Last year when my husband and I really started becoming serious about planning our wedding, we knew the communication would be paramount for success. We both lived in Japan at the time, the wedding would be in the Puget Sound area of Washington State and family and friends would be coming from San Diego, Memphis, and New York, D.C. and beyond. Our wedding, we also quickly realized, was going to defy expectations of what a wedding is typical conceived as being in the average American mind. Our budget with travel to and from Japan simply didn’t allow for the big white wedding.
We literally planned a campaign. It was like a battle plan. We started with our parents and tasked them with easy to communicate messages, which we repeated ad infinitum for months, while asking them to repeat it to their friends and the family members talking to them about us. We laid out the base fundamental concepts we needed to communicate in the wedding invitations. We clarified the messages with siblings and wrote regular propaganda packed emails to the wedding party. Then as time grew closer, we set up a website.
Why did we do all this? Because we were not only bringing together a diverse and potentially difficult group, but we wanted it to be a success. It took ten months of planning and countless hours of writing and talking. It took clarification and a simplification of our vision. We chose people to help us who “got” the vision.
It would have never had worked if we hadn’t had two things. First, we knew, very clearly, what we wanted, what was important and what wouldn’t matter. We made our requirements simple and were excited about anything else that came together. Secondly, we said it more than once. We repeated the vision until we felt like we were blue in the face. We pointed out the benefits not only to ourselves but to others and we answered questions and objections before they were raised.
If this was a letter to friends and family, I would go on about everything everyone did to help us and thank them, at length. They deserve it. But this is an article about communication. It meant everything to us. When people are stressed, when something as delicate as a wedding and bringing together strangers is at stake, clarity means more than good fuzzy feelings. The morning I left my parents house to meet the wedding party and go out to the location, I taped one last two page printed list to the front door with everything that everyone leaving before me needed to bring. I handed my father and every other member of the direct family a script, detailing not only where they needed to be and what they were doing but where everyone else was. I will not forget the look my father gave me holding the script. He said thank you and I hugged him. Communication can be such a precious gift.
Clarity yanked the stress out of the nuclear zone down into a general tolerance range. People weren’t afraid of offending me. And because the simple basics were known, so many people took initiative and over performed in their own areas.
My wedding was amazing. There were little issues but nothing that marred the day, even when the site was rained out and we had to move it at the last minute. Everyone is still talking to each other. I’ll be forever grateful to so many people who helped and celebrated. And I’d like to think other people in the family will use the model for future events.
Plan a campaign. Simplify the message until its repeatable. Then repeat and repeat.