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Wedding Graduate: An Update From The Groom


Last week we ran one of the only wedding graduate posts ever written by a groom, and you guys loved it. You demanded more, and Harrison, the groom in question, was only too happy to comply (he complained that the post I ran last week was merely his email introduction to the topic, and not anywhere near informative and practical enough.) I’m sure you won’t be at all surprised that his best wedding advice is A) Practical, B) Short and to the point, and C) Really helpful if you actually attempt to follow it. As a child of a mathematician, I have to say, this is probably the wedding advice my father would give, and he’d probably also be correct. So enjoy (and listen).

Wedding Graduate: An Update From The Groom | A Practical Wedding

So, I’m an engineer, and a guy.  My first inclination, when deciding what advice to pass on, was to make a list of failure-modes, and logistical approaches.  I now believe that I can do significantly better, with fewer words. Elizabeth and I work well together — we complement each others’ strengths and weaknesses.  If I were to give one piece of advice, it might be to treat the wedding as you would a project at work.  Nothing involved in the process anywhere is a life-and-death decision.  If you can’t afford something, you find a way around, or you do without.

Every now and then, you’ll have to make a decision…not about which caterer to use, whose car to drive, or how many rolls of paper towels are going to be required, but about what you WANT.  When it comes time to make that decision, you’ll want to have your sanity intact. Obsessing over irrelevant details will deplete mental and emotional energy that will be needed for the fun choices.

Wedding Graduate: An Update From The Groom | A Practical Wedding

So put together a rough-draft.  Develop an intuition for what problems can be solved later.  Make use of pessimal estimates, and find base-line solutions that can work.  If you have time, later on, to improve upon things: great.  If you don’t have time, you already have a functional, if untidy, solution.  When you find yourself enumerating dozens of possible outcomes because you simply don’t have enough information yet, go do some Pa Qua, meditate, fly a kite, or go for a run…You have plenty of time for deciding whether you want the basket with the programs to be ignored with a blue ribbon or yellow.

And, for good measure, the dancer density expectation values.

Photos By: Emily Takes Photos

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  • Zan

    Harrison this is great!! I felt a sort of “nerds, unite!” vibe from your post. As a self-proclaimed nerd this is a sincere compliment :) Pessimal estimates FTW! Seriously this concept has played a big part in helping me keep my sanity thus far. Oh, and saving energy for the fun stuff — I needed that reminder today.

    As the child of an scientist I’m right there with Meg on the Dad-advice thing! I might forward this to my Dad actually, he’d love it!

  • A-L

    The nerd in me loved the dancer density expectation values worksheet. Thanks for making sure Meg let us read your whole post!

  • http://fromasmallstep.blogspot.com/ Kinzie Kangaroo

    How awesome. Now I’m scheming about ways to make my fiance write a post here. I’ll keep you all posted.

  • Rachel

    I feel like this deserves a round of the Hallelujah chorus. Because, seriously, it’s that groundbreaking. And that simple.

    I am officially bookmarking this post and sending this to everybody I know who gets engaged roughly a month after their announcement!

  • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

    Ohhhh yes. That’s exactly how I felt about the last post!

    This is beautiful simplicity.

  • abby_wan_kenobi

    Holy my goodness. I feel a little like I’m in the twilight zone. My work world is crashing into APW. Thanks for making me think about FMEAs in a non-work environment Harrison. Really.

    Seriously though, this is some solid advice. As a fellow engineer, there were times in my wedding planning that I removed myself emotionally from the process. There just really was no point expending energy or stress on the decision between in-budget boring pocket squares and upgrade-the-whole-tux-package-way-out-of-budget for a pocket square option which perfectly matched the bridesmaid’s dress. We went budget at tux rental time, Mom later found some matchy fabric and we made our own *since we had time*. In hindsight I can’t believe Husband and I even discussed it at the tux shop.

    Honestly all the stressful ‘should we? shouldn’t we?’ was pointless. In 90% of cases either decision would have been perfectly lovely and once that decision was made we could enjoy the process. (Like staying up late drinking cocktails and sewing pocket squares with my Mom).

    Thanks for bringing it a second time Harrison :)

    • Amy

      As a note on the pocket squares, if you get bridesmaid dresses/clothing through David’s Bridal, you can buy fabric samples for $1 each. They may be intended to help you coordinate your napkins or tulle, but they are also the perfect size for a pocket square.

      (Also, I am an electrical engineer, and FMEAs are evil.)

