Subject: You are invited to a wedding – Is the paper-free invitation delightful or déclassé?
“You had the perfect second-marriage wedding,” an old friend exclaimed a week after the event. “And I don’t mean that as a left-handed compliment.”
We weren’t insulted. We paid for the ceremony and reception ourselves, and during our six-month engagement, a frequent topic of conversation was how to throw an elegant wedding without a gauche pricetag. One area in which we cut corners was the invitation. Initially we had planned to go traditional with this element: letterpress on a cream-colored linen stock, etc. People born before Prohibition were being invited; we didn’t want to alienate them. But the friend who was designing our “contemporary-elegant” cards procrastinated long enough to push us into the waiting arms of Evite.com.
I don’t recall the particulars of the conversation in which we rationalized using e-mail to invite our loved ones to one of the most important events of our lives, except that we drew a shaky parallel between our recently discovered passion for video art and evites: Didn’t it make our wedding cutting edge?
It was embarrassingly easy to send our wedding invitations through Evite: 30 minutes to select a cream-colored background with clinking champagne glasses, type in the text, and compile e-mail addresses (if we were more organized we could have just imported them from our address books). Like many converts, we engaged with fervor. Evites to the pre-wedding family cocktail hour and the morning-after brunch soon followed. Ditto the bachelorette party. RSVPs were automatically tracked for us on our evite home page. Cost: $0.
Not surprisingly, given the price and convenience, evites are becoming more popular for wedding events. In May 2005, newlyweds and guests planned almost 10,000 “wedding-themed” events through Evite.com, sending more than a quarter-million invitations to virtual in-boxes.
“Over the last year we’ve seen over 20 percent growth for wedding-related events,” says Jessica Landy, Evite.com’s director of product development. While most of those events were ancillary parties and brunches, features such as the on-line Target gift registry, which can be linked to the electronic invitation, are driving more ceremony invitations.
Landy adds that Evite’s content development has been driven by customer requests for planning advice. The company is re-launching its site later this month to include more than 50 pages of “value-added” content, including party-theme ideas, wine and food pairings, and sample menus created in conjunction with Epicurious.com. Evite is also developing more on-line tools, such as budget calculators, and is negotiating with a popular photo-publishing website to provide more options for photos from Evite events, such as personalized albums. Our marriage wasn’t a week old before my sister e-mailed to say that we could view her photos of the wedding on snapfish.com. We’re still waiting to hear from the official photographer.
In the near future, Evite plans to offer the ability to print matching name cards and menus, too. Cost to user: $0. The site’s revenue comes from ad sales and marketing partnerships such as the Target gift registry. Presenting your wedding, brought to your 500 closest friends by Williams-Sonoma. I just wish they offered a link to buy company stock in the gift registry.
You still can’t get your wedding gown through Evite, but as the site develops the capability to go from bridal shower to Kodak moment with the click of a mouse, how much of the $125 billion industry — the amount the Fairchild Bridal Group, which publishes Bride’s, Elegant Bride, and Modern Bride magazines, estimated would be spent on American weddings in 2005 — will switch suitors? Fairchild’s magazines also have websites that offer advice (“How should I dress my overweight bridesmaid?”), planning tools, links to local businesses, and message boards, but even Modern still feels old school: Stepmothers should avoid wearing the same color as the mothers or revealing clothes, the site suggests, to avoid giving the appearance that they’re trying to upstage anyone. It’s nice to know that former Dynasty scriptwriters have a job.
Landy says Evite doesn’t threaten the old wedding warhorses: “I think that a lot of the bridal magazines really focus on the wedding itself; we think that by focusing on the wedding as a whole,we’re not really competing.” Maybe, but it’s interesting to note that Modern Bride and Bride’s lost advertising revenue in 2005. Fairchild is implementing partial or total makeovers in each of its bridal magazines, and according to HFN magazine, plans to add new special-interest titles for receptions, honeymoons, and destination weddings this year.
Evite.com’s demographic, which used to be anchored by 24-35-year-old, tech-savvy, higher-income women, now encompasses 25-45-year-olds — some of whom don’t know a click mouse from an “Eek! Mouse!” — at a time when men and women are marrying later in life than they did a generation ago. Like so much else in our consumer society, whether a bride chooses traditional stationery or selects one of Evite.com’s numerous designs may come down to consumer identification. Maybe Evite appeals to brides who never considered picking up a magazine dominated by satin and tulle. Fairchild has brand recognition and an established history, but Evite.com is owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp, owner of the Home Shopping Network and Ticketmaster, brand names that are as familiar as old slippers to the internet generation.
And as more couples pay for their own weddings (another notable trend) they may find themselves less inclined to spend a little extra to meet the prior generation’s expectations — at least in some areas. In San Antonio, snail-mail invitations can still be purchased from local stationers such as Nancy Harkins on Broadway, where the encroachment of e-mail has been felt where formality is not required. “I think the wedding business is still going strong,” says Nancy’s daughter, Dee. “It’s the everyday invitations and letter-writing that have hurt us.” But, she says, “People come in and say, ‘There’s nothing like getting a handwritten note.’” Which is why we’re not waiting for Evite.com to add the upcoming “thank-you note” function. We’ll be doing those by hand. •
By Elaine Wolff