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Growing number of engaged couples putting wedding news online

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Updated: 10/17/2005 1:20 pm
By Candace Renalls
Knight Ridder Newspapers
(KRT)

In less than an hour, Angela Dahlberg told the world about her wedding plans.

She shared how she and Isaac Gran met and got engaged. She outlined the specifics for the April 13 ceremony at Hope Lutheran Church in Moose Lake, Minn. She even offered her 650 invited guests a look at the menu for the wedding dinner.

And it didn't cost her a cent.

The Moose Lake bride simply created a wedding Web page.

"With technology being the way it is and with it being free, it was hard to pass it up," she said of the page she created at http://www.theknot.com/ _ a wedding Web site.

The Grans are among a growing number of couples who get the word out about their weddings with a nuptial Web site or Web page. Some go to commercial Web sites that offer pages as a free service. Others design their own Web sites or hire professional designers.

As many as 25 percent of brides and grooms are creating Web sites or Web pages, up from 15 percent two years ago, estimates Karen West Levine, vice president of marketing at http://www.weddingchannel.com/ _ one of the Web sites that offers the service free to couples.

"It's a super popular feature," said Levine, who explained the trend started about five years ago but has taken off in the past few years. "It saves time, with information on the wedding, reception and hotels. And it saves a lot of postage."

Teresa Thompson, a bridal consultant in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, agrees with Levine's estimate of one-quarter of engaged couples turning to the Web.

"It's such a quick way to keep people informed of any changes, additions, and remind them about any dates," said Thompson, co-owner of Dream Wedding. "They can do it so quickly. It saves so much effort, calls and time getting something printed up. It takes more time to do the paper stuff."

Some couples add wedding pictures after the ceremony and eventually add baby pictures. "It's one way to get the news out," Thompson said.

The trend is age driven, said Gerard J. Monaghan, president of the Association of Bridal Consultants, an international organization of wedding planners based in New Milford, Conn.

The average age of a bride today is 24.6 years and 26.4 years for a groom, according to Monaghan. It's a generation that grew up with computers, he said.

"Brides and grooms are much more computer savvy," he said. "This is second nature for them to go to the Web. Many people have their own personal Web sites, and so this (trend) is just a natural extension."

Monaghan equated Web sites with newsletters that were used 10 to 15 years ago. "Now, in effect, you have the newsletter online," he said.

"As more and more people become more connected to the Internet, brides and grooms see efficiency in it," said Mary Olson, co-owner of Saratoga Weddings, wedding consultants with offices in the Twin Cities and Webster, Wis.

Commercial Web sites that offer wedding information and services_such as http://www.theknot.com/ http://www.weddingchannel.com/ and http://www.weddingdetails.com/ _ also offer couples a way to build their own Web page by following a series of steps.

Web sites offer the free service to draw couples to their sites, explained Michael Connors, president of the company that operates http://www.weddingdetails.com/

"We have thousands of advertisers on the site," he said. "Certain things we give away to keep the bride coming back."

The Web page can simply list the couple's names, wedding date and location along with directions to the site. Or it can be more elaborate, including personal information, such as the couple's love story. With a scanner or digital camera, couples can include photos.

"They walk you through it and it's very easy," Angela Gran said.

Like many brides, Gran got the idea from a friend who had a Web page. She was impressed by how well it kept people informed.

"You could put as much or as little as you want," Gran said. "I could have put more details on it. But I kept it simple and wanted to personalize our wedding story in a way you wouldn't get in a program or invitation."

Once the Web page is set up, friends and guests can visit it through the host Web site. They also can visit a guest book and leave a message.

"It was fun to look at it every day, update it every day and see who visited it," Gran said of the site.

With guests coming from Idaho, New Jersey and Northern Canada, Gran said the Web page was a way to keep them informed. Out-of-town guests and those in the couple's age bracket were the page's big users, she said.

"Everybody thought it was a neat idea," she said.

The wedding sites don't typically replace printed invitations or eliminate the need to inform people _ especially seniors _ in more traditional ways.

"Not everybody has computer access, so if you're trying to universally get information to everyone, it's probably not the best way to go," Gran said.

Some couples, like Jean Sramek and John Bankson of Duluth, Minn., set up their own nuptial Web site.

To go along with their off-beat wedding two years ago (the bride wore cowboy boots and Homer and Marge Simpson figurines topped their chocolate wedding cake), Sramek and Bankson had an irreverent Web site.

"I had seen a couple of Web sites," said Sramek, who calls herself "the anti-bride." "It was kind of a whim. I just thought it might be fun."

Wedding invitations directed their 150 guests to the Web site for more information, including a list of causes they wished guests to contribute money to in lieu of gifts, such as Loaves & Fishes and The Nature Conservancy.

"We had some basic, need-to-know information, combined with a little bit of irreverence," she said. "I had a lot of fun with wedding cliches I find particularly odious."

A tongue-in-cheek opening page featured a classic nuptial script in bright pink, saying "Our Wedding Page." There was a picture of an elaborate Martha Stewart cake they wouldn't be serving. And there were pictures Sramek and her girlfriends had collected of particularly ugly bridesmaid dresses.

"We found this very entertaining, because none of us would ever be caught dead in them," Sramek said.

All in all, her friends thought the site was funny and entertaining.

"Anyone with a computer with a modem is probably hip enough not to be offended by irreverent wedding listings," Sramek said. "For the rest, it wasn't an issue."

(c) 2002, Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minn.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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