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Strategic wedding plans reduce stress, ‘disasters’

By Linda Breazeale
MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE – The best way to avoid an infamous wedding disaster is to have a supervisor who is able to anticipate factors and think fast when the unexpected occurs.

Karen Benson, an area family and child development agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, has been on both sides of wedding challenges. After directing several weddings for other couples, she gained planning experience last fall as the mother of the bride.

“Experience helps directors anticipate needs and have back-up plans, but no matter how much experience someone has, if they are part of the wedding party, they should not be the director,” she said. “There are too many details that will need special attention at the last minute, often while other things are happening.”

Benson said couples may cut some corners to reduce costs, but a good director is a must.

“There needs to be a point person that the wedding party, the caterer, the florist and all others involved can look to for guidance and decision making,” she said. “The couple, friends, family and other advisors can be actively involved ahead of time, but on the wedding day, someone outside the immediate wedding party needs to be in charge.”

Benson recommended couples meet with their wedding director well ahead of the date to review plans.

“If the director does not meet your expectations and communicate well, look for someone else,” she said. “Together, you can identify others whose advice and assistance will be appreciated.”

Michael Burns of Tupelo might not seem like a wedding expert, but as a retired fire chief, he is well trained for this sort of major event.

“As a father of two daughters and a retired fire chief, I can attest to the fact that weddings and disasters have a lot in common, especially when it comes to managing the chaos created by both,” he said. “Without some system of management, both can go from bad to worse in a matter of seconds.”

For Burns, a long-time trainer and advocate for the Incident Command System, it was natural for him to turn to his ICS background when his daughters married. ICS originated many years ago to help organize responses to wildfires. After the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, agencies across the nation adapted it to all hazards, meaning that the National Incident Command System works during any event or incident to minimize the chaos.

“The ICS strategy facilitates planning and improves communication with everyone involved. The emphasis is on teamwork,” he said. “One person cannot anticipate or respond to every need. Major events, like a wedding, need a written plan of action and an effort to identify gaps that need to be addressed.”

Some of the issues ICS addresses include equipment needs, personnel needs, timelines, delegation of responsibilities and location considerations.

“In classes, we teach Incident Command as an all-hazards approach, but in reality it is simply management,” he said. “A written plan allows you opportunities to review the required actions and identify any gaps. With a written, detailed plan of action, it is possible for the parents of the bride to manage the chaos and enjoy the joyous occasion at the same time.”

As an Extension agent, Benson took ICS classes such as those taught by Burns. She said the concepts are ideal for planning any major event.

“While staging, creating timelines and location maps are not romantic tasks, the point of planning is to keep the wedding enjoyable,” she said. “In the end, an event that is planned and executed similar to ICS will have a more enjoyable outcome.”

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Released: Jan. 18, 2013
Contact: Karen Benson, (601) 656-4011