A man? Baking a cake? What fresh madness is this?

This post is special to us here at AOW for many reasons.  Firstly, it was written by a Man. And it is about weddings, and..wait for it…PLANNING.  It’s not even a series of thrown-together grunts about weddings, it’s written very, very well. It also throws us some pretty uncomfortable (and important) questions about how people treat the groom before and after the event, and our expectations around the role of the groom.  

Secondly, because it’s from Tom, of Esme and Tom, who are our readers, our friends, and purveyors of damn fine afternoon tea.  We couldn’t be more thrilled about letting Tom tell his story.  And about the thievery of his phrases for our blog post titles.  This post is funny, frank and compelling.  Enjoy. 

Thank you, Tom.  Over to you:         

So, here I am. Blogging. Eek.

To be quite honest I never thought I would ever blog, and (sorry to live up to the stereotype here) certainly not about my wedding. But then I happened to marry the very talented Esme, who managed to persuade me that I’ve got something interesting to say (we’ll see about that), so here goes…

The first thing I should mention is that I am 100%, unashamedly biased when it comes to our wedding. It was awesomely fantastically amazing and very easily the best day of my life so far. I won’t go on about it. Well OK, I will a bit, because otherwise it wouldn’t be much good as a post on a wedding blog, but I’ll try not to sound too pleased with myself, promise! But I don’t want to get too up myself so any time I feel like I’m about to get boastful I’ll just say ‘see third paragraph’, OK? Good.

When we got engaged, I was absolutely determined that Esme and I would share the work equally when it came to planning the wedding. (I imagine she has laughed herself off her chair after reading that, because it didn’t happen. I feel bad about this.) Mainly, that’s because I wanted to be involved, but it’s also because I didn’t want everyone to think that I’d just assumed Esme would take care of everything, what with her being a lady and all. Unfortunately (or perhaps, in hindsight, fortunately), at the time she had a very boring job involving lots of thumb-twiddling, so quite naturally started doing things like contacting caterers and looking at venues while she was in the office. To say that was the only reason she did so much more than me would be a lie, as I am neither a) organised, nor b) focused, but having time during the working day to plan your wedding does make a massive difference to what you can achieve. I also have the problem that I focus on details first and the big picture later, which probably didn’t help – if it had all been down to me we probably would have had beautiful table decorations but no actual tables on which to put them, which gives you a sense of the scale of the problem. So, no, I did not do half the planning, and I am forever indebted to my wife because, well, see third paragraph. However, I did do quite a lot; most of it wasn’t what you might call ‘man jobs’ and I found the reactions of many people to this to be quite interesting.

 

I think statistics would probably back me up (if I could be bothered to find any) when I say it’s still true that, for most heterosexual couples, women do the majority of the wedding planning. As I said before, not wanting to slot into this stereotype was why I hoped to share it equally. So much for that, but why does this gender imbalance still prevail? From my own experience, I honestly don’t think it’s because men are intrinsically uninterested – most of us love a good project after all – but much more to do with what your family, friends and the rest of society at large expect. Whenever we went into a shop to ask about wedding-related stuff, answers would always be directed to Esme (even if I’d asked the question!); whenever relatives wanted details they would always ask Esme; and while Esme’s colleagues seemed to bombard her constantly with questions about the day, mine seemed to keep their curiosity to themselves. I am, by and large, not interested in the erecting of marquees or the specifications of generators, but I am massively enthusiastic about design, cooking and decorations, which most people seem to assume are things the bride has really clear ideas about and the groom just goes along with. I designed and handmade all the signs, maps, place names and menus for our wedding, and had a great time too, but I really got the impression that most people thought I was just doing it to please Esme. The main consequence of this was that they then didn’t ask me about it, which frustrated me because all I wanted to do was enthuse at them! Grrr.

Perhaps the perfect example of this type of attitude was the response we got when we told people I was going to make the wedding cake. There were double-takes, people choked on their coffee, laughed or just flat-out refused to believe it. Most people just seemed faintly perplexed. A MAN? Baking a CAKE?! What fresh madness is this? Interestingly, the response was most extreme from Esme’s female colleagues, who seemed to treat it as if it were some sort of anthropological marvel, worthy of a leading article in National Geographic. Weird. I very much doubt that if Esme had said she was making the cake there would have been quite the same reaction. Now I’m not saying that making a wedding cake is a trivial undertaking (perhaps I’ll even write about it if people are interested?) but at the end of the day it is just a cake and the words ‘that man is making a cake’ are not likely to elicit much of a response. Grooms (who are, indeed, men), however, are not expected to make wedding cakes (which are, undeniably, cakes), and the addition of that one, small word seems to send some people’s attitudes towards gender roles hurtling back to the 1950’s.

