Happy 10 Years, APW!

If you had a twin, I would still choose you

Ten years ago, I was three weeks into being engaged, many years into reading blogs, and many months into reading this brand-new Internet thing called a wedding blog. I was also working a job at an investment bank as a wildly unqualified research writer, supporting my partner through law school, and fresh off giving up the life I knew and loved in New York City to make something new in San Francisco. It was a place I’d always wanted to live, but I was struggling to gain a foothold.

Meg at a skeet shooting range for her "bachelorette" partyI wouldn’t say I was miserable, because I was very in love with my boyfriend, David, who’d recently caught up to the “we should make this official” train that I’d been on since before I packed up all of my damn things from the apartment I’d live in for five years in Brooklyn, gotten into a moving truck, and relocated three thousand miles to help him pursue his professional dreams. So that part was good. But I’d gone from working in professional theatre (the thing I’d trained for, with a BFA from NYU in Experimental Theatre, of all things), to working from 6am to 6pm in a cubicle in an office building with a bunch of Republican bros, where once a quarter I was forced to spend two weeks working several twenty-eight-hour shifts without breaks. Yes, you read that right. I’ve pumped gas. I’ve filed medical records in the basement of a county hospital. Neither of those jobs were good jobs. This, however, was next-level brutal. But also? I had rent to pay and two people to feed, and I had to get on with it.

So we got engaged, and I set about planning a wedding from my desk at work, like so many of you are probably doing right this second. Having recently left a creative industry (and having thrown my share of fundraisers on a limited budget) I was excited to throw myself full force into wedding planning… as a creative outlet, if nothing else. The problem was, once I sat down to plan the thing, nothing I read made any sense. When we got engaged, we’d settled on a budget of $20,000 (which eventually ended up split four ways). I knew that we couldn’t feed 120 people a seated meal in the Bay Area for much less (at least not with the full-on dance party that I intended to have), but I also was aware that $20,000 was a fuck ton of money. In fact, it was roughly what I paid, minus scholarships, for my first year at NYU. So you know, CASH. But post after post, on wedding blog after wedding blog, seemed to be written with the implicit understanding that I had at least $50,000 to spend, the resources to hire a wedding planner, and a family that could throw money at me endlessly. Not to mention that the baseline message of a wedding industry where feminism was still a dirty word, fake traditions were floated like gospel, and everything was sold on guilt and regret.woman and her husband sitting in front of a light blue tiled wall next to an ice cream push cart

In short, it was gross, and I didn’t want anything to do with it. Not that I could afford to have much to do with it, even if I’d wanted to.

So during a long sobbing walk, on a rare day that I got off from work before the sun went down, David suggested I start my own blog, and call it A Practical Wedding. I asked him if he would set up a Blogspot account for me, since that felt totally over my head. And then I came up with a plan to turn the blog into a business. In fact, being the perfectionist that I am, I told myself that I wouldn’t tell anyone about the site until I’d published two posts a day, five days a week, for a month, just to prove that I could do it.

And that’s exactly what I did. That weekend, I sat down and wrote my first posts (they’re just a few paragraphs, but I remember them taking hours to figure out). I told my friend Kate (now our Senior Editor), who was the receptionist and lone friend I had at work. And then a month to the day later, I emailed another woman writing a blog about weddings on a budget, thinking she’d never respond. She immediately posted about me, and that day I had three hundred readers. David took me out for a drink, where I told him this was “obviously not sustainable, but exciting nevertheless.” I later found out that one of the three hundred people who clicked over that day was Maddie, who was deep in the trenches of another miserable job across the country, planning her own wedding.

Meg Keene holding A Practical WeddingAnd from there, we were somehow, however improbably, off to the races. In the months that followed, I made friends with other women who started writing on the Internet around the same time. There was Cara, Laramie, Jamie,  Lisa, and Marie-Eve, and many others, along with women who have since migrated their sites offline (though never out of my heart). They became my invisible cohort of friends, who helped me get through those long dark days at the investment bank. We read each other’s sites every day, we left comments, and at some point we all joined forces to hang out on the (still new) Twitter. Slowly we grew in numbers and deepened friendships. Over the years there were visits: to California, to New York, to Scotland, to London, to London again. We got married, other people had children, and then one day I did too. And still we wrote and wrote… and slowly wrote less, but moved onto G+, and then Instagram, and still sometimes wrote personal work online.

Pregnant woman with her husbandIn the meantime, I built a business, pitched a book, and got a book deal that gave me just enough wiggle room (on top of the money I was making from direct ad sales), to take a crazy leap, quit my job, and support both my husband and me for a while in the depths of an awful recession. Then I hired people to help a few hours a week, wrote a book, hired more help, went on a national book tour, got pregnant two weeks after getting back (the plan had been to rest…), had a difficult pregnancy, had a baby, hired more staff, wrote another book, had another baby, and moved into an office.

All along the way APW grew, and changed, and grew some more. The change was sometimes hard, sometimes good, but never ending. I got less open on the Internet for a while, and then decided fuck it and got more open again.

And all this time I wrote, and balanced budgets, and learned how to run a business, and manage a staff, and grow a website. And somewhere in there we grew to be the largest independent web publishers in the world, bigger in readership than Martha Stewart Weddings, even. And then… we kept on doing our jobs, because who knew what that meant even? Instead of trying to figure out what that means, we’ve just tried to be better at all the things we’re still not that great at, every damn day.

Last year, in our ninth year, we had our hardest year on record. This year, as I go into a decade working on this project, things have gotten much better. Maybe it’s just that I’ve learned to roll with punches and decided to just keep working on doing a better job every single day. Maybe things are easier. I don’t know. I do know we decided a month or so ago to have more fun, and the results of that experiment are good.

woman smiling, holding a tiny newborn babyBut hitting the ten-year mark—a decade of my life doing one thing—has been so emotional for me. I love this site for everything it’s been to me: a place where I became a writer; a place where I gained amazing friends; a place where I became a business owner and a woman with a career. It’s where I wrote and worked as I became a mom, as I went through all the ups and downs of marriage so far. It’s where I grew a team. But mostly, it’s the place where I committed to doing one thing, and working passionately on one project, in the best times and in the very worst.

They say when you look at a child, you see all the ages they’ve ever been. And when I look at APW, I see the same. And each age is as important to the next. Those early years of forming deep friendships are every bit as important to me as recent years of learning to run a real business.

Meg Keene holding pink "10" balloonsI’ve been writing here longer than I’ve been married. Longer than I’ve been a mother or a boss. As it stands, APW is the longest time I’ve spent doing any one thing. It’s a project that I’m proud to have given a decade of my life to, and it’s one I’m happy to keep working on, wherever the future leads.

A profound thank you to each of you that has been part of this story, my story, in any small or large way. This is to those of you reading now, those of you who were reading then. To those of you who worked with me to build a comment section of smart women and inclusion, to those of you who breathe life into the comment section today. But mostly this is for each of you, for each woman that helped get me through, one day to the next… until the days spanned a decade.

I’m proud to have made it here, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

With profound gratitude,

Meg

 

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