Wedding Websites 101
Updated: May 12, 2020
Weddings have evolved a lot in the last two decades. While most US weddings used to consist of a ceremony in a church and reception in the church basement, we're now having multiple venues with sometimes as many as ten distinct events related to the wedding. We've moved from reserving a single hotel for out of town guests to blocking rooms at two or three hotels to give guests a variety of choices. Weddings are becoming more experiential, more involved, and more guest-centric.
One way we can help keep up with all of this change is by creating a wedding website. We'll dive into the details below, but a wedding website can give your guests information about your wedding (along with any related events), display hotel and transportation information, share your gift registry, guests to RSVP online, and serve as a first line of defense from endless phone calls and emails from guests with questions about your big day.
First off, do we really need a wedding website?
While many weddings these days utilize a website, it is absolutely not a necessity. You can still include all the information guests need in your invitation suites. Just remember, if you do choose to have a website, you can continue to update it after it is published. If you don't have one, the information you send with the invitations is considered final. Plus, you'll need to factor in the additional cost of printing (and mailing) larger invitation suites.
Is a wedding website for invited guests or for the public?
This is totally up to you! Some couples like to use their wedding website as a public engagement announcement while others like to keep it private and share the link only with those who are invited to the wedding. Be sure to decide on your intended audience before giving the link away to everyone and make sure the site is designed for that audience (ie, you don't want to include an RSVP option for anybody who stumbles across your page).
If you intend to share it only with those who will be invited, send the link with your Save the Dates. If your website can't be ready by then, it's okay to send it with your invitation too.
Where do we get a wedding website?
There are many free hosting sites specifically made for building wedding websites that offer pre-made templates and lots of nifty features. These include The Knot, WeddingWire, Basic Invite, and Zola, just to name a few. The Knot is absolutely my favorite option because it's easy to use and has some terrific features (which I'll discuss more below).
You can also create a custom site using Wix, Squarespace, Wordpress, or a similar website builder, many of which offer professionally designed templates so you can get started without any headaches. Most of these options have both free and paid plans.
If you've got a knack for web development or room in your budget to hire a developer, you might even build your website from scratch. Of course, this is the most time consuming (and expensive) option, but it's also the only way to guarantee your website looks and works exactly how you want it to.
This article written by The Knot has a pretty good list of pros and cons for some of the most popular hosting options. Give it a glance before you make a final decision. Keep in mind that they are doing a bit of self-advertising here, but I think they give a pretty fair assessment of themselves and their competitors.
Does our website really have to be called "www.weddingwire.com/us/ashley_and_roxanne_2020_twin_cities"?
If you don't love the idea of typing out a long, ugly URL for your wedding website, you have a few options.
1) You could purchase a custom domain name and set up a 301 redirect to your site. Then it could look more like "www.ashleyandroxy.com". Some website builders have this functionality built right in. For others, you may need to watch a few YouTube instructional videos to get it right. Careful: if you do choose to use a custom domain, make it easy to read, easy to spell, and don't include a lot of repeating letters (like www.annaandaaron.com).
2) Depending on which site you use to build your wedding website, you could just tell your guests, "Find us on [The Knot/WeddingWire]." Then, you don't need to write a URL and your guests can just search for you by name and the date of your wedding on the host website.
What should go on the homepage?
So you've got a wedding website, have got a killer design that captures your wedding aesthetic, and you've locked down the perfect URL. Now what? It's time to start filling your site with content!!
At the very least, your homepage should include the most important details about the wedding; the date, time, location(s), dress code(s), accessibility information, and your hashtag (if you have one) are a must. Be sure to throw in an engagement photo (or your favorite picture together) as well.
While not required, the homepage is also a great place to list members of your wedding party (along with fun bios for each), a story about how you met and/or got engaged, and any tidbits you think your guests would appreciate.
*Important Tip: The design, tone, and information included on your homepage will help the guests to understand the vibe of your wedding. So if you want to have a causal and relaxed wedding, be sure your homepage represents that by using less formal language and quirky designs. Also, spell check and test all of your links before publishing! The gorgeous homepage image I've included here misspelled "wedding"!
