My So-Called UX Life: The UX of Wedding Planning

Empathize – Who is your stakeholder? Who is your user?

This is easy right? The stakeholders were my future husband and I, but since we are both very close to our parents, and since they were financing the majority of this undertaking, they would also have to be considered stakeholders. My future husband and I were the CEO’s of course. There must be a hierarchy.

Our end users were the people on the guest list, being required to RSVP, they were part of the process. Naturally the guest list was revised many times prior to invitations being sent, as I grappled with the competing priorities of my own requirements and budget.

Define – Research vendors, establish a budget (and break it)

Devising the budget was more challenging than expected. My mother had agreed to pay for the wedding (minus what the groom’s family traditionally pays for), but she didn’t provide an exact figure. We had established a number years ago, when it whole enterprise was hypothetical, but she never actually said, “You have X amount of money and when it’s gone it’s gone.” She was consulted on all of the major expenditures, but never once told me that the cost was too high, even when asked. This was problematic when it came to defining other requirements because I really didn’t know how to evaluate their priority in regards to an implicitly variable budget. I just tried to keep everything reasonable since spending massive amounts of money pains me and my family is by no means wealthy. Obviously, this isn’t an issue for everyone. Many couples pay for their weddings themselves and have strict budgets. I knew we were working with a financial limitation, but not being able to quantify that limit was definitely a pain point when planning (say that three times fast).

The research element of the process was time-consuming, but straightforward in terms of identifying overall value for a few key items and vendors. We listed these things in order of importance.

  1. Venue
  2. Photographer
  3. Catering/Drinks
  4. Flowers
  5. DJ/Entertainment
  6. Clothing (dress, accessories, tux rental, etc)
  7. Cake
  8. Stationery (invites, save the dates, thank yous)
  9. Favors
  10. You get the point

Some of these items simply reflect the natural order when it comes to expense, but not everyone prioritizes these elements the same way. Just as an example, because I come from a photography background I have high standards when it comes to wedding photographers. I know how much work they do and I know how much time they invest. I value their talent and organizational strategy, etc. I knew who my photographer would be before I knew I was going to marry my husband (don’t judge me – I’ve known my photographer since high school, which is far longer than I’ve known my husband).

Ideate - Make a Pinterest board (of all the things you cannot possibly do)

The easiest tools at my disposal were Pinterest and bridal magazines. I honestly used Pinterest the most since it was free, easy and all in the palm of my hand. The pitfall with this approach lies in the amount crazy ideas out there and the fact that you will, in reality, carry out perhaps 25 percent of your “pins”. Don’t get pissed when your total vision doesn’t happen because unless you have NO budget it really won’t happen that way.

Keep it all together (literally and figuratively).

I also got myself a handy little wedding-planning binder that saved me more than a few times. It kept paperwork in one place, held all my vendors contact information and contained timelines and guides for reference.

From here we move on to coordinating a color scheme, which was easy because we took my husbands favorite color and my favorite color and matched the right shades of each. Themes emerged from our color choices that helped us identify proper attire for both the wedding party and guests. Obviously, the groom and groomsmen were much easier to dress because tuxes just don’t have the amount of options that women’s fashions do.

wedding flowers

Piecing it all together…sort of

Since it’s so difficult to have four women of varying body types agree on the same dress, I took that out of the equation to a degree. I made sure they all tried the dress on and that everyone was comfortable, and that was that. Dress choice made. I picked charcoal gray for the color because it went with our color scheme and looked great on everyone since it’s a neutral color and close to being black (and who doesn’t look good in black)?

Other parts of ideation included the creation the seating charts, which was made problematic by the existence of weird family dynamics and people who don’t like each other, but act like they do. I remember asking my husband if he had any family members that shouldn’t sit together for any reason and his reply was a very casual, “No”. “Must be nice!” I said (insert eyeroll here). 

seating arrangement
seating arrangement spreadsheet

Test - Evaluating your event before the big day and beyond

There are only a few aspects of the event that can be tested here. The first concerns the planning of the menu. Many caterers offer a tasting so you can be assured 1) that they can cook, and 2) that the menu items are to your liking.  This applies equally to your baker, although the cake may not look exactly how you envisioned it. Your final test before launch comes in the “dress rehearsal”, since this is literally a run-through of the ceremony. I have to stress the importance of choosing the right participants for the “study” that was my rehearsal.

You really only have one shot. There’s no way anyone in their right mind would go through the costly trauma of a wedding more than once. You can go to fittings, you can sample cake and do menu tastings, but you never what the event will be like until it happens. Bear in mind that, as with any usability testing, there will be results that you didn’t anticipate and things that will go wrong.

There are always exceptions to the rule of course. There are those who’ve been married more than once and decide to proceed with the pomp and circumstance all over again. I’m not going to dwell on these cases though, because the thought alone makes me anxious.

Feedback is supplied by your guests, not only in the form of comments and responses, but in the overall energy of the event. Whether you were going for a lively evening or a sophisticated soiree, what matters is that your guests enjoyed themselves and, most importantly, that you and your new spouse are happy.

These factors can be quantified in a few ways:

  1. Food - Did people eat everything that was offered and what feedback was given? This pertains to both the meal and the cake of course!
  2. Favors - What was the response to the gifts that were given to guests? Did people leave them behind?
  3. Overall atmosphere - What was the energy like? Did people stay until the last song or did the place empty out right after dinner? Were people engaged in what was happening throughout the evening?
  4. Your overall satisfaction - This can be difficult to judge because, if you’re anything like me, all you're capable of feeling once the stress and craziness are over with is pure joy!

When all is said and done, the most important thing is the new chapter you’re starting with your new spouse. I gained a loving and supportive husband as well as an equally supportive family. I finally got that older brother I wanted when I was 6 (my parents made sure to explain why that couldn’t happen). In fact, I actually I got two of them, and two awesome sisters as well. My overall satisfaction rating for this part of the experience would be a comfortable “highly satisfied 5” on a Likert scale.

Photos by Erin Hession Photography 2016

Photos by Erin Hession Photography 2016

About the Author

Lindsay Kurbursky

Lindsay is an inquisitive UX Designer with a background in photography and visual art. She is focused on creating compelling experiences and inspired by building better ones. Lindsay is currently a UX design consultant in the Indianapolis, Indiana area. Her work can be viewed at https://lkurbursky.wordpress.com