A Tale of Two Project Managers

I have a few confessions:

  1. I’m a reluctant wedding planner.
  2. Wedding planning is not what I thought it would be.
  3. Wedding planning does not have to be hard.

These thoughts have come to me over my short engagement, as illustrated by a recent conversation between my FH* and me over our DIY invitations:

FH: Are you okay? Am I doing enough to help with the wedding planning? I am not overwhelmed and wondering what I’m doing wrong.
Me: Me too. I’m okay; almost finished embossing these stupid envelopes.
FH: Yeah. (thinks) I thought maybe you were doing all the work and making my life easy.
Me: Ha! Nope. I’m here to make you miserable for the rest of your life. Pass me the heat gun?

The wedding planning process has been a great experience, thus far. In the first two months of a six-month engagement, we’ve planned three parties (one destination ceremony/dinner for immediate family, and two post-wedding receptions for our respective hometowns). Our experience has us mostly on-budget, on-schedule (our own, not the WIC’s), there is no pending litigation, no violations, and no one has died.

Did I mention that my FH and I are both environmental project managers?

As a reluctant wedding planner, I admit that this process has been less painful than anticipated. I’ve watched lovely friends become raging beasts, bundles of nerves, and crying procrastinators. In my first engagement, the groom-to-be fought me on everything—which is more telling about our relationship, his lack of understanding of finance, and our poor communication. So, with a ring on my finger in February, I prepared for war. Thus far, I’ve found that planning a wedding does not deserve its sullied reputation.

Before every stressed-out bride-to-be begins trying to find me with the desire to stab me with her floral wire, please understand how we view our wedding. It is just another project to manage. We do this on a daily basis. We keep multiple balls in the air for multiple projects, every day. If something goes wrong? My boss gets dragged before Congress—and nobody likes that. This wedding is (thankfully) a project on a small budget, a small high-functioning team, with no complicating hazardous wastes, no tribal negotiations, no cooperating state/federal agencies, and no multi-billion dollar project depending on our schedule. All deadlines and (most) expectations are self-imposed.

My FH and I are the project team. It may be unromantic, but viewing the wedding as just-another-project works for us. We do not need to define ourselves, our relationship, or our future through one day. We acknowledged before our engagement that this is something that must get done for the family; we agreed before getting engaged our wedding is not about us.

Okay, well some things are about us. We are getting married in Pennsylvania because a self-uniting marriage is important to us, much to the chagrin of my WASP family and his Catholic-when-it-suits-them family. Our self-uniting ceremony will be self-written, sometime in the next few weeks. Yes, I understand that doesn’t give us much time. We will get to it, but we can effectively accomplish one task at a time. Right now, we are working on our DIY invitations. All else we will handle after accomplishing this task. After all, there is no need to do other tasks if the invitations do not go out. No invitations = no guests = no need for further planning.

Most of the other stuff is not about us, and that keeps much of it in perspective. If Plan A won’t work, go to Plan B. If Plan B doesn’t work, find Plan C or negotiate. Negotiate. Negotiate. Wedding planning is a multi-step project encompassing a series of problem solving tasks. The details in this project do not define us; we define the details.

Is everything easy? No, of course not. My mother’s expectations, desires, and demands are very different from FH’s and my vision. Mom wants All The Things. She worries that I will have red flowers mixed into my wildflower bouquets, which will “ruin my day by clashing with my nieces’ lavender dresses.” FYI, Mom bought four mother-of-the-bride dresses and is stressing about over-spending and what she’ll do with the un-returnable gowns. She hates my favor selection and is determined to leave no-website unsearched to convince me of something better/more classic/less unique. And… well, let’s just say that I’ve received several unnecessary lectures about how I should behave, dress, walk, talk… I found peace with my mother’s insecurities long ago.

Family relationships aside, discussing the wedding and parties with my mother is an exercise of project consultation. To help her feel empowered, the party in my hometown is mostly about my mother (and conversely for the party in FH’s hometown). The budget is mine, but I am happy to negotiate if she is willing to be a funding-partner with money at the table. I’m patiently consulting and negotiating to blend her vision with mine, but not at the expense of the project’s success. I will help her have a party to be proud of with a newly wedded-daughter to show-off, with favors more to her liking, all within the confines of good project management.

I am grateful that my FH and I work well together and have good communication. I hoped for a transcendently romantic process in planning my wedding, but am okay settling for effective. In all honestly, there is no time to worry about lack of romance in the process. We have three parties to pull off (and a pending fourth, which will be a No Adults Allowed minimalist free-for-all) and only 80 days left. As a fan of efficiencies, my FH and I will not waste our time stressing when we can dedicate that time to productive progress. Finishing a job makes us happy. The worrying, fretting, and stressing are for my mother to do—and that makes her happy. Everybody wins.

*FH = Future Husband

Photo: Kandise Brown

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