Our web 2.0 wedding

In November 2008 Joe asked me to marry him. We decided to set a date for July 2009 and so started our journey organising an international wedding.

But web developers in love are still web developers. In between trying on wedding clothes and freaking out about becoming grown ups, the funny thing we noticed was we started applying some of the tools that we found useful in our work to the logistics of planning our wedding. This is the story of how Basecamp, Google docs, Google local search, delicious, Flickr and Facebook and twitter helped us organise everything, share the experience with the people who couldn’t be there and keep us sane.

Helen and Joe - we scrub up well

Basecamp to project manage the wedding

After spending the last six months thinking of almost nothing else, I think a wedding is some sort of a relationship test before you commit to each other for eternity. It’s stressful! Everyone has a different idea of how the wedding should be, there’s a heap of things to do by a certain date and things rarely go as planned. It’s spookily like a software project.

When we started talking about what we needed to organise, I’d rattle off a big list of things, and Joe would start to look freaked out. Then he (being a software developer, too) got the brilliant idea of using Basecamp as a project management tool to keep track of everything that we needed to do! Suddenly everything we needed to do was in one place and we didn’t need to freak out about forgetting things. We could see what was done and what we had to do.

It also gave us a sense of progress as we worked through the list. Being the big nerd that I am, I got a real sense of accomplishment every time I could log on to Basecamp and tick another item off the list (much like moving an item on the board in scrum). After a while it did start to feel like I was having a wedding to tick things off the list rather than the other way around.

todo lists helped us keep track of progress

We also originally gave our parents accounts so they could feel part of the planning process. The great thing is it gave them a place to throw around ideas, which were recorded against the relevant To Do items. The problem was that getting more people involved made it harder to keep things as simple as we wanted them. In practise, we found they only logged in for the first month or two and then forgot about it. :)

The comments on the todo items were handy for discussion

Google docs to keep track of people, presents and budgets

We used Google docs to create some shared spreadsheets to keep track of who was coming, who we needed to send thank you letters to and how much we had spent.

The budget spreadsheet was particularly good at reminding us how much of our housing deposit we had spent. We used colour coding to keep track of who we’d paid and who we hadn’t and always had a good idea of what bills were coming up. The fact the spreadsheets were online and shared made it really easy to keep them up to date. The support for simple formulas made it easy to keep running totals of guests and expenses.

shared spreadsheets

We also learnt a lesson from the engagement party about thankyou cards. On the way home the presents and cards got all mixed up so we ended up sending a thankyou note to someone for a clock they’d never heard of (oops!). So after our wedding while we were waiting for the taxi to come take us to the airport, we just fired up Google docs and started going through our presents logging what everyone gave us so this time we can give everyone thankyou notes for things they actually gave us.

Google local search to find hairdressers, florists and makeup artists

I’ve only lived in London for five years and don’t really know anyone else in the area who has gotten married so I found Google’s local search a real help for finding local suppliers. The best thing about it is definitely the map feature, which let me browse for people who were close to where we live or easy to get to by car, without having to confine the search to a really specific area.

Bridal makeup in London

Between Google local search and yell.com I was able to get a really good idea of what my options were and find a photographer, a makeup artist, a florist and every bridal shop in a 10 mile radius. The people we found were amazingly good too! Their websites helped us narrow which ones had nice looking work and which ones were in our price range. We then met up with the ones we liked and booked them up for the day.

Delicious to remember my research

Once I’d gone to the trouble of tracking down every florist in North London, delicious gave me a good place to catalogue them so I wouldn’t need to do it again later.

The tagging is a great feature because it made it easy to separate wedding from webdev (important for both work and home life). I also liked the privacy feature so I could save a list of wedding dresses without my technical friends knowing that I had gone wedding mad. :)

my secret wedding dress collection

Facebook and Flickr to share the special moments

The hardest thing about an international wedding is the people who couldn’t be there. I used my iPhone and Flickr to document every step so even if my Mum couldn’t be there when I was looking for the dress, I could still get her (and my virtual bridemaids’) feedback before making the important decisions.

The privacy option and guest pass were fantastic because I could create a set that even people who didn’t have a flickr account could see while making sure Joe was the only person who I had contact with who hadn’t seen my dress.

Flickr helped me get feedback from my virtual bridesmaids

After the wedding we put the best of the photos up on both Flickr and Facebook. Again we used the Flickr guest pass to share the day with people who were not social-networked and Facebook to share with those who were. Having tools to share our wedding with friends and family in Australia and America was truly magic. It didn’t change the fact that I missed them on the day but it made it bearable that they weren’t and meant they could still be a little part of it even halfway across the world.

Wedding tweets – to be web 2.0 trendy

Just kidding! :D (Nowhere to put a phone in the dress anyway) ;)

The wedding

We got married! We had a really great day. It went amazingly smoothly, but I think that was as much luck as planning. We didn’t end up insane or up to our ears in debt. Wedding success!

signing the wedding register

Posted on 01 Aug 09 by Helen Emerson (last updated on 04 Sep 11).
Filed under Programming, Tools, Web development