APW Reader Survey 2011: The Results

Update: For a .pdf of the survey results, click here.

Ok! So, here we go! It’s time to talk about the 2011 APW reader survey. You guys are totally in luck, it turns out. Last year, Jamie of Cactus and Quail designed beautiful info graphics with the data, and as I warned you when I did the survey, she is very very pregnant right now (by which I mean her due date is this week), so she couldn’t design for us this year. But reader Lizzie Rothwell stepped up, who’s another architect and designer (more on her below), so we get to talk about this in serious style.

The Demographics

The funny thing about APW demographics, is they hold STEADY. Once I have about 250 responses on a survey, they never budge. And they didn’t budge much from last year. We are:

Ladies. (Click through on this chart to check out the amazing notes)

Slightly older than the average bride in the US, which I love. Funny enough, since I’m about to turn 31 next week, I’m now older than the average APW reader, which I find boggling.

We are: 16% pre-engaged (so to speak), 42% engaged, 17% of us identify as Newlywed, and 17% of us identify as married (b*tches). Which seems about perfect to me.

As ever, we’re educated, with 55% of us either in, or finished with, graduate school. Which is a whole hell of  a lot, y’all (least anyone say we’re not a little pointy-headed around here, achem).

We’re city girls, a lot of us, with 64% of us living in urban areas (again, that is pretty insanely high).

And I’m fascinated with the comparison of APW household incomes to APW wedding budgets.  With 69% of the APW readership having a household income over $50,000, we are well over the US household average. But with 58% of APW-ers having wedding budgets of $20,000 or below, we’re under the national average for wedding budgets. And that’s exactly where David and I were when we were wedding planning. It wasn’t that we didn’t have money, it was that we didn’t want to blow it all on one party. And having spent my early twenties actually broke, it made me rage-full every time someone told us our wedding was super budget, or (worse) we were somehow broke, because we were not spending a pile of money on our wedding. Because I knew what broke was like, and we were not that. At all. We were not having a budget wedding, we were having a practical wedding, thank you VERY much. And apparently many of you guys are too. And I love that.

And for those of you who actually are feeling flat broke and throwing that wedding? An extra big high five from me, for rocking it.

Then, there is social media. You guys blog and use twitter, but oh-my-god-whoa, what you really use is Facebook. And since I currently use Twitter to hang out with APW-ers when I’m not blogging, that makes me think I need to get myself to Facebook, because I like hanging out with you.

APW Content

Now to the meat of the survey: APW content. What you love, what you want more of, and where you’d like to see APW go (hint, you’re not totally sure).

First, number of times a day you’d like posts. The consensus seems to be between one and two times a day, which is perfect. Currently, we focus on getting out one really meaty, discussion focused post a day, and then we fill in from there (with awesome). In the afternoons, we’re likely to post Sisterhood of the Traveling Dress giveaways, weddings and anniversaries, book club stuff, and How-To posts—things that are important to the community around APW, but not necessarily going to trigger 100+ comment discussions. (Because um, no one can handle more than one of those conversations a week…)

Next up: what content you love, and what content you want more of. I limited your selection of what content you loved most to just four picks, so we’re just seeing what you love the very-very-very best here (aka, don’t think things with lower results are unloved parts of APW). And what you love most is not surprising: discussing marriage, wedding graduate posts, advice columns with Alyssa, my writing, and discussions about gender and feminism. It’s excellent to know that you guys like what I like, because it makes me think I can go on trusting myself to produce content that makes us both happy.

What you want to see more of is interesting. Most of you don’t want more wedding graduate posts, which is great. We currently do two wedding graduates a week, and that seems just perfect to me. I want each wedding graduate to have their day in the sun, and I want the posts to feel special, not like, “Oh, it’s today’s wedding. Next!” What you do want more of is marriage discussions, gender and feminism, and well, me. And I’m down with that.

A few commenters mentioned that it seemed like I was doing less writing these days, and they missed me. And this is undoubtedly true, if temporary. You see, for me, the whole point of making blogging a career is the writing. I love business development, I love the blog-o-sphere, but what I love most? Letting words tumble out of me, and having that sort out who I am, and what I think, and how I feel. But right now? Well, I’ve been writing 6,000 words a week on the APW book. And it seems like I have about 5,000-7,000 words that naturally live inside me every week, and after that? I’m tapped out. So, after I finish my rush towards the book deadline, expect me to show up a whole lot more on the APW page, writing it out.

