Be Your Own Wedding Planner With Help From These Apps – The New York Times
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Planning a wedding can be downright stressful. Between vetting a million vendors, keeping up with a mountain of fees, and knowing what’s next on your never-ending to-do list, there’s so much for a soon-to-be spouse to consider. Sometimes you’re given a wedding-planning book bigger than your head to keep up with the chaos, but they work only if you open them.
When I got engaged, it became quite clear I wasn’t prepared. I’d flipped through my massive binder, pinned all of the pins on Pinterest, and cruised The Knot (an online planning service that lets you do everything from ordering invitations to building a wedding website). But the tools all felt so disparate and detached, and I needed something that could centralize everything. My fiancé is planning his bachelor party with Airtable, and Wirecutter staff writer (as well as my editor on this piece) Elissa Sanci has a friend who planned the details of her whole wedding on Discord. So I wondered if these workplace-efficiency tools would be just the things I needed.
It turns out that many professionals and amateurs alike are using project-management applications to plan their weddings and other events. To better understand how best to employ project-management apps for planning a wedding (or any big event), we reached out to real-life users to find out why and how they used these apps to plan their weddings. We also set up our own Airtable, Trello, and Discord accounts to test how intuitive each app was and what you should expect when using them. Here’s what we found.
When you’re planning a wedding, there are a few crucial elements to consider. Every wedding is different, but the core of the event remains the same. In your overall plan, you’ll want to include vendors (florists, caterers, and so forth), a venue, a guest list, and your wedding party. This accounts for the majority of your nuptial needs, be it aggregating every DJ in Detroit or planning your best bachelorette party in Bali.
Keep track of which vendors you’ve contacted, the services you’ve booked, when payments are due, and any specific details regarding the booking. These vendors can include (but are not limited to):
Fee: free for basic access, $120 per year for Plus, $240 per year for Pro
Key features: Think of Airtable as a spreadsheet, calendar, and to-do list all in one place—which Airtable calls a “base.” Spreadsheets are private by default, but you can make them public. And your personal data is kept secure. Also, Airtable supports strong security standards, including two-factor authentication.
What is it? If you’re looking for a catch-all place to keep your wedding details, Airtable is incredibly user-friendly and customizable. Because it’s a relational database management tool that allows you to store, track, and update information quickly and effectively, any data you input in one place will update accordingly in another. For example, in my test base, I created a tab for all of the vendors I’d need. I’ve set it up so I can see where I’m at in the process with each vendor based on their status—contacted, booked, deposit paid, and fully paid. Not only will this status show up in my “grid view,” but it will also update in the “status” view if I change anything. Similarly, I can set the dates that payments are due in the grid view for my vendors, and those dates will upload to my “calendar” view. Hence, being relational—what happens in one place simultaneously updates in another.
How does it work? After you create your Airtable account, you create a “base.” This is the landing page for all of your information. From there you’ll want to add different tabs based on your needs. Each tab allows you to input information as you see fit—in a grid view (similar to a spreadsheet), a calendar view, a Kanban (or column system) view, or a Gantt (or flowchart) view. This system allows you to track input “records” (data) and then track it through “fields” (columns), like status updates, dates, notes, checkboxes, and more.
Why would I use this for wedding planning? When software engineer Jeff Appareti was planning his wedding with his fiancée four years ago, he aggregated all of their pertinent data in Airtable. In there, the two of them were able to track which vendors were contacted and when payments were due, and they could even plan the ever-dreaded table assignments. Appareti later published the base he made on Airtable’s blog, so if you don’t want to start from scratch, you can look to his plans as a blueprint. “I just thought this could be really useful for people and maybe save some people some time and frustration because it can be a very stressful period,” Appareti said. “I’d say that having that organization, especially for my wife, was really helpful.” Post-wedding, Appareti was able to use his guest-list database through Airtable to seamlessly log wedding gifts and send out thank-you cards.
Fee: free for basic access, $120 per year for Business Class
Key features: Trello allows you to easily check items off your list and move tasks through processes. Trello has strong security standards for data, supports two-factor authentication, and features a robust set of options regarding who is able to access the boards.
What is it? If you like to see your information laid out right in front of you, love checklists, and find too many customizations to be overwhelming, this project-management board may be the best tool for planning your wedding. Trello is a project-management tool primarily based on the Kanban system, which is intended to represent tasks visually, moving them through various points in your project in hopes of preventing bottlenecking and missteps. Like the Kanban view in Airtable, Trello features a series of columns that allow you to drag and drop “cards” in different columns. This is good for visually tracking your progress with vendors or for laying out pieces of your event block by block. With the Business Class subscription, you can also look at your data in different views—timeline, table, calendar, dashboard, and maps—but that’s not essential, according to experts. Trello may seem like your typical project-management board for hyper-collaborative corporate efforts, but when you think of how much goes into planning a wedding … well, the details aren’t too far off from that realm.
