October 4, 2011
NEW YORK — As her grandfather sat pleasantly perplexed at her wedding, Lauren Barnes reached into the recesses of her strapless white gown, whipped out her iPhone and accepted her groom’s Facebook relationship change to “married.”
“Nothing’s official,” she said, “until it’s Facebook official!”
In today’s $78-billion-a-year business of getting hitched, those wacky viral videos of whole wedding parties dancing down the aisle seem positively 2009. Social media, mobile tools and online vendors are abundant to offer the happy couple extra fun, savings and convenience, though most of the nation’s betrothed aren’t ready to completely let go of tradition.
Some send out video save-the-dates, include high-speed scannable “QR” barcodes on invitations, live-stream their ceremonies for far-flung loved ones to watch online, and open their party playlists to let friends and families help choose the tunes.
They invite guests to live tweet the big day using special Twitter keywords, called hashtags, and create interactive seating charts so tablemates can chat online ahead of time.
One couple featured a “guest of the week” on their wedding blog. Another ordered up a cake with an iPad embedded at the base to stream photos at the reception. A third Skyped in a “virtual bridesmaid” who couldn’t make it, so she was walked down the aisle by a groomsman via iPad.
For Steve Poland, 31, in Buffalo, N.Y., it was the whole shebang for his Sept. 10 wedding.
“We used the Twitter hashtag ‘polandwedding,’ our nuptials were read from an iPad by our friend, who got ordained online, and our wedding invites were printed by the hip Us.moo.com as postcards that we mailed out. I was really hoping to use Turntable.fm as our music, but it didn’t work out,” he said.
Oh, and Poland and his wife, Caryn Hallock, spent part of their honeymoon in a Hawaii tree house they found on Airbnb.com.
According to surveys by the magazine sites Brides and The Knot, tech is on the rise in the world of weddings, with 65 percent of couples now setting up special sites to manage RSVPs, stream video of the ceremony and-or reception, and keep guests in the loop.
One in five couples use mobile apps for planning. That includes chasing down vendors, and virtually trying on and locating dresses. Seventeen percent of couples use social media to plan, shop or register for gifts, along with sharing every detail online. About 14 percent to 18 percent of brides buy a dress online, according to Brides.
Nearly 1 in 5 couples go paperless for invitations or save-the-dates. Many of those who have preserved the tradition of paper invites have dispensed with the inserts usually tucked inside envelopes, opting for e-mail or Web tools for RSVPs, maps, and details on destinations or related events.
From proposals on Twitter to Foursquare check-ins from the church or honeymoon, weddings seem ready-made for social media sharing — or oversharing, depending on whether you’re invited.
Alexandra Linhares, 23, is nervous about that.
She just moved to Marietta, Ga., but she’s getting married in April back home in Highlands Ranch, Colo. She and fiance Bradley Garritson, 24, are taking care not to gush too much to their hundreds of Facebook friends. Other couples turn off their Facebook walls so premature messages of congrats don’t show up before they’ve announced their engagements.
“There are a lot of people I work with on Facebook and who follow me on Twitter,” Linhares said. “We don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.”
But apps and online services have saved her life, logistically speaking.
“Since we’re planning a wedding from thousands of miles away, we’re relying heavily on technology to help us,” she said. “We have a private Facebook group that we use to communicate with everyone in our bridal party since we’re all in different states and countries.”
Linhares found her gown with the help of an app. She and Garritson rely on Skype meetings to interview vendors. They’re keeping track of RSVPs on their phones, along with the usual tangle of deadlines. And they’re using an app to keep track of their budget. The couple went to the cloud — for online data storage and sharing — to maintain a master spreadsheet everyone can access at any time, avoiding the need to push updates around in e-mail.
Such tools can be a godsend, so long as older or not-so-techie folk aren’t stranded on the wrong side of the firewall. “But that list of people is shrinking fast,” said Anja Winikka, site editor for The Knot.
Brides found that 17 percent of couples register for gifts exclusively online. Sites have popped up making it easier to combine multiple registries into one — like MyRegistry.com — and ask for cash at the same time for honeymoons or home repairs.
Cris Stone, 33, will marry Jerry Delp, 44, in San Antonio, Texas, in May.
“I already have a wedding website,” she said. “People will be able to watch the wedding via live streaming, though it’s only for the ceremony because I consider that the most important part of the wedding.”
John Ham, co-founder of Ustream, said about 10,000 weddings have been broadcast live from the site — Ustreamtv.com — over the last 12 months. “People want to participate in the moment,” he said.
Stone is using DepositaGift.com. It offers a button on her wedding site so people can give cash for the couple’s home remodel “without ever worrying about checks or actual cash envelopes,” she said.
“It’s proven extremely popular so far, and surprisingly not with the younger crowd as we had originally assumed, but with the 40 to 55 set who like not worrying about losing the envelope,” Stone said.
She jiggered her Deposit a Gift so people can contribute $25 increments of brick, for instance, or $100 toward the cost of new windows.
Nicole Endres, 25, in Centreville, Va., and fiance Dan Rodriguez, 28, asked for cash, among other gifts, on their wedding website using Honeyfund.com, to help pay for their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic.
“We can transfer it straight from PayPal to our bank account, instead of taking checks to the bank,” Endres said.
On invitations, some couples are using the small, square QR codes to lead guests online for additional details, and sharing photos and video on Tumblr, Flickr, Picasa or numerous other fast, free sites.
As for the Barnes and James Williams nuptials held Sept. 3 on the grounds of the Long Beach Art Museum, their officiant and friend Andrew Pachon used an iPad for the ceremony, but that and the Facebook fiddle to “married” was about it in the way of tech flourishes.
Williams and Barnes, a 29-year-old physician from Long Beach, had Pachon explain toward the end of the ceremony that the couple wanted to share the moment with their 400-plus Facebook friends.
Before the ceremony, Williams had sent his bride a Facebook request to change his relationship status to “married to Lauren Barnes.” Once they were hitched, she accepted using her iPhone — at 5:48 p.m. to be exact. There was a flurry of “likes” from gathered guests and the masses in cyberspace.
But not grandpa, who still managed to have a good time.