What new features you want! (Funnnnn….)

  • 74% of you want a weekly Ask Team Practical advice column for Marriage Questions. Which is excellent, and I’m thrilled to provide. Starting in June (after the book is due, sense a theme?) I will work on making that happen.
  • 60% of you want me to bring back my sass section, and that gets more complicated. You see, when I was first writing this blog, it was pretty awesome to make jokes about the absurdity of the wedding industry, for my three other friends that were planning their weddings, and not that many other people. Now, making jokes at the expense of… people who might well read this blog… feels a little…. mean. And in real life, I’m really funny. But I’m not mean. So I’ll continue to struggle with finding a balance there. Because like you, I miss the jokes.
  • 50% of you want a resources section. This is a major project which we’ll re-visit in the late summer, but as Alyssa pointed out, “No point doing all that work if they don’t want it.” But you want it, so, rad.
  • 48% of you want vintage weddings back, so, DONE!

Then, APW member forums. 18% of you want them, 45% of you are on the fence, and 36% of you don’t want them. Which is great, because, well, there a million APW projects that I’m more interested in working on right now, so I’m thrilled that most of you are on the same side of the fence as I am.

And finally, where APW is going next. The most interesting thing that I learned in the write-in survey responses is that there is literally zero consensus on how people want APW and/or a potential sister site to develop from here. This is sort of a relief to me, because it frees me to trust my instincts, and follow my joy. APW is where it’s at because I’ve consistently made choices just because they made me happy, so I’m going to keep doing that.

Here are my general thoughts on future APW plans:

First, a timeline: My book is due in June (I know, I mentioned that. But it’s what I think about 90% of my waking hours). The remainder of June is slated for things like taking naps, and getting caught up on emails. July is slated for book edits. August is slated for starting all the work on APW that I’ve wanted to do for years, and never had time for (first a full time job, then a book, etc). Then in September, I plan to take a wee vacation, and then come back ready to tackle what’s next.

And what is next? 25% of you wanted APW to stay just like it is. The most frequent comment that I heard was not, “I only care about weddings” but that people didn’t want all the marriage content to be stripped out of APW. So my commitment to you is that I intend to keep APW just as it is, and always has been. It’s a place to talk about sensible weddings and what marriage means, and that is not going to change.

34% of you wanted to break off a marriage site. 40% of you wanted to break out a family site: A place that talks about what our families look like after marriage, with kids, without kids, whatever happens. And I’m with the 40%. I don’t want to break off a million smaller sites, I want one big place where we can talk about everything that happens after the newlywed stage. Because you know how I said that, for me,the reason for this site was all about the writing? Well, a year and a half after our wedding, I have stories to tell that just don’t fit into the APW mold anymore, and I know that many of you do too. I’m never going to stop loving sensible wedding planning, but I want there to be a place for us to continue to grow.

So, come September, I’ll be doing some serious thinking about that. Till then, cheers to each of you. It’s been such a joy having you with me every step of the way over the last three years.

Graphs by Lizzie Rothwell, an architect who describes herself this way: I’m 30 and I live in Boston. I’m trained as an architect and have been working in product development for a couple years at a startup prefab home company. Before that I taught architecture at the University of Michigan for a year and helped run the school’s digital fabrication lab (robots that build stuff for you), and before that I was a grad student there. Also I’m getting married in September to John – a yoga teacher, dancer, Trader Joe’s employee, and part-time literature and writing student (not necessarily in that order).

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  • This is a great survey!

    Also, as a wedding ‘vendor’ – it’s nice to see that a good number of APW readers aren’t already married :-)

  • And having spent my early twenties actually broke, it made me rage-full every time someone told us our wedding was super budget, or (worse) we were somehow broke, because we were not spending a pile of money on our wedding. Because I knew what broke was like, and we were not that. At all. We were not having a budget wedding, we were having a practical wedding, thank you VERY much.


    Also, I think it is interesting that you seem surprised that we like all the things you like about the blog, and most of the readers are in sync with your vision. (Or maybe you’re not? But that’s how it read.) We all came here, one by one, through one channel or another, and we stuck around BECAUSE we share your vision. So, to me, the survey results make perfect sense.

    • Class of 1980

      Somewhere on the web, I recently read that those “average wedding budget” figures the media always reports are inaccurate. One very expensive wedding skews the average upwards. Instead of “average” they should be talking about the “median”, which is a much lower figure.

