Now that you've found your soul mate via the internet, you're ready to settle down into a lifetime of commitment. And that means it's time to start planning. Not to worry-this is just a small test to make sure that you've got the stamina, patience and stomach for marriage.
Once you've successfully planned and executed your way through invitations, seating charts, gift registries, dress shopping and hiring a caterer, you'll be ready for anything.
Sadly, not all of us can pay a wedding planner to sit in for us on this test. No, many of us are left trying to figure it out on our own, or with the good-intentioned help of our friends and families. Never fear. As it turns out, the handy-dandy World Wide Web can be your new best friend when it comes to planning your big day.
One recent bride, Kelly Smith, masterminded almost every miniscule detail of her wedding using the internet. Now that she's reveling in her wedded bliss, she looks back on her day and credits its organization and success to the ease and thrift of shopping online. Her reasons for turning to the internet were all very logical:
"First, the ease of browsing websites was much more appealing with my full-time job than spending night after night shopping around town. Two, it's easier to compare pricing when you can toggle around through websites then it is making pricing lists at numerous stores and then finally returning later to make your purchase just to find out the price has gone up.
"Three, there are a lot of good prices with internet retailers; even with shipping and handling charges, it's cheaper then the mark-up at shops in the mall."
So, before you start digging through the millions of sites that offer wedding assistance, we recommend that you stop by a wedding planning site first. Websites such as Wedalert.com, Weddingsolutions.com, Specialeventsoklahoma.com and Theknot.com will provide you with the necessary tools.
From planning a timeline to a budget planner to a photography checklist to a wedding etiquette guide, if you need to know how things are usually done, these are the sites that prove invaluable to your sanity.
Name the Place
When planning a wedding for 250 people, Smith wasn't exactly sure where to start. She wanted a weekend retreat wedding and knew she needed someplace large enough to hold the ceremony, the reception and overnight accommodations.
"I used the internet to find our location for the wedding. I knew that I wanted an outdoor wedding near a lake with cabins so I Googled "cabins in Oklahoma" and found an abundance of websites for national parks and other places that would be ideal locations," Smith explained.
Tulsa hosts a plethora of scenic wedding locations, both in and outdoors, and you could spend days, even weeks, visiting potential spots for the special day.
Location is the first detail to get nailed down because ceremony sites tend to book at least six months in advance. Almost any location should have a website with schedules, prices and hours, but here are a few ideas just to get the wheels spinning: www.dressermansion.com, www.marvalresort.com, www.tulsagardencenter.com, www.tulsazoo.org, www.camploughridge.com and www.poastoaklodge.com.
Once you've narrowed it down to a few choices, your selection process will be much shorter and quickly move along.
Doing it the E-way
Deciding what kind of statement you want to make with your invites can be daunting. From envelope to inserts, there are zillions of paper options, so why not reduce the overload by sending out a wedding e-vite. It's nontraditional, sure, but people will most likely be much more responsive electronically.
Check out some websites that offer fabulous options and allow you to customize them to fit your personal style and themes. As a bonus for your one-stop shopping, a site will often cut a deal if you also order your bridal shower and thank you cards. Take a peek at: www.weddingpaperdivas.com, www.mygatsby.com and www.beautifulweddinginvitiations.com.
Playing Dress Up
This may be one of the things you want to get out and do for yourself, as most girls have fantasized about trying on wedding dresses their entire lives, but if you'd rather avoid subjecting yourself to 'ringing the bell' when you've found your dress at David's Bridal, then you might try browsing your options on the net.
Even if you end up buying your dress at a retail store, you can get a sense of the styles, designers and colors you like beforehand so that you'll save yourself oodles of time cruising the racks. Some sites to peruse include: www.perfectbridal.com, www.weddingretailer.com, www.embellishdesign.com, www.davidsbridal.com and www.abelinasbridal.com (bonus: this one's local!).
Smith was very excited about one of her online accessory purchases.
"Making a unique find was the best part. The headdress that I wanted to wear was going to be impossible to find locally," she recalled. "The only thing available in Tulsa was a veil or a tiara. The closest resemblance of the headdress that I wanted was found at the Renaissance Faire in Muskogee and even then it was cheaply made and didn't look right.
"Thanks to the internet, I found a craftsman in France who handmade my headdress and she shipped it to me. As it turned out, my headdress was the one thing that tied my wedding together and got me more compliments than anything else!"
Sorry guys, unless you already own a tux or are planning on buying one yourself, you're pretty much going to have to go to one of those rental places to get measured, only to guarantee that the tux you pick up the day before the wedding isn't going to fit right.
To the Dance Floor
Live music instead of a DJ brings much more energy to a dance party. If you're looking to let your guests boogie the night away, why not check out local bands from the comfort of your computer? Most current bands have either a personal Website or a MySpace page where you can listen to their songs and establish contact.
