Last month, David and I decided to celebrate our ten-year anniversary party with a vow renewal. I mean, TBH, I really hate the term vow renewal (my vows don’t require renewal). But we wanted to throw an anniversary party with a little ritual and a lot of drama, because that is how we do things in our family. Also, ten years after my wedding, I am now a two-time published author and national wedding expert, so I wanted to get a taste of what planning a wedding is like in 2019. What is easier? What is harder? What is exactly the same?
And while I can already rattle off a long list of ways that wedding planning has not improved (wedding venues, why are you like this?), it turns out there are some massive problems that have been almost entirely fixed. And building a wedding website is one of them.
Ten years ago, we were in the early days of wedding websites. Most of us had one, since it was an easy way to communicate with all of our guests. There were a few major companies in the wedding website game whose designs ranged from pretty bad to really, really bad. But if the design was bad, the functionality was worse. Want to collect RSVPs online for your event? Forget it. I was pretty tied to the idea of having an outside-the-box wedding, and the prefab wedding websites I found made me feel like crawling out of my own skin. So, since Blogger was a thing that I understood (APW was hosted on Blogger at the time), I hacked a Blogspot website to make it our own and called it a day. I also put Google Analytics on it, so I can report to you that while I put a lot of storytelling into the website (I’m a writer, after all), pretty much nobody looked at it. They looked at the map and the page with our registry links, and that was it.
Fast forward to our ten-year anniversary bash. It turns out that the first question when planning a party like this is: roughly how many people are going to come? While we have some information on average wedding RSVP rates (thanks, book I wrote), when it comes to a made-up party like a vow renewal in a destination locale, it’s next to impossible to guess how many people are going to be there. Our first guesses ranged from ten to forty… which are numbers that make for very different parties. So, the first thing we needed to do was poll people and get a sense of who might come. But I didn’t just want to send out a Doodle poll, because, well, I wanted to explain a little bit about this made-up party. I figured the easiest way to do that was to create a wedding website, and send it out in Save the Date fashion.
Do As I Say, Not As I Do
So, radical honesty. Even though we’ve partnered with Squarespace for many years and my personal website lives there (thanks to some help from the APW staff), I had it in my head that creating a Squarespace wedding website was… kind of a lot of work. The great thing about Squarespace is that their designer-made templates are all fully customizable, so you can build pretty much anything on their platform. But with freedom comes responsibility… or so I thought. Since this was a thrown-together project, I briefly thought it might be easier to go with a site that offered prefab wedding websites (since, thank God, wedding designs have come a long way from where they were ten years ago). So, under cover of darkness, I set up a wedding website on another platform.
Except, within the first three minutes I was frustrated. First of all, I had to mark off fields labeled “bride” and “groom,” and even on a good day that throws me into a blind rage. But then, as it turned out, the options for what I could build were limited. Very, very limited. They were limited in both design and functionality… and to top it all off, the tools were slow and clunky. So, even though I was building a pre-designed site, it was slow and frustrating.
Then I got to the RSVP option. Given that this isn’t a wedding, and I don’t want it to sound like one, I had a few specific questions I wanted to ask people. And the bottom line was, I just… couldn’t. The website didn’t work that way. So, in frustration, I threw the whole thing in the virtual trash and opened Squarespace. I figured it would be a lot of work, but at least I would end up with the product I wanted, so… worth it.
Except. Y’all. After five years of repping for Squarespace, I finally realized the full truth: creating a Squarespace wedding website is easy. It doesn’t just look good and offer you a lot of flexibility. It’s easy.
Here is a small list of the delightful surprises that awaited me while I put together my Squarespace wedding website:
1. Real-world examples are basically blueprints for success. First, I navigated over to the wedding website templates. I wasn’t reinventing the wheel. I just needed a template that would work for me. Well, turns out that Squarespace offers real-world examples of how people have used their wedding website templates. When you click on the preview option for any of their templates, right underneath the template mockup, you’ll see a whole bunch of really well-executed websites using that exact same template (see for yourself by clicking on any of the preview links here). Which means that, as a non-designer, I was able to imagine what I could do with the sites I liked. I found one template I was into, and decided to give it a go.
2. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when you’re starting with a good template. When I started customizing one of the wedding website templates, I realized it came pre-built with someone else’s design and information. Which, it turns out, is the ideal way to create your own website. I was able to quickly remove their photos and put in our own. I tossed pages I didn’t want in the trash, and added my own copy where theirs had been. Easy peasy.
3. Help will always be given to those who ask for it. Next up, I decided that I wanted to change the fonts on the website to make it feel more like my own design. I figured this would be… hard… and I’d need assistance from the more technical people in my life. But I decided to practice what I preach and Google it first. Well, as I discovered, Squarespace has a really detailed answer to that exact question, complete with a video. (In fact, they have really detailed answers for most technical questions you could have about their site—plus 24/7 customer support if you get stuck.) But it was such an easy process that I didn’t need a video. I just needed to know where to click. And with that, I was down the rabbit hole of many, many fonts, picking the one that was exactly right for us.
4. You can do more than you probably think you can (even if you’re not tech-y). The real test for our vow renewal website was collecting the RSVPs. Would Squarespace let me build a form to ask the questions I wanted to ask? And how hard would it be? I know from running APW that survey and form plug-ins are often not at all user friendly, so I was dreading the process. Well, turns out, since I was modifying a wedding website that Squarespace had handily built for me, the form was already included in the template… and by clicking edit, I could add anything and everything I could possibly want. Like… surveys! (Spoiler: I did not need to add a 1-10 rated survey, but it’s nice to know that I could if I wanted.)
But then the real magic happened. Exploring the survey, I realized that Squarespace has reporting options. The built-in form was automatically set up to report all of our guests’ answers to my email, which I didn’t want. But they offered an option to connect to Google Drive, which was a much better fit for my needs. I clicked it, again assuming that it was going to be a complex process and I’d have to ask tech savvy folx for help. But instead, Squarespace just asked me what email account I wanted to connect to this document and asked me to name the spreadsheet—and then, LIKE MAGIC, all RSVP responses were set up to arrive in a spreadsheet. If anyone ever needed proof that there is a wedding God, this is it.
Putting My Own Advice To Work
It’s worth saying: all the tricks that we’ve talked about over the years for creating Squarespace websites still apply (with a bonus that Squarespace continues to make their tools better and easier to use each year).
Remember when we showed you how to take engagement photos and video on your phone to easily use them on a wedding website? Yup. I used those photos. #NoShame. I also easily embedded a video that Maddie took of us throwing confetti right into the header of our site, slowed it down to half time, edited the brightness with Squarespace’s built-in editing software, then had it play on repeat. I felt like an actual website wizard.
And you know how we’ve told you that if you don’t have your own photos that you can use stock images in your wedding website? Did the thing. Squarespace has partnerships with Unsplash and Getty, and provides a whole archive of images you can search and use for free. Pro tip: In this case, I wasn’t finding something that exactly scratched my itch, so I went straight to Unsplash, searched what I was looking for (which sometimes generated additional options), tested out three or four pictures, and then settled on the perfect one.
As for past advice we’ve given you on creating a website logo? Well, it’s still easy. But it turns out that with good photos and access to a ton of fonts, it didn’t even feel like something worth bothering with.
It’s possible that, like me, you’ve secretly thought Sure, Squarespace creates the nicest wedding websites (because that is unarguably true). But maybe you also assumed that creating one of those websites would take both the better part of a Saturday and a lot of frustrated Googling. Confession: I thought the same. But it turns out, I was wrong. And you too can have a website that looks exactly the way you want, and does exactly what you need it to do, with not a lot of time… and way less hair pulling than using those other sites that claim to create wedding websites easily.
Total time that I (a perfectionist who changes everything at least four times before settling on the perfect option) spent creating an amazing website with video, style, and a custom RSVP page that feeds into a Google Drive spreadsheet: two hours.
The amount of time I’ve spent being proud of my work and admiring it: an embarrassingly large number of hours that I can’t admit to.
This post was sponsored by Squarespace. Squarespace makes beautiful wedding websites happen in a matter of minutes, thanks to their user-friendly software and modern, minimal template designs. Every yearly Squarespace purchase also comes with a custom URL, and of course, their award-winning customer service (just in case you get stuck). Click here to start a free 14-day trial and make your wedding website today. APW readers get 10% off your first Squarespace purchase when you use the code APW19 at checkout.