Friday, December 16

Planning for the Type B Personality

I have a confession to make that might surprise a few people: I am not a Type-A personality. At all.

I am reeeeeeally good at relaxing. I like to sleep. I believe things turn out exactly as they should, and things sort themselves out, and all that jazz.

But I want a Type-A sort of home, and the results of Type-A planning. I like when things are well-decorated and beautifully arranged and perfectly executed.

I dream of perfection when I plan parties, or work on projects, or tackle anything that requires skill and forethought. I want what I do to be flawless, and I get stressed out when plans go awry -- even if I believe, intellectually, that life turns out the way it's meant to, that is small comfort when you believe you've scorched the prime rib. 

But it's a very conflicted existence, because you know what? Even for the most together person, things go wrong a lot in the planning process. I might wish for checked off to-do lists and a fantastic attention to detail and an organized life, but as the song says, you can't always get what you want.

The dirty little secret is that I am extremely scatter-brained, so there is a high potential not only for less than perfect results, but for outright disaster.

I was the kid in elementary school who had to have binder checks every week, and who had to get my teachers' and parents' signatures on homework planners because I lost/forgot about everything.

As an adult, arriving at events on time feels next to impossible. My email inbox is full to bursting because I don't sort through it consistently. I often can't find my keys or cell phone. It sometimes takes days to do one load of laundry because it's in the basement, and I honestly forget that the clothes are wrinkling sitting in the dryer.

I'm not proud of this particular trait. I don't find it cute or Nutty Professor-ish or funny. I mostly find it embarrassing, but it seems to be a matter of predestination -- I could get it under better control, but it'll never be cured. I don't believe I'm an inconsiderate person -- in fact, I make a real effort to always be polite and kind -- but showing up late or not replying to emails or texts or letting laundry linger the one time each month Kyle asks me to do it is most definitely rude.


The point of this post isn't to showcase just how awful I really am -- though that is certainly clear -- but to show what an organizationally-challenged point I'm starting from and to explain how I went about wedding planning, and now party planning, and things actually turned out okay. In fact, I think planning events might help get my forgetfulness under control.

I need lots and lots of time to plan, and I need a checklist. Oh, and I need to keep expectations low. Those three things pretty much guarantee a fairly smooth event for me.

First, the wedding.

We were engaged for 17 months, from October 2009 to May 2011, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed wedding planning a lot because I didn't feel under the gun to make decisions from the get-go. Sure, I was super excited to get married, but you're (ideally) only engaged and planning a wedding once in your life: I wanted it to be a great experience, to make it special.

I also wanted to book things so far in advance that there was no chance of scrambling for something major (church, venue, dress) at the last minute.

This is not to say that everything was stress-free... 

  • The Pittsburgh Marathon was moved from its original date to the day after our wedding, and it goes right through the heart of Oakland, so booking blocks of hotel rooms for the wedding guests was a major challenge.

  • We had to put a rush order on the invitations because I dragged my feet about deciding.

  • I had to call multiple bridal shops to find one that could ship my bridesmaids' dresses in time, because I dragged my feet about deciding there as well.

  • I printed and assembled our wedding programs two days beforehand.

  • My mom made about 10 trips to FedEx Office the week before the wedding to print (and fix and fix and fix) the seating chart poster.

  • We had to put a rush order on the garter and guest book, because they totally slipped my mind.

  • We forgot to bring our special cake cutting set to the reception, so we used the venue's.

  • We didn't know how to properly cut the cake, and nearly toppled it by cutting a piece from the top layer.

  • We couldn't take formal outdoor pictures where I'd planned to, because Carnegie Mellon University students took over a Pitt landmark for a graduation ceremony that (surprise) was going on at exactly the wrong time.

Needless to say, I wasn't a totally together bride (thank God for my mother and bridesmaids!)

But most things were planned and booked far in advance, so I wasn't completely stressed and frazzled in the weeks before the wedding. I sent out a ten page, almost to-the-minute timeline of the day to everyone with any part in the wedding that included separate pages with schedules for the bridesmaids, groomsmen, and vendors, contact information and addresses for all the event sites (rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, ceremony, and reception) and our mothers' contact info, so they could act as coordinators and avoid potential disasters.

I also had reoccurring nightmares about being late for the wedding, so I became determined that I was damned if I was going to fall behind during any part of the actual day (we were always on time, still a major point of pride for me).

In the end, I think it came together beautifully -- and with some good stories too, as all weddings do.

The same goes for the dinner party.

It was significantly smaller and of course much less pressure than the wedding, but was very important to me nonetheless. I started planning that party in October. A ten person, sit down dinner party actually requires a lot more coordination than you might think. 

I had to choose courses that could either be prepared well in advance (French onion soup, prime rib) or could be thrown together very quickly (green beans almondine, Caesar salad). 

I had to decide who would sit where and why (because, as Dame Judi Dench points out in Pride and Prejudice, a dinner party guest can't sit next to his wife -- MOVE!) 

I had to decide how to seat and feed ten people with six dining room table chairs, seven china place settings, four top-notch sets of silverware, and as many mismatched wine glasses as the day is long.

Answers: borrow, borrow, borrow. Oh, and buy all purpose crystal wineglasses as Marshalls for an absolute steal (10 Waterford crystal glasses for $64, don't mind if I do).

And provide plenty of drinks, and invite fun people, because that way it won't even matter if everything goes south.

In conclusion,

The nice thing about being a Type B personality is that, even if things don't turn out perfectly, I don't dwell on it -- I just enjoy myself (also, my blood pressure is extremely low). 

While I always want something I've planned to come out just so, I know that nothing is perfect and that the reason for the event (getting married, celebrating the holidays with loved ones) is much more important than the details.

But the days leading up to the imperfect event are fraught with things to remember, and I pity the very responsible people around me (Kyle, my dad, my mother-in-law) who occasionally have to witness the horrifying chaos that lurks within. 

So if there are fellow Type Bs out there, start planning for any event you might possibly want to hold within the next year now. Create a word document that lists every detail you want to include and how you plan to include it. And decide what you don't really need. Minimize! It will make your life easier, your party nicer, and the details you do have stand out more.

Oh, and designate someone (spouse, mother, brother, whatever) to take photos of the actual night. Because if you thought you were absent-minded while you were planning, just wait until the party arrives.

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