    • (Other)Amy

      I just laughed out loud about the pocket square thing. I ordered pocket squares for my husband and his best man from a lovely shop in England, decided they were perfect, and then when I went to buy more they were all sold out. Cue freaking out and me calling 5 different stores in London to see if they had any hidden in a back room somewhere. Yes, I was that bride. Finally I calmed down and told myself that nobody would notice (or care) if the d*mn pocket squares were different sizes or slightly different shades of pink.

  • Kashia

    Yay for engineers! (The boy is one. I made him read this before he left for work this morning…he thought it was great.)

  • Pbeth

    I am an engineer engaged to a chemist. Our strategy for wedding planning has been to KISS (keep it simple, stupid!), focus on the things that we really care about and fight the urge to have the picture perfect styled wedding!

    • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

      KISS is such a good life motto, in so many ways. ;)

  • JUST JENCIL

    ‘You have plenty of time for deciding whether you want the basket with the programs to be ignored with a blue ribbon or yellow.’

    Love it. As a designer, I have a tendency to focus too much on the all the small details, and this brings back the logical nerdy geek in me (Art-Tech grad). The above affirms the epiphany I had the other night to only focus on the minute details I enjoy doing because most of them will be ignored anyway.

  • Class of 1980

    HARRISON SAID: “You have plenty of time for deciding whether you want the basket with the programs to be ignored with a blue ribbon or yellow.”

    Best line ever. And thank you for introducing me to a new word – “Pessimal”. It means what it sounds like. Now if only I could use it in a sentence. ;)

    • http://linseykitchens.wordpress.com Linsey

      If only I understood the worksheet as clearly as I did the program basket with who-gives-a-shi*-colored ribbons!

      If only I could be so logical. Damn it, heart!

  • http://elissarphotography.com Elissa

    I was reading and thinking, This guy is a genius, but then realized that we did something similar…

    I wanted to comment, mostly, on the second photo. I think we wore the same dress! :)

  • http://bluesuedeidos.com Beth

    Heh heh heh: “You have plenty of time for deciding whether you want the basket with the programs to be ignored with a blue ribbon or yellow.”

    I know so many brides who needed to read that sentence. Thanks for your perspective!

  • Amanda

    “Treat the wedding as you would a project at work. ”
    Funny, loved reading this post because my now husband, who is an engineer and project manager, said exactly the same the night we sat down and started to figure out how we would organize everything. Also I was all for paper, ready with my pad, and he was ready with excel (which was useful)

    • (Other)Amy

      The only problem with me treating the wedding like I would a work project is that I do plan events for work. And this meant that my entire family thought that would make wedding planning super duper easy on me. I repeatedly pointed out that at work, I had the benefit of a team of people working with me, and oh by the way? They’re paying me to plan some large and annoying event. Sadly, this never seemed to change anyone’s mind.

  • http://emilys22.wordpress.com emilyrose

    “Obsessing over irrelevant details will deplete mental and emotional energy that will be needed for the fun choices.” So true! I want to start saving energy for the fun stuff, and doing the rest more quickly and efficiently. Duh. It seems so obvious, all of a sudden.

  • http://twentyfivetowife.blogspot.com Amanda

    Oh man can I tell you about some spreadsheets. Though we are figuring the dancer density will work itself out (plus the venue holds 30% more people than we’re inviting so we’re not too worried… or maybe your spreadsheet was for some other purpose than making sure you had enough space). Ours is to determine attendance estimates based on expectations of each friend showing up. Unfortunately, my fiancé seems to have little faith in certain family and friends caring enough to come, but based on the “10% will decline” rule of thumb I think we’re still ok. So um… yay math!

  • Hypothetical Sarah

    “If I were to give one piece of advice, it might be to treat the wedding as you would a project at work.”

    But the boy tends to do projects as close to the deadline as possible. I’m generally low-stress (conservation of energy and all*… plus the wedding is over 15 months away), but I won’t be if we wait until the week before to do/book everything!

    * “Obsessing over irrelevant details will deplete mental and emotional energy that will be needed for the fun choices.”

    • Marina

      My boy also tends to push the deadlines… but I have to say, learning how to negotiate me wanting things done as far in advance as possible against him wanting to do things at the last second was possibly the single most useful part of wedding planning in retrospect. It was sincerely stressful for way too much time, but the ways we figure to work around it and work WITH each other will be hella useful for the rest of our lives together.

      (For the record, what ended up working for us was we would decide on a project he would work on, I would set a deadline of about a week before my real deadline, and then I would be completely hands-off and ignore the project until that deadline. If he missed that deadline, I had enough of a time buffer that I would do the project. But that never happened, because the projects we decided he’d do were things he sincerely cared about and wanted done his way.)

