Prefer laptops to lace? One geek's guide to a simpler wedding

With an impending wedding, Crave writer and budget-minded geek Amanda Kooser is putting technology to work planning for the big day.

Weebly wedding website
A wedding website answers a lot of questions for guests. Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

I'm not having a traditional wedding, so why should I use traditional methods of wedding planning? This thought crossed my mind early in the planning process, not long after saying yes to a proposal that took place in the shadow of a giant blue whale.

I had to face up to the facts. I'm not the kind of woman who was going to spend hours poring over stationery options for invitations or vetting DJs. I am, however, the kind of geek who is going to pore over techie ways to handle wedding tasks. Here's what I found.

Wedding site for the win

My upcoming nuptials are happening in mid-June in a dojo with a mashup of Route 66, Aikido, Buddhist, potluck dinner, and Okinawan dancing themes. That means we have a lot of explaining to do for our guests. To pull this off, we jumped on a very trendy bandwagon and built a wedding website.

Couples have readily embraced the wedding site as a way to answer all those inevitable questions about lodging, apparel, and the like in an easy-to-access forum. I used Weebly, a website hosting service, for our site. I already have a pro plan, so setting up the site cost me nothing extra over what I was already paying. Now all our guests have to do is visit the proper pages to get hotel recommendations, find activities around town, and learn that shoes and hats aren't worn in the dojo.

Saving the date, Vistaprint-style

Oh, Vistaprint, I both love and hate you. I love your low prices, quick turnaround times, and flexibility for designing my own stuff. I hate your endless streams of add-on come-ons during the checkout process. But I'm willing to forgive you in exchange for being able to spend just 10 bucks on our save-the-date cards. We just printed off a box of business cards with the date and general wedding information and handed them out. So very easy.

As I start to face the reality of designing and printing programs for the ceremony and party, I find myself drawn back to Vistaprint, coupons in hand. It's down to either Vistaprint or asking an artist friend to draw up the program for the evening on a chalkboard. This one is still undecided.

I did fall victim to the temptation to make a Vistaprint yard sign, just for the heck of it. It has a picture of us, the infamous Blue Whale, and our names, providing an unmistakable marker to let people know they've arrived at the right place. Total cost for that was just $5.99 as part of an order of business cards.

Invitations for modern times

Back to the stationery. The thought of tracking down mailing addresses, filling out envelopes, and (horror of horrors) choosing stationery pretty much gave me the night terrors. Wouldn't it just be easier to email the invites?I thought to myself. Turns out, I wasn't the first person to consider the email route, an approach that would probably make Miss Manners blush.

Paperless Post card
The Paperless Post wedding invite has an animated card. Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

There are several services that will handle email invitations for you. I settled on Paperless Post, a hybrid service that allows you to send e-mail cards and order matching physical cards if you still have a few email-less holdouts on the guest list.

What elevates Paperless Post above just blind-cc-ing everybody is that it's actually very classy. The attendees receive a link to a card that pops out of an envelope. It has a pretty design and an RSVP system built in. You can track it all with an iPad app to see who has opened the cards, who has RSVPed, and who sends their regrets. Total cost: $16 to send 57 invites.

We handle almost every other aspect of our lives over email, so it made sense to do the wedding invitations the same way. We've had no complaints, at least not to our virtual faces. We've even gotten quite a few compliments.

DIY DJ

The wedding has to have music, but I can't see cramming a DJ into the dojo. We already know what kind of music we like. I would have to come up with a playlist anyway, so I'm just going to bring in a set of speakers, a laptop loaded with music, and this awesome, tiny, cheap Lepai amplifier that I picked up based on CNET's recommendation. Cue it up and we'll have The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and the Handsome Family playing all night long.

As much as I would like to have a Tardis photo booth, a USS Enterprise-shaped cake, and Edward James Olmos performing the ceremony in his "Battlestar Galactica" costume, I've made concessions to cost, my fiance's tastes, and reality. I'm pouring all my geeky tendencies into conquering the basic challenges of planning a wedding and it's paying off with smooth ride to the big day.

 

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