As most of you already know, 2012 has been a year of crazy rapid change and growth for APW. We’re producing more content than ever, we’ve got new staff members (Hi Emily!) and the readership is about three times the size it was this time last year. (I KNOW. Crazy, right?) As a result, Meg and I spent a ton of time before maternity leave chatting over tacos and figuring out ways to channel this growth and use it to make APW a better site.

One of my favorite changes this year has been centering our content around a weekly theme. Our weekly themes allow us to be more purposeful with the kind of content we’re producing, and we’re able to showcase a more diverse range of experiences as they relate to each other (like when we have two complementary viewpoints on the same subject in the same week). This kind of diversity helps us stay committed to the idea that there is no right way to do, feel, or experience your wedding (or your marriage for that matter).

And while I’m personally really proud of how the weekly themes have played out, this year felt like we were just beginning to scratch the surface of how themed content could be used to make the conversations on this site more robust. As we talked, Meg and I kept coming back to the question of how to make this feature even better. And then it hit us. We don’t need to make them better, we need to make them bigger and broader. So starting in January, we’re going to be expanding our weekly themes to monthly themes. With less tightly woven themes, we can include more variations on a given subject and can have a much broader discussion of the topic at hand.

Of course, we will still be sticking to APW’s roots with lots of writing from Meg, writing from our growing and awesome staff, as well as our old-school inspired roundup feature, advice columns, and more. But we also want to make it easier to take submissions from you guys, since our staff (growing as it might be) is still small and can’t even begin to approach the diversity and range of experiences that are present within our readership.

So! In a few days you’ll see a new sidebar button pop up explaining the theme for next month and what kinds of stories we’ll be sharing. The button will change each month to reflect the new theme and what kind of submission we’re looking for. Which brings me to:


January’s theme is Beginnings. We’re discussing fresh starts: the early stages of wedding planning, your married goals for the year, changes, and what it means to begin anew. If you have a story to share (on this theme and for anything) send it in over here.

If 2013 is anything like 2012, we should have even more exciting changes in store. In the meantime, I know I speak for the whole staff when I say I can’t wait to see what kind of amazing stories we’re able to share next year.

—Maddie for Maternity Leave

Photo by: Corinne Krogh Photography

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  • Shiri

    Maddie, this is great. When you post these under the new button, can you provide guidelines for when-ish you want submissions by? That way, if inspiration hits in the middle of the month, we all know if you’d generally still be accepting submissions? Thanks!

    • Maddie

      Smart! I’m going to run this by Meg and see if that’s something we can do (how long we can accept submissions depends largely on how many we’ve already received). But I like the idea of giving guidelines.

      I love that you guys are so into this. :)

      • One More Sara

        Could you maybe just do a countdown on the button from 3 or 5 days left to submit when you guys are approaching your limit for submissions? That might be easier than trying to predict beforehand when we’ll hit that limit, while still giving some warning that the topic is about to close.

  • A.

    This is lovely. I don’t know how far in advance you plan to have the themes worked out, but if there is any kind of editorial calendar could you perhaps share that too? Then submitters could plan out in advance which categories their idea(s) might fit into and have a bit of time to work on them.

    • Maddie

      Oh, that’s a great idea! I think in the long run that’s something we’d love to do, so I’m filing this away for “awesome ideas to not forget about.”

  • trina

    I’m pretty new to all of this, but your site has resonated the most closely with what we want. We have The Book and I’m especially looking forward to the early stages of wedding planning parts of next month! Thank you for being a voice of reason during the madness!

    • Love the use of Capital Letters for “The Book” :) That’s how I feel… this is the only book you really need for wedding planning.

    • MD Bethann

      Good luck Trina and smart moves so far on your part.

      A colleague of mine got engaged in October and is planning an inter-faith, multicultural wedding in a 5-month time span after losing her mom earlier this year. I gave her my copy of The Book, directed her to the website and said that combined it would hopefully aid her sanity over the next few months.

    • Suzanne

      I stumbled upon The Book while looking at other wedding books and honestly, it’s the only book I have used since except ones to get inspiration for our vows and ceremony readings. My wedding was less stressful and I calmed down a lot because reading the book helped validate how I felt about our wedding. If any of my friends get engaged in the future, I know what to give them as an engagement gift!

  • Other Katelyn

    Suuuch a good idea and dovetails perfectly with the Dilemmas– I’ve used that menu to explore themes on the site, this sounds like it’ll be expanding on that in a lovely way.

  • Love, love, love this! I’m looking forward to seeing what the themes are!

  • I love the expansion, ladies! I can’t wait to see where the site goes in 2013 :)

  • This sounds like a really great way to allow both deeper and broader conversations, as we’ll have more time to devote to the themes. I know the staff is working really hard to keep up, so I hope you guys can maintain the same excitement we have about the growth of the site!

  • I think this is a great idea! I’m looking forward to it…

  • I agree this is going to be marvelous keep up the good work I expect to see so many more beautiful things come from this!

