Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wedding Planning as Project Management Experience

I mentioned in an earlier post that one of the reasons I blog is because it’s a good way to hone my writing skills, because I want to write and I’m not getting trained to do it better at work. I think it’s easy to forget that your job isn’t the only place you can do professional development.  In fact, the experiences you have outside of work are probably much more valuable because they give you more responsibility and are more tailored to your interests.

Oh, you like to backpack? All signs point to organized, resourceful and low maintenance.

A wedding is probably the biggest and most personal project that many of us has ever managed, and it would be foolish to pretend that it’s not a huge learning experience. However, there are very few wedding resources out there that actually admit that you should approach your wedding like a work project (APW and Lowe House Events, thanks for the spreadsheets!). Think about it: when you are planning a project for work and something pushes you over budget, you take a step back and trim the fat until you are within budget again. You don’t cry over the lack of glossy handouts, and nobody ever notices their absence. This is true for your wedding as well.

When I think about “wedding planning” (and when I mention it to people who have not been through it), the general idea seems to be that I’m spending time thinking about creative, pretty things, arguing about the guest list and shopping for dresses. My Mom laughed at me when I sent her my meticulously timed schedule of events which included when everyone would need to be dressed and what time cars would depart from which locations. She will not be laughing on our wedding day. She will be thanking me.
We didn't just pick those bouquets on our way to the ceremony....
Nobody talks about logistical coordination, scheduling, creating databases to track all the different showers, rehearsals, parties, gifts, guests and vendors. All the pretty wedding blogs fail to mention that you will need to be able to manage and motivate an unpaid workforce of people who love you in addition to a paid workforce of vendors who aren’t used to working together. You will manage a budget and you will make hard decisions. You’ll have to plan an entire day in 10 minute intervals, arrange for cues for musicians and speakers, and make sure that potentially hundreds of people all receive the information they need to attend on time.  Oh, and by the way, you have to communicate and delegate every part of your plan effectively because you won’t be able to do ANY of it, because everyone will be staring at you in your pretty white dress with which you cannot wear a watch.
What shocks me is that this fact hasn’t yet translated into a widespread belief that women who have successfully planned weddings have great management and coordination skills paired with strong attention to detail. Why are we not talking about the amazing job we did planning, managing and executing our weddings in interviews? Why are we not bringing those spreadsheets and idea boards to work and saying “this is the kind of effort I’m capable of if you only give me a chance with this project”?  Why does it seem so awkward when I think about walking into my boss’ office and saying “why don’t you let me try balancing the budget this month. I just planned a wedding for 200 people on X amount of dollars and I think I gained the skills I need”.
Sailing, like other team sports, requires good delegation skills. Example: "Hey you! Hold my boat!"
I know, I'm stretching with the pictures here....
It’s a problem that women (and men) aren’t able to take their valuable experiences outside the office (like wedding planning, child-rearing, budgeting for student loans etc..) and turn them into promotions and pay raises. We need to talk about our blogs when employers ask about our writing experience and we need to talk about wedding planning when employers ask about our management skills. We especially need to talk about time management and child-rearing, because moms who have been at home managing their families for a few years while their children are young are having way too hard of a time getting credit for those skills when they re-enter the workforce.
Paying attention to these skills is important for businesses and firms that are hiring as well. My biggest strengths are communication (written and oral), organization, and managing information. The best way to find that out is to look at the things I enjoy (and do well) outside of work. Employers will miss out on great employees, especially diverse employees, if they only measure experience by things you did to earn a paycheck.
Musical performance experience = good public composure and comfortable in front of a crowd.
So I put it to you – what would you say if someone walked into your office and told you they were a great candidate for a job and cited the fantastic job they did planning and managing their wedding?

Double E


  1. I'm going to rain on the parade and say no with many explanations and then feel real bad about it.

    I do agree. Managing a wedding is SO project management experience. And just MANAGEMENT. I mean seriously, no one cares about your wedding (project) as much as you do...how much does that sound like work? And yet you must motivate! and inspire! them to do what you ask anyway! This is (especially) our jobs to the letter.

    However, even though I feel like I was super-organized and could demonstrate a lot of my marketable skills by discussing my wedding I would feel very strange talking about it in an interview. And I think I, personally, would be ok if someone brought it up while interviewing with me, but I would probably not tell a whole lot of people, "this candidate demonstrated budget management through their wedding planning."

    Maybe it's the industry I'm in, but I feel like it would go over poorly with some people. Maybe if you were interviewing in a more innovative industry or company (Google? Clif Bar? Nantucket Nectar? LivingSocial?) it would be better received.

    And sadly you know what makes me uneasy about this? I feel like it's too tied up in gender specific "stuff." It's a woman thing, and sadly it's therefore not "valuable" in "business." The way I was finally able to come up with this? Thinking about your other example of backpacking--lots of the same skills like doing a lot with few resources, ingenuity, planning, budgeting, research, etc. but it's perceived as gender neutral in a way weddings just aren't. Although I wonder if down the road this will change in some ways as equal marriage rights become the norm in more and more states?

    And now I feel like a traitor to smart women everywhere who put a lot of time and professional/marketable skill into their weddings.

    And here are a few more "quotation marks" just for emphasis.

    1. Amazing points! I came to this same conclusion - I don't think I could ever walk into an interview and talk about planning my wedding. However, I don't think that the Grige would think twice about adding our save-the-dates or some of the other artwork he's doing to his portfolio for work. Again, it's a little different because he's a designer, but still! I hope someday we bust the stigma, because women really do get the short end of the stick on stuff like this.

  2. PS - can you and the Grige taking me overnight back packing some time? I have my own (legit) back pack and sleeping bag.

  3. I actually DID use my massive amount of wedding planning experience as proof of 'event management' for a job interview once. The interviewers seemed to take it really well. I ended up taking another job, so I don't know if it would have landed me that job, but I thought it was worth mentioning that I used it as an example! :)

  4. The wedding planning will make a person as a wedding planner and also gives the wedding planning experience. Most of the engaged couples will need a help and they should make use of the wedding planner iPhone apps and can plan the wedding successfully. Thanks for sharing the wonderful topic.