There were, of course, many, many people who understood perfectly that I was doing these things not only because I love my wife, but for their intrinsic fun too. Some of the other men even got involved themselves – my best man blended a special tea for each of us, which went down a treat with the cake! So many people contributed so much in so many (often unexpected) places, and that’s something I will always love about our wedding day. I am really not interested in garnering praise for a job well done, because I feel like there were so many moments when I looked around on the day and thought ‘Yep, this is better than I imagined’, and if there’s one thing I’ll remember about the guests it’s how damned smiley they all were. That feels like praise enough to me. What has since bugged me, though, is that there seems to be an expectation (yes, one of those again) that because I’m a man I’m not that keen on telling people about it. It seems like Esme has been doing nothing at work but fielding questions about the wedding for the past three weeks; I was asked ‘How did it go?’ a couple of times, and, aside from a bit of excitement when we got the first photos through, that was about it. Again, I have all this enthusiasm stuck inside me, and I want to burst and shower everyone in the awesomeness of our wedding – to do so without being prompted seems boastful and would probably leave me looking like an arse, so I keep quiet, ready to explode at the slightest provocation, like some sort of dangerous wedding piñata (oh my God, please let wedding piñatas be real!).

On the other hand, perhaps I should be grateful that they’re so uninterested, because it now feels like I have this amazing secret that’s all mine to keep. Or then again perhaps they just don’t care… Well, I don’t mind: I’ve got an amazing wife and, like I said, see third paragraph.

Categories: Politics and Feminism, Wedding Planning
24 interesting thoughts on this

18 Comments

  1. Mahj
    Posted September 20, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I only have one (maybe 2) responses to this. Firstly is le sigh!

    Secondly is (please insert squeal) Tom, you are awesome! That was so honestly and wonderfully written. I loved reading every last word and may have to read it again a second time.

    Like Esme, my job allowed me to (through thumb-twiddling also) plan the majority of our wedding. And Martin did take part in said planning but maybe not as enthusiastically as you. He claims a fear of getting it wrong that kept him away! But you know what, all the big decisions were made by us and he was kept in the loop all the way (whether he wanted to be or not!). And on our weddiong day, when he stood up in front of 100+ of our family and friends and gave his beautiful speech in which he thanked me for organising the day, it was totally worth it!

    Tom. You da man!

    xoxo

    PS. Please can I come for afternoon tea? Esp if your baking a cake!

  2. Esme
    Posted September 20, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Look at him looking all handsome. I'm a proud wife today!

    @Mahj – you're welcome anytime hun. To say I only married him for his cooking skills is less of an exaggeration than I would care to admit…

    xxx

  3. Posted September 20, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I loved reading this from the 'groom with a view'…Between Esme and Tom that is one jealousy-inducingly witty, good looking and well-spoken couple! No feelings of inadequacy here, of course ;)

  4. Soph
    Posted September 20, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Ah….this is far too cute for this early in the morning! You're both completely adorable! And you make such a gorgeous couple, fo' shizzle! (that was me, trying to be cool like Mahj. Sigh. I won't do it again, sorry.)

    My boyfriend is choreographing our first dance-he used to be a dancer, so it's not exactly foreign territory, but he's so serious about it and so earnest in his explanation of his involvement in the wedding to practical strangers, I can't help but fall even more in love with him!

    So here's to the menfolk being out and proud in their love of wedding planning… Thank you Tom!

    Soph xx

  5. Posted September 20, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Arrhh, fantastic post. Fab photos, with lots of smiley faces. Tom, I love your style of writing, and am wildly impressed with how much you did. I also love that you made the cake, and that you cut it in the garden. Your wedding looks like so much fun.

    I definitely think we should have a post, on making your own cake by the way.

    Oh the shame, I planned the wedding with my parents (who were hosting it). My Dad got totally into where the marquee was positioned, what marquee we had, toilet hire, size of generator, parking, access, food, drink, outside seating (he spent ages picking a new bench for garden), levelling the lawn for marquee, moving old stone water troughs into the gardens to fill with flowers, watering garden, taking down fences, and the timings for day.

    Husband?? He picked the honeymoon, wrote his speech, helped with seating plan, picked a hymn for church service and friend to do a reading, and chose what suit he wore. He left my family to it, to be honest.

    I love how you and Esme did it all together.

    xx

  6. Posted September 20, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I am voting for Esme and Tom to become the official AOW couple – I'm pretty sure that not one of us right now doesn't want to actually BE them.

    Tom – thank you thank you thank you for writing this for us. Not only have you highlighted the valid point of the 'ignored-groom' which really shouldn't exist in this enlightened day and age, but you did it in the most fabulous, witty and eloquent way – look at you dispelling preconceptions left right and centre! It must have taken a lot to write this knowing that we're a predominantly female lot around here, but I am so grateful that you did.

    And can I put in a request for this not being the last of Tom we see on these peachy pages?

  7. Posted September 20, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Tom – I don't want to sound demanding, but what the hell, I am – yes, we would love a post on how you made the cake. And any trials and tribulations that occured. Please.

    Gemma – DAMNIT. Groom with a view! I totally missed that. Where were you with your fancy titles when I was putting this post together?!?

