They Fell in Love. They Got Engaged. And When They Went Online to Plan Their Wedding, Everything Just Clicked
By Jura Koncius
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 17, 2001; Page H01
The twin Dell laptops sitting on the coffee table in Aleesa Parde and David Rizzi's Fairfax town house are wired into the world of wedding planning. Just over a week to go before the Big Day, and they're zipping between sites featuring engraving for groomsmen's gifts, bachelorette party goodies and Martha Stewart reception ideas. They're figuring out how to send family and friends digital photos from their honeymoon in Australia. And Parde's Hotmail account has just e-mailed her that a new entry has been posted in the Guestbook they created for messages on their personal wedding Web site.
Parde and Rizzi, both information technology consultants at American Management Systems in Fairfax, are in the vanguard of a new cyber-savvy culture that is changing the usually sedate world of weddings. They are among the millions of couples who are using the Internet to make wedding planning easier, more organized and more accessible to everyone, from the mother of the bride in Arlington to childhood friends in Sweden.
"What do you expect when two geeks get engaged?" says Parde, 23, who will put on her Swarovski crystal tiara and ivory beaded gown to walk down the aisle with Rizzi, 25, at Charlottesville's University of Virginia Chapel.
The May 27 ceremony will be traditional; getting there was anything but. During the months of planning, Parde could scroll through the wedding RSVP list (195 guests and holding) while Rizzi surfed the Net brushing up on Swedish wedding customs (he grew up outside of Stockholm). She e-mailed photographs of the periwinkle satin and chiffon dresses to her five bridesmaids. He investigated the best beaches along the Great Barrier Reef and looked into vineyards in the Hunter Valley wine country for the Down Under honeymoon they booked on Travelonline.com. Together they researched photographers, DJs and limousine rental services online.
All this technology is revolutionizing the business of weddings, which according to a new study by Modern Bride magazine and Roper Starch amounts to $100 billion in spending on goods and services each year. Hundreds of Web sites have sprung up targeting couples who are often about to spend thousands of dollars on flowers, printing, clothing, cakes and hotels.
According to Modern Bride, more than 89 percent of engaged couples today have access to the Internet. And about half of the 2.38 million American couples who marryeach year have actually purchased products or services for their wedding and honeymoon online.
"Brides are getting savvier about the Internet each day," says Jennifer Cegielski, content director for Theknot.com, one of the most popular Internet bridal Web sites. "They are talking to and getting feedback from other brides in community bulletin boards online. They can share information with the bridal party and e-mail them or they can look at more than 20,000 gowns. It's amazing."
Carolyn Everson, president and CEO of Modernbride.com, a wedding planning resource, says personal Web pages for making wedding arrangements and keeping friends and family informed are increasingly common among newly engaged couples. She estimates that 10 percent to 15 percent of couples today set up their own sites, and she expects that to increase to 50 percent in the next few years.
"Personal Web pages have become a fairly significant part of the planning process," says Everson. "It's a way to communicate all the details of the wedding to the guests."
For systems experts Parde and Rizzi, it was only natural that they would turn to their computers for help soon after the engagement ring was on her finger.
© 2001 The Washington Post Company