Groom’s Guide: Wise Guys

Insight and advice from local grooms who stepped up to the planning plate—and hit home runs | By Dan Engler

The goal for my July 30, 2005, wedding was simply to throw a rockin’ party with as little pretense as possible. I nailed down a photographer I knew and logged lots of hours ripping CDs (remember those?) to the iPod, but my principal planning task was to spend the six weeks preceding the event stockpiling cases of beer in our basement. Every time I went to fetch a few sundries at the grocery store I’d end up with a cart filled with whatever brew was on sale that week. By the time the big day rolled around, there was a mountain of beer as tall as me, which we then stuffed into every car headed from our house to the venue. The day was a scorcher, and because the AC couldn’t keep up with our guest list, that cache of icy foamers paid off in spades.

I’m not the only Renaissance man around. I spoke to three grooms who also rolled up their sleeves, made a to-do list, and then executed the heck out of it—and got a lot out of the process along the way. I’ll let them take it from here; these are their stories.


01 Brand Aid

Photograph by Julie Harmsen

During the run-up to my July 5, 2013, wedding to Krista Stackhouse at Within Sodo, I was finishing up school for graphic design so it was a challenge for me to find ways to contribute. Design work was a natural fit, however, so I took it on.

I first did a lot of ideation to come up with the look and feel of how I wanted to represent our day. I started with our logo and made that the focal point, then I looked at the pieces that needed to be designed: the save-the-date, the invite, and wedding-day paper goods, including signage and even the cake-topper. I really made it all about our logo, which is representative of the both of us coming together. I ended up working with a local maker-space, Metrix Creative, to get a laser-cut 3-D version of it to sit on top of the salted caramel cake that Krista’s sister Elaina Stackhouse made for our reception.

Instead of doing paper save-the-dates, Krista and I made a stop-frame animation video by painstakingly moving and photographing small bits of typography and cut paper. Since I was a student at Seattle Central Creative Academy at the time, I had access to all the necessary cameras and equipment. It was in part a cost-saving measure; rather than mail a card, we simply posted it to YouTube and e-mailed a link to everyone on our list. It was my first contribution to the wedding planning, and it was really fun.

For the invitations we worked with an illustrator friend of ours; she sketched out a few of our favorite things, and I laid out the invitation and RSVP card and letterpressed them on equipment at my school. There was a lot of trial and error because it was my first letterpress experience, but the result was fantastic.

I approached the whole thing as I would any design project: I drew up a creative brief that kept me on track, and I went through many stages of review and revision. The whole process, especially the branding work, ended up being great practice for the real world. And despite the pressure to do a great job, Krista was a great client. We’ve since collaborated many times with our latest endeavor: our newborn son, Calder. —KRISPIJN LARRISON


02 Man of the Hour

Photograph by Eliza Truitt

Even though I married Shannon Lassen—who owns her own wedding planning business, Sublime Events—I was really involved in our September 15, 2012, ceremony and reception at Parsons Garden and Olympic Sculpture Park. She had to be really patient with me because I asked a lot of questions that were old hat to her.

I definitely had a lot of strong feelings about what I didn’t want the day to be. I didn’t want the chicken dance or the Macarena. No throwing the garter belt, no drunk bandleader. We didn’t stuff cake in each other’s faces, we didn’t want the electric slide, just a good party.

What I was into was the cocktail hour before dinner. We had so many people coming in from out of town and, realistically, I knew that that would be the only time I would have to talk with them, so I really wanted it to be cool. The Sculpture Park has an outdoor deck that’s covered and looks out over the water, and we knew we had a good shot at great weather. I wanted to have a jazz band, I wanted people to be relaxed, and I definitely wanted it to be open-bar so that people could get whatever they wanted. I also wanted really great appetizers. Those were the important elements: talking to friends I hadn’t seen in years, great drinks, great finger food, and great music.

