From pissy to pretty calm: How to plan your wedding, Project Manager-style

October 28 | Guest post by MeganAnne
Lucian & Erin Sara53
Photo by Wild About You Photography

My fiancé and I are both project management types — at work, and in our general personalities. So, we have weekly wedding planning meetings with agendas that have been put together with a limited number of items that we must get through in that meeting. Enough to continually check things off the list, and not so many as to blow our meeting timeline — no longer than two-and-a-half hours, period. This has managed to keep us sane, speaking to each other, productive, and focused on other things, like unpacking the house we just bought, getting through a terribly hectic time at work, enjoying each other, and focusing on my nearly-six-year-old son.

Here's how we plan our wedding, Project Manager-style…

We send the upcoming week's agenda to each other at least three days before the meeting and agree that these are the items we'll deal with. There's opportunity for back and forth on what we'll cover, but we have each agreed to a finalized agenda, and to avoid springing something on the other without forewarning. And they're not all "make a decision!" items. Some of them are things like "Officiant: determine and list possibilities and considerations." Once we do that within the meeting, we're done. We'll identify next steps and revisit those at the next meeting.

There are some tools we use at work that we signed up for with personal email addresses to help in the planning as well. They're primarily team management and collaboration project management tools, but they're FREE and SUPER HELPFUL. Trello is my favorite, and I can't get past the fact that it's free, SO easy to use, and 100% private.

When we disagree about something like the guest book in the meeting, we hear each other out because it's our natural inclination in that setting, due in part to the fact that we both lead teams and are naturally predisposed to being careful with people in meeting settings. And also, we're not drinking. We take notes, write down all the ideas, and identify next steps for resolving the issue, along with a date that we will next discuss the guest book.

We'll also cover lessons learned at the beginning of a meeting if necessary.

I joke that we often talk like we're at work: "this item is out of scope for the next meeting" or, "we've identified all we need to in terms of the limitations of this agenda, so let's move to the next point." But seriously… It. Is. A. Lifesaver.

All of this, I know, is a really dry and somewhat cool (as in, not-quite-cold) way to approach the major items, but I've gotta say, it takes NONE of the romance out for us and does remove a LOT of the conflict when we disagree about something, like the guest book. When we're discussing it over whiskey and a bonfire at 1am on a Saturday, the guest book can seem like the Biggest Possible Issue We Will Ever Face and if we can't agree on something as trivial as a guest book, how will we EVER agree on ANYTHING?!

Once we started approaching this like any other project we manage at work, we've gone from being pissy with each other (for the first time ever!) to actually feeling pretty calm and on top of things.

We've got seven months, start to finish, to plan this relatively big wedding, and we've got SO MUCH nailed down that neither of us are feeling behind or pressured at all.

In two months we've identified and contracted for the date, venue, caterer, menu, budget, photographer, videographer, my dress, my accessories, my shoes, bridal party, processional plan, day-of timeline, roles for family, the hotel we'll be staying at for the wedding night, where my son, my girls, and I will be getting ready, where he and his guys will be getting ready, the photo booth, the activities, the dessert, the table layout, the table sizes, the linens, the guest list (with most addresses collected), the invites, rehearsal time and space, rehearsal dinner, coat check tags, design and timeline for development of centerpieces and decor, honeymoon, the wedsite, first dance, family dances, officiant, parts of the ceremony, and (ha ha) the guest book.

We're a team. We communicate for a living, and with each other. I love project management. Really, I'm a geek like that. But, now that it's helping us plan our wedding, I super love it.

  1. I love this! I used to plan events so there is definitely a wedding spreadsheet. We've found it helpful to divide competences according to strengths. I'm the researcher / logistics, my partner handles communication which drives wedding vendors a bit bonkers because they really want to talk to the Bride*.

    *Who is knee deep in a PhD, couldn't care less about linen colours, and really doesn't want to talk to them.

    9 agree
  2. I will vouch for this approach! Especially since while I manage projects at work, my Boy doesn't. I set up periodic working lunches where we'd do something fun together, then get lunch (at someplace like Panera with an internet connection) and go over our list. He'd tease me for emailing around an agenda and bringing my laptop to pull up our Google docs, but he eventually got the point because WE GOT SHIGGEN DONE!

    I esp appreciated this approach because I didn't have to nag. Open-ended tasks are hard to get started on, but at each meeting we'd divide up tasks and we'd each set our own deadlines for the tasks. Then, at the next meeting, we'd just look at the list and say, "Ok, you were going to book the DJ by today. How's that going?" We both knew what we had to do and when we had to do it by, and I don't recall there were any missed deadlines.

  3. This is similar in style to how we're planning, except we don't limit time to a 2 hour block… we spend the other spare time when we're not at work working on things at a reasonable pace.

    • Also I should note that so far in my experience of planning out deadlines to our "milestones" in project wedding, the last 60 days feels excruciating at times – based on deadlines slipping or other factors really outside of the control one can have in using a project management approach.

      We thought we had everything in place in the first 2-3 months – we had all the vendors booked, all the plans in place… but sometimes you have to be flexible and a two hour meeting session when you're doing small projects like… designing your own save the dates, invitations, programs… those take development time outside of your meetings I'm sure. Guess the lesson is, do what works for you – overall.

  4. Heh, my wedding spreadsheet has gotten so extensive that it might work better as a database at this point, so I hear this!

    The upside of all this planning is staying on budget and on time line throughout the planning process for 90% of stuff.

  5. I'm currently in a course devoted to teaching project management skills, so reading this article has me cracking up. I've totally started saying things like "that is out of scope with what we're trying to accomplish right now" and making sure our "milestones" aren't mismatched with our timelines.

  6. I've had to begin the wedding meeting approach. My fiance is super excited to get married, but not super excited to plan. Essentially I ask him when he will be mentally free to listen and think about the wedding, then I bring an agenda to the meeting (really just a check list of topics to cover). Then we write what we've agreed upon, action steps, and draw out any visuals. We finish the meeting by signing and dating the notes so that he can't say, "I don't remember agreeing to that!" as he often does with chores around the house. It has been working pretty well!

    1 agrees
  7. I just have to ask, does anyone know where the photo was taken? It looks like this park up in Paulsbo where my friends got married.

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