This post is a companion to my post from last week, in which I talked about two critical spreadsheets that I used to organize and plan my daughter Jamie’s wedding. I shared my budget spreadsheet in that post. In this post, I will talk about how I used Microsoft OneNote to manage all of the research, the vendors, and all of the “to do” lists that are part of event planning. Though I’d used OneNote to take notes before, I really didn’t appreciate how amazing this tool is until I started using it for the wedding. I feel like I haven’t tapped into anywhere close to all of the amazing features, but I did discover some cool capabilities that totally impressed my wedding planner, who has planned hundreds of weddings and events.
OneNote is an amazing product that is essentially a digital notebook – on steroids. It allows you to gather and organize your notes (typed or handwritten), drawings, pictures, emails, screen clips, and audio – and share them with others – but it really does a lot more than that. You can “co-create” and share OneNote notebooks but you can also email pages of a notebook as well. I discovered a super cool feature of OneNote related to emailing pages about half-way in to my wedding planning project. As I got each final contract from the various vendors we used for the wedding, I stored the contracts as an embedded attachment to the page I maintained called Final List of Vendors. On this page, I listed each vendor along with the name, email address, and phone number of the primary contact and a brief summary of what service they were providing (see image below). I placed the attachment icon below each vendor name so that no matter which device I used to look at my notebook, I would always see the contract link in the same context. Periodically, my wedding planner asked me to send her the latest version of all of the contracts. What I discovered is that when I selected the Email Page option from the ribbon on my Final List of Vendors page, OneNote created an email to my wedding planner with all of my text and it automatically included each document as an attachment. This made it incredibly easy for me to make sure that the wedding planner and I were always working from the same set of information.
OneNote saves information in pages that are organized into sections. You easily can move sections and pages around. OneNote is part of my Office 365 subscription, but it’s also a free tool for everyone – on all your devices – and this is why it was my most important tool in my wedding planning project. All of my OneNote content was always synchronized to not only all of my computers (via OneDrive) but also to my iPhone and iPad using the OneNote app. During every meeting with the wedding planner as well as each meeting with the florists, caterers, and photographers we interviewed, I always had my iPhone or iPad and used those devices to take notes. As soon as I was connected to Wi-Fi, the iOS app would sync with my computer so I never had to worry about losing information. One of my goals was to see if I could avoid taking paper notes for the entire wedding planning project and I don’t think I ever did!
Here is how I organized the sections in the wedding planning OneNote notebook:
- To Do: This section had multiple pages with different “to do” lists. For example, I had a master list of all of the various things I needed to buy and bills I needed to pay on one page. I used the built in “To Do” tag in OneNote so that I could get the gratification that comes with checking off an item on my massive list when it got done! For anything with a date or a deadline, I used another magical feature of OneNote that allows you to connect a task to Outlook. To do this, you place your cursor on the task and then click Outlook Tasks in the ribbon. This creates a task in your Outlook task list that synchronizes with the OneNote item and lets you create a reminder that will ping you in Outlook when the task is due. Completing the task in Outlook adds a green check mark to the OneNote task but doesn’t automatically place a check in the To Do tag in OneNote, which is too bad. I had separate pages with To Do lists for items I was bringing to the wedding planner, things we had to collect at the end of the reception, and specific points I wanted to review with the caterer.
- Vendors: In my Vendors section, I created a page for each type of vendor and then collected all the information about each vendor – name, website, contact information, and my notes from every meeting on that page. Planning a wedding involves researching a lot of different types of vendors and keeping track of all of them can be very overwhelming. After we selected a vendor, I moved all the content about that vendor to the top of the page so that it would be easily accessible. When a vendor sent me a significant email (for example, for information that I knew would never get into the contract), I forwarded the email from Outlook to OneNote and saved it to the page for that vendor. That proved to be invaluable when our new catering manager was unsure about committing to something her predecessor had told us she would do. I was able to quickly find the email from the previous manager confirming how she planned to accommodate that request because I didn’t have to search through all of my email – just the page where I copied the significant agreement information to OneNote.
- Timeline: This section was automatically populated by OneNote when I copied the .pdf document that the wedding planner emailed to me with the minute by minute timeline for the rehearsal dinner and the wedding day. OneNote automatically created a sub-page for each page of the .pdf and I was able to move the sub-pages around as I needed. I love this particular feature of OneNote, which allows you to save the contents of a .pdf document as individual OneNote pages – and re-name them and move them around as you need to.
- Projects: My daughter and I have been doing art projects together for her entire life and she wanted to have some personal touches at the wedding. I used the Projects section to create pages for each of the different art and sewing projects we worked on.
- Resources: I used this section to keep track of a variety of different things, including resources for ordering kippot, calligraphy, different ideas for place cards, and programs.
- Pictures: I used this section to organize the various pictures we took during the wedding year. Over time, I created pages for the different venues we visited along with pages for pictures of the various wedding dresses Jamie tried on, options for my mother of the bride dress, invitation photos, and later, pictures from Jamie’s wedding shower. In addition to pictures I took, I was able to add pictures I clipped from the web so it was really easy to look at pictures from different sources in one context. I liked storing the pictures in OneNote because it made it easy to share them with friends and colleagues – sometimes from my phone, sometimes from my iPad, and sometimes from my laptop, depending on what I was doing and where I was at the time.
The OneNote team at Microsoft has recently posted a lot of blog articles about various ways to use OneNote, but I haven’t yet seen anything about wedding or event planning! I now can’t imagine planning an event without it!