I got married a few weeks ago, and as anyone who has planned a wedding knows, it's a ton of work, most of which was done by my wife. But I wasn't a total deadbeat. As you might expect, I gravitated toward tasks that could be accomplished by using technology.
Here are the technology tools my wife and I relied on the most:
If I had to pick one tool that we couldn't plan without, Google's free online documents and spreadsheets program would be it. We used a free spreadsheet template from Google called "Wedding Planner" (docs.google.com/templates) to keep track of our guest list, budget and ever-changing to-do list.
We could have created the same type of spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel, but using Google Docs meant we could access our files whenever we wanted from any computer connected to the Internet, and even an iPhone. Using Google Docs also allowed us to invite other family members who were helping us plan the wedding to collaborate.
On the suggestion of a contact at Apple, I created a photo book in Apple's iPhoto software for our guests to sign. The process is super easy, and you never even have to leave iPhoto. Just click on "Book" in iPhoto and then customize the type of book, layout of the pictures, and what the cover should say, and then you just drag and drop the pictures onto the pages. A few days later, I received a 20-page hardcover book - complete with a dust jacket - for just $30. If you don't have a Mac, you can use a photo-sharing service such as Snapfish or Flickr to create a similar book.
We used a free downloadable program from label company Avery to make beautiful labels for gift bags for our guests. Once you've bought a sheet of Avery labels, just go to Avery.com, click on "Templates" and choose "Avery DesignPro." I downloaded the free software that allowed me to easily import photos from my iPhoto collection to include on my labels.
To make a program to hand out at the ceremony, we downloaded a free Microsoft Word template from Microsoft Office Online (office.microsoft.com; click on "Templates). All we had to do was change the names and make some other modifications to the template, and we had them printed on cardstock at Kinko's.
If you've never created a Web site or blog, you might want to use a free service to create your site such as the ones offered by The Knot, Wedding Tracker or the Wedding Channel.
Typically, these services have a bunch of different backgrounds and designs for you to choose from and then ask you to fill out fields with your information (wedding date, location, etc).The benefit is that you are walked through every step and you can quickly create a nice-looking Web site with photos, links to your gift registries and information about travel and hotels.
Another advantage is that you can use the same service for other tasks, such as making up your guest list and finding vendors. The downside is that building a Web site with these services forces you to use the pre-made templates. That's why I decided to use the blogging platform Wordpress to create our wedding Web site so I would have control over everything.
Regardless of how you create your Web site, you'll want it to include links to your gift registries, information about travel and hotels as well as some photos. I also highly suggest buying your own domain name, because daphneandetan.com is a lot easier for guests to remember than theknot.com/ourwedding/DaphneSashin&EtanHorowitz. Some of the wedding Web site services give you the option to buy your own domain name.
We knew a lot of people would be shooting photos at our wedding, so we set up a group on the photo-sharing site Flickr and included a line in the program telling everyone to upload their photos to it. A big benefit of using Flickr is that anyone can download uploaded photos in multiple sizes, so if we see a photo we like, instead of asking the person who took it to e-mail it to us, we can just download it from Flickr.
(Etan Horowitz is the technology columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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