Planning a wedding. In a pandemic. Project management skills for the win!
Planning a wedding. In a pandemic. Project management skills for the win!

By on in Strategy

Planning a wedding. In a pandemic. Project management skills for the win!

My husband and I got engaged in February 2020. A month later, we were in lockdown, and so was our wedding project. Over the next 20 months, I drew upon every project management and planning skill I’d learned to pull off a beautiful event in the midst of a pandemic.

Ultimately, we got married in Toque-Toque Pequeno, a beach on the north coast of São Paulo, Brazil, this past November. But it took a lot to get us there.

Married Couple at the Beach
My husband and I at the beach. Photo by @oldlovebr

I’d heard so many stories from friends who got married—about arguments with their loving partners and their families over wedding details. I imagined that with COVID-19 on top of it, we’d go crazy at each other. But, honestly, I had a blast planning our wedding and wish I could relive it over and over again.

I’ve dreamed about getting married by the sea since I attended a beach wedding many years ago. I never cared about the papers, but the act of committing to each other in front of our friends, family and nature was very significant to me.


Uncertainty becomes the only constant

Initially, we wanted to get married in February 2021. After two months of strict lockdown, that turned into April 2021. That would give us about twelve months to plan the wedding while COVID-19 had time to fade away. It seemed like enough, so we closed in on the venue and began reviewing the first of many contracts for different providers—flowers, decorations, furniture rental, dinner food, sweets and desserts, the cocktail bar, a DJ, live music, sound and lighting infrastructure, tent (in case of rain), photography, video, wedding rings, makeup and hair, wedding officiant, transfers for our guests… And those were just the necessities. The list goes on as you start getting into the nice-to-have items.

Wedding Ceremony Wedding Ceremony. Photo by @oldlovebr

COVID-19, however, didn’t want to give up that easily. So, given the level of uncertainty, we needed to be more cautious than usual with the contracts we signed. However, we went further, becoming neurotic lawyers (it helped that my now husband is an actual one) picking apart every clause, word and comma, getting nowhere near agreements and closer to a terrible start for our partnership. Not the vibe we wanted for our love celebration. By the time we actually got married, however, providers were much more open to fair cancellation and postponement policies—the only way to do business today.


Giving ourselves more time

We were sufficiently burned out by the consequences of the pandemic, so we wondered—why force ourselves through an excruciating timeline? We decided to postpone our special day once again. This time, to eighteen months away. And that changed everything.

As with any project, weddings also require balancing scope, cost, time and quality. Timeframes are often set in stone, but in our case, changing the timeframe also meant gaining sanity. In the end, that directly resulted in a groom and bride in much better moods, with a disposition to plan a memorable wedding.


Defining the scope of any project—including a wedding—makes all the difference

Those extra six months were a gift—just as adding a longer discovery and planning phase would be for any project. My husband and I used the time to detail the scope of our wedding and calibrate our expectations. Together we:

  • Talked about how we wanted our special weekend to go and defined what “success” would look like
  • Looked at blogs, websites, photos and testimonials from those who got married during the pandemic
  • Researched and compared potential providers, determining the level of quality we were hoping for
  • Designed the “UX” for our wedding with the help of Pinterest boards, Spotify playlists, color palette generators and Google Slides
  • Determined what was crucial, important and dispensable
    Set aside a budget for emergencies

Wedding Reception - Table of Sweets
Wedding Reception – Table of Sweets. Photo by @oldlovebr


Project management skills save the day

Starting with the original wedding planner’s spreadsheet, we went deeper, adding details about payment dates and status, to help us stick to the budget and avoid any spending surprises later. Front-loading the planning and decision making made it easier to manage last-minute challenges, such as guests who were uncertain they’d be able to travel due to border closures.

The emergency fund turned out to be a smart decision when, rather than fielding calls and emails from guests in multiple countries and languages, we decided to bring a COVID-19 testing lab to the beach, to make sure everyone could meet international testing requirements before traveling home.


By approaching this project with the types of guardrails we use for professional engagements, as well as the agility with which we try to respond to unexpected bumps in the road, we were able to give our friends, family and ourselves the beautiful, memorable experience we’d envisioned.

Wedding Reception
Wedding Reception at night. Photo by @oldlovebr

See how thoughtful processes and planning can make any engagement (not just the ones that lead to marriage) go more smoothly. Talk to FATFREE about your marketing and business challenges—we’re here to help.