Punit Shah has wonderful memories from his wedding last summer. The families danced together, an Indian tradition, and all four of his grandparents flew in from Mumbai. “I was surrounded by everyone who was important to me,” said Shah, 26, of Worcester.
Something else also made him glow: “Our wedding website got hundreds of unique views that day,” said Shah, director of marketing at My Trio Rings. “And the page views were much higher.”
Once only for cutting-edge couples, wedding websites have become so common that it’s the unusual couple who doesn’t send out a URL along with a “save the date.” About 75 percent of couples marrying last year had websites, TheKnot.com estimates. That’s up from 60 percent in 2009, and 53 percent in 2008. In 2007, the online wedding information site didn’t even ask the question.
Along the way, the websites — also known as “wedsites” — have ballooned from bare-bones one-pagers with a photo of the couple and only the most basic information. Today’s personal wedding portals are multimedia, interactive extravaganzas filled with slideshows, bridal party bios, polls asking guests to vote on the first dance or honeymoon destination, pop-up tabs making it easy to pin photos on Pinterest, credits naming the bride’s hairstylist, links to registries, and breaking news — tidbits from the couple’s trip to register at Target, perhaps, or a dress update.
Typically, the centerpiece is the step-by-step account — or in some cases, expensively produced video — detailing the proposal or the “how we met” story. Pity the couple who didn’t “meet cute,” as they say in Hollywood.
With “engagement season” upon us — it runs from Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day — new sites are coming on line daily. Some cost couples nothing but the time to set them up. TheKnot.com, for example, offers free templates and addresses. Others sites grow so pricey — costs for custom Web design, content production, and maintenance can run into hundreds of dollars or more, TheKnot.com’s Anja Winikka said — that a Web presence can become a line item, competing with the chocolate fountain for resources on the wedding budget.
“Think of Fortune 500 company websites — that’s what brides are doing,” said newlywed Mikel Feldman, 30, a personal trainer from Boston.
As someone who “hadn’t been thinking about planning a wedding since I was 5,” Feldman said, the website added an extra layer of pressure. The site would go down, she said, or a link would stop working, and suddenly she was less bride-to-be than IT call center. Oh, for the days of worrying about the caterer, not the server. “You can’t have a lousy site,” she said. “The bar has been raised.”
Indeed, standards are so high that a new form of wedding entertainment has emerged: mocking others’ websites. As one 30-something on the wedding circuit observed, “If I don’t already know how you met, why am I going to your wedding?”
But writing up one’s big moment isn’t always easy. In the months before her August wedding in Boston, Bettina Janco, 28, went through five drafts of the proposal story. The first few efforts were too candid about her unhappiness over being roused before dawn for a fishing trip (and surprise proposal).
By the time the story appeared on bettinaandjohn.ourwedding.com , the grouchiness had been smoothed over. “We arrived before sunrise,” it read, “and the sight was incredible.”
Months after her wedding, Janco, of Wellesley, encountered another particularly modern challenge: She temporarily forgot the password to her own wedding site. “Maybe it was attached to a different e-mail address,” she said, trying to get in.
Here’s another issue not faced by the mother-of-the-bride generation: what to name the website. With more than 2 million weddings a year, not every Michael and Jessica (the most popular names of the 1980s, according to the Social Security Administration) can necessarily get their top choice. But if you choose a URL that celebrates your special love and doesn’t include your names, guests who’ve tossed your “save the date” card may end up at the site of some other Mike and Jessica, reading their cute story — or even worse, clicking the link for their Bed, Bath & Beyond gift registry.
When done right, the domain name can be magical. Consider patlovesdevin.com. Those few words, it turns out, tell the entire story of the love affair between Patrick Murphy, 30, an attorney, and Devin Murphy, 30, an associate director for career education at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
Asked whether the couple considered the reverse name — devinlovespat — Devin burst into laughter. “No,” she said instantly. “It’s kind of an inside joke. He claims he’s been in love with me since freshman year in college, but we didn’t start dating until seven years later.”
In many ways, wedding websites make things much easier. All the information is in one place. (And a new, mobile wedding app — Appy Couple — even lets guests easily find information as they’re driving to the church — or trying to find it.) But websites can also make more work for the guests, some say. There are quizzes to take, guest book comments to write, photos to be taken for upload.
“I think that brides expect people to participate in their websites a lot more than people want to,” said Siri Agrell, author of “Bad Bridesmaid: Bachelorette Brawls and Taffeta Tantrums — Tales From the Front Lines.’’ “If someone sends you a link to her website and you don’t say ‘Great website!’ it’s a new breach of wedding etiquette.”
But, she noted, some of the websites themselves are enormous breaches of etiquette. “You can do tacky things on the Web that you would not do on paper. On paper you’d never say, ‘Pay for my honeymoon,’ but on a website you can have a link to a PayPal account.”
Tacky or not, a website also serves another very practical function. It cuts down on calls. Businesses like this — and so do brides. “Before I had the website, all my aunts were calling me and calling me with questions,” said Madeline Herec, 27, a grad student from Brighton.
The aunts were curious about accommodations in Newport, R.I., where she’s marrying in July, and whether there will be a bathroom on the boat the groom’s parents are chartering. “Now I’m like, just go to the website.”