  • Luna

    LOVE THIS! Plus seeing the amount of anonymous users in the spread sheet is VERY cool. Happy Wednesday!

  • Kess

    Yes!! You have made my day. It’s very hard to find technically minded people with the same straightforward approach in the wedding world. We’re both ‘engineers in the making’ (I’m going for mechanical engineering, he’s going for computer engineering) and the general way weddings are approached seem ridiculous to us@! We’re not even getting married until 2013 and I’m already annoyed by the lack of logic in weddings.

    APW is the best I’ve found, and this post makes it even better!

  • Cass

    “You have plenty of time for deciding whether you want the basket with the programs to be ignored with a blue ribbon or yellow.”

    This really resonates with a post from a few months ago that weddings are “really fun, pretty, bullshit.”

    So it’s key to pick what’s fun, what’s pretty and realize that it’s all bullshit. What really matters is that you get married.

  • http://arduousblog.blogspot.com ruchi

    “If I were to give one piece of advice, it might be to treat the wedding as you would a project at work.”

    Yup. I used to produce a lot of theatre, and I TOTALLY feel like planning a wedding is like producing a play. Do your research, make a decision, move on. Unfortunately, my engineer fiance takes more of the, “Do your research. Agonize for several days. Contemplate doing more research,” path.

    • lolo7835

      That is so my PhD. fiance’s take, but also the “research. Agonize for several days. Contemplate doing more research. Complete research. Have research shot down by committee. Drink. Do research” path. Seriously, he needs to stop running ideas by outside ‘experts’

      • http://arduousblog.blogspot.com ruchi

        Haha. It’s funny. I spend much more time reading wedding blogs (well I read two, but that’s two more than my fiance.) But I think he spends way more time discussing wedding plans with “outside experts” aka his friends who are probably sick to death of our wedding.

        I feel like if he maybe read a wedding blog, he’d feel less need to constantly consult his friends. ;)

  • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

    Can I take a shallow moment to swoon over the fact that Harrison wore tails at his wedding!

    • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

      I love tails. :D

  • http://ridiculouslyeverafter.blogspot.com Nikki

    “whether you want the basket with the programs to be ignored with a blue ribbon or yellow”

    I am cracking up!

  • Shotgun Shirley

    Another engineer here, and I love it! Google spreadsheets were a lifesaver in our planning process, and FMEA belongs in more every day scenarios!

    Also, love the tails and the fact that you already had that tux makes it even better.

    • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

      We loved our Google Spreadsheets too. And that we were able to share them with each other and with our parents (as necessary) made gathering data and keeping it organized so handy.

      We now have a Google Spreadsheet with the dinners we like so when we’re trying to figure out what we want to cook we can pull it up and decide.

    • http://www.ohdeerio.com smallwonder

      Google for life! It solves every problem worth solving.

  • http://whitepicketpassport.wordpress.com/ Roem Baur

    Awesome post. Harrison’s approach puts so many things into perspective.

    Having made a lot of things harder than they had to be in my own wedding, I would definitely advise friends to hire an engineer when planning.

    It just makes so much sense!

  • jen

    I love fellow spreadsheet nerds!

  • http://strawberriesinparis.com Elizabeth

    I love this spreadsheet!! definitely keeping it on hand for my wedding!

  • http://isalmostthere.blogspot.com/ Erin R

    I love the spreadsheet. And I love the word pessimal. This post was awesome.

    • http://thinkingwedding.blogspot.com Rhiannon

      I’m trying to ‘exactly’ this and it’s not working!

      I too love the word and the entire concept of ‘pessimal’.

      Drawing up a worst-case-scenario would probably help us get it out of our systems and then I would be able to breathe normally again without all external sounds being drowned out by my own heartbeat.

  • hoppy bunny

    I really like the way you organized your budget. Thanks so much for the great post!! And the reminder–there are things you want and things you need, and they should be treated differently. Yay.

  • Marina

    Yay, thank you for the dancer density spreadsheet! :D

    I have to say, though, I think this is the most brilliant piece of wedding advice in the history of wedding advice:

    “Every now and then, you’ll have to make a decision…not about which caterer to use, whose car to drive, or how many rolls of paper towels are going to be required, but about what you WANT. When it comes time to make that decision, you’ll want to have your sanity intact. Obsessing over irrelevant details will deplete mental and emotional energy that will be needed for the fun choices.”

  • http://markandrewphotographer.com Boston Wedding Photographer

    If only everyone had the same out,look that this is not life and death and was as prepared. The right outlook on having a plan and working from it instead of working in a big circle.

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