When I got married -- during the Internet Dark Ages -- the wedding was pretty tech-savvy, for the times. We had a real, working web page and we even passed out disposable cameras at the reception, to get guests' candid shots.
If you can believe it, we also called our friends and family, one by one, to spread the news that we were engaged.
On the telephone.
Times have... changed.
Today, having a wedding website isn't even par for the course. A single wedding may boast a shared Twitter handle, a Facebook event page, an array of Pinterest boards and a wedding dress Tumblr documenting the search for the perfect gown. And, on the wedding day itself, guests may expect to tweet the DJ song requests and check in to the wedding's Foursquare location.
More and more couples are realizing that their wedding actually starts the moment they change their Facebook status to "engaged." Creative couples are using social media channels to keep their guests involved and entertained, from the first engagement ring snapshot to the bouquet toss.
There are dozens ways to use the power of the crowd to make your wedding planning easier --and more fun for everyone. Best of all, most of them are free or low-cost, making them perfect for getting the most out of tight budgets.
* Make Pinterest do the work.
I know a bride who used Pinterest to make bridesmaid dress-shopping dead simple: she pinned her ten favorites to a private board, invited her bridal party, and let them have at it. The most-repinned dress won -- and the bridesmaids could purchase right from the pin. She bypassed three months' worth of dressing-room drama in a few days, with no tears.
* Crowd-source everything you can.
One couple with a particularly Internet-savvy group of friends chose a personalized Twitter hashtag. Leading up to the event, it was a fun way to corral wedding conversation and meet fellow guests. The day of the event, Twitter became an unofficial wedding help desk! Guests tweeted the hashtag to ask the group for help with wedding-day problems, from missing cufflinks to last-minute rides -- and didn't have to bother the bride and groom at all.
* Keep older relatives involved.
Does your grandmother have a computer, but find Facebook a bit much? There are lots of creative ways to keep her in the social media loop. When you post photos to Instagram, Flickr, and Facebook, private social network Familiar shares them directly with the people you choose to invite. You can even send a candid shot of you trying on the dress of your dreams right to mom's desktop or smartphone wallpaper. (Hope she has a tissue handy.)
For relatives who are comfortable online -- but not comfortable enough to sign up for Facebook -- RebelMouse pulls together all your public social media posts on a single, easy-to-navigate site. It can automatically publish updates from the most popular social networks, along with newer ones like Vine and SoundCloud. It's such an easy introduction to social sharing that, soon enough, you may start getting tweets from Grandma.
* Instagram your reception.
Print each place card with a special Instagram hashtag. Instead of the usual reception slideshow or video, use the free site Hashtagram to project the photos guests are posting to Instagram -- as soon as they're posted. Show your guests where the reception fun is happening in real time, and keep the party going!
* Set ground rules.
Privacy is, of course, always a concern on the Internet. After all, one 30-second YouTube video, gone viral, can overshadow a year of careful planning. The beauty of planning your social media footprint ahead of time is that you're in control: you can decide how much -- or how little -- to share.
It's best to be up-front about any privacy concerns. Communicate your preferences early and often, so you're not enforcing rules at the altar. If you'd prefer not to see your first dance on YouTube later, tell your guests now.
If, however, you can't wait to see your choreographed reception dance on YouTube... point your guests to your YouTube channel!