Ultimate Project Management: Weddings at WaterColor Inn

Ultimate Project Management: Weddings at WaterColor Inn

Recently, I spent a few glorious days at WaterColor Inn on the Florida panhandle (oil sitings: zero). During the visit, I had the good fortune to chat with Cheryl Walton, the Inn’s wedding and events guru. Our talk confirmed what I’ve long suspected: a wedding is a project and managed as such.

Being a guy, I didn’t see the planning process for my own wedding. I just did as I was told and showed up on time. So it was fascinating to hear how well the steps of WaterColor wedding planning fit into the PMI’s five process groups.

Initiating. First, Carla Thomas, the Inn’s sales maven, pitches the Inn and obtains a contract from the bride. After that, there’s a Vendor Day. The bride and Cheryl get together with all the florists, caterers, photographers, etc. who can make the bride’s vision come to life. Cakes and menu items are tasted. After due time for decision-making, with Cheryl’s guidance, the bride makes her choices and the vendors are signed up. The bride’s budget and style (traditional, modern, southern, etc.) are key inputs.

Planning. Cheryl plots out to-do lists for every possible category for the 30 or more weddings she juggles at once. Because she’s got content-area experience, she knows what to look out for. Will anyone need wheelchair access? Will there be readers in need of mikes? At the reception, will people stand, sit, or both? Risk planning actually starts on vendor day; everyone is supposed to have a plan B in case of trouble. In case of rain, there’s always an alternative indoor location booked for outdoor nuptials. “Planning is the most challenging part,” Cheryl said, “because there are so many variables and every wedding is different.”

Executing. The Inn can host two weddings per day, with a separate coordinator, besides Cheryl, for wedding two. “At this point, all the hard work is done, so everything should go smoothly,” Cheryl said. That doesn’t mean things are left to chance. Everybody who’s anybody gets a wedding itinerary, a plan for who goes where, with what, at what time.

Monitoring and Controlling. Throughout all the process areas, the coordinator is in continuous contact with the wedding party and the vendors. This is especially true on the big day, when the coordinator is on hand from beginning to end.

Closing. “Oh, that’s cocktail hour!” Cheryl laughed. The closing session for a WaterColor wedding is an informal, fun talk among the people who pulled off the wedding. It’s a celebration, but there’s also a conscious effort to review any issues that came up so they can be handled next time.

As you can see, there’s a lot going on here:
•    Getting the assignment.
•    Determining the requirements.
•    Obtaining the resources.
•    Constructing a work breakdown structure.
•    Planning for risks.
•    Communicating to resolve issues and ensure the client’s needs are met.
•    Reviewing the project at the end for lessons learned.

If that’s not project management, I don’t know what is. By the way, if you want to hold your wedding at WaterColor Inn, email weddings@watercolorresort.com.

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