What else should we include?
Our Love Story
If you didn't include it on the homepage, you'll definitely want to have a page that tells the story of you as a couple. You can write it together or both partners can write their own version and you can publish both to see two sides of the story.
You'll want to have a page dedicated to accommodations and transportation for your out of town guests (and local guests who plan to party hard). This should include info about any hotel room blocks you have, how guests can get to and from the hotel from the nearest airport, and information about any shuttles you or your hotel have arranged to and from the wedding.
Travelers and locals alike will enjoy having a page with things to do in the area. Your guests may be around for several days beyond the 8 hours they spend at your wedding, so give them some fun ideas of places to go and things to do. Think of restaurants you both enjoy and maybe some fun places you've gone on dates together so your guests get a little glimpse into your lives during their stay.
You may want to have a page for your registries as well. The Knot makes this super easy since they partner with some of the top registry companies and can display a virtual shopping cart right on your page. My favorite feature is that you can choose a charity and a percentage of every purchase made through your site will be automatically be donated to them.
Include a page for a photo gallery so that your guests can dote on you and your soon-to-be spouse. Some host sites will even offer a social media style commenting feature so you can engage with your guests as the wedding gets closer.
Let your guests know what to expect throughout the wedding day by including the length of the ceremony, what time dinner will be served, when the dancing begins, and when you plan to wrap everything up. This small courtesy will help your guests plan their day before arriving to your wedding.
This is also a great place to include information about other wedding-related events you've planned, like a rehearsal dinner or day after brunch.
You may have included it on your RSVP, but your website is also a great place to list the menu for your wedding, including the main course as well as any appetizers you'll be serving. Be sure to include gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options for guests with special dietary restrictions.
You can also let guests know what drinks will be available and whether you'll have a hosted or cash bar.
Speaking of engaging with your guests, consider including a blog. You can use it to post updates about your planning process, exciting dates you go on, or feature articles about the members of your wedding party and any vendors you hire. Your guests (and your wedding planner / wedding day manager) will LOVE following along!
Finally, you may want to include an RSVP page and/or guest book. Allowing your guests to RSVP online is a huge convenience for both you and them. They don't need to worry about licking an envelope and your mailbox won't be quite so full of RSVP cards that you need to open and track. Unfortunately, we haven't quite gotten to the point where we can do away with traditional RSVP cards completely, so even if you have this page on your website, I still recommend sending a physical card with your invitation suite. I do think we may start to trend toward online-only RSVPs in about a decade, though, so if you really want that option, hold off your wedding date until about 2027.
I already let you know to include this on your home page, but I wanted to expand on what information to include. Many people just think about and make accommodations for people with wheelchairs and limited mobility. While that is absolutely important, consider the potential accessibility issues with all aspects of your wedding. If your reception is in an echoey hall or will include loud music, it might not be best for people with sensory sensitivity (or you might want to make a quiet room available). If you plan to wear strong perfumes, your fragrant sensitive guests will appreciate knowing this in advance.
Even after including all of this information, you still might get phone calls and emails from distraught guests wondering about one thing or another. Can I bring a plus one? Can I bring all 8 of my children (and will there be things for them to do)? Should I leave my phone at home? Can I take pictures?
Try to think through potential questions your guests might have and write them in an FAQ page. Add to this page anytime someone calls you with a question so that everyone can see the answer.
What are some alternatives to a website?
In this modern age, there are so many options for inviting wedding guests and providing them with the information they need. You might do virtual invitations through evite and monitor RSVPs there. You could opt to create a Facebook event for your wedding and forego conventional invitations completely. The primary source of information for your wedding might come from Snapchat or Instagram stories. There are even apps a little ahead of their time designed to replace wedding websites. It's really up to you! Just pay attention to who you're inviting. If 80% of your invites are going to people over the age of 65, avoid using social media platforms. If they're over the age of 75, you may want to bypass a website completely and include all of your information in a more traditional format.
We've read your blog post twice and still don't have a clue how to get started on this. Help?
We're happy to help. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll help you get started with your wedding website free of charge.