Planning a wedding online
May 26, 1999
by Glenn McDonald
(IDG) -- One of the first things you learn when planning a wedding is that there's an entire industry dedicated to selling products and services to would-be brides and grooms. This industry is essentially invisible to you until you get engaged; then it comes crashing down like a 500-foot tsunami.
My fiancée and I are getting married in about three weeks, and like any self-respecting wired couple of the '90s, we used the Internet to help plan the big event. It's no surprise that the wedding industry has migrated in force to the online world. The Web is crawling with thousands of companies trying to sell everything from party favors to honeymoon packages. And several full-service wedding planning sites address the roughly seven billion questions, details, and obstacles that arise during wedding planning.
Tips, Advice, and Booze
Independent online publications are often a good place to start your research. Like quality print publications, they know they must provide genuinely useful information to attract readers (or viewers), who in turn attract advertisers.
USA Bride is a good example of a Web-only publication that takes advantage of the online medium. Its index of articles is organized by category--catering, invitations, flowers, checklists, and the like. It also offers interactive features such as live chat--so you can decompress with other engaged folks--and a free weekly newsletter.
My fiancée signed up for the newsletter early on and found the articles and tips very helpful at several junctures. For instance, we had no idea how much booze to buy for the reception. The newsletter pointed us to an online article that suggested variables to consider--the number of guests, the ratio of kids to adults, and so on.
The affiliated WedFind search service is less successful, and appears to be advertiser driven rather than editorially independent. Meaning, advertisers pay to have their services pop up on the results page. That's a perfectly acceptable practice--it's no different from the Yellow Pages. But if you want to research and compare services like flowers or catering, you're better off using the local and regional listings of Yahoo or Sidewalk.com.
Online registries are increasingly popular, and with good reason. By definition, registries are designed to make the gift-buying process easier on your guests, and shopping online enhances the convenience.
The Wedding Network--run by Internet Gift Registries, which also handles baby showers and other occasions--lets you register at any of 50 or so online retailers. This service is best used as a supplemental registry, in addition to registering at a traditional retail outfit. You can sign up for random goodies here, such as products from Virtual Vineyards and Spa Adventures. Online registries are a good option for guests who can't get to the stores you've registered at, or simply prefer the convenience of shopping online.
And don't forget, many traditional retailers now have their registry services online. JC Penney's service works well. After we chose items from the store, JC Penney uploaded our registry to the Web, where the retailer offers a full-service e-commerce system.
Where Romance Meets Spreadsheets
Some commercial software packages help you meticulously plan every detail of your wedding, down to the color of the preacher man's socks. One of these, Frogware's $30 Wedding Magic, is free for a 30-day trial period (see the link at the right). For more casual planning, you can use free tools available online.
BridalPlanner.com is a good place to begin. Besides feature articles, advice columns, and a live chat room, the Web site provides dozens of free charts and worksheets you can download or print. Particularly helpful is a checklist of everything you need to do and when you should have it done (by six months before the wedding, three months, two weeks, and so on). Particularly terrifying, now that I go over this, is how few boxes I can check off. Gulp.
Finally, a great way to keep guests up to date on your wedding plans is to set up your own wedding Web page. Here you can post the time and date of the event, provide registry details, and link directly to online mapping services for directions. Wedding pages are so popular that not only do many wedding planning sites offer free home pages, most general Web page-creation services also provide wedding page templates.
You're better off using one of the general Web page-creation services--they're easier to work with and offer more options. I like Homestead, but GeoCities and Tripod.com are solid services as well.
Of course, you can find hundreds of other resources online. Online wedding planning, with its awesome e-commerce potential, has attracted a great deal of attention. For a good collection of links, go to Yahoo and drill down to: Business and Economy/Companies/Gifts and Occasions/Weddings/Directories.
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