There are gazillions of planning tools out there, and many of them are web-based. However, I have a few criteria that are really important to me:
- Usable on the go. I have to travel a lot, so I want aids that are accessible on all of my devices (and on my sweetie's devices, too). This means things accessible on Windows, MacOS, Android, and IOS. Most of the web-based resources are not so easily usable on mobile devices.
- Backup everywhere. I want everything to automatically back-up and sync across all our devices.
- Easy learning curve. I don't want to spend a lot of time figuring out something that is only relevant to the wedding.
So this is the suite of tools I've assembled to help me out. Most are not wedding-specific, and those that are either are super easy or rely on skills useful outside of wedding planning.
Visual inspiration and public sources:
Pinterest seems to be the only way to go for gathering visual inspiration. It's just so EASY. I have a separate account for wedding stuff with a fake name that none of my friends know about. They don't have an app for Android, though, so if you are an Android user, you have to access using one of your mobile device's browsers (Dolphin and Chrome seem to work the best for me).
- If you aren't on Pinterest, check out Offbeat Bride's tutorial. (Sidenote: Pinterest has had an interesting impact on Offbeat Bride!)
- Everybody's way of using Pinterest is different, but I have it divided up into lots of boards that make sense to me (clothes, decor, food, etc.). Most of my boards host anything I find cool or interesting, but I have one board entitled “THE Look” that I am keeping to the top ten images. That way my electronically impatient helpers can see what I envision at a glance without going through all my boards.
Visual Inspiration and Private Sources:
For keeping track of ideas from the Tribe and other private sources, I use EverNote. On computers you access through the web interface. There's an awesome plug-in for Chrome and Firefox that will clip the webpage to your Evernote account (kind of like pinning from Pinterest).
There are apps and widgets for Android and IOS, and if you use the Dolphin browser on Android, there is also an EverNote plugin that you can use to “clip” enitre pages. On Android and IOS, you can also just share the relevant URL to Evernote if you prefer. Never upload images to Pinterest without the owner's permission!
Skitch is a super easy way to annotate photos. When I realized, however, that my sweetie and I had better articulate a clear vision, and fast, before my very sweet, helpful, and strong-minded sisters had created their own vision for us, I started using Skitch.
Any picture I send to explain what I mean has little annotations like you see in the pic. It is integrated with Evernote, so you can instantly save your image after annotating, and then share right from Evernote to email or text. I never found a good program that I could use on my computer AND mobile devices, so I do this on mobile devices only.
Organizing for the Guests
Get your website started early, especially if it is a destination wedding. Set it to private or hide the link from Google until you distribute the URL. Avoid sending out the URL when all you have is “We are still working on this, so come back later!” If there isn't much content when you announce the URL, many folks just won't come back.
There are a ton of easy alternatives out there. I especially liked MyWedding and Appy Couple — they have everything you need and it's easy to make them look fabulous. While the designs on Appy Couple are gorgeous, and I love the idea of a coordinating Android or IPhone app, the page choices are limited. Appy Couple also is easy to edit from your device. However, on MyWedding you can edit the page titles/ focus, and create additional custom pages. For me, this is more important.
If you have basic web creation skills, you can build your own site using a WordPress installation on your own webspace. If you only have minimal HTML/CSS knowledge but you are good at figuring this stuff out, don't be afraid to do it! Just look for a webhost that has Fantastico (I use Green Geeks). That makes installing WordPress super easy. So far I'm using the following plug-ins:
- RSVP: for managing events and guestlist
- NextGen Gallery: for managing photo galleries and creating slide shows
Organizing your to-do lists, schedules, budget, and expenses
To-Do and Scheduling:
Start with the Offbeat Bride checklist! I am entering the big checklist into a Google Doc as well. This makes it easy to check from anywhere. Soon I plan to export the tasks from the Offbeat Bride tool as a CSV file, then import into our “shared” Google calendar, which automatically syncs across all of our devices (here's how to sync to IOS; Android happens automatically).
If you want a fancier to-do list app that syncs with your Google calendar task list, try Astrid.
Budget and Expenses:
First, start with Offbeat Bride's Wedding Planning Spreadsheets! Since the math involved is not too complicated, spreadsheets are perfectly adequate for keeping track of your budget — and that way you can enter expenses on the go so you don't forget later. If you upload them to Google Sheets, you can access everything through all your devices.
Other Important Files: BACK UP BACK UP BACK UP
Choose any program that automatically backs up your files to another server, BUT DO IT. Remember those horror stories from college or high school of people losing important files when they most needed them? Yup, computers crash at the WORST POSSIBLE TIME. Because at the worst possible time we are totally stressed and have gotten lax about important maintenance, or even just rebooting the damn thing once in a while. SO BACK IT UP, and MAKE IT AUTOMATIC, BECAUSE WHEN YOU ARE STRESSED OUT YOU WILL ALSO FORGET TO BACK IT UP.
I use Dropbox, and recommend it to all of my students and friends. It is free for the first 2GB — that should be enough, unless you are trying to back up lots of music, videos, and photos. Every change is backed up immediately when you save the file, and for 30 days you can go back to earlier versions through the web interface. You can share folders with your partner and helpers, and all files in that folder will automatically update on their computers, too! And the Dropbox Android or IOS apps make it super easy to access all files from mobile devices!
Okay, so what are YOUR go-to wedding planning web tools?