Melding the Internet and wedding etiquette requires extreme selectivity, says Anthony Lala, a New Orleans wedding planner since 1979. For example, using emailed Evites in lieu of formal printed wedding invitations is acceptable for only the most casual, simple, "no pomp and circumstance" affair.
"According to the rules of etiquette, a wedding is an elegant formal occasion," Lala says. "If (the bride) is going to have an elegant wedding on any level, it's appropriate to send a formal, written invitation."
Though social networking applications may supplement wedding traditions like invitations, gift registries and guest books, they are not meant to replace them. "I don't think it's all about getting rid of what our mothers and grandmothers did," says Kelly Sherlock, whose blog, The Proper Planner (blog.kellysherlock.com), is devoted to etiquette tips and planning advice for brides. "It's being open enough for our parents to understand that we're not where we were 50 years ago," she says.
Although the convenience of using social networking websites for wedding planning and documentation is undeniable (Facebook and Twitter are efficient ways to probe friends for suggestions pertaining to florists, bands, caterers and other vendors), they can create as many pitfalls as advantages. Posting wedding-related status updates and pictures online may also generate remarks from uninvited guests.
Eric and Toya Walter recall the Facebook commotion prior to their September wedding. The couple learned months in advance that some out-of-town relatives would be unable to attend the ceremony, so the Walters chose not to mail them invitations. As the date approached, other guests began "Facebooking" their excitement about the wedding. Soon thereafter, the couple received rude comments from the relatives who declined their invitation months earlier. The online spat ended in the relatives "defriending" the couple on Facebook, and the two parties are no longer speaking.
"That was one instance where Facebook showed how childish some people can be, especially involving a wedding," Eric says.
In addition to adding an element of publicity to etiquette broaches, wedding websites can sometimes overcomplicate the very process they are meant to streamline. When Lafayette resident Traci Pecot had only eight months to plan her New Orleans wedding, she relied, in part, on the websites Facebook and TheKnot.com to gather band and venue recommendations from savvy locals and friends. She used the timeline feature on TheKnot.com to keep on schedule, but after a few months, the website became more of a hassle.
"It became a headache. I had 200 tasks left to do, (according to) The Knot. But, in reality, I had 50," Pecot says.
"(Social networking and wedding websites are) good tools in moderation. You're getting extra pictures and advice from people who have done what you are about to do, but they're not going to replace your needs and desires in everyday life," says Sherlock, who started her wedding planning company almost four years ago. "It's still a computer."
Despite the drawbacks of social media and wedding websites, these tools have become almost indispensible for wedding planning. Whether digital faux pas will exceed traditional wedding blunders is yet to be seen. Still, 21st-century newlyweds exhibit no sign of renouncing social networking websites.
Case in point: During the limousine ride to her wedding reception, Toya Walter updated her and her groom's relationship status to "married." Says Walter with a laugh, "It's not official until it's on Facebook."
Social networking can yield convenient or catastrophic results when it comes to wedding planning.