Your Wedding Invitation?s in the (e)Mail: Pros and Cons of the Virtual Wedding Invitation

From purchasing the garter to choosing the photographer, brides (and grooms!) are online and as the Internet's many advantages have begun to permeate most every aspect of wedding planning, a single question has been popping up more and more: can I use the Internet for my wedding invitations? As a wedding website designer I've answered numerous emails from brides asking if an email announcement to visit their wedding website can not just supplement their wedding invitation but actually replace it. It's an interesting idea, one with the potential to save a great deal of time and money. However, one big question remains. Is it acceptable? Considering the potential benefits, it's certainly a question worth asking, and some compelling arguments can be found on both sides.

First, consider the many purposes of a wedding invitation. Most obvious is the intent that the recipient understands who is invited. Also important is the inclusion of maps and directions, RSVP information, reply cards and essential wedding details. Furthermore, the wedding invitation is an expression of the couple's personal style and can serve as a memento for friends and family to remember the event. Considering all these essential functions, the question, then, is whether the traditional wedding invitation can be replaced by a simple email invitation to visit the couple's site online. Certainly, a creative and informative wedding website can serve the majority of the purposes mentioned. In fact, wedding details might be more specific and useful on a website given the amount of space that can be afforded an entire page devoted to each subject. One can easily give details and links to important wedding locations, schedules, maps, etc. Also, if the bride and groom are able to create their own site or find a designer they like, they can certainly express their own unique style and theme on a wedding website. But what about the empty space in grandma's album just waiting for her granddaughter's wedding invitation? Here is where an online invitation falls short. One solution, however, could be to purchase or make a wedding CD with the website on it. Technologically hip grandparents can treasure this memento like they would a written invitation (even if it doesn't go well in an album).

Still can't decide? Consider some of the pros and cons of the "virtual invitation":

Pros:
*Save money on wedding invitations (certainly the most compelling argument for many). The cost of an online invitation, including one designed by a reasonably priced professional, should be considerably less than sending written invitations for an average sized wedding when factoring in the cost of the printing, postage, and reply cards.
*Save the time of selecting and sending written invitations, especially if you were going to have a wedding website anyway.
*Make things a little easier for those guests who already do a great deal online.
*Receive RSVP responses via email.
*Include links to maps and directions.
*Have wedding details laid out for guests to avoid the bother of answering the same questions over and over.
*Include important links so guests can find the information they need on such things as local attractions, accommodations, and travel (particularly useful for destination weddings).

Cons:
*Compiling all of your guests' current email addresses can be a daunting task.
*Not everyone is online. Unless you know for a fact that you can get your email invitation to everyone who should receive one, this is not a good option. You never want to offend family and friends when planning a wedding.
*Etiquette, etiquette, etiquette. If etiquette is particularly important to you or the people who will be receiving your invitations, this is not the right choice for you.

For those who are thinking the whole "virtual invitation" is too drastic a change I suggest a compromise. Many couples are finding that combining the modern with the traditional is the way to go until all their friends and family have caught on to the Internet. The couple's web address can be included in the traditional invitation so their guests can have two sources for wedding information. Also, written invitations can be sent with instructions to RSVP online thus saving the couple time and money for postage and reply cards (with just a slight bend in tradition).

In the end, whether it's traditional, modern or modern-traditional, what matters most is that the bride and groom have the wedding they desire. The best advice I can give is don't worry too much about tradition and etiquette; rather, spend the time planning the wedding of your dreams and maybe make some traditions of your own along the way.

copyright 2003 Tamara Baker and Celebrate Our Lives Wedding Websites

Tamara Baker is the owner of and website designer at Celebrate Our Lives Wedding Websites. She has been hand designing couples' wedding websites since 2002.

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