This summer, I'm getting married to the woman I was looking for all my life. She's smart and talented and kind and gorgeous and, as I'm now realizing firsthand for the first time, extremely competent at getting complicated web projects done on time.
It's true: Nothing so far that I've encountered on the Internet has been as bewildering and exhausting as wedding planning. Invitations? Registries? Our own wedding URL?
Unlike other DIY projects, DIY wedding planning isn't something you're supposed to learn through repetition. You want to nail it on the first try. There's no shortage of blog posts and magazine articles offering wedding-planning advice, and if that's what you need, then you should Google around for that now. While I can offer you tips, I can add to the conversation what we did and how we did it.
I sat down and interviewed my fiancée—let's call her M.—about the decisions we (mostly she) made when it came to the online aspects of our wedding:
Invitations: From the beginning, M. was mindful that e-cards carry a certain stigma in wedding culture; some see it as an affront to tradition. The visit to the paper store to inspect thickness and cursive styles has become a rite of passage. Still, we wanted to go digital, because it would keep the costs down, make it simpler to manage the guest list, be better for the environment and just be altogether easier.
M. chose Paperless Post because it had an elegant e-invite system but also because you can print fancy paper versions of the cards for the analog members of your family.
Paperless Post has a token-based payment system. You buy a bunch of "coins" that you then spend on special, premium design features. M. estimates we dropped about $40 to $50 in coins to customize our save-the-date and invitation emails.
The service was pretty successful for us: About 90 percent of our guests clicked through and RSVP'd. A few people needed nudging, but I imagine that happens with any invitation, whether they're on paper or on the backs of $1,000 bills.
Registry: M. and I have a very small apartment and we don't have room for knick-knacks or gadgets. But what we do need is a few big-ticket items, such as a new bed and help paying for our honeymoon (plus the exorbitant dog-sitting rates that would make a trip possible). So, M. began looking for a site that would allow for group-gifting, the wedding equivalent of crowdfunding.
Unless Bruce Schneier is your wedding planner, it doesn't take long for the marketing analytics companies to figure out you're getting married. It was actually pretty eerie: One moment M. was checking out blueprintregistry.com; the next moment I'm noticing a Facebook ad for zola.com, a competitor, and I emailed her the link.
Zola was exactly what M. was looking for: She added a few small houseware items, set up a honeymoon fund and created an option for guests to pool their money for that new magic mattress. She also liked that guests could give you experiences, such as cooking classes, instead of just material objects.
M. was happy with the design, especially since there was room for me to write witty descriptions for each of the items. Zola is "free," because it makes money when you buy gifts through their vendors (but you can also add items from external stores). They also charge a 2.7 percent credit-card processing fee when guests donate to your honeymoon fund.
The wedding site: M. knew that we'd need a central hub for all the wedding information. Initially, she set out to use Google Sites, but it became quickly apparent it would take considerable effort and time to put together a page that looked even half-attractive.
I listen to a dozen podcasts a week, so I'm constantly inundated with advertisements for Squarespace. But, you know, I love my podcasts, so I figured why not support them.
M. subscribed us for the rest of the year (less than $10 per month) and built an elegant site (with the default wedding template) in a matter of hours. Then we locked it down with a password.
Now, M. basically did all the heavy lifting, but I was in charge of polishing the text, and that's one thing I can say about all three sites: They made collaboration easy. I've heard it said that wedding-planning struggles can destroy marriages before they happen. But now that we're on the other side of it, I'd say the experiences with these sites only made us closer.