Romantic Comedy Beat Sheet: The Wedding Planner

Here is a breakdown I did on The Wedding Planner. First of all, I love this movie (love you, Shankman!). I think it’s funny, romantic, really charming and well written (go, Pam and Mike!). It is also very well structured, so it’s a good one to study.

What is of notice is the major plot turning points, the tandem emotional plot points with the A story plot points, and the scene lengths.

Only the major scenes in the movie approach or exceed three minutes in length. Their first date scene is approx. seven minutes long, and, as well, the sequence that culminates in Steve professing his love for her and his rejection is also under seven minutes long.

Wedding Planner

Movie Breakdown

Columbia, Intermedia, Tapestry Films, DeeGee Entertainment, IMF Production in association with PrufRock Pictures; directed by Adam Shankman; written by Pamela Falk & Mike Ellis

TIME

SCENE DESCRIPTION

APPROX. LENGTH

ACT 1

1:00 Mary as a little girl playing with Barbies. Performing a wedding. Childhood dreams. “You’re the luckiest girl in the world, Barbie.” The hopeless romantic.
1:52 Adult Mary (JLo) at real wedding (the little girl has grown up). Telling bride, “You are the luckiest girl in the world.” Bride has jitters. Mary comforts her, “You are exquisite. You’re timeless. You’re the envy of your future sister in law. But, you have more than great thighs. You have the love of a man named Tom, a man who, when he walked into rehearsal dinner said, ‘I can’t believe she picked me. I can’t believe I’m marrying the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.’ And that tells me that this marriage of yours is not only going to work, it’s gonna last forever.”
3:07 Opening steadycam shot. Mary in business mode. Clips the girl’s dress cleavage with clip from her waistband emergency pack. She instructs video cam guy. Earpiece. Tells Father to hold it. Father (Father of Bride) MIA. Finds the FOB, “Who are you?” Reveal: “I’m the wedding planner.”

3 mins

6:06 FOB with daughter walk down aisle. Mary moment of satisfaction/private romance – a job well done. 2 women in audience stare up at Mary as though she’s celebrity. “She must lead such a romantic life.”
6:44 (Not.) Mary’s apartment. Home alone. Cleaning fanatic. Dinner for one. Beautiful apartment: pretty but empty. Watches TV. Vacuums, folds.

INCITING INCIDENT (B STORY/EMOTIONAL)

8:14 Community Center. Playing Scrabble with dad and friends. “Sometimes a father has to take action. I found you a man who has agreed to marry you!” Woman friend says, “If her mother was alive, and she’d heard that, she’d wish she was dead.” Massimo, the little Italian boy. Dad brings Massimo in. “I look forward to our life together.” Maria leaves.

2 mins

10:16 City shot. Buys paper on street.

INCITING INCIDENT (A STORY/PLOT)

10:40 Office. Everyone needs her. She marches into Boss’ office. Mary wants to get this new wedding, the Donnoleys (society pages). “I already made contact.” When she nails this account, she wants to be partner. The firm never made money until she came along. Threatens to leave unless made partner.

2.5 mins

13:22 Hallway with friend/associate Penny. “You’re going to be a partner!” “Mary, you haven’t been on a date in two years.” The Italian guy waiting to marry you in lobby. Mary hides as sneaks out.
14:19 Wedding. Mary’s off to the side reading the best man speech to the best man as he presents it. We meet Francine Donnoley and her parents who are there to see her work. She pitches them on a wedding. They’re into it. “Most grooms are NID: not into details.” She pitches them.

3 mins

17:24 Street. Happy because she nailed the account. Three months to plan. Her shoe gets stuck in a manhole. Intercut with Chinese Taxi driver eating ice cream; drops it. He hits dumpster, and it heads straight for her. Matthew McConaughey (“Steve”) runs straight for her. He saves her from the runaway dumpster. She faints.

Under 3 mins

20:10 Hospital. The kids around her. Steve comes in. He’s the supervising pediatrician. He’s great with the kids. He brought her there to make sure she’s okay.

Under 2 mins

21:57 His office. She pokes through his things. Checks herself in mirror. Smooths her hair. Lip gloss. Penny arrives. Invites him to come with them to the movies.

Under 2 mins

24:37 Park. Penny gets out of it. They go sit on her tree. The guard (dad’s friend) gives her a hard time, “It’s about time you had a date.” Steve says he’s a doctor. Guard says he’ll see her at Scrabble practice. Mary tells him her parents’ backstory: the joined the Scrabble club to learn English. After mom died she started playing with her dad. He picks through M&Ms, only eats the brown ones. They watch the projected film. They dance. He takes ballroom class. “Oh, you’re gay!” Invites him to her next Scrabble match. An almost-kiss moment. Rains.