    Soph – I love that he is choreographing your first dance! That is Amazing. We did a shuffle and I confess that right up to the last minute I was desperately hoping that And would surprise me and start twirling and doing jazz hands.

    Brides-that-were and brides-that-be, Tom has forged new territory here – get your grooms writing for Groom With A View (titled sponsored by Gemma)!

  8. Posted September 20, 2011 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Cake post please!! I loved reading this – Tom is hilarious and he and Esme are THE cutest couple ever. I want to be both of them. At the same time.

    Tom- my husband did a billion things for our wedding too and I speak for him when I say – don't wait to be asked! Sam loves a good brag, and even on our honeymoon he was getting out the photos of his craft projects and waving them at strangers (who were roundly impressed). Sam loves getting out his sewing machine (possibly even less masculine than baking a cake?) and he did all the textiles for the wedding, among a thousand other things. He is now threatening to start making me dresses! GET IN.

    Px

  9. Posted September 20, 2011 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Cake post please!! I loved reading this – Tom is hilarious and he and Esme are THE cutest couple ever. I want to be both of them. At the same time.

    Tom- my husband did a billion things for our wedding too and I speak for him when I say – don't wait to be asked! Sam loves a good brag, and even on our honeymoon he was getting out the photos of his craft projects and waving them at strangers (who were roundly impressed). Sam loves getting out his sewing machine (possibly even less masculine than baking a cake?) and he did all the textiles for the wedding, among a thousand other things. He is now threatening to start making me dresses! GET IN.

    Px

  10. Posted September 20, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Yay for boys who do 'girls' things and girls who do 'boys' things, and grr to silly suppliers who fail to realise that this is perfectly normal!

    I wish my boy made cake. (although he can make a kick ass steak pie)

  11. Esme
    Posted September 20, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    @Penny – he SEWS?! That's impressive!

  12. Tom
    Posted September 20, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the lovely comments guys!

    Soph – I wish I could have choreographed a dance! We did the 'Anna K shuffle' as it will now be known, which was fine, but a proper dance would have been ace.

    In the end, all that matters is that you're both happy with the planning process, whatever this means in terms of division of labour. Right?

    If anything, I probably spent a bit too much time on the designy bits of the wedding (including the never-ending quest for the perfect font) and could have done a bit more work on, I don't know, getting a generator that was big enough (maybe you'll hear more about that soon…). In the end, who cares what form your involvement takes, as long as you're having fun? Huzzah for cake, choreography and textiles, but huzzah, too, for generators, level ground and steak pie!

    Spose I'd better go and write a cake post then. Mmmm, cake post…

  13. Posted September 20, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Oh Tom, so funny. So so funny! You cheered up my dull lunch and now I don't want to have to concentrate on rubbish work again! (I spent my work days planning my wedding like Esme and Mahj although don't have a thumb twiddling job, post honeymoon pile of work = not fun!)

    I love your perspective on your wedding Tom! I hope writing this has helped relieve some of your pent up desire to share! The questions Michael has had from his work colleagues tend to centre around the 'how did it go?' mark. We also found the same thing when meeting suppliers, they'd direct everything to me so I'd have to direct it back at Michael and ask what he thought. Expectations on wedding traditions seem to have got stuck in the 1950s too!

    We made all the major decisions together and I did get his authorisation when spending money on all the decor. His main thing was the honeymoon which he planned the shizzle out of!

    I so want a cake post! Is there some way we could all try a piece too? It's all about the taste surely?

    Anyone else vote for Tom and Sam starting a wedding planning business together too? I want a man who sews me dresses and bakes me cake!

    Love you Esme and Tom! xXx

  14. Esme
    Posted September 20, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Jenny! xx

  15. Posted September 20, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    SO great to hear a groom's perspective, and so well written! Having met Esme in person and even had her gracing my very own pages it doesn't surprise me in the least that her husband is equally clever, talented and all round lovely.

    Also – Tom, I'm feeling you on the font hunt, man. I am now able to identify multiple fonts by name at a glance, and whenever I see Jane Austen (the font, not the author) I go "ahhh, it's our wedding font!", which invariably attracts bemused looks. Whatevs, they're just jealous of ma font.

  16. Posted September 20, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    I absolutely love this story To -such a cute post.

    The Boyfriend is also very excited about getting married and wants to get involved. So far so good!

  17. Posted September 20, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    A-mazing, Tom. What a wonderful way to highlight stereotypes in wedding planning and simultaneously get hundreds of women daydreaming about cake. That's a home run.

    I want cake now. The only cakes in my house are made of rice. Big Fat Sigh.

    Kirsty and Tom, I am also engaged in my Font Hunt now, I keep emailing MrG font samples and demanding detailed reviews. He is finding me bemusing, I believe.

  18. Posted September 22, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Huzzah for clever boys.

    I love that my Bean bakes. Coffee and Walnut cake – he's your man!

6 Trackbacks

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  • By Feminism on February 29, 2012 at 9:03 am

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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