SOCIAL MEDIA, now a part of everyday life, has become unavoidable at weddings. As such, it's best to embrace the phenomenon and take advantage of what social media has to offer for the big day.
Five of the biggest social media websites (or apps) are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. Each offers different opportunities for making a wedding better before, during and after the event.
- Before the event, Pinterest has become the go-to social media site for planning a wedding. The photo-sharing pinboards allow users to put together ideas for collections including venue, food, honeymoon, bridal party, dress, jewelry, hair and makeup, etc. In addition to creating your own boards, you can follow other users' wedding boards to get ideas. Similarly, there are countless blogs hosted by the microblogging platform Tumblr that offer advice and ideas for planning a wedding, and the hugely popular website TheKnot.com.
Facebook has an option that allows users to create secret groups; the only people who can see them are those who are invited to join. This is a great option for keeping a bridal party in touch with each other without letting other Facebook friends know intimate details of the wedding. In addition to the typical engagement announcement, or even in lieu of, change a relationship status to engaged to let friends know. By making the announcement on Facebook, you're only telling people who are your friends. Then to keep the date in friends and family's minds, make an event on Facebook's calendar and invite the guests. In addition to reminding invitees when the date approaches, friends can offer well-wishes and congratulations on the page.
Social media sites often play host to company sweepstakes that offer prizes in exchange for essentially promoting their product. For example, last year David's Bridal held an "I Love It!" sweepstakes on Instagram. Participants were instructed to take a picture of their wedding planning inspiration and upload it on Instagram with the hashtag #FallingforDB. Four randomly selected grand prize winners were chosen to receive $1,000 in David's Bridal merchandise.
- During the event, Twitter can allow family and friends who are unable to attend the wedding, like deployed military members or those who are unable to travel, feel like they are privy to the party. Consider assigning certain members of the wedding party to update Twitter regularly, or ask guests to use a special hashtag so updates can easily be found.
For more accommodation, there's UStream, a video platform that allows for live streaming of a wedding or any other event. Or consider setting up Skype to display the room and make a call to an out-of-area guest to make them an honorary attendee.
For brides who want to buck tradition and give the groom a sneak peek of their wedding dress, use Snapchat. The app displays a photo or video only once before disappearing, leaving no evidence. Photos can even be set to only display for one second.
A trend that seems to be disappearing is the placement of disposable cameras on tables for guests to use. Now guests can use their own smartphones or digital cameras to chronicle every moment of the wedding, and share it. Like the Twitter stream, if you want to make the photos accessible, announce a hashtag that will be used for Instagram pictures, or a Photo Album name that can be used to organize pictures on Facebook. Guests will probably never capture the quality of the professional photographer, but they can catch candid and unique moments.
- After the event, the photos, videos, updates, tweets, blogs, well-wishes, and hashtags will all be available for the couple to review. They might see things they missed during the wedding, or be reminded of a special moment. Even couples who want to go off the grid for a honeymoon will still have the mementos of their day waiting when they get back.
One complaint about social media is the fear that guests and even members of the wedding party will be unable to put down their electronic devices and really enjoy the event. Like anything else in life, moderation is key. The fun is in capturing moments throughout the day that will be fun to look back on, while knowing when to let go and look at the surroundings without a lens. The key positive attribute is inclusion. Guests can feel like they've contributed, family and friends separated by distance can feel like they've attended, and the happy couple can see their big day through the eyes of the people who care about them. When used in an efficient manner, social media enhances all aspects of a wedding.