By Chris Cobbs
The Orlando Sentinel
In a moment of pure exuberance, Christine Hines tossed her bouquet of roses toward a cluster of beaming bridesmaids.
Her aim, however, was just a little off. The flowers went straight up, then came down on her head. Momentarily startled but unhurt, she dropped to the floor as bridesmaids rushed in to grab for a rose.
That unscripted moment is the bride's to cherish in digital form on the couple's Web site, along with images of the ceremony, reception - and the honeymoon cruise to five Caribbean islands.
Her husband, Christopher, assembled an online site eight months before their June wedding with details about the ceremony, and he's still adding video and pictures to it.
"Everybody seems to love the site," he says. "There've been lots of calls and e-mails thanking us for taking the time" to post all the photos and video.
The old-fashioned photo album is still a fixture for newlyweds, but as the Hines site demonstrates, putting your wedding on the Web has become a new tradition.
Wedding planners are referring couples not only to photographers and videographers but also to Web-site designers.
Many couples are posting every step of their nuptials, from the moment they become engaged to the day they return from their honeymoon.
Driving the trend is the arrival of professional-quality digital camera equipment for both still and moving pictures that is supplanting film and videotape.
The new digital equipment is ideal for transferring images to the Internet, making it possible for friends and family who can't attend the wedding to view pictures online from anywhere in the world.
The Hineses' site, still a work in progress two months after wedding, offers a loving remembrance of their engagement and betrothal. From the home page image of the bride and groom kissing to pictures of couples dancing and celebrating at the reception, the site captures the emotions of the biggest day of their lives.
The development of wedding Web sites was inevitable. Everybody's online anyway doing research, experts say, using the Web for everything from gown buying to making hotel reservations for out-of-town guests.
"About 88 percent of my clients are using the Internet for research, like shopping for gowns and invitations," says Susan Southerland, owner of Just Marry!, a Winter Park, Fla., wedding planning agency.
And couples are embracing digital photography en masse.
"Brides love it, because they have their proofs on a CD or online," Southerland says. "And it's a lot easier to fix things like closed eyes and make other photo corrections."
Before the wedding, couples post biographical details, wedding invitations, directions to the church, photos of brides' and bridesmaids' dresses - even locations where out-of-town guests can arrange for hair and makeup appointments.
"We had maps and directions, hotel listings with prices, gift registration links, and our out-of-state guests thought it was very helpful," says Christine Hines, whose goal was an elegant, yet simple site.
After the wedding, the Web sites feature movies of the wedding and reception captured by videographers using digital cameras.
Professionally made movies capture the sounds and intimate moments in a way that still images don't. The movies can be viewed online, and couples also may opt for a keepsake DVD of their big day.
Digital weddings are the way to go.
"If you're not doing it this way, you're out of the loop," says Winter Park wedding planner Heather Snively.
"A Web site is one of the first things we plan. It may go up a year before the wedding and include information on hotels, dates, plane flights, hotel rooms, golf tournaments, the rehearsal dinner, bridesmaid luncheons and the wedding week itinerary."
Snively, whose weddings typically range from 100 to 300 guests, says the move to digital pictures and Web sites is almost purely client-driven: "They just demand it."
Like other wedding planners, Snively contracts with photographers and videographers to offer couples a range of services.
Digital photographers may charge anywhere from $1,000 to $8,000, while videographers command $1,500 to $10,000, depending on the sophistication of the final product.
For instance, couples can order up a snazzy 90-minute movie with musical accompaniment and cinematic effects, such as a close-up of the newlyweds as the camera slowly pulls back to reveal them dancing cheek to cheek.
Some photographers display photos of couples' weddings on their own sites. In addition, Snively and other wedding planners hook up couples to professional wedding-planning Web sites - unless the bride and groom to be choose to design their own.
One of Snively's clients discovered the convenience of the Web in the course of choosing her gown.
The mother of Winter Park bride-to-be Cordy Frieze was unable to accompany her daughter to a wedding-gown fitting.
No problem. Digital photos were taken and e-mailed to her mom, also named Cordy, who lives in Dallas.
"She was thrilled," says Frieze, 24, an accountant who will be married Nov. 23 to attorney Jeff Bankowitz. "It really meant a lot to her. And now she's online nearly all day, researching gifts and music and other details."
Another bride-to-be, Anna Hoffman of Altamonte Springs, Fla., has teamed with her mother to become an expert in all things digital leading up to her Aug. 30 wedding.
The bride's mother, Gina, interviewed 10 digital photographers before deciding there were enough advantages to the new technology to bypass traditional film.
"I have a $300 digital camera, but I'm not so impressed with the pictures, so I wanted to see what the pros had," Gina says.
The pros wowed them with the quality of their digital prints.
"And we also thought it would be a good anxiety reliever," Gina says, "since the photographer can touch up facial blemishes or the color of teeth."
The ceremony will be captured by a professional digital photographer, Jose Badillo, and two amateur videographers, Phil Robertson and Geoff Gaudoin.
Badillo will produce a traditional album of printed photographs and also display his digital photos online at his personal Web site.
Anna, 20, says she and fiancee Ryan Rouse already like the nostalgia value of their Web site.
"People will be able to go online and reminisce about what a cool wedding it was."
The couple's Web site is being developed by Robertson, a computer consultant who will use a variety of
Macintosh-based computer and software tools to produce the site.
Robertson, who received kudos four years ago for his informal pictures at the wedding of Anna Hoffman's older sister, will use an Olympus digital camera to take still photos while his colleague, Gaudoin, shoots the video.
"We'll use Mac software to produce an (online) album of informal pictures from the rehearsal dinner, wedding and reception," Robertson says. "I hope to have the album ready for the newlyweds when they return from their honeymoon. We will also produce a digital movie of their experiences."
Another proponent of the digital format for wedding pictures is Winter Park photographer John Unrue, who says couples have become much more comfortable with the technology in the past year.
A set of impressive digital prints "blows away" clients who may be undecided about traditional film, he says. What's more, couples can see a digital slideshow of up to 500 images while attending their reception, just an hour or so after the wedding.
Unrue employs a "photojournalism" style of shooting pictures.
"We create a celebration," he says. "We don't sit there and stop people from what they're doing or seeing. People are more relaxed if they're not posing. You get more natural looking pictures."
Great-looking pictures - without the worry. That argument for digital photography comes from a woman who's worked on thousands of weddings.
Rebecca Grinnals, formerly affiliated with Walt Disney World, is intimately familiar with the technological changes sweeping the matrimonial field.
"Brides have more faith than they did in the old days about technology," she says. "Once you had to worry about the film getting wet or exposed to the sun. Now you have backup images stored on digital cards and discs. It's almost fail-safe."
When she was married just four years ago, Grinnals says, digital photography and wedding Web sites were in their infancy. Now they're as much a tradition as the wedding gown and multitiered cake.
Like other experts, Grinnals advises couples not to cut corners in budgeting for their wedding photography.
"At the end of the day, all you have left are memories and pictures," she says.
"The wedding gown is stored, the rental tuxedo is returned. There are no more flowers. But what you do have are your photos and your videos, which you will have to take you through life. And they will be there for generations to come."
© 2002, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.