  • ColoradoLaurel

    Best news I’ve heard all day. Way to go APW!

  • Jo

    Hi there APW staff!
    This is a very interesting idea, but it concerns me. Mostly because one of things I like about APW is that when the posts vary enough from day to day I have regular occasions where a day’s post really resonates and helps me with something I’m going through at that moment, and being able to be involved in a current comments conversation can be really enlightening (looking at old posts that may be helpful don’t have active conversations in the comments any moer). When posts are so focused for such a long period of time, I’m afraid it may get boring or start to feel less relevant to me. And I worry that while this would be great for long-time readers, new readers may not realize how great the content is if they’re turned off by the month’s theme. Of course, I know you guys are wonderful editors and that probably won’t happen, but still, I wanted to voice my concern.
    In any case, what this makes me think is that I hope you tie this new approach to an expanded search or tag function, for people new to the site and people like me (who sometimes have a particular thing going on in our lives that we want to seek wisdom on). For example, I’d love to see the “Dilemmas” tab expanded, especially “The Hard Stuff”. It would be great to be able to search easily for stories about divorce or divorced parents — or just difficult parents –, or elopements (typing in “elope” to the search function also shows up articles that mention “envelopes”)…
    Anyway, thanks! There’s certainly so much content already published on the site, that I completely understand the idea to reframe how you organize things, I just wanted to share some thoughts.

    • Maddie

      Hey Jo,

      We actually agree with you. Part of the reason we want to expand to monthly themes is so that we can keep things looser and incorporate more variety into each week. So don’t worry! Our goal is always to keep things fresh.

      The improved search recommendation is also totally spot on. It’s actually on our to-do list. :)


      • Jo

        Thanks Maddie!
        That’s great!
        I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, you guys really are a smart bunch.

      • Alexandra

        I’m glad to hear this. I was worried because I’ve definitely had weeks where I just can’t really comment or relate to the content being posted. For instance, when it came to topics about losing someone, or moving. I haven’t lost anyone particularly close to me, and I haven’t really moved anywhere far so I’ll kinda lurk around for a week, knowing that next week it might be more relevant to me.

        Hopefully, with the looser themes this issue won’t come up, I’d hate to feel like APW is completely irrelevant to my life for a whole month.

  • Miranda VanZ

    I know this isn’t exactly relevant but it might be helpful to have a drop-down menu for reclaiming wife, kind of like the dilemmas menu is, instead of having it in one giant category.

    • Lauren

      Just to piggy back on the navigation theme here. I think the site is nearing the limit of tabs, buttons, etc. and any more hinders the intuitiveness (word?) of navigation. Broader categories, with more sub-page navigation (i.e. dropdowns), would make it easier to find stuff. Example: Resources might be a tab/button/link, and APW vendors, spreadsheets, and the book are all within the dropdown for that category.

      (Can you tell I’m a web navigation/user experience geek?)

      • Maddie

        Oh ladies, you are preaching to the choir. :) We’ve been chatting about this very subject for a while and will hopefully be able to improve upon these functions in 2013.

  • Sweet! I can’t wait to see how this unfolds, I love a good theme party. Or editorial calendar. :)

  • anon

    I think the monthly theme is a great change. This site can be potently mind-altering, the topics discussed here would be well-served by more depth. Looking forward to reading along, and becoming brave enough to submit something one day.

  • Kate

    How does the APW team feel about submissions from pure-creepers like myself? Not even pre-engaged, just straight up creeper (of course with a deep love for APW)?

    • meg

      We take submissions from EVERYONE. Remember, only about 0.5% of readers leave comments, and tons of you are not engaged, TONS. So chances are most of our submissions do not come from the 0.25% of engaged readers who comment.

  • willow

    To chime in with the gentle suggestions appearing in the comments here, may I just ask why Maddie needs to include the “for maternity leave” in each tagline? I mean, I understand why but the wording feels a bit odd, and attaching it to every post feels a little unnecessary…

    • Maddie

      It’s just the signoff we came up with (plus I like alliteration.) It’s not necessary (except to tell you it’s me and not Meg), but it’s what we’ve been doing!

  • Caroline

    I like this. Like Alexandra, I worry slightly that if the temes are rigid, an entire month of APW might feel less relevant, but I get the sense that your idea of month long themes are themes more like “growing in marriage” which could encompass a broad range of posts, rather than, say, “moving”, which I like.
    I have, overall, really enjoyed the themes and look forward to more of them.
    Also, I know other folks have suggested it, but I would love more organization to the archives as an area of growth, making past posts focusing on one thing or another more accesible.
    Thanks for all the awesome work. You ladies are the best.

    • I can see this too, even looking at just the first month theme: Beginnings. Wow, how broad can THAT be! Awesome! From how people met, to how their relationship unfolded, to moving in together, starting a family, beginning over from past hurts or losses, how the wedding day triggered things in the marriage etc etc – even us old fogies who have been married a fair while could see things we could offer.
      Should be entirely VERY cool :) And I cant wait.