From viral video proposals to Pinterest inspiration boards, technology helps savvy millennials plan the hashtag weddings of their dreams.
Now that millennials—the generation that hardly remembers a time before the internet and smartphones—are planning weddings, it’s no surprise that technology is influencing new traditions.
It used to be that a bride would spend months flipping through magazines and visiting wedding stores to get inspired for her big day. Today, social media and digital tools make it easier than ever for couples to plan, share and document their big day.
“It’s not about who spends the most: You get points for innovation, filmmaking, storytelling and artistic interpretation,” said Carolyn Gerin, co-founder of the WedTech Summit, an annual conference that showcases the latest in wedding technology. “And since everyone’s on camera 24-7, the experience had better be interesting.”
While the methods have changed, the goal remains: to create a truly memorable event that expresses the couple’s personalities… and shares well on Instagram.
Collaboration is Key
When Florence Ion, a San Francisco-based tech journalist, began planning her upcoming wedding, she created a budget spreadsheet using a template she found online and shared it with her fiancé via Google Docs.
“My friends and family all have Google accounts, too, so it’s made it easy to collaborate with them—especially since we’re all living in different parts of the country,” Ion said.
Collaboration is essential among the generation that doesn’t order lunch without crowd-sourcing it on Yelp. Comprehensive planning sites such as local vendor network WeddingWire and social marketplace Wedspire integrate social sharing so everything – from setting a budget to monitoring guest headcount and hiring the band – is easier.
Other engaged couples and the couple’s family and friends can use Pinterest-like boards to discuss and make group decisions.
Many couples today take a project-management approach to planning a wedding, using tools such as Evernote, Cozi or Google Docs to organize and track their to-do’s. For wedding planners, services like HoneyBook.com and AislePlanner.com allow users to create and share inspiration boards with clients, collaborate with vendors and facilitate payments.
Logistics made Simpler
Technology streamlines many of the labor-intensive tasks that are a given of modern weddings. Couples can send save-the-dates and monitor email open rates and RSVPs via sites like PaperlessPost and Greenvelope.
The Wedding Reality app even lets a bride virtually design and try on a dress, while FaceTime and Skype allow bridesmaids to shop together even if they live on opposite sides of the country.
What’s more, according to this year’s The Knot’s Real Weddings Study, a survey of more than 18,000 brides and grooms, 89 percent of couples are using their smartphones to plan their weddings.
Wedding planning and registry sites like The Knot, WeddingWire or Wedding Paper Divas make it easy (and free) for couples to create a basic site. More advanced features, such as personalized invitations and guest messaging, are available on paid sites such as AppyCouple, Wedding Woo or Glö.
“We’re hosting our wedding website on a co-op web server, and we built it with a responsive template that we purchased from ThemeForest,” Ion said. “I hear good things about Wix.com for making your own wedding website—they have mobile-friendly templates, too.”
Another mobile option is the personalized wedding app from WedPics, which pulls together all the important info—accommodations, wedding events, gift registry—in addition to providing guests a place to upload photos.
And for those elements where tradition still reigns, such as the importance of a handwritten thank-you note, tech can still help simplify the process. Bond makes quick work of sending “handwritten” thank-you notes by employing robots that can mimic a sample of a user’s handwriting.
Redoing the Registry
It’s no longer where a couple is registered but how. MyRegistry.com allows couples to register for anything for sale online by importing purchase pages from any e-commerce website. Zola has an iPhone app for adding gifts with the scan of a barcode, receiving alerts when something is purchased and facilitating requests for cash gifts as well.
Often millennials, many of whom already live with their soon-to-be spouse, don’t want things at all. They prefer cash gifts to use toward experiences rather than matching table linens.
Sites like HoneyFund.com and Envelope Registry help couples ask guests to invest in honeymoon trips or down payments on homes, while ThankfulRegistry.com and IDoFoundation facilitates donations to charity in a couple’s honor.
Creating a Public Record
Possibly the most important part of a wedding in 2016: its digital legacy. For today’s couples, it’s all about creating and curating photographic and video memories that endure.
By getting guests to use a unique photo hashtag (WeddingWire.com will even help generate one), couples have an automatic index of candid photos. Services like TweetWall Pro can instantly project posts onto a screen in the venue so guests can see their live posts at the wedding. Later, the happy couple can create a hard copy album of their favorite tagged shots with ChatBook.
To encourage her guests to act as photographers—which, as Ion points out, they’re going to do anyway—she plans to offer up a handful of selfie sticks for shared use.
“I’m going to build a little charging station for the guests and their smartphones, with the help of Monoprice and a few well-placed decorations,” Ion said. “It’ll include both Apple and Android-friendly cables, and even USB Type-C.”
Even photo booths are getting a digital upgrade with companies like Photomadic, which have kiosks that can instantly upload photos and animated GIFs images of guests to social media. For guests who can’t be there, Anybots allow an absentee get in on the action from afar. Essentially, users create an online avatar that gives them virtual access to the event using a speaker, camera and video screen.
Another video trend involves placing cameras in creative places for unexpected views of the event. Ion plans to hide an HTC Re action camera (similar to a GoPro) inside a bridesmaid’s bouquet, and later prop it on a Joby GorillaPod to take time-lapse images of the reception.
“You can set up the camera with a smartphone to see the field of view and ensure that it’s recording what you want,” she said. “The Re saves each snap as an individual photo, which helps produce some candid moments.”
According to Gerin, another tech trend is hiring a photographer to control a camera-carrying drone for aerial perspectives of the ceremony and reception. Sky Is the Limit Aerial Photography, REB6STUDIOS and Red Elephant Entertainment offer these services.
Ion, however, is saying no to drones. “I don’t know that I trust a flying apparatus with all that tulle in the crowd,” she said. ”That sounds like a fashion disaster waiting to happen.”