Here's my pitch for a hot new reality TV show. A bride goes out and mentally "tries on" all the horrible disasters that might befall her while planning and hosting her wedding. Some options are: rain at her outdoor reception, step mom shows up wearing a white dress, or her new brother in law is super drunk at the time of his best man speech. At the end of the episode she makes a decision and then looks in the mirror and cries "This is the one! This is the perfect style of CRAZY for me! I'll take it!". We follow up with her on the big day as she smiles and embraces whatever wild nonsense unfolds before her. The show will be called Say Yes to the Mess!
Do you think it stands a chance? People love the cliche of a controlling bride on the war path so I'm guessing it won't make it past the interns at one of those used-to-be-informative cable networks.
Look, most of us aren't psychics we can't know what will happen when we are planning an important event (wedding or otherwise). We can't have a contingency plan for every disaster. But, we can look at the areas in our lives with the most likely traps and mentally prepare ourselves for the possibility we may get stuck. Here are a few steps up can take to ensure that anything that comes up on that special day won't take you down and make you into a reality TV star in training.
STEP 1: Imagine the worst case scenario and mentally improvise your way through it.
Do a Murphy's Law brainstorm session and allow for the possibility that things that could go wrong might actually go wrong. A friend calls this a disastrify: a disaster-fantasy. We do this all the time but we usually go down a rabbit hole and pile on anxiety after anxiety. While you're not in crisis mode try to think of little things that could come up and take the time while you're not under pressure to problem solve.
If you are all flying to a destination for your event someone MIGHT get delayed from weather or someone's bag MIGHT get lost. Can you schedule flights or ship important items with this in mind? You may have a wild card family member whose presence at your event might bring up drama or they may simply behave in a way that creates tension for others. Can you find an ally who can babysit them or better still can you have an honest conversation about your expectations? Maybe you need to own the truth about your venue and any challenges it may create: are there a lot of stairs and no elevator for your dad with a recent hip replacement? Is there not enough parking on site for your guest list? Are your guests walking 15 blocks from the nearest subway in heels?
STEP 2: "The first thing you should do if the shit hits the fan is ... shut off the fucking fan"
My former boss taught me this lesson and I'll never forget it. You can prepare yourself for all the possible challenges ahead and you can be incredibly resourceful when problems arise, but, it you don't stop and SHUT OF THE FAN before you start cleaning you are making more work for yourself and a bigger shitty mess. Too often we react When things go off the rails take a moment to stop and BREATHE. Don't do anything yet- try to allow a tiny space between the crisis and the solution.
STEP 3: When all else fails SAY YES and turn the problem into a party
Now not every problem will feel FUN but, you can create your own reality by responding to the shitty mess on your own terms. This is the cornerstone teaching of improvisation. There are only a few rules in improv (just like life: everything is unscripted ) and the most important rule is to say YES and not deny anything that is happening in the scene. If you deny what your partner is saying or doing then the scene can't move forward. Once you are in agreement with the given circumstances you can begin to build your reality and that's when things get really interesting. So you need to say YES- this is happening! AND this is how I am going to react to it!
For example: YES! it's raining AND we don't have a tent for the ceremony so I am going to wear my hunter rain boots with my dress and buy fun umbrellas for all of our guests and get some of the most fun and crazy photos a girl could ask for.
(This is an example but, honestly: rain, of all things, should never catch you off guard. Please see STEP 1 to forgo "surprises" of this nature).
Now to be clear if you have an event manager or day-of coordinator you won't have to problem solve most issues that come up. In fact, if they're doing their job you will not even know there was a problem in first place. However, there are some things even a good planner can't foresee or fix and it takes courage and strength to meet those moments head on. The most important thing is that you embrace the full range of experience that comes with the territory when you are planning and hosting an event so meaningful.
I truly believe that life is full of beautiful chaos. That even the fairy tales we think of when we think of perfection have their own messy- dirty plot twists. And I believe with some practical tools, ingenuity and a sense of humor we can be the hero we think we need to save the day. I have faith that you are ready for whatever life throws at you- say yes to the mess and you will be just fine.
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