If you know you want to have live music but aren't sure of the best bands in town, check out the UTW Live Music listings. If you are certain you want a DJ, you can price compare on websites as well. Try www.urbantulsa.com (for live music listings), www.myspace.com (search for the band of your choice) and www.djconnectiontulsa.com.
It's the Little Things
Whether you're planning on decorating with fake ivy, live plants, candles or balloons, you can find everything you need online, and usually at a fraction of the retail price. In fact, there seems to be an entire industry dedicated to discounted wedding décor, which also includes plates, napkins, cake stands and other reception necessities.
Smith found a lot of reasonable prices online. As an example, she explained that she wanted Japanese paper lanterns to decorate the wedding tent, and found them at a shop in the mall for about $12 each. She then found a paper lantern Website (paperlanternstore.com) that had the same thing with battery-operated lights for about $5 each. So, there's no need to bargain hunt for the perfect paper plate when you can find it in just the right shade at just the right price. Check out www.weddingshopusa.com, www.save-on-crafts.com/bridalveilshop.html and www.foreverwed.com.
Flowers may also be something that you ultimately need to have delivered fresh from a local florist, but you can certainly use the internet to find a florist near you who accommodates your desires. Also, visit wedding-slowers-guide.com/seasonal-wedding.html in advance to find out the best and most plentiful flowers for the season.
If you're going to feed your guests, you'll either have to DIY, or create a catered menu. Fortunately, caterers are available online for your viewing pleasure. Many restaurants and caterers post their specialties, the sizes they accommodate, and sometimes prices. Most caterers will work with your budget, and they'll usually even include the glassware, plates and flatware in their fees. Here are some local places that specialize in big events: www.justcateringbyorr.com, www.mershoncatering.com and www.cateringconnection.net.
Check the Register
Presents-we all love them, but how can you make sure your wedding gifts are things you actually want and need? Register online at the store of your choice and you not only save bundles of time, but you can manage your wishlist at the touch of a button. Plus (it's kinda cheating) but you can also check to see what's been purchased on your registry and add as necessary.
Even if you want to register in-store, you can usually access the management features from your house once you get set up. Some popular stores for wedding registries that are nationwide include: www.bedbathandbeyond.com, www.target.com and www.macys.weddingchannel.com.
Making It Official
Did you know that you can become a reverend online? If you're not getting married by a church official, just about anyone you know can marry you. There are a number of sites that will ordain a person on the spot for peanuts, and all they do is register at the County Clerk's office. If you know someone who would provide the oratory skills and personal touch necessary to legally bind you and your partner, they can get the green light in a matter of minutes. Some spiritual sites are: www.themonastery.org, www.spiritualhumanism.org and www.openordination.org.
You'll want someone to immortalize your special day, but unless you already trust someone or have been given a recommendation, you'll have to shop for photographers. Most photographers maintain a website that features portfolios and possibly prices; though those will depend on the length of time you require his or her services. See www.tulsaweddingphotographer.com or www.tulsapix.com for examples, and then browse from there.
Also, if you find a photographer who will give you the image files, you can share them with friends on sites like snapfish.com, facebook.com or kodak.com. You can then print off as many copies as you like.
Another popular trend in photography is to print actual books of your wedding day. Once you have the images, you can upload them in a variety of ways. Try shutterfly.com or asukabook.com. You can design permanent, lovely hard-bound books to show off forever.
To the Suite
Finally, once the wedding ends and you kiss stress goodbye, you'll want to kick it someplace relaxing on your honeymoon. Wherever the two of you decide to recline (or repel, or river raft, or rock-n-roll), it's easy to find all-inclusive packages online that will do the planning and booking for you. All you have to do is show up and have a blast.
Also, if you look far enough in advance, there's a good chance that you'll score even better prices than a travel agent. Bigger savings means more money spent on fun. With these sites, all inclusive is the way to go: www.honeymoonsinc.com, www.thehoneymoon.com and www.unforgettablehoneymoons.com.
This is good news indeed for those on a budget, experiencing a time crunch or who don't like to shop. You no longer have to traipse about town, wandering to and fro looking for the best bargains. Okay, so you might spend some time comparing prices on reputable sites online, but that's still better than sitting in mall traffic on a Saturday afternoon.
In the hustle and bustle of life in the commuter lane (if Tulsa had one), you can kick back and plan your big day from the comfort of your own home, with a few minor exceptions. Wedding planning online not only saves money, but also saves hours and headaches. The internet's convenience factor is invaluable.
According to Smith, her time spent digging through page after page of sites on the internet was very worthwhile. And, she saved hundreds of dollars.
"I would do it again, and I would recommend it to anyone taking on the enormous task of planning a wedding," Smith said.
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