This paper aims to analyze documentary planning tools for an everyday life project, the wedding, to study how “document work” is constructed in this setting.
Using Law and Lynch's study of birdwatching guides for novices as a framework, nine commercially‐available wedding planning guides targeted toward the primary planner, almost universally the bride, were analyzed.
As Law and Lynch found, part of a novice's apprenticeship requires learning how to “see” in ways that are socially organized in and through texts. The paper shows how characteristics of birdwatching guides (naturalistic accountability, a picture theory of representation, and the strategic use of texts) are also evident in wedding planners, and how the very features that make these guides usable also occasion troubles for their users. Wedding planning guides treat the bride as a novice and instruct her in seeing wedding‐related tasks and times as amenable to management. However, planning a wedding requires multiple tasks and times that may be intertwined in ways that make both their representation and their execution highly complex.
The need for both temporal and thematic access highlights more general problems of knowledge organization in presenting a complex planning project in a linear and paper format.
As workplace principles of time and project management are increasingly applied to everyday life, this paper provides a needed case study of the ways that everyday recordkeeping contributes to the novice bride's gendered apprenticeship and embeds her work within broader organizational and ideological systems.
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