Every summer it happens–there are weekends to use up, and warm weather to be enjoyed, and suddenly I’ll find myself 20 replies deep in an email chain and ready to kill all my friends. Not that they’ve done anything wrong, it’s just that watching these plans being hashed out and having ten people trying to figure out a free weekend in common makes my head spin. Making plans with a large group of people has gotten really complicated, largely because we’re all so nice. We want to accommodate everybody. But if there’s one thing I learned from wedding planning is that that is not possible, and it’s been freeing.
The bigger your wedding, the less likely it is that everyone is going to be able to make it. Four people at City Hall? Easy. Twenty five in your backyard? Trickier. A hundred in a banquet hall? Someone is going to drop out. Those are just the facts. There are only so many days in a year, and people have their own lives and plans and conflicts. So when we picked a date, we double checked with our parents and siblings, and then set it. Yes, some people we dearly wanted to be there couldn’t come, but that would happen no matter which weekend we picked.
I’ve started applying this to making plans in the rest of my life. The other day, instead of having all of my friends tell me their free weekends for a beach trip, I just said I was going to the beach next Sunday and any and all who want to join should. Some people had plans, and some people could make it. Of course, this is predicated on the idea that if nobody could make it, I would still be going to the beach, which actually I would. But the point is that making firm decisions before you talk to all your friends can cut down on a lot of back and forth and hurt feelings.
For instance, let’s say you and some friends want to see a movie, but there’s no night in the next week that works for all of you. If you start your planning by asking when everyone is free, it’ll become clear that not everyone is free at the same time, and then you’ll have to make a decision about who to leave out, which could hurt some feelings. On the other hand, if you said “I’m seeing Mad Max at 9pm on Thursday if anybody would like to join” then people are free to accept or decline, knowing plans have already been set, and that it’s not personal.
This doesn’t work for all things. Obviously if the point is seeing specific people then a little more coordination has to happen, and if absolutely nobody can make it then you’ll have to change things around. But what I learned from weddings is that, while it’s the planner’s job to make reasonable accommodations, no plan will satisfy everyone. Picking a date and giving everyone reasonable notice of plans is all that’s really required, and if a few people can’t make it, that’s just fine. Maybe it’s pre-anxiety over FOMO that’s making us worry about including everyone. Of course we don’t want anyone to feel left out, or feel like our friends are doing things without us. But sometimes that’s life. Personally I’d rather miss a movie outing than suffer through another 40 emails.