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Recipe for a Welcome Bag that Works
By: Jen Boyles | Posted: 11/20/2012
I'm going to take a big nerdy leap here and admit that creating the wedding website was next on my list of favorite "to do's" after scoring The Dress. As a social media strategist, former web editor, and lover of design, I was excited to put something together that didn't necessarily come from a template. Little time was spent shopping around for a host—I just knew I didn't want the damn Knot. A piece of advice for brides-to-be who think they want tips and tricks from that place: You don't. Seriously. No normal person should be exposed to that amount of wedding spam. After the Knot comes the Nest and then the Bump —they've got you for life from the start of your engagement convincing you to buy everything under the sun. You know what's after the Bump? The Soup Kitchen, if you're not careful. But that heading doesn't sound as sexy, does it? The Wedding Window seemed decent. As a hyper-individualist control freak, I especially liked their slogan: "Your wedding. Your website. Your way." As I maneuvered through all the site's themes, I realized I wouldn't mind paying the $50 to customize every little detail of the page and make it my own for nearly two years (it turns into a thank-you tracker, event photo gallery, and honeymoon updater after the wedding). The site offered a plethora of options but aside from customizing theme photos, the one that ended up coming in most handy was customizing the names of headings: "Our Story" (blech) became simply "How We Met - Jen," and I took the lead on writing that. "The Couple" (no thanks) became "How I Proposed - Ian," and Ian wrote that part (though it took him a few months). "Bridal Party" became "The Wedding Party" to include bios of everyone involved rather than just the ladies on my side (lovely as they are, just look at 'em). Finally, "Address Book" became "GIVE US YOUR ADDRESS" to clarify this burning need. I'm just starting out, but this has been the most challenging part thus far, and I could not have gathered the address of each guest (and name of plus ones, in my single friends' cases) without the combined tools of the wedding site and Facebook. I sent two rounds of Facebook messages to friends I intended on inviting, linking them to the website and giving them instruction to submit their address via the "GIVE US. . ." tab (If you go this route, don't forget to remind your people NOT to reply all to the messages). I was elated to find out the Wedding Window site complies all the guest submissions and then allows you to export their names to the official guestlist used by the site when people RSVP to the actual wedding online. If someone isn't on the list, the site will not recognize their RSVP. This stuff is freaking cool. You know what else I highly recommend when obtaining addresses? A zealous mom. If yours is like mine, she will hunt those suckers down with alarming precision and have a printable list and mailing labels made up in less than a day (Brief pause here to thank my mom, Debbie, for doing that). What I am not entirely stoked on, however, is her insisting we need to send "wedding announcements" to distant family and friends who are not invited. To me, that is like saying, "Hey, we had this really amazing party you weren't invited to, but you're at least important enough to tell about it." Because she has been such a help, she's winning this one—but the deal is that the announcements have to be sent after the wedding and at least include a picture of us in our fancy attire. Other Tips For Creating a Fantastic Wedding Website: 1. Don't be too personal. Tell your "story" in a way that would entertain your most distant friend and warm the heart of your grandma. No one, it turns out, wants to know you had your first makeout sesh backstage at First Avenue. Oops. 2. Write it several times. Let a few treasured loved ones read it and give feedback. 2.5. When sending the link around for feedback, make sure your friends know it's not for public consumption. Ian was literally writing the groomsman bios when he saw our link circulating FB with the words "NICE LINEUP, EH?" Scooped by our officiant! 3. Do not post the need for addresses publicly, either. You'll get addresses from people who you weren't intending on inviting, which is an awkward moment to be sure. It ends up either being a costly mistake to your wallet or your reputation. 4. Write thoughtful bios for members of your wedding party. It's hard encapsulating your entire friendship into four sentences, but it can be done well. Keep it PG, make a joke or two, and make sure it's apparent why you chose them. 5. Use professionally-taken photos if you can. We started out with selfies and adding the engagement photos took it to a nicer place. Happy planning! More: Jen Boyles on Twitter The Blithe Bride column
Carly is manager, Social Media and Audience Engagement at MSP-C. See her engagement story.
Brittney is digital marketing and social media specialist at 3M.See her engagement story.
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