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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

How to Wedding Plan During Your Workday and Still Get Ahead

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Yesterday, I emailed our wedding photographer a timeline of events, made an appointment at a bridal boutique to look at accessories, and left a message for the jeweler regarding a time to pick out wedding bands. This took all of 20 minutes, and when I was done, I felt satisfied, accomplished. I did these things during my workday in the same manner you might make a dinner reservation, call your doctor’s office for a prescription refill, or respond to your sister-in-law’s email.

Planning a wedding is an involved event though, much more complicated than arranging a friend’s 30th birthday party. There’s a reason planning one of the biggest events of your life has a rap for being stressful—it’s a lot of work! And on top of all that goes into saying “I do” and celebrating with your 150 closest friends, you’ve got a career to manage.

As a novice wedding planner (banking on this being the one and only time I ever plan my nuptials), I reached out to The Muse’s Editor-in-Chief Adrian Granzella Larssen as well as Rebecca Shenkman of Pink Bowtie Events, for some thoughts on the delicate balancing act of planning a wedding and getting the job (ahem, the one you’re paid to do) done.

“Most reasonable bosses understand that planning a wedding adds thousands of items to your to-do list, and that some of those to-dos need to take place during business hours,” Larssen said when I pressed her for ideas on how to pull off working full-time while you've got a wedding to plan.

Skenkman recalls her own experience and remembers her boss being both respectful and accommodating—cool with her occasional two-hour lunch. Often that meant she put in an extra hour at the end of the day, but there was no nitpicking going on.

Since hours and flexibility vary so much by industry and boss, it’s important to assess your personal situation: What are the office expectations? Is everyone in by 8:30 AM, or do people wander in until about 10? How is your relationship with your boss? What are the demands of the job? Is it deadline-driven? Are there last-minute projects, or can you work in advance and plan to take off Thursday afternoon to visit potential venues? Can you adjust your work hours a couple of times a month so that maybe you work earlier in the morning or later in the evening on those days when you’re not in your desk from 9 to 6?

Obviously, if your boss trusts you and knows that you’re going to meet deadlines no matter how many florists you visit during the work week, it’s going to make your life a whole lot easier. On the other hand, this is not to be read as doing the bare minimum, of which Larssen cautions against, saying that although it can be tempting to let work take a backseat, “This is actually a great opportunity to impress your boss. If you're still crushing it on your projects at the office while planning a 250-person event on the side, that says a lot about your time management and productivity skills.”

One thing you don’t need to be, however, while you’re, you know, planning the event of the decade and killing it at work, is the office social butterfly. When I heard my company was looking for softball team participants, I really wanted to throw my name on the roster, but as the games were set to be played during the final two months leading up to my wedding, I decided that I’d better sit it out rather than risk being an overcommitted teammate.

Maybe instead of attending the weekly happy hour as you’ve done since you started, you opt out every now and again and head home to finalize the guest list—something I highly recommend doing sober—or plan the components of the ceremony with your fiancé (also best done sober). If, temporarily, you can’t make karaoke or the monthly group lunch that typically has you away from your desk for two and a half hours, that’s OK. You can re-immerse yourself in everything once the wedding is behind you.

Depending on how hectic your schedule or how detailed your upcoming nuptials, you might consider hiring a wedding planner. The planner, Shenkman explains, will put things into bite-sized perspective pieces that you can work with. It’s a partnership and can take a lot of the stress out of the process—especially if you’re not the most organized person in the room or you just started a new and demanding job and are keen on working 12-hour days.

If a comprehensive planner isn’t something you budgeted for (as we certainly didn’t), it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to months of stress and anxiety until the Big Day. Larssen suggests reaching out to other recently married co-workers and asking for their advice. Since “the dynamics at every workplace are different, learning from others who've been in your shoes can help you navigate the situation,” says Larssen. Ask them how much time they took off and how their boss responses. Do they have any tips for getting everything done while also excelling on the job?

One of the things I’ve learned about the process is how much can be accomplished in a short amount of time. Consider the Pomodoro technique for certain tasks, such as browsing digital save-the-dates, researching updo images, emailing friends and family for addresses, starting a playlist and sharing it with the bridesmaids and groomsmen. The other thing I’ve learned is that work, and plenty of it, can be a super helpful and healthy escape from all the wedding hoopla. While my wedding will be over and done with before I know it, I’ve got a long career ahead of me, and I’m not about to lose sight of that because I’m obsessed with the seating chart.