What I Have Learned about Executive Functioning From Planning My Wedding

I have contracted a mild to severe case of Wedding Tourette’s Syndrome (WTS), in which I blurt out wedding details without realizing I’m doing it. There are also side effects of executive functioning deficits.

I’m not sure if anyone has noticed, but I have not been regularly posting as of late. I was a 2-3 time a weeker, and now have dwindled to 2-3 per month. The short excuse is that I have 43 days until my destination wedding. Whose counting though? So with apologies to those who come here to read about the yoots of today or other topical discussions, and are getting wedding stuff, welcome to my world. With my newly developed case of WTS, all conversations lead to wedding talk. You’re no exception.

Fiancé: How was your day?
Me: (Litany of all wedding tasks completed, in reference to next 43 days)

Postman: Good afternoon.
Me: Any response cards today??? Because my wedding is in 43 days.

Car Mechanic: How are you?
Me: My wedding is in 43 days!

Coffee Barista: Room for cream?
Me: Should I do my linens in cream??? I only have 43 days.

When I first got engaged, I though I would be the most relaxed bride on the planet. They would need a new name for me, like BrideChilla.* I mean, I am ORGANZED. I am a PLANNER. I love Excel and To-do lists. When Forest Gump said that life is like a box of chocolates because you never know what you’re going to get, I thought, “Not if you buy those chocolates with the labels on them and you can pick what order you eat them, crappy ones first, and save the best for last to create the best aftertaste.”

And then, I started planning. It came in bursts of organization and despair. There have been tears and elation. There has been much “it’s going to work out!” pep talks from fiancé. So in an attempt to actually make this post about something related to learning, here’s what I have learned about my own executive functioning skills the past year of planning. I provide it in the same format that I provide for parents and teachers, and then mock myself.

1) Break down big projects into manageable tasks!
Great idea! I will write down all the subtasks of planning a wedding, with “due dates”. Then, I will have a panic attack at all the things I have to do. After said panic attack, I will pick only one thing to do per day, starting with the most important (e.g. picking a date). Then picking a date became contingent upon location, which became contingent upon a date, which became contingent on where our guests are coming from, which became contingent upon who was invited, which became contingent upon our budget, which is contingent upon location. AAAAARRRGG!

Learning point: Big projects are not always as linear as they seem. Sometimes, you have to do a little bit of each task instead of one big discrete task. It’s less satisfying in some ways, because you can’t ever seem to cross off the item on your to-do list. So I changed my to-do list from “Obtain Caterer” to “work on catering for 30 minutes” so I could cross something off.

2) Reward successive approximations toward big goals
Great advice. So when I finish a baby task, then I get a reward. I like it! Usually, this worked out well, because finishing the task and crossing it off my to-do list was rewarding. Problem is, sometimes my “done” tasks morphed back into “to do” tasks when all hell broke loose. For example, our caterer/event planner didn’t call me back for 6 weeks, so we FLEW to the destination to meet him and he cancelled on us that morning by saying, “I can’t make it, I have low blood sugar.” WHAT? Eat a banana and get you’re a** over here! What happens if you have low blood sugar on our wedding day? So our major item we had “done” had to be scrapped and done again.

Learning point:Stay positive. At least I found out about the guy’s poor coping skills before the wedding date. Keep the big picture in mind. We still had time to find a new caterer, and the one we got is awesome and does not have Hypoglycemia. And, his sister does flowers and his brother does music. It turned out better in the end that Sir Flakes-a-Lot did not come through for us.

3) Enlist help when you feel overwhelmed with planning or executing tasks.
This is actually the most decent advice I’ve doled out, and I practice it regularly with my students. Ever notice it’s easier to motivate yourself to do something when you have a wingman or wingwoman? That’s because when you are low on energy, the other person can encourage you, or do part of the task with you, so it’s not so daunting. For a while, I was trying to do everything on my own, with stubborn pride at how organized I am, and then other important non-wedding things fell off the radar (e.g. friends, blog, exercise). I would secretly look at my wedding to-do list and be paralyzed because it was so overwhelming. I finally admitted to fiancé that organizing by myself was fun at first, but was becoming too much. Loving fiancé, who was already greatly involved in the to-do list, volunteered to take over all things music, transportation, food, and honeymoon. Great bridesmaid offered to be the delegate of all things cake, and groomsman is now our delegate of all things audio-visual.

Learning Point: Always have at least one cheerleader, and a platoon of super-delegates when you can’t do it on your own. Know your limitations. Share your box of chocolates with friends, and maybe, just maybe, be a rebel and try a mystery chocolate out of order. You just might like it. And if you don’t, at least you can ask your friend to pass you one they think might be a caramel.

*Wait, did I tell you my wedding is in 43 days?

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Comments on What I Have Learned about Executive Functioning From Planning My Wedding

  1. Kirsten says:

    I’m glad that you have managed to delegate some of the tasks. Hang in there, it will work out somehow.

  2. mc says:

    I just read your series about psychoeducational assessments and it was very useful. My 6 year old son will have one in a month or so.
    Hope you have a great wedding!

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