Having just gotten married recently, I tried a lot of stuff to help make the planning process easier, and had a few thoughts on things that did (and didn’t quite) work that I wanted to share. The first thing I wanted to mention were thoughts about planning and organization. As it turns out, wedding planning isn’t just a 1-person process, and so some degree of organization and coordination winds up being needed.
First and foremost, I recommend something web-based. There are going to be several people getting involved in this planning process, so you’re going to want something that supports multiple people using it at the same time and provides 1 source of truth. In short, you’re planning a wedding, meaning you’re not going to want to maintain and reconcile offline files and notes. What web-based services you use should be based around your personality. I like tables, so a spreadsheet on Google Drive (a lot more about that spreadsheet in future posts) was a go-to for me (the iOS app was also useful). Also, I like lists, so I set up a Trello board for our wedding planning (UPDATE: The board was largely a more amateurish version of Khoa Lam’s setup here).
That brings me to an important second point – pick things that everyone is actually going to use. While I really liked having all the little things we needed to do on a Trello board, my wife, who isn’t big into list making or using tools to organize things, only ever seemed to look at it when she got an email that I did something with it. We also started making lists on the stock notes app on phones at the request of other people, instead of pointing them to the lists we already had. Before getting too deep in the planning process, you, your fiance, everyone’s parents, and really everyone participating in the planning process should probably spend some time talking about how you want to keep things organized in big, sprawling projects (because wedding planning is one), and find something that helps everyone of you out. It doesn’t matter how good a tool is, the less people use it, the less useful it is for your particular situation. You need to be willing walk away from your utility of choice in favor of something everyone is willing to get behind.
Whatever you decide to use, you need to be able to quickly get a sense of where you stand on all your planning, as well as when things need to get done. Remember, the point is a setup that doesn’t involve you pouring every single character to try to figure out what’s important right now and what can wait a while. You also want to know what’s pending, so you can be aware of what’s coming down the pipe in the near future. Trello’s labels and due dates, and ability to easily order cards on lists (not to mention the different lists), worked perfectly for me, whereas lists on a note-taking app got cluttered and turned into a wall of text very quickly.
Another major feature to look for when selecting the tool(s) you’ll use to try to organize the wedding planning process is that your choice(s) should be easily updatable. If adding or modifying information is a hassle, not only are you not going to want to use whatever tool you choose, it’s also going to make planning a wedding harder, not easier. Whatever tool(s) you use to help plan your wedding should almost encourage you to update it every time you do something towards organizing the big day. This not only gives you a fun psychological boost (look at all the progress you’re making!), but it also keeps things up-to-date for the other people involved in this whole process, so they know where things stand without having to ask.
The last big feature you should be looking for in your wedding planning tool(s) is that it should have some sort of notification feature. This is tricky, and really more art than science, since you want your tool(s) to let you know about the really important stuff, while just leaving everything else until the next time you happen to log in. Good configuration settings help, and so do notification systems that group notifications (I use a project management system at work that does not batch notifications, and deal with a lot of spam as a result). Something that groups notifications to a daily digest of things you haven’t seen yet, would work, along with reminders about any deadlines you associated with particular tasks. This is an area in which both Google Drive and note apps lacked. While they were useful for collecting what was going on, and due dates, I had to go and pull them up to get timely information, as opposed to a notification automatically popping saying “Hey, this needs be done soon, get to work!” On the other hand, if you’re attached to a card, Trello sends notifications every few hours if something happens to it and you haven’t logged in, which gets spammy quickly if you’re not constantly checking the board. Good notifications are tricky, but for me personally, I’d rather have too many emails cluttering up my inbox listing everything that’s going on than not having any news when things change.
Planning a wedding is a major undertaking, and no matter how smart you and your fiance are, you’re going to need some help keeping track of everything. You’re going to need something that’s designed around multiple people using and updating it simultaneously, is easy-to-update, gives you a quick, at-a-glance understanding of where you are and what you should be working on, and can tell you about important developments when needed (oh, and cheap – you’ll be spending plenty of money on the rest of the wedding). A lot of this should be driven by you and your fiance’s personal preferences, but keeping these points in mind should help you come up with a system that works best for you.