      Just saying …

    • meg

      Well, sort of. Let’s say that I *decided* to interpret the survey results that way ;) As always, 75% of the write in comments told me we were was awesome, and 25% of the write in comments told me I was doing Everything Wrong. I decided that since there was no uniformity in what I was doing wrong (and much of it was conflicting), I’d interpret the data as a mandate to trust myself. Because why not, right?

  • It’s so nice to see this all layed out and shown so nicely. Thank you Lizzie! And I love a good plan, so it’s great to hear APW’s plan, makes me so excited for the next year. Can’t wait to see it all unfold…

  • Loved filling this out, it’s nice to know what other APW readersreaders are like it makes it easier to relate to all the comments and be able to chat when I can get a picture of us all in my head Great work on the data graphics. Love APW and can’t wait to see where your going to take us

  • carrie

    Having the marriage and family posts on here have really helped me in planning my wedding. Not in the I’ll-do-those-kinds-of-centerpieces kind of way, but it’s helped me have important conversations with my fiance and REALLY remind me that there’s a whole lifetime after the wedding day. I think most of us who are on here already have that important distinction in mind, but they still really underline the things that are easy to forget in the hurricane of planning. Just my random 2 cents for the morning. APW is one of my happy places, for reals. So thank you!

    • I cannot exactly this enough. APW helped spur the conversations that we needed to have, pre-wedding. I can’t even count the number of times I came home and told J that he needed to read an APW post so we could talk about it. And that meant that when we went to pre-marital counseling, we had already talked about 95% of the most difficult topics covered in it.

  • Great to see the results and hear about future plans for APW, squeeee!

    Re: your worries about the sass column, I definitely understand your worries. I would be heartbroken if you made fun of something on my blog, if I ever wrote about weddings. But I think there’s enough wedding-related sass out there for those who want it (East Side, wedinator, or see the kn*t for some DIY sassing-the-screen). I see Meg’s (and Alyssa’s, that girl is hilarious) sass niche as more of a Dan Savage-style sass – picking up on ridiculous cultural expectations, crazy politicians who think Natalie Portman is a bad role model for having a baby out of wedlock, etc – and taking them to task for being crazy-faces.

    Unless, you know, you’re worried that Mike Huckabee is a secret APW fan…

    Anyways, just my totally unsolicited advice, but basically what I’m saying is more funnies plz!

  • It’s so awesome to see that there is a community of such like-minded people. Amazing! It really makes me want to know where those ladies are in MY community. Clearly I need to support the Columbus, Ohio book club next time…

    • Jessica

      Yes! Join us next time! It’s fun :)
      And… I love the graphs.

    • Genevieve

      My thoughts exactly on the Columbus meet up, I missed out last time!

  • Awesome! It’s cool to know more about all of us and hear about your timeline, Meg. My wedding is happening around the same time your book is due — I feel like we’re both plugging full speed ahead, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel (the naps being part of that light)!

    Also, echoing what some of the earlier commenters said — I clicked all the way through to see large versions of the graphs, and they come up completely black and impossible to read.

  • I think it’s awesome that so many people were thumbs-up for talking about marriage and the after-wedding life. Since, you know, that’s kind of what the wedding signifies. I was going to say that for that reason, it would seem important to keep the site condensed and together, so that brides could discuss and consider with the newlyweds/marrieds. But after reading your bigger picture plan of breaking off to a sister-site, I think I agree with you. That, and I do find myself not hanging out at APW as much now that I’ve passed the wedding hurdle and have entered a very comfortable part of my life. It’s not to say that APW blows, but simply I can only read about weddings before I start thinking about trees (did it before I was married, doing after I’m married).

    Don’t you love how I’m giving feedback for having missed the survey (I KNOW)?

  • Really interesting reading. And I love the graphs – great job, Lizzie!

  • meredythbyrd

    I love the idea of the family site to potentially follow! That way the site continues to grow with the community of already loyal readers who might be a little tired of weddings but want a practical, smart and funny approach to the rest of life. I can’t wait, especially since in September I’ll be in newlywed phase and probably more than ready to not look at wedding stuff (except the grad posts!) for a while. Not that they aren’t awesome. Just that I’m already getting content overload and I love the life and family discussions on here soo sooo much.

