Good life lessons? Just try planning an unconventional wedding…
Reader, I married him. After six years together, in spite of our age gap (20 years), our differences (I never shut up, he is Mr Quiet) and our quirks (see Peter’s obsession with in-house headgear, see my obsession with cats going downstairs), Peter and I had the most unconventional wedding ever on the 25th March.
Now let me just say, I never gave any thought to getting married before I began planning our wedding, but I always knew that it should be an unconventional wedding for sure. I was not one of those girls who dreamed about the big day and the dress. I snarfed at the idea of Bridezilla.
Then we began planning our own big day and it was, quite simply, the most intense life project I have ever coordinated.
It occurred to me, the midst of wedding madness that planning an unconventional wedding was a great way to stress test your potential marriage dynamic. We survived – but there might have been just a little bit of snapping and sulking.
Anyway, as I use everything in my life to learn, uplift and grow – and then to share with my community, here are my top 5 good life lessons from wedding planning as it relates to your own life plans and career goals.
1. Take Time To Know What You Want
In weddings, as in life, there is a whole gamut of ‘expected’ activity. These can be helpful for structuring your day, but they can also force you into buying things you don’t want, doing things you don’t feel great about or even inviting people you don’t like! Traditions are beautiful things, but if they don’t relate to your own personal desires and dreams, you can let them go. We kept the speeches but ditched the wedding cake. We honoured elements of the Jewish wedding ceremony but wrote our own vows and had a pagan handfasting.
Whether it is an unconventional wedding you are designing together to begin your married life or a career change that will affect both you and your family, take time out to really consider the experience and the elements that really matter to you. Then design accordingly.
Kazoos mattered to me…they make quite an unconventional wedding.
2. Make It Personal
A life plan is a very personal thing. And yet, we are constantly bombarded with curated images of other people’s lives. We’re advised about what other people think would be the right career move for us. When it came to the wedding, we were very clear that we wanted to share the dynamic of our relationship (playful, loving, kind, freedom-seeking, fun) with our nearest and dearest.
So we chose accordingly.
Peter didn’t think it was fair that only I got to wow with a surprise outfit so he decided to have something made for himself too. This added to the fun and suspense as we both love surprises.
We also tailor-made our vows and our ceremony…
We spent quite a few hours reading up on unconventional wedding advice and being inspired by the words and deeds of other marriage ceremonies. Then we got drafting. For us, the central theme was a wholehearted commitment to the other person. Knowing they have your back.
That’s why we also went for a handfasting ceremony. This is an ancient ritual to bind two people together for life.
Lastly, I asked a dear friend of ours to make our ‘chuppah’. The chuppah is a marriage canopy that Jewish tradition uses to symbolize how a holy place could be constructed when the Jews were on the move. Our dear friend Lootie made the most astonishingly beautiful canopy, embroidered with blessings and unique motifs that symbolised what she knew of us and what we needed to have a happy life together. It was breathtaking to see it unfurled above us. It now hangs in our Italian living room as a symbol of our love and life together. Thank you Lootie…
Don’t be afraid to do it your way.
Personal fulfilment is a very unique thing. We all have our own unique skills, talents, interests. So when you put together a life plan or consider your next career move, come from the place of ‘what would really work for me/us given who we are’?
Take inspiration from around you by all means, and take advice from those who have gone before, but don’t be afraid to do it your way.
This advice extends to companies too – the ones we most love are those that display the innate character and qualities of their founder of leaders – whether it is Innocent’s quirk a la Richard Reed and co or Oprah’s loving educative media or Dyson’s rigour a la James D. Don’t be afraid to stand out by standing up for what matters to you in your sector.
3. Have A Plan But Be Prepared To Flex
A wise person, once told me ‘the problems are always in the detail.’ By this, she meant that the big pieces in a puzzle are in some ways easier to figure out. It is the small stuff that we can get stuck on.
In the wedding plan, the easiest bit was to get the big things down – like pegging your big top down before trying to set up the bunting. We found a magical venue – Buxted Park, a top ceilidh band – Threepenny Bit and an awesome photographer – Chris Giles. We decided on our guest list. These big foundation stones made for a swift start and I was feeling pretty smug. But then the table plan reared its ugly head. Sheesh. What a faff – what with last-minute cancellations and wanting to make sure that people sat next to potential new friends, it was a frenzy of post-it notes up to the last moment.