7 mins

ACT 2

31:25 Greek wedding. Mary’s clearly smitten. She’s with Francine planning. Tells her about Steve. Francine says that with her help she can have him hooked within three months. After, “I owe you one, Penny.”
33:04 Scrabble club meeting at Community Center. Fran there for ballroom class. Meets “Eddie,” nickname from his last name, Edison. (He’s Steve.) Mary is angry. Fran takes a phone call. Dance scene where they argue. He lied to Fran that he saved an old lady. M: You think you want to get married, but you don’t. S: Mary, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Steve talks in 3rd person. They flirt. S: It didn’t mean anything. M: Then, why’d you almost kiss me? Fran returns.
37:50 Building. Fran says that Napa is the place to get married. They’re going for weekend. Mary’s going with them.
38:27 SEQUENCEIntercut Office and Golf CourseOffice. Penny tells Mary she can’t back out of the wedding, “Only if you fall in love with the groom.” Mary says, “No, of course not. I never get emotionally involved.” The doctor is the groom. //

Penny convinces her to do it: “You cannot tell me that you would sacrifice your entire career over this.” //

P: “You will go through with this wedding. Why? Because you deserve this partnership. You’ve earned it.” She convinces herself to do it. //

M: “I can treat that jackass like any other faceless groom. I am a goddamned professional.”

39:19 Intercut with Golf Course:“The dumpster girl is your wedding planner?” Steve: “I’m in hell.” //It’s not a mistake to marry Fran. Fran is great. “What if what I think is great, but it’s not as great as something greater.” //Friend: “Your feelings for her. That’s not chemistry. That’s anxiety. It’s nature. Natural.” Natural anxiety. My feelings can’t be swept away in one night. “What the hell was I thinking? I was thinking wrong. I was being a jackass.” The friend asks for her number.
40:57 Car to Napa. Wedding songs. Fran loves the Olivia Newton John song, “I love you, I honestly love you” (Mary had said before that was an indicator for short marriage). Fran asks about ‘the guy.’ (Steve now knows she has a real crush on him.) Steve almost gets in accident. “He turned out to be the groom of one of the weddings I was planning.”
43:22 Napa Winery. They survey the grounds. Massimo shows up and announces he’s her fiancé. Steve upset because he thinks she was lying, too – he ribs her about it. Massimo pulls Steve off to do the “manly bonding.”
45:25 SEQUENCEMen walking. S: “How long have you known Mary, buddy?” Go to fitness center. Running competition. Steve competitive. / Pull ups 65Intercut with Lunch on patio. The parents arrive. / Garden. The dad learns that Herb Martin’s daughter got married there and he proclaims, “I’m not following in that man’s shoddy footsteps!” This place is out. They see the men wrestling on grass.
47:36 Horseback ride in nature. Fran says that Steve always does the right thing. Mary’s horse runs off. Steve runs after her, saves her.
49:58 He walks with her on horse back to vineyard. They argue. She harassed him for being engaged, and now she has a fiancé. “You harpooned me for being engaged. In a zippy and unexpected twist, you yourself turn out to have a fiancé.” What is her problem? He admits he was attracted to her at movie. Maybe he was unsure. “Bottom line: I never thought I’d see you again. Bottom line: nothing happened. Bottom line: now, mnore than ever, I believe Fran is the one for me… All your theories on love sound more like the rantings of a bitter and cynical woman.” Massimo appears and starts to sing to her.
52:12 Car ride home. Massimo follows on vespa.

MIDPOINT (B STORY/EMOTIONAL)

52:42 Her Bedroom. Dad measures her for her wedding dress. She says no. “You cannot push some guy at me.” Dad admits that mother and him had an arranged marriage. The mom was upset about it b/c dad was in love with another girl. “She said I had big eyebrows and a low IQ.” He got sick and she took care of him. Appreciation grew to respect, like, love. “Give Massimo a chance. Maybe you don’t like him now, but maybe you might love him later.” I should have told you a long time ago, maybe then you’d feel differently about love. M: I don’t feel anything about love.

