K and I didn’t really get engaged. We more started openly discussing what it would be like if we stayed with each other forever, and then K methodically created a list of conversations we ought to have with each other to confirm whether we would be a good fit in the long run, ranging from money to kids to your parents to pets. (While this process sounds a little dry, the moment I realized while walking home alone that I’d conducted enough research and wanted to marry her, and then her reaction a few nights later when I told her, will go down as two of the headiest of my life.)
Once we were both on the same page about sealing the deal, we slowly started telling other people about the impending wedding/legally binding clambake. Because of this meandering, exploratory process, there wasn’t one particular moment that was the crossover from Before Wedding Planning and After Wedding Planning. In truth, the wedding planning process sort of snuck up on us. We were spending a lot of time talking about feelings and commitment and then realized that crap, if we wanted to do it, we needed to actually make a decision about where and when and how. We’re both project managers, but we manage said projects very differently. K keeps things pretty simple and direct, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can maintain relationships and keep people engaged while firmly telling them what to do.
For a few months, we had an elaborate behemoth of a spreadsheet (not nearly as elegant or organized as the APW ones) where we would throw stuff in as we thought about it. It took forever to open, it was difficult to envision a realistic timeline, half the time I couldn’t see it at work anyway, and K was forever trying to simplify it by deleting columns. (Yes! Still bitter about the deleted columns!)
We limped along with the spreadsheet and figured out some of the big stuff. We decided to get married at K’s church, with a party in the garden next door, and we knew we wanted it to be a clambake, but everything else was… murky. We weren’t particularly clear on how the guests, the two of us, or the clams would converge in one place to enjoy each other’s company. And we were struggling to figure out how to prioritize, since there were pieces of the day that mattered differently to each of us.
On yet another Saturday morning at our dining room table, K watched me start one more remarkably unhelpful to-do list with items like, “Think about ceremony!” and “Don’t forget umbrella in case of rain.” She finally suggested that we look into Basecamp, project management software that she’d being using for work projects over the past year. I was a little dubious, as I’ve cycled through a million different versions of project management software. Were we really going to work up wedding Gantt charts that marched our guests down the critical path? It wasn’t the most romantic option. But what we had wasn’t working so I was game to try it.
And oh my lord, you guys. Turning our wedding into a Basecamp Project was the best thing we could have done for our planning process, and by default, our relationship. For twenty bucks a month (and a free sixty-day trial!), you can map out milestones and connect tasks to them. You can respond by email or from the site to said milestones, and your discussions are then saved in one place, so poof, there’s an automatic history of every last link and song and poem you’ve ever kicked around. You can view everything in organized lists, or for the more visual, see them spread across a calendar. You can upload shared files, like excel spreadsheets with guest RSVPs, and you can work on drafts of text documents together, like wedding ceremonies.
Here is where I could throw reminders to pack a bag with umbrellas and Rescue Remedy and Kind Bars, and then not think about it until the more pressing stuff was finished. And then I realized I could hammer out tasks by deadlines and assign them to other people (i.e., K). I could then let the program harass her instead of me into doing it. Seriously, that one feature alone could have sold me on it, but the single biggest reason to use Basecamp for wedding planning was getting to see everything in one single place. No more links emailed to one another that I then had to go back and hunt for, no more to-do lists scattered across Excel and Word and email and Google Docs, just one clean interface that made me feel like we were actually getting it done. And PS, I’m not even endorsed by Basecamp to say this all; I’m just their biggest free fan.
What made Basecamp so successful for us was the framework it provided for us to think through just about every possibility. We started with at least twenty to-do lists, maybe more, ranging from Outfits to Decorations to Accessories to Ceremony to After Party and so on. Seeing them all in one place gave us a place and space to have each of those conversations, and ultimately, we ended up with a much simpler wedding because we had an easy way to assess all the options and figure out where to channel our energy and funding. We realized that huh, making poufs and flags, as pretty as they are, isn’t actually as important to us as putting together a low-key welcome party for the night before. And that framework, however and whatever version of it works for you, is key to putting together a thoughtful celebration that has meaning for both of you. I would have loved to scribble it all out on brown Kraft paper and throw it up in a long hallway, but that’s impossible in a NYC apartment, so Basecamp was a great substitute.
It was so effective, in fact, that we now have a new, extremely long-term project, primarily in the research and development phase, tentatively titled “Miniature: All the things we’d need to do even though we really have no idea.” Ahem. Anyway, for the cuspy Sagittarius-Capricorns out there, who might spend a lot of time making to-do lists and then losing them, I recommend you give Basecamp a whirl.
Photo by APW Sponsor Lisa Wiseman