04/02/2012 11:59 am ET Updated May 30, 2012

How To Use Pinterest To Plan A Wedding

At her bridal shower, an old friend relayed to me an exchange she'd had with one of her wedding vendors, who asked what her theme was. Her response: "Um, blue?"

Planning a wedding these days seems to be all about defining an aesthetic. Everyone from the florist to the pastry chef wants to know: Are you traditional or contemporary? Urban or rustic? Over-the-top or minimalist? The event is seen as a public expression of a couple's unique tastes and personalities.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Pinterest, the fastest-growing social media site these days, has found such a following among brides-to-be (although not many grooms, it seems -- more than two-thirds of Pinterest users are women). The site gives users a place to collect digital images but also to cultivate a particular image of themselves. "Pinterest is an online representation of how we want to be perceived," social media consultant Helen Todd of Sociality Squared said during a presentation at Social Media Week in New York last month.

Even if you (like my friend) don't buy into all this, Pinterest can help you communicate to others -- and clarify for yourself -- what you want your day to look like. Instead of tearing pages out of magazines or bookmarking entire web pages, you can organize inspiring images on virtual pinboards.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of Pinterest.

Start early. Plenty of pinners who aren't engaged or in relationships have boards with titles like "My Future Wedding" and "Just Add Groom." While there's no need to go that far, Pinterest is perhaps most useful for initial brainstorming. Even without signing up, you can browse the Wedding & Events category or search for wedding-related pins. Peruse Cheapism's Wedding on a Shoestring board to seek out affordable ideas.

Joining Pinterest (by requesting an invitation) lets you "repin" images you like to a board of your own and follow people who seem to share your taste. If you come across a cheap wedding gown or DIY centerpiece elsewhere on the web, you can add it to a board by clicking a "Pin It" button on your browser's toolbar or by going to Pinterest and pasting in a URL. On some sites you may see a Pin It button, similar to Facebook's Like button, right on the page.

Solicit opinions. Invite members of your wedding party to sign up as well, so they can comment on your pins. This is one way to find out what bridesmaids think of different dresses or shoes. Follow them and mention their usernames, along with the @ symbol (as you would on Twitter), in a description or comment to flag a pin you specifically want them to see. You can also let them pin images to a wedding board directly by adding them as contributors. This user's bridesmaids have pinned decor suggestions and given her feedback on cake and jewelry.

Be genuine and consistent. In the early stages, feel free to pin any idea that strikes your fancy. As your vision for the day takes shape, however, try to distinguish between things you admire -- or things you think your followers would admire -- and things you actually want. A board with a concrete focus can prove helpful when you meet with a vendor. Pull it up on your phone or iPad to illustrate what you have in mind or follow this user's lead and connect with a vendor directly on Pinterest.

Set up an alternative gift registry. Most boards boil down to "Stuff I Want," so creating a registry wish list is a no-brainer. Take this a step further by consolidating all your separate wedding registries on a single Pinterest board. Pin products directly from your registry pages on retailers' websites, so that clicking on a pin leads back to where the product can be purchased. (Be sure you're not logged into your registry when you pin; you should be viewing the page as a guest.) You can use the pin description to explain to potential gift givers why you chose each item. Guests can view this registry board even if they aren't Pinterest users, so consider sharing the link on your wedding website.

Create multiple boards. Pinterest houses countless catchall boards titled "Wedding Ideas," but it's easier to keep everything straight if you devote separate boards to flowers, stationery, etc. Be creative: What about a board of wedding photo ideas, with inventive shots to show your photographer? One example that's been pinned and repinned hundreds of times calls for a young boy and girl (the ring bearer and flower girl?) to hold up a picture frame in the foreground; the bride and groom pose in the background, centered in the frame, so they appear as a photo within the photo.

By maintaining separate boards, you can preserve the ones that require only a slight shift in focus to remain relevant after the wedding. Transform potential honeymoon spots into potential vacation spots simply by changing a title.