18 wedding. "It's not about what's superficial," says Pignatelli of his fastidiousness. "It's about making this artistic."

The "bridezillas" who pay assiduous attention to nuptial details haven't disappeared. But increasingly they're joined at the altar by "groomzillas," who care just as much about the particulars of the big day. Whereas a decade ago many men limited their input to the choice of DJ for the reception, growing numbers are now getting involved with everything from seating plans and table decorations to wedding-cake design and keepsakes for guests. Brian Lawrence, 35, of Livingston, N.J., says he's handling much of the planning for his Oct. 23 wedding. Having picked the site himself, he chose chocolate-dipped biscotti over infused olive oil for the favors. Lawrence wants to share the event, not just attend it. "It's my wedding just as much as it's hers," he says.

The fact that couples are marrying later means that more brides are in established careers that leave less time for wedding planning. Not only are many women too busy to manage all the details themselves, but as cultural expectations about gender roles have shifted, ubiquitous TV images of chivalrous would-be grooms--on shows like The Bachelor, A Wedding Story and Perfect Proposal--have helped redefine the groom's tasks. According to NPD Research, a New York--based marketing firm, 80% of men are now active co-partners in the wedding-planning process. "I've had grooms call me five or six times a day about small details months before their weddings," says Los Angeles wedding planner Julie Pryor. "I'm finding that grooms are hiring me more often too."

As men get more involved with their weddings, businesses are wooing them and in the process reinventing some male rituals. Engagement consultants are helping design elaborate proposals. Travel agencies and resorts are offering multiday bachelor-party blowouts. And spas are creating groom packages that include nail treatments, hairstyling and even tanning sessions.

Simply getting down on bended knee to pop the question is almost passé. A Georgia would-be groom had himself delivered in a box to the seventh-grade class where his girlfriend was teaching, and as she opened the box, he popped up to hand her a ring. Another in New York City recently hired an event-planning agency to produce a faux off-Broadway play complete with 100 planted audience members. At the climactic moment in the drama, he took off his costume disguise, brought his intended onstage and asked her to marry him. The fee: $15,000. "Grooms know the proposal is going to be talked about and sighed over for the next 40 years," says Marilyn Oliveira, senior editor at Wedding Channel.com.

Although bachelor parties are still popular and increasingly elaborate--Pignatelli and 14 of his friends spent $30,000 on a four-day celebration at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay--more grooms are opting to spend prenuptial time at spas with their buddies. Exclusively Male in Cincinnati, Ohio, offers a groom-groomsmen special, including hairstyling, manicure and pedicure, for $90 a person. "If you're wearing a tux and have nice shoes on ... bad hands stand out," says owner Marie Stokes. "More men are looking at other men's hands." Particularly image-conscious grooms are even hiring makeup artists to spruce them up for the wedding-day photo shoot.

Some brides applaud the metrosexualization of the matrimonial experience. "Pasquale has an amazing eye, and I'm thrilled that he's so involved," says Nancy Manzolillo, Pignatelli's new wife. But many marriage experts fret that the rise of the groomzilla will add to the commercialization of weddings. Others recoil at the impersonal nature of services like engagement consultants. "This is something you throw love at, not money," says Trish McDermott, chief matchmaker at Engage.com "Hiring a pro to arrange those beach rocks to spell out her name? That's a romance killer."