How To: Point. Click. Wed.

How to figure out the ways blogs, websites, e-mail and social networking should — and sometimes shouldn’t — aid in your planning

Hans is my boyfriend’s roommate—someone I see almost every day. I knew he had been in Southern California visiting his girlfriend over winter break from law school. (The two had been dating for 10 months; they met on Craigslist.)But I had no idea he was planning on dropping down on one knee and popping the question. Facebook clued me in.

[sidebar]This is the 21st century. We meet and date online. We post our engagement status on Facebook. So what will this mean for your wedding, an event so tied to tradition? Social networking sites, blogs, e-mail—none of these were even a factor for brides just a couple of years ago. Now a new generation of brides has to figure out where to fit  the high-tech into wedding plans. (To Evite? Or not to Evite?) We’ve talked to some local pros to get their take on how to navigate this brave new world.

Do post with care.
With BlackBerries and iPhones practically limb extensions, you can now snap a picture of your rock and have it up on Facebook within minutes of your hubby-to-be slipping it on your finger. Social networking sites have made it oh-so-easy to share your happily-ever-after excitement, which, according to planner Mark Kingsdorf, owner of Philly’s Queen of Hearts Wedding Consultants, is great when you have equally excited family and friends. But loved ones might not appreciate finding out the same way as the masses. Kingsdorf’s advice: “Before you post, call your parents!” (Hans did, don’t worry.)

Do search for inspiration.
“It’s often hard for a bride to verbalize her vision,” says Lynda Barness of -Philadelphia-based I DO Wedding Consulting, “and seeing something online can give words to your thoughts.” Many of Barness’s brides head to wedding blogs and sites for the latest gown and bridesmaid fashions, photos of real weddings, inspiration boards and DIY projects. This lets brides see what’s possible—and gives them access to vendors and products that will help turn their dream weddings into reality. “Lots of wedding professionals are using Twitter and Facebook and blogs to reach out to brides,” says Kingsdorf, which allow them to show off more current examples of their work. For that reason, he recommends checking out a vendor’s blog in conjunction with one-on-one meetings.

But don’t get too search-happy.
Barness warns that the Internet can become addictive: “There is so much information available online that some brides feel like they have to see every single website.” Kingsdorf agrees. One of his staffers recently got engaged. In addition to planning weddings for a living, Kingsdorf says, she “lives and breathes” wedding blogs. Kingsdorf jokes that said engaged staffer suffers from a case of “I want this. No, I want this. Wait—I want this” syndrome that Barness has seen before, too: “A bride can get lost online and never emerge. … At what point do you say, ‘I’ve seen enough and I can decide?’” To avoid obsessive bridal Web-browsing, Barness recommends identifying a single topic—say flowers — and then turning on your computer: “There are only so many sites about flowers that are going to be of real interest. It’s an easy way to limit your surfing.”

The other area where you don’t want to rely exclusively on the Internet is your registry. “Registering online is such a convenience,” says Barness. “But there’s nothing like touching and feeling the items that you’re going to live with for a long time. Pictures can only do so much.” So she advises brides to still walk through the stores where they’re registering, and pick things out in person. You can always update and add to your registry online later.

Do make a wedding website.

Wedding websites are invaluable wedding-planning tools, for both the couple and their guests. Beatrice Amaya, fiancée of Hans, made the couple’s site just weeks after their engagement. With Hans attending school here in Philly, the bride living almost 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles, and guests coming from Philly, Chicago and New York, a wedding website just made sense. “The website is an easier way to communicate all of the pertinent wedding details with friends and family not in the area,” Beatrice says. As one of those out-of-towners, I can vouch for her claim. The couple’s easy-to-navigate wed-site was like Frommer’s for wedding guests, with travel recommendations (fly into the Burbank airport), hotel block information and rates ($99 a night), a map of the venue (with parking advice), a schedule of events (toasts and cake at 6:30), and dress-code suggestions (sandals are A-okay).

But don’t rely completely on that website.
As convenient as wedding websites are, not all of your guests may be as familiar with technology as you are. Beatrice, who is first-generation Mexican, has many older relatives in Mexico who don’t use computers regularly. When creating the wed-site, she was very aware of the generational and cultural gaps that could arise. Ultimately, she decided to make the site in English only, since it’s geared primarily toward the couple’s “younger, computer-savvy guests.”

She and Hans also sent out traditional save-the-date cards and invitations by mail, which experts agree should still be done. “Unless you’re throwing a very casual wedding, e-mail invites are generally inappropriate,” says Kingsdorf. “People still expect a level of formality when it comes to a wedding.” Plus, he says, most couples love to collect the RSVP cards, many of which come back with little scrawled notes from their guests about how much they’re looking forward to the wedding. Indeed, Beatrice — who was surprised by just how excited she was to get her cards back — has taken to doing just that.

In the end, there’s room for some things old and some things new in your wedding. Scour the bridal blogs, but still ask for references from trusted married friends or a planner. Make a wedding website, but still send out paper invitations. The key is finding a balance between traditional and modern — kinda like marriage.