Web Changes Wedding Plans

Wednesday, September 20th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) — Never underestimate the power of a keyboard-toting bride like Shawna Snukst — able to answer a groomsman's question about tuxedos in seconds flat from her home office.

``Does the collar matter?'' the groomsman asks via ``instant message,'' a real-time mode of chat via the Internet.

Snukst fires off a quick typed response: ``On the coat? No.'' She follows that with a tuxedo Web site address and sends him on his way.

``I don't know how people lived without the Internet before,'' Snukst says, just days before her wedding in Chicago.

Granted, Snukst is no online novice. She's managing director of Round Table Ventures, a company that researches the viability of online companies. But she's far from the only bride-to-be who's taken to surfing the Web in search of merchandise and information.

Analysts say it's increasingly common for couples, especially women, to use the Internet to do any number of things: book ministers, register for gifts, check out honeymoon spots and even post directions to the church.

A joint study by the Boston Consulting Group and Shop.org, a coalition of online retailers, predicts that sales in the ``flowers, cards and gifts'' category — a huge chunk of which belongs to the wedding industry — will double this year to $1.3 billion in the United States and Canada, compared to $750 million last year. That's better than the 85 percent growth rate anticipated overall for retail sales on the Internet.

Gift registries are proving to be particularly lucrative.

``You can have a single registry that spans multiple retailers and that spans several countries,'' says James Vogtle, e-commerce research director for Boston Consulting Group. ``That is the best fit of a consumer need and what the Internet is good at.''

To that end, an increasing number of wedding-specific online retailers are courting couples. Among the more popular sites are weddingchannel.com, theknot.com, weddingnetwork.com, theweddinglist.com and ultimatewedding.com.

Destinations — justmauied.com in Hawaii, for example — are also getting into the act.

And so is the U.S. government. Couples can add mortgage payments to their registry lists through lenders found at hud.gov, the Internet address for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Ed Cooper, a public relations executive from of Potomac, Md., decided not to use an online registry to buy a wedding gift for his best friend's wedding in July. But he did use the couple's Web page to help him make hotel and plane reservations in the Denver area and e-mail to help plan a pre-wedding golf outing for the groom.

And little more than a week afterward, guests were able to see photos from the wedding posted online — a punctuating feat that causes Cooper to call his friends the ``most daring, wedding-wise'' couple he knows.

``I was truly amazed,'' he says.

Beyond specialized sites, there are other ways the Internet is proving useful.

Snukst used an Internet service to track down her best friend from high school for the guest list. She also bought a veil that would have cost $1,500 at a retail store from a woman who makes them at home and sells them on the online auction site eBay.

Another couple, who met at a dog park in Richmond, Calif., used the online shopping service Respond.com to find someone to make a wedding cake topper with a bride, groom — and two labs.

Still, the Internet is not without its kinks or limitations.

Some wedding guests, for example, still aren't online. And several brides say they'd never buy something expensive or that requires a personal touch — wedding dresses and rings, for example — online.

``It's something that's going to be on your finger for the rest of your life, so I wanted to touch it,'' Snukst says of her engagement ring.

Likewise, while New Yorker Kierstin De West found her minister on the Chamber of Commerce Web site for Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, where her parents live, she sealed the deal on the phone.

``I wouldn't have just wanted that to be an e-mail conversation, even though I e-mail seven days a week,'' says De West, director of brand development for About.com, an Internet information site.

``I think there's a line,'' she says. ``And I don't think the Internet will ever totally replace an event that has so much emotion involved.''

But even the magic of the Internet may not be enough to get some grooms more involved in planning their weddings. That includes Hal Stucker, a New York-based writer who has covered high-tech issues but admits he even sat back while his fiancee wrote the copy for their Web site.

``I can hear it now,'' Stucker says, defending his lack of participation. '``You ordered two dozen bird-of-paradise flower arrangements for the church? But the bridesmaids' gowns are SEAFOAM! It will never work!'''


On the Net:

Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants: http://www.acpwc.com/