How does it work? Trello allows you to create different boards for organizing your information. For example, when testing this app for wedding planning, I created one board specifically for vendors and another for the week-of plan. Each board is customizable, so you can create columns for different subjects or different stages of the planning process. To keep track of my vendors, I used the columns to note the different stages each vendor was in (called, booked, deposit paid, and fully paid). But for my week-of plan, I separated my information by subject matter (rehearsal dinner, photo plan, ceremony, and so forth). Each card allows you to add due dates, checklists, notes, documents, and labels, depending on your needs. As wedding planner Desirée Adams noted, collaborators can also comment on cards in order to synthesize pertinent information into one place.
Why would I use this for wedding planning? Adams raves about Trello as an event-planning tool. “I love Trello because it’s very easy to pick up and use, so couples don’t have a hard time learning it,” she said. “It’s also really great for collaboration.” She said she connects her Google Drive—where she can keep important documents like contracts—to the Trello board, and she makes sure each column and card are clearly labeled with due dates and action items. From there, Adams said she’s able to collaborate with her couples on planning, creating specific tasks that they can easily check off her well-organized list. Adams also uses the comments feature on Trello to create a centralized space for her couples to communicate with her. She recommends treating a Trello board the way you would normally treat folders in your email—yet instead of having to constantly search your inbox, everything is right there on the board. Adams said she believes in this system so much that she created an “Ultimate Wedding Checklist”—a template for Trello that you can purchase from her store for around $100, eliminating any app finagling you may have to do when setting up your own Trello board. She gave us a sneak peak, and it’s detailed down to the minute—perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to think too much about pre-wedding and day-of planning. (Adams used to receive three free months of Gold Membership for any couple that used her board, but Trello has since stopped renewing it.)
Fee: free for basic access, $100 per year for Nitro
Key features: Discord allows you to create a community where you can organize everyone via text, video, and voice message. Discord has many safety features that allow you to customize your visibility and privacy on the platform, including setting up two-factor authentication and controls for who can access a chat channel.
What is it? Discord is a chat server that allows you to communicate with people via text, voice, and video messaging. Though it’s often used by gamers to coordinate gaming sessions, anyone can create a community on Discord. There are public communities you can join, or you can create your own private servers that are invite-only.
How does it work? Unlike Trello and Airtable, Discord wasn’t created for project management—at its core, it’s a messaging app similar to Slack (or any other chat program) mainly used by gamers looking to cultivate a community of like-minded players. But when Elissa told me her friend planned her entire wedding on Discord (bachelorette party and all), I realized the application isn’t just for gamers and group chats—it can be a helpful tool to aggregate information and readily accessible feedback. First, you need to create a server that will be your home base of sorts; I named mine “Wedding Planning,” to keep it specific. From there, you can create various channels based on subject matter. My channels included vendors, guest list, groom’s party, bride’s party, decorations, venue, photos, photo inspiration, and rehearsal dinner. (As mentioned before, these categories are completely up to your wedding needs.) Once everything is set up, you can add anyone you’d like to your server and start chatting.
Why would I use this for wedding planning? Nicole Greenwood, who specializes in Project Logistics, is using Discord to plan her own wedding. She’s organized her server with “every separate category you can think of,” including theme, bridal party outfits, and color palettes. She created her server with private channels only her bridesmaids can see, so her fiancé won’t be able to peek. She called this category “Authorized Personnel Only,” and she uses it to share details like photos of the dress and other aspects she doesn’t want her fiancé (who also contributes helpful links and photos to her server) to view. The entire server enables Greenwood to easily connect with everyone she needs, and it keeps pertinent data all in one place through her well-organized channels.
But that’s not all. Greenwood moderates a Discord server called Wedding Planning. Though it started as a small community, the group now has about 40 current and former brides who help one another plan any and all wedding details imaginable. Through this community, decorations have been passed down, wedding planners have been shared, and friendships have formed.
We looked into Airtable, Trello, and Discord because they’re very common and accessible, and they were already on our radar based on work experience (Wirecutter uses Trello and Airtable to manage projects). However, these aren’t the only project-management and community-based apps out there that could be useful to couples in the throes of wedding planning. During my conversations with them, both Appareti and Greenwood put a couple of websites and apps on my radar. ClickUp, Notion, and Tables were three alternatives that Appareti said he’s come across professionally. Greenwood cited Joy as a great wedding-specific website for folks to use, too. Ultimately, after testing and talking with people about this, we’ve come to the conclusion that whatever works best for you is ultimately what you should use. Wedding planning can be stressful, and if that big book is your saving grace, go for it. You love making Excel spreadsheets? Amazing. The Knot has everything you need? Perfect. Your big day deserves to be the best, and whatever helps get you there is the right choice for you.
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