Then there were the details in the ceremony. Peter had got very excited about smashing a glass with his foot. This is a Jewish tradition that is meant to symbolize commitment, permanence and the fragility of a relationship. But when it came to crafting our plan for the ceremony, we just couldn’t find a natural home for it, so sadly, it had to go.
The Pareto Principle is real.
80% of your time can go on things that give just 20% of the value. Sometimes this time is really worth spending because it finesses the hard work into something really special. Sometimes it is better to just sack it off.
The same is true for your career. Know what matters to you so you can decide what is non-negotiable and what you can flex. This often becomes clearer as you progress further down your plan. In the AGILE project method that I use in our business, we use a prioritization method called Must, Should, Could. The aim is to take a set of desirable criteria for your new home, role, partner and allocate them to essential criteria (MUST), a desirable criteria (SHOULD) and a nice to have but just the cherry on top (COULD). Try it out!
4. Personnel Matters
Wow, this was a big one. Finding the right people for the right tasks. I might have lost it if I didn’t have friends and family I could delegate to. We wanted to ask for help from people for whom the delegated task would be in their sweet spot. So it had to be my friend Chaps to design the space as there is no one with a better sense of style.
And Peter had 3 best men, one who likes to speak, one who is great with tech and detail and one for moral support.
We asked my best friend, Hannah, to hold the ceremony for us.
This was a huge undertaking – as she has a little baby and had never done this before. Yet with her gift with words, her natural performance skills and her deep knowledge of both of us, she was the natural choice. And she utterly shone. It was such a pleasure to have her on our side. She made everyone feel welcome and at ease, helped the flower girls to march in time with the music, delivered the most beautiful speech and even teared up half way through it. All round, it was lovely.
I wasn’t planning to have a Hen party…
Having lived in Brighton for ten years I was filled with visions of strippers and traffic cones. But my two artsy friends – Kat – funder of Sew in Brighton and Lou of Brighton Lace convinced me I should. They let me know how helpful it would e for all the women who didn’t know that many people at the event to have a chance to meet beforehand, and that swung it. Plus they said they would organize the whole thing, sans strippers.
I decided I would like to up-cycle the table decorations, so that is what, we did. We collected tin cans for weeks beforehand and then our crafty hens created the tableware, with ribbons, tissue paper and lots of cards. Amazing what you can knock up in an afternoon. Then all my dear hens gave me a bead, threaded onto a special string, with each bead representing our friendship and what they valued about me. It was beautiful. And we all got to feel smug about our handiwork on the day!
On the day it was my step mum rather than my mum who took on the mother of the bride duties. My mother is very creative but a little scatty – she was ten minutes late for the ceremony which was on the lawn outside her room – but Liz gladly took on the role, helping me into my dress, making sure everything was running smoothly and helping quietly behind the scenes.
Work with people on your project or plan and you will never get what you want done, done alone.
Embrace the opportunity to have people play to their strengths and choose people who are way better than you at their key area of expertise. Then marvel at what a phenomenal job they are doing and get out of the way!
5. Enjoy Every Moment
Prior to the wedding, I was warned that the day would fly by. A good piece of advice was for us to take time out every so often to just savour the moment and notice what is happening. I appreciated this advice and we took it. Of course, the wedding was over before we knew it and we spent weeks afterwards reliving the special moments.
In my work with clients on a one to one basis, so many of my Type A, high-performing executives are just rushed off their feet.
No sooner have they achieved something fantastic, then they are off on the next mission, without time to draw breath or to celebrate what they have accomplished. We live in a very busy world. Take time out to look back at a job well done, celebrate a team flourishing or toast an exceptional project delivered. It is time well spent and nourishes both you and the team you worked with. It is also an opportunity to reflect on how you could do even better next time. Careers are a series of choices and moments. They are a way to dance through your life.
Taking time out to reflect and think before diving back into the fray can help you be conscious of what is really right for you and proud of what you have accomplished.
THE BIG CONCLUSION
Personally, I have been astonished by how the experience of getting married impacted me and my husband. We feel more closely settled, more deeply committed and even more in love. Marriage might seem an out of date idea but I think commitment and public declaration of commitment, can make a huge difference in any area of your life. So here’s to you committing to whatever and whoever moves you.