Under 3 mins

MIDPOINT (A STORY/PLOT)

55:35 Park. Location scouting with Fran and Steve. Fran wants it. He doesn’t. He agrees to it. She announces she needs to go East for a week for business. Fran: “You guys will do a great job. I trust you.”
57:00 Statue garden. Steve and Mary. S: “Fran wants statues.” He always wanted a small wedding for himself. He likes the warrior statue. He pushes it over and the penis/balls fall off. He super glues his hand to the balls. Guard comes.
59:10 The sit and she helps him with her emergency kit to remove the dick from his hand. He apologizes for Napa for calling her bitter and cynical. She apologizes for saying his marriage is doomed to fail. M: “You and Fran are going to be real happy together. Massimo and I aren’t engaged anymore. It was more my dad.” S: “Why would he try to do that?” M: “Maybe because he was so happy with my mom.” She agrees with him about the small wedding.
1:01:45 Dad’s apartment. Massimo there. She gets mad at him for lying about the engagement. Massimo apologizes. From now on, just friends. Dinner? He makes her mac and cheese. He remembers her mother.Mary: I thought I could control everything and I can’t. I met someone who I thought was–well, he’s not. Did you ever like someone but the timing is way off, you feel things you should not be feeling?Ma: You long for him the way I long for you. You need to learn the patience. Love can’t always be perfect – love is just love. Mary: My mom used to say that.Ma: Your mother was a very wise woman.

Over 3 mins

1:05:37 Flower market with Steve. He tells Mary that Fran was a bookie at Berkeley, he was the bookworm and she picked him. They bump into her former fiancé with his pregnant and wife. She tries to hide. He spots her. Mary tells Steve what happened: they were making out at the rehearsal dinner.

Under 3 mins

1:08:16 Steve escorts Mary back to her apartment. In the street, she’s stumbling drunk and carrying a beer. Outside building, she collapses at door. Nobody will buzz her in. She cries that she doesn’t have time for people, doesn’t have time to shop. She cries. “He’s married and he’s having a baby.” Tender moment with Steve. They get let in.
1:10:46 He carries her up to her apartment. She lays on couch, he sits beside her. He consoles her. She tells him the story  that her ex ran off with his former girlfriend. “I was just a stand-in.” She is really broken-hearted. “Most of the time, I think, I just wasn’t enough.” Steve says, “No, no, no, you’re wrong. She’s nothing but a poor man’s Mary.” She walks him out.(scene continues…)

Over 3 mins

ACT 3 (B STORY/EMOTIONAL)

1:14:20 He comes back to her door. He asks her if she ever thinks about that night in the park. He proclaims his love for her. He knows the curves of her face, and every fleck of gold in her eyes. “That night was the best time I’ve ever had.” She says, “I’m a magnet for unavailable men, and I’m sick of it.” She tells him, “It’s simple. I love Fran, I respect her, and she loves you. So, besides your tux measurements, that’s all I need to know. Please go away.”

Total scene over 6 mins

ACT 3 (A STORY/PLOT)

1:17:04 Office. People need her; she can’t concentrate. Fran waits for her. She has wedding jitters. F: “I’ve discovered something, I’ve been blind. I didn’t want to see it, tried to ignore the signs. I think you know what I’m talking about.” M: “Let me explain. It’s not what you think it is.” F: “I can’t go through with this wedding.” She lists Eddie’s faults. “I’ve been with him so long, I don’t even know why we’re together anymore.” M: “You are exquisite. You’re timeless. You have the love of a man named Steve, a man who, while you were away having meetings said, I can’t believe she picked me. I can’t believe I’m marrying the most incredible woman I’ve ever met. And that tells me that this marriage of yours is not only going to work, it’s gonna last forever.” F: Thank you.

3 mins

1:20:08 Dad’s apartment. Burt’s birthday, the dad’s friend. Massimo proposes to Mary. Wheels out the dollhouse (with ring in it) he built her. Massimo: “Mary, I know I never done the right thing, I never say the right thing, I act like a fool. I know I say we’ll just be buddy buddy friends, but I would not be true to my heart. So I would ask you this one question, and if you answer no, then I will leave you alone once and for all. Be my wife, Mary Fiore, and I will take care of you and be true to you. If your answer is yes, then no one will ever love you as much as I love you.” She spells out OK on the Scrabble board.