  • Jen

    Oh, man. You see, all I want to do is Tweet every line of this post! And I know that the people who follow me on Twitter will be all “WTF IS WRONG WITH THIS GIRL, WE GET THAT SHE LOVES APW!”

    Decisions, decisions.

    So cool to read through the data (although I agree it’s not the easiest to read/zoom in on- but that’s a technology thing). Thanks for putting it all together! Can’t wait to read APW foreva! ;)

  • Class of 1980

    I didn’t take part in the survey. I didn’t even see it!

    But I’d have voted “NO” for having forums. This site is so rich in content (and comments) as it is, that it would be like dying from an overdose of chocolate. ;)

    • I feel the same way. Forums can be wonderful but they can also be super overwhelming.

      Maybe this sounds crazy but I also feel like the best forums are heavily moderated but at the same time, sometimes heavy moderation… sucks/hurts feelings/etc. It’s hard to find a good balance between the two.

      • Class of 1980

        Oh yeah, there is that moderation issue. Forums would take away Meg’s hard-won life balance. Mine too. ;)

        Only so many hours in a day.

    • I liked the idea of forums only because you see all of the awesome commenters and you’re like, “Hey, I want to have more conversation with you!”

      But then, a lot of us do that on twitter. So, there are other venues for such things.

      • Lauren

        I feel similarly about forums- I’d like to connect with people in my area (since Atlanta FAILS at book club meet-ups), and I feel like with a forum I could do that. But the moderation issue is a pretty huge hurdle, and forums are a lot of work, so if most people don’t want it…

        • come to twitter….! :)

        • meg

          Twitter is good for that, as is the APW Facebook page.

        • Denzi

          Dude, we had one this last time! (Even if only two people showed.) This tells me that eventually we will actually meet up consistently! (And the meantime, I will buy you a beer if you want Atlanta APW hangout time. I can probably shanghai Marj into coming, too. Drop me a line at cadenza AT gmail DOT com!)

  • Caitlin K

    What I love about APW is that even though there is a demographic my fiance and I are the complete opposite in this community. We are young (22 and 23) poor (both cooking/waiting tables to pay for our wedding) and both going to college full time (almost done!) plus we live in rural southeast idaho (yikes) but i can still connect with the posts and I can begin to express what a lifesaver this website has been for our wedding planning. When you live in SE Idaho and the age people get married is 18-20 and start having kids right after, needless to say I am trying to plan my wedding around everyones babies (which kinda scare me, the babies part) and i feel like I can come here and find the sensible reasoning on why we are crazy enough to get married. So Thank you, for all the hard work everyone here puts in.

  • meg

    Hi All-
    So for anyone having problems with the images, which are apparently wonky in some browsers, we’ve uploaded the whole PDF. You can click through to it from the link in the top of the post, and look at all the pretty pictures in their natural habitats. Yay!


    • JEM


    • Thanks for doing this! I was sitting here squinting and getting red Xs at work and thought maybe I was the only one having problems. The graphs are so well-designed so I totally wanted to look over them and stuff. Some of these results are crazy interesting!

  • One thing I love about this site is that it’s not just about the wedding and then “the end” it’s about the wedding and then the “happily ever after” part of the story that gets left out everywhere else and how that “happily” comes in many different forms and sometimes doesn’t look so happy either.

    • Yes yes yes yes yes! Definitely. A wedding is part of your life. And then life goes on, looking remarkably… lifey.

  • I loved this post! I love data crunching! I love infographics! My head is so pointy it is hard to shop for hats!

    • meg

      That’s why you only wear PARTY hats!

      • “Do you like my hat?”

        “I do. What a hat! I like it! I like that party hat!”

        -go dog go

        glad to see the APW tradition of infographics carried on!!!!!!!! well done!!!!!

        • That was my favourite Dr Seuss book when I was very small. I thought I could read, but really, I’d just memorized every page…

    • You made me laugh out loud in my quiet, serious office. Thank you! :)

    • I also laughed at loud. Which means that now I’ve got to stop reading APW & get to work. Oops.

  • Anna Thaler

    Reading these results, I realized how emotionally invested I am in APW. I haven’t commented in a long time (busy with thesis, work, and wedding planning), but I still read faithfully every day. I felt so comforted reading that APW will remain mostly the same, and at the same time, I’m so excited about the directions you talk about taking it in the future. Meg, you are the wellspring of inspiration and awesome-ness for this site, and you’ve created an amazing environment here where your readers can feel safe, supported, and excited about wherever they are in their lives with regard to love and committment. Thank you.

