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Preserve Your Wedding Memories Online: Your Guide to Planning a Perfect Wedding Website

Introduction

You've been planning your wedding your whole life. But now that you're actually engaged, you suddenly realize just how much work it's going to take to turn your wedding dreams into a reality. Luckily, you have access to a whole host of planning tools right at your fingertips via the "World Wide Web." You can search for your dress, book your honeymoon trip, and find everything from bouquets to wedding rings. But did you know that your own wedding website can also be a great tool to keep you organized as you plan your big day? Keeping connected to your friends and family is challenging enough during this busy time, especially if they are far away. Now you can help them feel a part of your wedding plans with your wedding website. You can share stories about yourself and your fiancé, help loved ones keep up on the wedding festivities, post pictures of yourselves, and much, much more. You can also save your guests time by allowing them to RSVP, make their travel plans, and even shop for wedding gifts right from your website. And when you're finished, your site will be a wonderful memory of the day you started your new life together. Following is a guide to help you plan your perfect wedding website.

5 Reasons You Should Have A Wedding Website

Reason #1:

A wedding website is a great way to connect with friends and family.
With your wedding website, friends and family from across the country and around the world can feel like they are part of your wedding plans. They can read about you and see pictures of your youth. They can get to know your fiancé and your families before coming to the wedding. And, if you have large extended families, you will both need a head start just to remember everyone's name.

Reason #2:

A wedding website makes planning your wedding easier.
Your website can help you plan your wedding, keep track of details, and get the news out about upcoming events. Include an events calendar listing all your wedding activities. Invite the wedding party to a planning session in your private chatroom or bulletin board to save on long distance bills. Encourage guests to RSVP online, submit music requests for your reception through your site, and more. If you have changes to your plans, or need to alert guests to a change of location, your wedding website provides an easily update-able format to keep everyone informed. If you're short on time, you could even enlist a friend to be your "Wedding Communications Director" to moderate your wedding forum or return e-mails from guests.

Reason #3:

A wedding website gives the groom an opportunity to be involved in your wedding plans.
Even if your groom has not been excited about the details of your wedding, such as picking bridesmaid dresses, flowers, and reception food, you can help him feel part of the planning by working together on your wedding website. Let him help by writing about his life, his friends in the wedding party, his family, etc., scanning photos and maps, or writing about your future plans together. Have a groom's forum where he can keep up with his friends and family, too. You can have a lot of fun building your site together.

Reason #4:

Your wedding website provides guests with information that does not fit in the invitation.
You can make it easy on guests by including online travel information with links to your wedding hotel, tourist information, driving directions, maps, and more. Your gift registry information and links to online shopping will save guests time by allowing them to order and send your gifts from their home computer. You can also include a guest book and contact information to allow guests to e-mail you with questions or comments.

Reason #5:

A wedding website is a great way to preserve and share your wedding memories and a wonderful start to your personal family history.
Think of your website as an online wedding scrapbook that you can easily share with friends and family. Here, you can preserve your wedding photos, memories, and more, in an interactive and update-able format. Remember to order a CD or print out the pages of your site when your hosting period ends. If you chose a custom-designed website, you can ask your designer to change your wedding site into a family website after your wedding, allowing you to continue to keep connected to your family and friends as your own family grows.

How To Get Started On Your Wedding Website

You should start on your wedding website as soon after you get engaged as possible. Why? The sooner your site is online, the more it can help you in planning your wedding. At the very least, be sure to start on your website before you order your invitations. You will need to include your website address (URL) with your invitations so guests can access it. It also takes a little time to put together your information and photos before you're ready to go online, and you should have your site ready before you invite guests to visit it. Here's a game plan to help you get going.

  • Step 1.
    • Decide what pages and features you want to include in your site.
    • Decide what elements are important to you before selecting a website company. This way you can be sure to choose a company that offers the features you want.
  • Step 2.
    • Shop around and select the wedding website company that best fits your style, your needs, and your budget.
    • If you are interested in a free or template-based service, and you plan to add custom pages, be sure the service you select will allow you to create your own custom pages that are not a part of their "menu."
    • If you opt for a custom design, choose a designer who will respect your religious beliefs and creative ideas, and not just give you what they want.
    • If you are interested in having a website that matches your invitations, you can often save time and money by purchasing these together from the same designer.
  • Step 3.
    • Organize your website content.
    • Write your biographies, your love story, and content for all the pages you have selected.
    • Choose the photographs you will feature.
    • Depending on the service, you may be able to include a photo or more per page, plus additional photos in a gallery or photo album.
    • Remember to include your gift registry information-and remember to actually register before you announce your site to guests.
  • Step 4.
    • Prepare your content for the web.
    • Although the fill-in-the-blank style automated websites allow you to type your text right in on your browser, you should write your text first in a word processing program so you can use the spell-check feature
    • Remember that you should also proofread your writing, as you will find errors that are not seen by the spell-checking software.
    • When your content is correct, you can copy-and-paste into the browser form for template-based sites, or e-mail the text to your designer for custom sites.
    • If using a custom designer, check to see what text format he or she prefers.
    • If you do find a mistake or have a change of plans, you can usually edit your site later. Before you select a service, check for editing capabilities.
  • Step 5.
    • Prepare your photos for the web.
    • If you choose a free or template-based service, you will need to provide all your photos digitally.
    • If you don't have access to a scanner or a digital camera, most photo labs will provide you with a disk of digital photos along with your film for a small fee.
    • You can also ask your photographer about providing digital images. (Note that many professional photographers retain the copyrights to photos they have taken and you must obtain permission before posting such a photo on your website.)
    • Select good quality photos. Don't choose photos that have poor lighting, are over-exposed, or have dark shadows. They will not look good on screen.
    • If you are manipulating your own photos, be sure they have a resolution of 72 dpi at the full size you plan to use them, or they will not look good on screen. JPG files are the preferred format for photos on the web.
    • Check to see if photos will be automatically scaled when uploaded, as this will often distort your images. (You may want to manually resize or crop your images to prevent distortion.)
    • If you select a custom design firm to create your website, they will often scan, crop and retouch your images for a small fee.

