3 Project Management Lessons from Planning My Wedding

Getting Married (photo by Katy Dickinson)
Getting Married (photo: Katy Dickinson)

My wedding day was–surprisingly–the happiest day of my life. Surprisingly, not because I was expecting to be miserable. I was expecting to have fun on top of a low buzz of stress, like most birthday parties. I ended up being filled by love and kindness from 125 of my friends and family. It was wonderful.

But in addition to being the public declaration of Matthew and my internal partnership, it was a huge logistical undertaking. With the help of the wonderful Laura Biche, my Mom, Matt’s Mom, our caterers/florists, our stuff rental folks, and our officient, I had the fun of planning my own wedding.

Below are some of the project management lessons I learned:

The mission matters.

Our wedding had a mission: to be the place where our families and friends had a good time publicly celebrating our private commitment. This meant every decision that I made, I tried to think: how does this contribute to the mission of the wedding?

The mission came in handy when we were faced with choices: do we take the family portraits a half-mile away on a dirt road, because there’s really cool ruins, or in the ceremony amphitheater? We chose the amphitheater, because the comfort of our less able family members was in the mission and aesthetics was not.

Trying to get the ring off. (photo: Katy Dickinson)
Trying to get the ring off. (photo: Katy Dickinson)

It also helped me remain calm when I got my ring stuck on my finger before the ceremony, and neither ice, nor butter, nor twine, nor my maid of honor’s hard artist’s hands could get it off. So we faked it–I hid my ring finger while I walked down the aisle, and our fantastic officiant handed Matt an invisible ring when the time came. We figured: our private commitment between our hearts, not our fingers.

Trust competent people.

We ended up, through both serendipity and conniving, with a lovely team of helpers for the wedding. My Mom lent me her best friend for the wedding; she was invaluable both as the Fairy-Godmother-In-Charge on the day of, and in the weeks of planning before.

Matt’s Aunt Jeri took incredible wedding photos. They’re on Facebook and flickr; she not only captured the spirit and facts of our wedding, she took some amazing portraits of our families and friends as well.

We found our equipment rental folks after hours of Yelp trolling and a two-hour round-trip drive to their storefront in Wattsonville. Whenever we had a choice, we selected the most professional, competent people we could for every job. It made the entire day calmer, because we could delegate with total trust.

The important part of the wedding. (photo: Katy Dickinson)
The important part of the wedding. (photo: Katy Dickinson)

Be kind and calm.

There were a few moments during both the planning process and the day itself when I was tempted to slip into my Bridezilla mask and slink around, roaring. I did so quite a bit in my own head. But with other people, all of whom were more stressed and busier than I, I tried to be kind and calm.

The mission helped a great deal here: it was written so narrowly, that nearly anything could happen and I would still be furthering it as long as everyone was having a good time. When I changed shape and needed my wedding dress let out a few weeks before the wedding, I didn’t snap at the tailor, though I was furious with myself and wanted to lash out. When mosquitoes demanded to be included in our photos, I didn’t have a melt-down; we made jokes about it.

It probably helped that I was aiming for this fantastic cottage by the beach which we got through airbnb for the first night of our honeymoon. (We recommend it).

Our first married kiss (photo: Paul D. Goodman)


I’m using my project management lessons from our wedding as I ramp up for this semester. I’m trying to make my class mission-centered, to rely on the most competent people I can find for my Fulbright application, and I’m trying to be kind and calm as I learn to share my space with another (wonderful!) person. Here’s hoping for a hundred more years of project management lessons.

Inspirational Quote:

“Oh thou
Far off and near
whole and broken
who in necessity and in bounty wait
whose truth is light and dark
mute though spoken
by thy wide grace
show me thy narrow way.”
–To The Holy Spirit, Wendell Berry

(This was the poem I repeated to myself about 25 times on our wedding day–it always brings me to a place of inner calm.)

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