Project management lessons from…wedding planning

I’m lucky enough to be getting married next Spring.  Since getting engaged I have approached the big day like a typical consultant – planning it like the biggest project I have ever ‘managed’ (I use inverted commas as I am really only the support act).  My first thought was “There is probably a list of all the things you need to think of and do in the lead up to the wedding – I can just Google it.  There is probably even a template project (wedding) plan I can download…”

Molten Blog Project management lessons from…wedding planning_1200x500

As my fiancé (also a management consultant) and I have geekishly planned out our wedding with a ‘wedding spreadsheet’ I have mentioned this to friends and colleagues.  It turns out that almost everyone I have spoken with has planned their wedding day like true project managers – there are wedding spreadsheets galore out there.  Whether this is an indication of wider society in general or just the people I know I have no idea, I have come to realise though that our efforts are nowhere near as extreme as some others…  No doubt that their weddings were planned and executed with military precision though and I may only come to appreciate this as I look back after my own experience…

The wedding spreadsheets friends and colleagues have shared with me range in complexity but include many of the core elements of project management such as:

  • Budget management: adding up all the wedding costs and tracking what has been spent (paid) so far.  Incidentally, I have been advised that in general people underestimate project (wedding) costs by 50%…
  • Resource management: listing all of the project stakeholders (wedding invitees), their details and tracking their status (RSVP)
  • Project planning: timeline from the present day to ‘go live’ (the wedding), setting out key milestones along the way (engagement drinks, sending out invitations, hen/stag do, etc)

Some other elements of project management I have yet to see explicitly written down (perhaps for good reason), but have identified in wedding planning in a number of cases:

  • Risks and Issues management: perhaps not documented because some things are best left unsaid (e.g. Risk: groom/bride is nowhere to be found on wedding day. Mitigation: Send out search party, have suitable replacement groom/bride on standby)
  • Benefits management: again probably not something that needs to be made explicit (e.g. it may be dangerous to track progress against a wedding business case such as ‘Bride & groom live happily ever after’)
  • Quality management: for most couples I have spoken with this role is performed by the bride (N.B. see Change Control / spiralling project costs below).  I have seen quality management also included in people’s plan for the day itself, e.g. ‘Check room temperature is ok for marquee’ and ‘Check sound: Priest’s headset and PA system’
  • Governance: most couples I’ve spoken with like to think that they have the decision rights when it comes to the wedding, but it’s fair to say their parents were also ‘on the Steering Committee’
  • Reporting: seems to be predominantly verbal, e.g. weekly calls/meetings with the Steering Committee (parents) to provide progress updates.  I have also seen instances of the bride & groom setting up a meeting with their core project team (bridesmaids & ushers) and walking through a minute-by-minute plan of go live (wedding) day to agree clear roles and responsibilities
  • Change Control: I can’t speak for other people’s weddings but from my own project planning this has been weak, resulting in scope creep and spiralling project costs (as things like a ‘videographer’ are considered).  Should this have been picked up by better planning at the beginning?  Probably.

Lastly, I have even had some wedding Lessons learned kindly shared with me by friends and colleagues (spoiler alert): “The day will fly by and you won’t remember any of it”, “It will cost twice what you originally estimate” and “The day is not about you, it is mainly for everyone else’s enjoyment”

Regardless, I have certainly learned that my fiancé and I are certainly not alone in project managing our wedding, let’s hope it’s a successful go live…

What have your experiences been, is everyone a project manager at heart when it comes to their big day?  Have you seen alternative approaches/mindsets?  Perhaps some have taken an Agile approach rather than a more traditional PRINCE2 approach?  Perhaps you have encountered a completely different (and perhaps more ‘normal’) mindset and there is no spreadsheet in sight?   I struggle to imagine how such a big event can happen without any project planning and management whatsoever though, but perhaps that is just me…