You are now ready to post your information to your new wedding website.

Page Ideas For Your Wedding Website

Whether you're building your own site or having someone design it for you, here is a list of standard wedding website pages that many couples opt for, plus a few unique suggestions to help you create your perfect wedding website.

Standard Pages:

  1. Home Page: Welcome visitors to your site with home page. Some services also include a countdown to your wedding and a guest counter displaying how many people have visited your site.
  2. About You: Your guests will enjoy getting to know you better by reading biographies of the bride and the groom. You can tell the story of your life yourself, or write each other's bios for a fun twist.
  3. Your Story: Share the story of how you met and/or became engaged.
  4. The Wedding Party: Provide short bios of the bridesmaids and grooms attendants.
  5. Wedding Details: Time, date, and place of the big event (the basic information listed on your wedding invitations).
  6. Calendar of Events: A Calendar of Events can help guests keep up with your planned activities and alert them to any last-minute changes.
  7. Travel Information: For guests coming from out-of-town, you can include a travel page with hotel and tourist information, and even a link to allow guests to book their travel online. For fun, add a "Weather Magnet" to let guests know what the current weather is in your area. (If you're building your own site, you can get the html code for a free weather magnet from www.theweatherchannel.com.)
  8. RSVP: Save on postage and allow guests to RSVP right from your website.
  9. Gift Registry: Another convenience for guests is to provide links to your on-line gift registries, allowing them to shop right from your site.
  10. Photo Albums: Share pictures of yourselves as children, your dating adventures, and of course, your engagement and wedding photos. (Remember to post your wedding and reception photos after the wedding.)
  11. Guestbook: Allow guests to leave well-wishes on your website.
  12. Wedding Festivities: Highlight plans or share photos of your wedding showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners, and all the other activities you've planned to celebrate your big day.

Additional Page Ideas:

  1. Your Family: Remember to highlight your families to help them feel a part of your wedding. A family photo with short bios on parents and siblings is a great addition to your site.
  2. Reception Information: If you are planning a reception or open house that will be held on a different day or alternate location from the wedding, you can provide reception information for guests, and even link to maps or driving directions right from your website.
  3. Future Plans: Share your plans for your future together.
  4. Wedding Traditions: Share unique wedding customs or traditions of your family.
  5. Religion Symbolism: If you have guests from other faiths attending your ceremony, a section explaining your religious wedding rituals will help them better understand your ceremony.
  6. Theme Page: If your wedding has a unique theme, share the details as well as any special preparations the guests may need to make. If your theme has historical significance or symbolism, you can include this as well.
  7. Honeymoon: Share your honeymoon plans or invite your guests back after the wedding to see a report of your honeymoon adventures.

Additional Features

If you plan to create your own site or opt for a custom site, you may be able to take advantage of the additional features below:

  1. Custom E-mail addresses (yourname@you.com): Get one for you, your fiancé, your families, or your whole wedding party.
  2. Chat Room: If you have friends and family spread all over the country, save on the phone bills and have your own private chat room. Just set up a time when everyone can be online and host your own live wedding chat!
  3. Bulletin Board/Forum: When it's hard to get everyone together, you can have a bulletin board discussion. Family and friends can post on their own time, and you don't all have to be available at once. The wedding forum is a great way to plan wedding events or post news about last-minute changes!
  4. Weblog Journal: A weblog (also known as a "blog") lets you post information to your website anytime you want. Start a wedding journal chronicling your wedding planning adventures that you can share with guests or just keep for yourself.
  5. Photo Gallery: A photo gallery enables you to upload an unlimited number of pictures right from your web browser. You can then categorize these, sort by type, etc. You could even grant permission for your family or friends to upload photos. Ask them to help you build your site by posting the pictures they have of you as well.

Other Tips For A Great Wedding Website

Tip #1: Get the word out.

