(This is the first in a two-part series on wedding-related matters by Christa Terry for Wedding-Scoops.com.)
Once upon a time, brides-to-be and their moms would browse the shops in advance of a wedding, leisurely picking out this and that. There was stress, of course, but wedding planning in the good old days was nothing like wedding planning now.
First, most weddings were smaller, simpler affairs than the weddings of today. And second, there was a fairly good chance that those brides-to-be didn’t have a career or kids or a house to care for or three intercontinental trips already booked for next year.
Here's a quick reality check: The majority of modern brides- and grooms-to-be spend their days working and then, in their off hours, have plenty of errands and obligations. They're getting married in towns and cities hundreds or thousands of miles from where they actually live or grew up. And their best pals, moms and siblings may not reside in any of those places, making it almost impossible for anyone involved in a wedding to casually jet off to meet with printers, wedding caterers or videographers.
Sound familiar? If so, you probably already know that the best time to plan a wedding is usually not in the evening or on a weekend, but during your lunch hour. In the middle of the day, you can reach vendors and venues by phone if you need to, and planning during your lunch hours means you don’t have to sacrifice your precious evenings and weekends to the wedding planning gods.
That's why more and more engaged couples faced with the prospect of sneaking wedding planning into the gaps between work and play and food and sleep are turning to the one friend they know will never let them down: the Internet.
You might not be anywhere near the zip code in which you say your vows, but you can still check out wedding venues, cake designers, florists, and so on without leaving your desk. And when you’re not perusing vendor and venue websites, you can check in with hundreds of wedding experts writing blogs, check out retailers selling wedding favors, pore over racks upon virtual racks of wedding gowns, and e-mail back and forth with prospective photographers, DJs, etc. The upside of planning a wedding online is that you’re not limited by standard business hours.
The biggest differences between planning a wedding the traditional way and planning a wedding online are as follows:
1. Originality: Buy in a local shop, and you’re usually limited to a set of options. Buy online for your wedding, and you can get wedding favors from Egypt, boutonnieres from Italy, custom-designed wedding stationery from a small producer in Mexico, and other stuff you’d never have access to in your hometown.
2. Choice: There’s something nice about knowing that you can have almost anything your heart desires. Look hard enough online and someone will probably be selling it for a price that fits into your budget.
3. Expert advice: Online, you have access to advice from a huge number of sources, from bloggers who find the best budget bridal accessories to wedding planners who have seen it all. Have a question about wedding planning? Is it a weird one? I guarantee you someone will be there to answer it.
4. Lead time: Research will follow the usual timeline, but you may need to give yourself more time if you’re buying a lot of stuff for your wedding online. And that applies especially when you’re ordering custom-made accessories, favors, dresses, and so on.
5. Intangible assets: Things can look and feel different in person, which is why I’d never advocate choosing a wedding venue without actually visiting it (though surprisingly, I’m totally a cheerleader for buying a wedding gown online). Planning online means that it’s even more important to get swatches and samples so you know exactly what you’re going to get. And whenever you can, meet with vendors in person before you sign a contract or put down a deposit.
6. Tracking: Every so often, things get lost in the mail, so you may find yourself having to hunt down your wedding gown or favors with the USPS. That makes paying by credit card vital; when you use a credit card, you can stop payment or reverse the charges in the event that you don’t receive what you’ve bought.
But when it comes right down to it, researching and buying on the Internet when you’re planning a wedding is fantastic on so many levels. More time online means less time spent wandering the streets of your town or the nearest big city trying to track down elusive print shops, less time wasted trying to make bridal salon employees understand that, yes, you really want black mini bubble bridesmaid dresses, and less time avoiding the puppy dog stares of bad 1970s hair bands desperately looking for work.
Even better, planning a wedding online means more time to snuggle with your honey, more time to nurture those new familial relationships, more time to relax, and more time to simply enjoy being someone's future spouse.
Christa Terry is the author of "iDo: Planning Your Wedding With Nothing But 'Net," and editor-in-chief of wedding planning blog Manolo for the Brides. Sections of this post were excerpted from the book.