Deciding which ideas are worth negotiating with your partner(s) in organising

I’m running a giveaway at the moment – if you like you can answer some survey questions for extra entries. You can also ask me to write about a topic. One of the article requests was for tips on compromising with your partner for your wedding. Negotiation works for weddings, but I got my practice in while organising conventions.

Start with an idea

Once you have your idea for your event, you need other people to help you organise it and pull it off on the day. Getting people excited for a cool event is quite easy. For a wedding people start getting excited as soon as you’re engaged. Even if you you don’t know if you’re even having a wedding yet. The same goes for a geek event – once you have a general idea of where you’re going, your friends will start getting excited.

Now give someone a say

Brainstorming is a lot of fun. For a friend’s wedding, we had a late night and all kinds of wonderful ideas about butterfly wings and flower girls and making dresses with butterfly wings and balloons. Of course none of that made it into the wedding. For my wedding, the crazy idea Hardus and I came up with made it into the wedding. When it became time to kiss the bride, Hardus paused, clapped his hands and my dear friend produced two wooden steps for me to stand on.

For a geek event, your friends and the people you choose to help you will come up with crazy and cool ideas even if it’s not late at night. Having a stage you could use for a dancing game in between the cosplay competition? Pure genius. It kept people entertained, was fun to do and we didn’t have to run it. Huzzah!

Some ideas that didn’t make it was having all the organisers in costumes (time and budget killed that), having panel discussions with experts (we were too small and the venue didn’t have space to host them – and how would be bribe people to present?), hosting an after party at the venue with food and booze (liquor licence, who’s going to make the food), and many more.

Questions to ask about what stays and what goes

The secret to deciding what to keep, what to change and what to chuck is twofold. The first part is having criteria cool ideas must meet to work. You can come up with your own with your partner or committee, but here are my general ones:

  • Can you afford to pay to make your idea a reality?
    If you can’t, scrap it right away. You don’t want to run into debt and suffer for your decision later. If the idea is important, discuss what you can drop to make space in your budget.
  • Do you have the time to make the idea work?
    Some things don’t cost a ton of money, but DIY takes time. Take something silly like the geek auction we had at Upcon. You need someone to do the auction, a reliable way to track who bought what and the time to follow up on people you don’t hear from. While Upcon was small the idea worked since everyone basically knew each other. As it grew, the admin meant that the geek dates went unmonitored (we didn’t follow up up properly) and we didn’t always get the money people bid.
  • Is the effort worth the payoff?
    Sometimes a small detail makes you ridiculously happy. For my wedding, the husbun and I decided it wasn’t enough that people bubble us. We wanted to attack our guests with bubble guns after we walked out the chapel. Getting the bubble guns painted caused some grumbling both sides, but on the day it was just a matter of giving them to the groomsmen.
  • Who is going to make it happen?
    People can come up with brilliant ideas that could work really well. A convention example is having a cafe-type setup for food instead of only offering traditional convention fare (hot dogs, chips, chocolate and cooldrinks). The problem is finding someone who is willing to run the entire enterprise. You have people who are willing to make the food, but not to do the ordering admin. Who is going to waiter? How are you going to pay people? Is the person who had the idea willing to do all the admin for it? Do they have time?

Asking these questions can stop many ideas in their tracks. Eliminating ideas is a great way to get rid of unworkable ideas without anything being personal. I like taking this approach because it just creates frustration when you try to to make an unpractical idea work.

Someone has to have final say

The second part of the secret is one person is always actually in charge, no matter what you say ahead of time. It’s why committees have a chairperson.

I had the final say as chairhobbit of my convention; for the wedding I was the main wedding decision person. Of course there were tiffs. You can’t expect people to work together on something under stress and not get on each other’s nerves.

I was in charge of deciding what ideas from my darling husbun, my mother, and the wedding party in general went through. One way to make negotiations work is deciding who has a say, who is allowed to have opinions and who you can safely ignore. Let’s take a wedding example. Society expects a bride to wear a white wedding dress. I don’t look good in white and get things dirty. I didn’t wear a white dress.

The next post will be about how I negotiated things I wanted (and got some of them done) and how my mom and husbun negotiated what they wanted. My mom was a wedding sponsor, so she got to have a say.

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