Your site will not be used to its full potential if no one can find it. Remember to include your website address in all your wedding invitations. For less formal invitations, you can have your website printed directly on the invitation itself. Add an insert card with the website address for more formal invitations. Don't forget to include your web address on shower invitations, open house invitations, save-the-date cards, etc. You can even give guests a head start by e-mailing your website address to them.

After the wedding, be sure to post your wedding and reception photos on your site. You can invite your guests back to your site to see these photos by printing your website address on napkins, attaching it to party favors, or sending it out with your thank you notes. If you order custom-made thank you notes that match your wedding invitations, remember to have your website address preprinted on these to save time writing later.

Tip #2: Respect copyright laws.

Do not download photos or clipart, or copy text from other people's sites to post on your own site unless you have permission. This also includes items such as maps and store logos (gift registry). With the exception of government and other public domain materials, images and text are protected under copyright law even if you do not see copyright information on the site. Some sites do allow you to use their copyrighted images and clip art for personal use, but check the website's Terms of Use before using anything on your own site. Generally, it is permissible to provide a text link from your site to the page you want to reference.

If your photographer doesn't provide you with your negatives, he or she probably still owns the rights to these photos-even though they are pictures of you. You must get permission before posting these online as well.

Tip #3: Play it safe.

Do not publish your personal information such as address, home telephone number, etc., if you are concerned about who will have access to this information, and ask permission before publishing personal information about others (such as family members or wedding party). Some companies also offer a "contact us" page that uses a form e-mail response, hiding your e-mail address from the senders. Be sure to review the company's website privacy policy before providing personal information about yourself. Sites may sell your information to other advertisers (especially the free sites). Sometimes just by signing up with them and using their services, you have given permission for them to do this.

If you are very concerned about privacy, some services allow you to password protect your site, or even just specific pages within your site to keep strangers out. If you choose to do this, you will need to provide the username and password to guests or they will not be able to access your website.

Tip #4: Don't take on more than you can handle.

Building a website can be a major undertaking, especially when you have a wedding to plan. Decide what pages will best serve you and your guests and start with those first. You can always add pages later. If you find yourself becoming stressed, ask friends and family to help you by doing research on information for out-of-town guests, writing family and wedding party bios, scanning photos, or organizing event schedules. Don't spend valuable time trying to learn new technology-you'll have plenty of time after the wedding to learn about scanning or building web pages in html. If you are not comfortable building your site or do not want to hassle with uploading everything one item at a time, consider hiring a custom design firm to save time and frustration.

Tip #5: Always remember what is important.

Don't get so caught up in the details of planning your wedding that you can't enjoy the journey. Whether it is websites, bridesmaid dresses, or party favors, remember that the reason you are planning this event is to celebrate your love and commitment to your best friend. Take time for each other and remember to communicate. It's good practice for when you are married!

Overview of Wedding Website Services

If you're lucky enough to have a friend who can create a wedding website for you, then that is a great option. For the rest of us, here's an overview of the commercial wedding website providers. Free Websites

Some of the larger corporate wedding planning sites offer couples a free wedding website or webpage. Generally, the couple will complete an on-line form with information that is then posted to your site. Note, however, that in most cases your free site is paid for by advertisements, generally in the form of banner ads and/or pop-ups. In this case, you will not have a say in the ads that are published on your site. However, if you are on a tight budget, this is still a nice way to share your day on-line.

Template Websites

Another option is the template-based website service. You can select from a number of pre-designed template styles and colors. You input your information onto an on-line form, and your information is posted immediately to your website. Generally you can only select from pre-made page choices, but some services do allow you to create your own page options. You also often have the option to upload your digital photos to your site. The cost for this type of wedding website service usually starts around $75.00-$99.00 per year including hosting, and many sites offer a free 10-14 day trial.

Custom-designed Websites

The third option is a custom-designed site. With a custom design, your website template is unique to you. You can have the designer create exactly the pages and content you want, and you can even have your own domain name, i.e., www.yourname.com (or .net, .info, etc.) for an additional fee. Some custom sites even offer enhanced communication features such as private chat rooms, bulletin boards, photo galleries, and even personal e-mail (you@yourname.com). A few designers will create custom wedding invitations and matching wedding websites, carrying the theme of your wedding throughout. The cost for custom-designed sites is slightly higher than the template-based service, but not as much as you might think. Single-page, all-in-one sites often start around $50.00, with larger, more complex sites increasing in price, averaging between $350.00-$650.00. A full-featured, custom-designed site with 15-20 pages can be found for under $1,000.00.

After the Wedding

Couples usually have 12-18 months of hosting included free with any of the site options listed above. A few of the template-based sites and most custom designers also offer extended hosting after the initial period for a monthly fee. Depending on the company you choose to design your site, you may also be able to purchase a CD of your completed site when the free hosting period is over. Another option you might consider is turning your wedding website into a family site after your wedding. What a wonderful way to preserve your wedding memories for years to come!

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