Photograph by Eliza Truitt

Shannon and I had seen the Jason Parker Quintet perform at a jazz bar on one of our first dates. Once we had them locked in I knew we were on our way to a top-shelf cocktail party. Next up: food and wine. We worked with the OSP’s in-house caterer, Taste, to offer crostini with Salumi’s smoked paprika salami, kobe beef sliders, rock shrimp mac and cheese, and more. They let us pick our own wine—for me, the difference between a $15 and a $25 bottle of wine was a no-brainer—and just charged a corkage fee.

When the band played John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” on that perfect evening, I knew we had achieved what we wanted: a great party that also happened to be a wedding. —TOM CRAIG


03 By Design

Photograph by Michele Waite

I’m an architect and interior designer by trade, so when I married Sarah Gelman on August 3, 2013, at Sodo Park, I had the overall vision: the menu as well as the look and feel of the invitations, the formal wear, and the décor. Sarah’s job is a lot more time-consuming—she even flew cross-country for work three days before the wedding—so it made sense for me to take on a good portion of the planning tasks.

I gave Sheryl Bracken of Paper Moxie some key words to drive the design and overall theme of the printed elements, and she presented ideas until we landed on a final look. In the last couple of weeks before the wedding, I worked with her on table identification and place cards. Our Seattle wedding was a destination event for most of our guests, and we really wanted a strong Pacific Northwest feeling. I altered images of crabs, ferryboats, the Space Needle, and other key icons in Photoshop to make them a little more artistic; instead of assigning the tables a number, we gave them each one of these. Guests received smaller versions of the images on their name cards, and found their seat for dinner by matching the icons.

I always love plaid, it’s kind of my signature, so my groomsmen and I rented navy suits from the Tuxedo Club in Kirkland and bought plaid shirts from J. Crew and bow ties and pocket squares from Brooks Brothers.

Photograph by Michele Waite

The final element was one Sarah asked for: she wanted me to surprise her with something. I originally thought I would sing a Fleetwood Mac song, but talking with Lisa Chambers of Chambers & Company, our wedding planner, I realized that since I don’t actually sing it would just make me nervous throughout the whole day. Sarah and I had decided early on that our dog, Lucy, would be in the wedding, and she had joked about having her carry a here-comes-the-bride sign, so I secretly made our pup a little ensemble that matched the groomsmen’s look. I ended up sewing it with my mother-in-law two nights before the wedding.

We’re closing on our first home right now, and we’re bringing each other ideas using Pinterest and magazine clippings, just like we did for the wedding. —PARKER EBERHARD

A Few (More) Good Men

DIY Together

My favorite aspects of wedding preparation were the craft and décor projects we worked on. My wife had the idea to make candles using teacups for the tables, so we spent a year slowly acquiring those from thrift shops. We purchased wicks and candle wax, and melted it down on the stove at home and filled the cups. I also fashioned a centerpiece candelabra using the teacups. I say express yourself as much as you can. We really tried to do things that reflected our interests, and it made the day so much more fun and personal. Jeff Cunningham, married Sarah Wolfe on November 9, 2013, at Our Lady of Fatima with a reception following at Palace Ballroom

Make It Work

We aimed to do everything as a team and not leave one person in full-charge of any one aspect—even down to brewing our own unique Belgian-style IPA, although beer is really my thing. I do think that if at all possible, it’s great to hire a wedding coordinator. It may feel like it’s not worth it, but it is. A good person with a lot of experience makes all the difference. On the day of the wedding, make sure your fiancée doesn’t have to stress about anything. Take on as much work yourself as possible so she can relax at the ceremony. Your turn to relax is after the wedding. Mike Jones, married Brandy Webb on August, 3, 2014, at the Herb Farm  in Bremerton

Location, Location, Location 

Even though Jennifer would have preferred a Southern plantation wedding and I would have loved something in the mountains, we considered the Bahamas, a lake house in Tahoe, and more before we settled on Whidbey Island. We both searched possible venues for our 35-person celebration, but it was definitely my primary responsibility. Once we settled on Whidbey, I negotiated with several properties, but most of them balked at having more than 10 people on the property and some outright refused to allow a wedding. Eventually I just planned a trip to drive around the island and find the perfect spot. Jonathan Epstein, married Jennifer Gedeon on July 20, 2013, at a private home