Over 3 mins

1:23:35 MONTAGE (with super cheesy song). Wedding invites. Fran dress. Steve’s tux fitting. Mass’s tux. Mary gets her promotion. Steve’s invites. Mary’s contract. Steve tux. Fran’s dress. M’s tux. Invites.
1:24:54 Limo arrives at wedding. Steve watches her. She sees him.
1:25:25 Fran tries on dress. Crowd shots. Steve sneaks in behind. They go for a walk.
1:26:49 Mary gives the wedding to Penny in catering. She passes off the emergency kit. Penny freaks.
1:27:15 In garden. Fran says to Steve they can talk after. He asks her, “Why do you want to marry me?” She doesn’t answer and then thinks he’s trying to dump her. She freaks out and gets really upset. S: “The reasons we were together in college don’t hold up anymore. If you really love me, I’ll put this cumberbund on right now and we’ll go walk down that aisle. Are you ready?” F: “Yes, yes of course. No. I don’t want to get married.”
1:29:25 Mary enters City Hall. Gets into her dress. Pill box hat.
1:30:12 Steve and Fran talk more in the garden. F: “How did we let it get this far?” They’re going to be okay. F: “I haven’t thought about what I really want in so long.” S: “Me, either.”
1:30:45 Steve puts her into a cab in her wedding dress. Penny freaks out as she sees Fran drive off. Penny’s going to kill Mary for leaving. She went to city hall to get married. Steve runs off. Steve pops off in a cab.
1:32:01 Mary in chambers. Father walks her. Ceremony about to be performed.
1:32:22 Steve stuck in traffic with the Chinese cabbie. He commandeers the cab.
1:33:05 Chambers. Mass and Mary stand before judge. Ceremony starts. Contract to be taken seriously. Speak now or forever hold his peace. No one speaks. Father objects. They all (the dad’s friends) object.
1:34:01 Steve in cab.
1:34:06 Father can’t let her marry this guy. It’s not what she wants, it’s what he wants. Mary: “Love isn’t like some enchanted evening, it isn’t a fairy tale, or even love at first sight. That isn’t real life. Massimo’s a good man, don’t worry, papa. I know what I’m doing. I’m just all grown up now.”
1:34:58 Cab arrives. The family all in front. Steve professes his love for Mary to her father. Steve and Fran didn’t get married. Massimo says Steve is the one. She doesn’t love Mass. “I could never forgive myself if ever I got in the way of Mary’s true love.”
1:36:07 Boys on the “Just Married” Vespa. Drive to the movies.
1:36:43 Steve runs to her tree. She’s throwing out the colored M&Ms. He tells her they didn’t get married because she needs to find her own life. “And, I want to dance with you.” They dance and kiss. Reverse angle: wedding on screen.

3 mins

1:39:43

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5 Responses to Romantic Comedy Beat Sheet: The Wedding Planner

  1. chops February 8, 2010 at 7:03 pm #

    So is each scene only one beat?

    Or does each of these scenes have more than one beat, but it isn’t important to mark each little beat?

    I guess I’m having trouble if each scene that is marked with the amount of time it takes to complete, is also just one beat. For instance can there be more than one beat in any one particular scene? Is there an example in the wedding planner, where one scene consists of many beats?

    Thanks!

  2. Monica February 8, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    Hi, check out my article on the types of beats. Ideally, when you’re outlining a script, each scene should contain one story beat and also one character beat (meaning, every scene moves the plot forward but also exposes character).

    Scenes shouldn’t have more than one beat, because then you’re dumping plot, and the scenes can get very expository (a tendency for new writers).

    That said, there can be many emotional reveals (or beats) within a scene, but they’re on the emotional level for the character. I don’t personally outline what the emotional beats are within a scene – well, other than the plot/character beats of the scene and perhaps writing a paragraph or two about that in a treatment or on a beat sheet before I go to page. If I outline what the major beats of the scene are, then I’ll usually be okay once I get to the page as to the character’s state of mind and the emotional reveals of the scene. I would say that in the outlining process (treatment or beat sheet), it’s only the major character reveal that you would include for any one scene and not every emotional turn needs to be outlined.

    Within The Wedding Planner, any of the longer scenes (for example, when Mary meets Eddie/Steve at the park, there are many emotional ups and downs in that scenes, so there are several beats within that scene. However, for the purposes of outlining the story, it’s enough to know that this is their first date and an ‘almost kiss’ moment. The protagonist is smitten.

  3. Andy August 12, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

    Do you have any beat sheets from other movies you can post as examples? That would be awesome! It helps to look at a bunch of different movies to get the lesson.

  4. Monica August 14, 2010 at 11:06 pm #

    Andy, it was my intention to offer one beat sheet (as an example) per each genre grouping, so that people will have an idea of what I’m talking about when I say that different genres are structured differently. Alas, I’ve been super busy! But will try to post more beat sheets in the coming weeks and months. Thanks!

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