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Online Bliss in Six Steps

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These days, more and more weddings are complex, weekend-long affairs with multiple activities and parties. Want to simplify things? Set up a website. “With a Web page, you can spread the news about your big day without having to spend the money and resources on invites for all of the different events,” says Anja Winikka, editor of wedding planning website TheKnot.com.

Whether you’re the hands-off, delegating type or a DIY bride who wants to do it all, putting together your own site can be surprisingly simple and stress free. Follow these six steps, and you’ll be ready to launch in no time.

1. Pick a Web Host
Getting your site up and running doesn’t require any HTML experience—good news for most of us. (HTML stands for hypertext markup language, just in case you were wondering.) Most wedding Web-hosting services will walk you through the necessary steps to get your site started—and there are plenty of different services to choose from. Which provider is right for you depends on how much work you want to put into your page and what you hope to get out of it. If you simply want to communicate basic information, a free site from TheKnot.com, WeddingChannel.com or WeddingAnnouncer.com should fit the bill. Just enter the information you want to post, and up it goes. Paid sites like WedORama.com and WeddingTracker.com charge $60-$70 to keep your site up for a year. They typically offer features and design options to make your site more personal and interactive, including the ability to post videos and music in addition to photos. Or, for $300-$500, you could hire a Web designer to assemble a customized site for you and your significant other—and it won’t expire like some of the others do.

To create a Philly-friendly site, try PartySpace.com’s Wedpages, a free service that has photos of things like Love Park and the Liberty Bell to get out-of-town guests into the Philadelphia spirit. The site also lets you include music, photos, an RSVP page and more. Wedpages never expire, and they allow you to link to unique registries with local retailers.

2. Make It Pretty
The design of your site should fit the tone of your wedding. Getting married at the beach? You may want to choose an ocean theme. Having a more formal ceremony and reception? A classic white template, or one with roses, might be best. Create a seasonal look—or pick a design that echoes the wedding’s color scheme. With free wedding websites, template options often are limited, which means more couples will have a site that looks similar to yours. That said, the free sites are sometimes easier for Internet novices to negotiate. Whatever service you use, keep in mind that simple is usually best. And a site with lighter background colors and darker text is easier to read and print.

3. Don’t Skimp on the Essentials
The wedding date, locations of the ceremony and reception, and event times should be the first things guests see when they visit your site. And only post information about events to which all guests are invited. “Be specific about everything and offer as much information as possible,” says Sheryl Garman, president of Perfect Weddings in Berwyn. “Never assume anything.”

You also can include hotel information for out-of-towners, along with fun activities to keep them occupied and links to retailers where you’ve registered. “Etiquette wise, you don’t want to say where you’re registered on your invitations,” says TheKnot.com’s Winikka. “But it’s definitely OK to put that information on your wedding website.”

You can also post directions to wedding locations, with links to maps from Mapquest.com and other sites.

Avoid posting your last names on the website—and to further protect your privacy, most services offer password options. And while it’s definitely a good idea to include an e-mail address, be sure to set up a separate account to avoid spam and keep your personal or work address from falling into the wrong hands.
 

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4. Make It Your Own
Nothing spruces up your wedding website like personal photos of you and your significant other. Choose pictures of the two of you in your favorite places, doing your favorite things, perhaps with your favorite people—and post as many as you see fit. Just be sure to use close-up shots, as visitors want to see your smiling faces. “A big trend right now is to have someone photograph or video your proposal and then upload that to your website,” says Winikka.

An account of the proposal, and any other major milestones in your relationship, will also help guests get to know you both better. Share details about how you met, your first date, any big trips you’ve taken together, and your dreams for the future. You can also include information about and photos of your bridesmaids and groomsmen. A lot of couples choose to share short histories of their relationships with the members of their wedding party, as well.

5. Make It Interactive
Why not let your guests get in on the action? Many wedding websites feature interactive options like online guest books, where visitors can offer words of love and support. Some of the more elaborate, fee-based sites allow you to poll your guests, asking them for help in choosing the song for your first dance, your honeymoon destination, bridesmaid dresses, cake flavor, etc. You can also set up quizzes like “How Well Do You Know the Bride and Groom?”

Many Web-savvy brides are even setting up blogs through their sites. “I think guests like feeling they’re a part of the journey, so when they go to the wedding they really feel welcome,” says Robyn Bell, vice president of PartySpace.com.

6. Keep It Going
If your website doesn’t expire, keep it active as a post-wedding place for guests to gather and discuss the event. After all, you probably missed something, so it can be fun to ask friends and family to post their favorite moments. You can even upload honeymoon photos. A major benefit of a customized wedding website is that it can morph into a place for sharing all your major life events, so all that time you spent setting it up is even more rewarding in the long run.


Helpful Online Hints

» Don’t give away too much about your wedding. If you fill your guests in on every single detail, you eliminate the element of surprise.
» Communicate with your partner about what information will be shared on your site and what won’t. It’s also a nice touch to have the bride and groom write certain sections on their own, so it’s obvious that you’ve worked on the site together.
» Remember to edit and spell-check your site. It’s going to be seen by friends, family members and coworkers, so you’ll want to avoid embarrassing errors. Type everything in a separate document, use spell-check, then transfer it to your Web page.
» Don’t set up your site until your wedding date and location are confirmed. You don’t want to confuse guests.