  • Jamie

    I don’t have anything really substantive to say except that I’m really, really glad to have this little piece of online community. Oh, and it’s nice to know a little more about you (in aggregate data, of course).

  • Thank you, Lizzie, for making pretty charts and graphs. :) And the gender bathroom lines one was funny.

  • I think the last part, about keeping APW mainly focused on weddings and marriage, is interesting. For me, this helps keep things in perspective. Weddings and marriage go hand in hand, because a wedding begins a marriage, rather than it being one huge fantastic blow-out, and then marriage seems like a drab comparison. I love everything you guys do, but the wedding/marriage mix on this site helps me keep my sane-hat on, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

  • Yay, all this talk of APW’s current direction and vision for the future are making me dance in my seat.

    (Also, holy crap, amazing graphs! Thanks, Lizzie!)

  • RachelLyn

    O the Sass. Can I comment on the sass for a second? Because I love those older sass posts and I want more. And because it is hard to be sassy and not be mean. But I think that the sass (in your sass section that has not been added to in umm… a year) isn’t really mean. I mean, it is a lot of practical stuff like don’t take wedding trends too seriously and it is ridiculous when I tell a wedding vendor what I want and she gives me the exact opposite because it is “what I am supposed to want.” I hope that there is a way to walk this line without offending too many people. I have spent pretty much all of my wedding planning process on alternative wedding planning sites and it does strike me with terror now when I happen upon a site with crazy, snarky comments, because o-my-god it makes me uncomfortable to see a bunch of women all getting together to judge each other. :( But I don’t think we need to tip toe around too much, right? I mean if we are a pretty damn feminist community (As it seems we are), I think some feminist sass is totally called for. Maybe the sass can come with a disclaimer, like the DIY posts “Sass does not save the world….but sometimes we have to make do with what we have.” Because I love that APW is such a supportive community, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun too.

    • “Sass does not save the world….but sometimes we have to make do with what we have.”
      Oh, but it might! (I’m hoping so…) Anyway, thanks for that. ;)

  • Eva

    Did you ask about LGBT audience? I would’ve found that really interesting – as a queer lady – to know how large your queer audience is and getting feedback from that sector… Maybe next time? :)

    • meg

      I should have… and I never remember to put that question in. I think I don’t think of you guys as a sub-group, which is why I always forget. For better or worse.

  • Irene

    Very interesting. Speaking as someone who didn’t get to contribute to the survey and as a ‘I just like it around here’ respondent (hell, I’m not even in a relationship!) I just want to say I love the site. I would be keen, however, for the site to maintain posts aimed at general readership – not move toward more ones about vendors/sponsors – this is not a comment on the validity of such posts (as I appreciate their necessity – both economic and practical!) – but because there are people like me around here who just want to come over a read something a bit romantic, a bit sassy – and sometimes, just very human. So, I would suggest some more stories about what happens before the engagement – what do people mean by ‘pre-engaged’, how did you know he was the one, how did you meet etc?

  • secret reader

    I’m personally heartened to see I’m not the only totally crazy “pre-engaged” reader. I loudly guffaw at APW content, then have to sheepishly explain to my boyfriend, and then reassure him that I just like wedding *blogs* — for now. I can’t help it that I happen to have a soft spot for wedding/design/event blogs, and that the APW community is an awesome feminist happy place. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a blog! Even if the wedding planning content doesn’t strictly apply to me.

    Seriously though, the content about relationships, business, finance, and feminism, I love how seamlessly it all ties in. So that even being “pre-engaged” I can still feel totally in touch, because you also talk about things like career transitions and self-confidence. And lemme tell you, I am in. the. trenches. when it comes to that stuff!

    Plus, all that wedding advice, I’m just filing it away. :)

    • I think the reason we got through wedding planning as well as we did was because I had spent a lot of time here at APW before we started the actual planning. Knowing how so many other people did things made it possible for me to relax when my mom/MIL/partner started worrying about how we were doing X thing “wrong” (<= non-"traditionally"). So like you said, keep filing it away! Even if you don't go back to any specific posts (though I can almost guarantee you will), you'll already have seen & learned so much that it'll be a big help.

  • Lizzie

    Thanks everyone for the nice comments, and sorry for all the issues with the images, and way to go Meg for fixing it! It was a total pleasure to be able to contribute something to this community.