For many engaged couples the wedding website has become just as important as the invitation itself when it comes to reflecting personal design taste. In fact, while putting together a wishlist of features for both site and invite, I quickly noticed at some point they became intertwined...
Some companies have even started to offer matching digital and paper designs. But when I factored in paper goods like “Save the Date” cards, I realized I wanted my website to do the same things printed invites used to do.
Could a wedding website ever look as good as artisanal letterpress? Probably not. To get everything I wanted, I had to make compromises. Such is the state of wedding website technology today.
Here’s what I wanted:
• A beautiful website design that at least echoed my paper design theme
• A website with privacy controls, allowing guests to log in to find out details
• An option to send “save the dates” and allow event RSVPs via the site itself
• lots of customization options for presenting photos, registry links, travel arrangements. I don’t want to have to remember to add that stuff; ideally the site-builder should prompt me with these options
• The ability to manage invitations to multiple wedding-related events
• Web address forwarding to my custom domain
• No need to learn any design or programming skills (that means Wordpress is out—it requires too much tweaking).
Did I ask for too much? This list almost makes it sound like I would forgo paper invitations entirely. But, no, I’ve always known that some people will forget to look at the site and will feel more comfortable with the kind of invitation the postal service delivers.
In my research of services available online, I knew I’d test them way before I was ready to send out invitations. For people who can design their own sites, or for people who just want to get the facts up on the web without much concern for style, something like Wordpress, Wix, or free wedding site builders will work, but none of these were the right fit for me.
There are many free wedding website services (otherwise known, in industry parlance, as "wedsites"). Most of them do not meet my—and likely not your—design standards.
The free options at eWedding.com, theknot.com and mywedding.com are ample—lots of template choices to sort through—but the design is clunky and doesn’t have a clean “Web 2.0” look that many of us want, whether or not we can articulate it. Nearlyweds.com’s designs look just like these free sites, but it actually costs money. No thanks. If clean and simple is your aim, WeddingBuddy.com has refreshing templates, but you’ll endup with a long-ish, hard-to-remember URL.
But to get the most sophisticated designs, you’ll have to pay at least a little. I think the best of the new, start-uppy breed of wedsite vendors are Weduary, AppyCouple, and WeddingJoJo. Now, not even the paid versions of these offer as much customization as I would like: I want to be able to change every font and color, for instance, but I can’t. The free versions? Forget about it. Basic functionality is hampered and design choices are pretty much nil.
Weduary charges $20 to use one of their few nice designs, but it is a one-time fee. What you get in terms of features might be more than many of us want, but for some people it could be the perfect blend of design and social engineering. In addition to all the usual bells and whistles, the site creates a social network by importing those of your Facebook friends you’ll be inviting to the wedding.
What’s the point? Well, you don’t have to go digging around for everyone’s email address, for one thing. You can also directly import photos rather than downloading and then re-uploading them. Finally, your guests can size each other up based on profiles declaring interests and displaying mutual friends. They can coordinate travel plans together. And, bold guests without a plus-one can even “flirt” with other singles before the big day, which might facilitate an even more fun-filled event for party-goers.
AppyCouple charges $28 for some rather high-end designs and technological accoutrements. For this price you not only get a wedsite, but an Android and iOS app for each guest to download—it’ll surely help them on the week of the wedding, as they'll have the app to navigate around town and check details like locations, start times, dress code, etc. (guests without smartphones can rely on the web version or a paper invitation). This is the service I have opted to use because it met all of my requirements (except for the cost). I can even change my design on the fly without disrupting the site or the apps my guests have already downloaded.
I especially like that I can manage invites to other wedding weekend events, without broadcasting to every guest that they may not be invited to the rehearsal dinner. A dozen optional widgets can be inserted onto every event page to give more info to guests about travel, weather, etc. The site will pull photos from Facebook if you let it, but it won’t try to get your guests to mingle pre-fete. The security features on AppyCouple are very strong: each guest gets your “wedding code” with the invitation to sign in, so disgruntled exes and random strangers can’t stalk your wedding.
I didn’t get to test the full version of WeddingJoJo, which charges a high $14.99 per month. Though the service offers a custom domain name hosting service with this price, most of its other features can be found for less money via competitors. What WeddingJoJo does have is a few of the loveliest, most customizable template designs on the market.
If you've used a wedsite, tell us - which worked best for you and why? And web designers, feel free to brag about how you made your own template or site design that blows all of these out of the water. Chances are, it will be a while before anyone bests this piece of wedding website art.
(Images: Rachel Rosmarin; as linked above)