Wedding Planning Made Easier

Posted by Kim Lau on Wednesday, June 25th, 2008. Filed under: eHub Features

Weddings can be a stressful time for the bride and groom (mostly the bride), and the entire project can seem overwhelming, especially when trying to balance expectations, ambitions, and limited budgets. Luckily for them, the web is here to help, with many useful tools that engaged couples (and occasionally, their families and friends) can rely on to make the process much smoother. Unluckily for them, the wedding industry is also a minefield of advertising gimmicks, with as many ploys to get couples to spend as much as possible in as little time as possible. I’ve tried to keep this list focused on less commercial sites, and where necessary, inform if a paid investment is worth the money.

The sites are broken down into the following categories – (1) wedding websites, (2) wedding planning and advice sites, (3) wedding resources for non-mainstream couples, (4) wedding registry sites, and last, but certainly not least, (5) sites for wedding fun.

(1) Wedding websites – Web-savvy couples may want to tell their stories online and communicate with their guests about their wedding plans, their registries, but not know where to begin. Many wedding planning sites already include a section for couples to create their own site devoted to their wedding, but are often limited in their options for display and customization. Keep in mind that when selecting a wedding-specific host for your website, that pricing can vary a lot, and that hosting is often limited, along with the ability to customize your site. Make sure you read all the fine print before you commit!

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Wedding Websites may be your first stop. It is a simple repository of reviews for people who want to make websites devoted to their weddings but don’t know how to start. You can compare websites by cost, hosting time, reviews, and many other criteria. Participants can submit their own reviews, and connect with others on the forums. This would be a great place for newly engaged couples to assess what they want on their wedding website. When reviewing these sites, keep in mind that most wedding websites are only temporarily hosted, and may have limits on the amount of customization you’re allowed. Also, many wedding planning sites also offer free wedding websites as part of their package, so if you don’t find anything you like in this section, check the next section.

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MomentVille allows you to create your own free, carbon-neutral wedding website that is hosted indefinitely. How do you know it’s carbon-neutral? Momentville is a certified member of TickGreen, a business focused on offsetting the pollution caused by website usage. Unless you upgrade to premium for a one-time payment of $35, you will have to view advertisements. Your guests, fortunately, do not view the ads. There are many options for personalization, including choosing from among a large variety of templates, to the ability to embed widgets like Youtube videos and slideshows and maps. Personalizing the site to your own individual tastes is a breeze, with the help of MomentVille’s blog, which is full of tips and tricks for managing your website.

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Wedding Mapper is a quality site that allows couples to design and customize their own maps, and has many more features. The site is mostly free, and for a one-time fee of $9.95, you get a few more perks, including a custom URL, the ability to upload files and add links, and a code snippet to add the site to your own wedding website. It’s easy to use, and beautiful to look at. You can mark your wedding ceremony and reception locations, research vendors and venues, keep a small wedding notebook to track your vendors, and add markers for other points of interests, such as nearby hotels and restaurants. You can make your map accessible to your guests. There’s also clear, concise directions on how to print out your own maps, and they also include a small discount for using professional options. This is a fine tool for using in conjunction with planning your invitations.

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Bridalfever is in beta, and offers free wedding websites. You can choose from many differnet templates. It’s simple to use. In addition, it’s also a resource where you can research and review different wedding vendors. At the moment, content and their list of vendors are sparsely populated and reviewed, but there are a lot of beautiful templates, and you can connect with other brides and vendors via the the Forum and the Bulletin.

(2) Wedding planning and advice sites – This is the largest category. Although a wedding, is in essence, a large party, there’s lots to consider and track – from your budget to your guest list, to your vendor research. How do you keep from going crazy? By finding a wedding planning site that has lots of innovative features to keep you organized and sane. Although a lot of wedding planning and advice sites can be consumed by advertising, I’ve tried to keep that aspect to a minimum by featuring sites that are genuinely interested in helping out couples navigate the business of weddings.

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WeddingControl is a free, minimalist wedding planning site that offers lots of useful features. Manage and track your guest list, budget, and seating arrangements. The site is sparse, but provides some features that aren’t available on other sites, such as the ability to print wedding guest address labels with different font options, determine your guest count and track their meals, and import your existing contacts in CSV format. This site is great for couples who like to keep it simple.

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WeddingWire made a splash when Martha Stewart Living purchased a 40% stake in it. WeddingWire is for both wedding vendors and engaged couples. Wedding vendors can set up their own presence on the site, and offer answers to questions that couples may have, such as whether a band will charge if travel arrangements have to be made, or if an officiant will perform at a non-religious site. Wedding vendors can post information about whether they accept cash or check, endorsements from customers, and tips and advice for contacting them or making arrangements. Couples can rate and review wedding vendors, search for local events such as bridal shows and trunk shows, and find relevant wedding promotions to save on their wedding budget, and get ideas for music, themes, dresses and more. Members can connect with other WeddingWire participants and share links, ideas, and tips, and track everything for their own wedding from their budget and seating to the guest list and vendor management. WeddingWire also offers a free wedding website to participants with lots of features and tools, including the ability for guests to RSVP online, integrate widgets, and unlimited pages.

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My Wedding Notes, unlike most other wedding planning sites, is geared towards group wedding planning. Share the wedding planning with your coordinator or your bridesmaids or your family. The site features organizational tools like a guest manager, task list, budget calculator, music playlist and more. The interface is a bit clunky, but once you get past that, the site is a breeze to use and is great to use if you want to share aspects of planning with other people. You can sign up for a free account, which restricts you to a wedding group of five members, or upgrade to an unlimited account in which you can add as many members as you want and also share administrative privileges with your wedding planner. Both types of accounts will expire one month after your wedding date.

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Brideorama bills itself as the “first online video network where real brides give real advice”. Brideorama is part of the Next New Networks brand, and is filled with inspiring videos from different brides and grooms about how they planned and executed their special day. It’s a great place to get unique ideas, and also to submit your own “webisode”. Brideorama makes it easy to watch and share the videos on various social networks, and interact with other people in the same boat.

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WedDepot is a really cute wedding planning site that offers anyone who joins a free wedding website, budget calculator, wedding checklist and more. The most useful aspect of this site is its vendor search, where you can search by category and location for what you want. You can contact the vendors by email or phone, or rate them on a scale of one to five stars. There are a lot of vendors who post their information here, and they include lots of detail about their styles, what they offer, and even photos from events they’ve done.

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Project wedding is a community site for brides and grooms started by an engaged, cute and geeky couple (Joe & Margaret) frustrated with their unsatisfactory vendor experiences. They created this site so that they could post reviews of the vendors they met with, upload photos, and share their story with others. The feel of the site is very similar to Yelp. The vendor search is great, and the site as a whole feels very project-oriented, without the intrusiveness of advertising on many of the other wedding planning sites.

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Bridalhood is in beta. Bridalhood is a wedding vendor review site in the vein of Yelp that allows couples to create a profile to tell the stories of their own weddings. Wedding vendors can also join and flag reviews they feel are inappropriate or inaccurate. Slideshows photos of wedding vendor goods can be uploaded via the RockYou site. bridalhood offers a unique feature called