Congratulations, you’re getting married! Your head is about to swirl with a million decisions trivial and (seemingly) existential. Having made it to the other side, I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t lose sleep over any of them — except what you pick for the scotch bar. That will literally make or break your special day, so get some good Japanese stuff.
As you’re putting the details together, you’re probably going to look into The Knot or Squarespace so that you can set up a website where people can find information. This is a great idea! But as you put it together, you’re going to be faced with a lot of choices about what information people need, and how to present it. Your users here are your friends and family, and you’ll have to think about things from their perspective if you want to create something truly useful.
After having gone through a number of iterations on sashacharlie.com, below are some of my tips on how to create a great wedding website, no matter what tools you’re using.
Save Your Story for the Wedding
This whole wedding is about the two of you, so shouldn’t your website be the same? Nope. Your website is for your guests, and they are looking for all the information they need to participate in the event. This is the guiding principle behind everything you’re doing here, so keep it front and center as you make decisions.
You are going to be tempted, and some well-meaning family members may try to tempt you as well, to spend some time telling “your story” or giving biographies of your wedding party or things like that. Avoid this temptation. Your guests are invited because they already know you, or they know your parents, and they will already know the basics of your relationship. Your wedding day is going to be all about the two of you, that’s the occasion for your guests to get a rich and beautiful picture of your relationship, and all the other relationships that are important to you.
Your wedding website shouldn’t try to mirror that experience. Your website’s job is to make it easier for your guests to participate in that experience. So skip all the adorable text that talks about you and instead stick to real, actionable information.
Through your website, you’re still going to be able to communicate who you guys are and what guest should expect at the event, but in subtler ways—with the fonts and colors you use, the photos you’ve picked, your choice of venue, etc.
Use As Few Pages As You Can
You are also going to be tempted to make maximal use of all the gorgeous engagement photos you had taken and make … a splash page. Don’t do it! Yes, you guys look adorable posing with your pug in the park in your matching sweater vests, but don’t make that the only thing users can see when they land on your site.
Definitely make good use of your best photos, but remember that your users aren’t here for photos, they’re here for information, so give it to them in the simplest form possible, with the least amount of effort necessary. Do you really need separate pages for the venue, the hotels and your registry? Unless you need to provide extensive information on each, probably not. Consider building your site as a single scrollable page, if your tools will allow it. If you have a lot of sections, consider adding navigation that scrolls to each section of the page, rather than creating new pages.
Lest you think that users would prefer to click over scroll, here’s scroll depth data from our website from 134 sessions during the 3 months leading up to our wedding. You’ll notice that not all users scroll down the page, but the drop-off is not very dramatic. (btw I used this fantastic Google Analytics plugin to track scroll depth)
Get the Word Out
Even if you’ve built the easiest, most streamlined wedding website ever made, your job is not done. I promise you, people will still be confused about basic details about your event, and questions will start filtering down to you from loved ones up until the last moment. Here are a few important tactics you can use to market this beautiful font of info you’ve just created:
- Buy the simplest domain you can come up with, and don’t a year into it. If you can get some combination of your names together (e.g., sashacharlie.com) that is ideal, because you can tell people it and they’ll have a decent chance of remembering, cause it’s just your names put together!
- In your save the dates and invites, do not bury the website address at the bottom somewhere—put it up high. People are going to lose those things (even if they’re paperless post), and (to the point above) if you can get them to see your website once and it has a memorable URL, you’ll be in better shape.
- In the months leading up to the event, when you’re meeting friends and family, mention the website and even show it off if you’re really proud of it. I know, it sounds lame, but it works, because a lot of people think wedding websites are useless or frustrating, and if you can sell it a little bit, your guests will come back and find the info they need themselves later.
Odds and Ends
- I was really on the fence about whether to include a “things to do in town” section on our site. The wedding is in LA, not some small town, but it was centered on downtown LA, where not a lot of Angelenos even go, so there was a decent argument for a page like this. Ultimately, I built the “things to do” page, and in the end, about 14% of the visits during the final 3 months included a pageview for it. So I’d recommend skipping it if I were you. Most users aren’t going to have a lot of time to do sightseeing during your wedding weekend, and will probably hit up one or two convenient spots, for which they’ll probably just, you know, use Yelp.
- If you’re like me and will be pouring through your Google Analytics data, beware that bots will find your site (my guess is they’re trolling domain registration records), and GA does a terrible job of filtering out bot traffic. So you’re going to have so much noise in your data as to make it nearly useless. If you want to fix this, just look in your referrals, and the bots will all be helpfully identified for you. Then make a segment that excludes all traffic from those domains. For my site, 60% of all my visits turned out to be bots!
- Optimize your images. You’re going to have a lot of great photography, but you don’t need to show a 3,000px wide image on mobile phones. I use picturefill.js for responsive images and love it.
- I added links on our website that would add the ceremony and brunch events to your calendar, but I didn’t do a great job with it. For one thing, they were just links for iCal, so users on Windows probably had trouble with them. There’s probably a better service that provides links that work for every calendar. Another complication is that guests living across the country are going to be confused about your wedding times in the calendar invite because the times in their calendars won’t match what you have on your website because of time zone differences. So in the event topic, mention the event time in the ceremony’s time zone (e.g., “Wedding Ceremony (3 pm PT)”), which will help clear up some confusion.
- For our registry, we had a pretty good experience with Zola, which lets you build a registry with things from any store on the web. The UI to get all your items in is a bit clunky, but it’s otherwise pretty good, and afterward it lets you export all your gifts into a spreadsheet to keep track of your thank you’s.
- Seriously, about the scotch bar. That was something I was enthused about but spent very little energy planning, and it was consistently the thing people were most excited about, so you should probably go for it.