Great Sites for Online Wedding Shopping

by Margie Fishman on 26 May 2011 0 comments

Getting married today does not require buying into the wedding industry’s “your special day is priceless” sales pitch.

When my husband and I got hitched last October, we skipped the sterile hotel banquet hall for a rickety gazebo and beach house overlooking our neighborhood lake. The venue oozed sentimentality in a charming 1960s Catskills sort of way, but to say it was "raw" was an understatement.

The space demanded tons of decor to camouflage the chipping paint, concrete bathrooms, and cork announcements board. I also needed wedding basics to get me through the day, so I turned to my favorite lazy girl’s shopping resource — the Internet — to purchase rattan fans from China, lingerie from Illinois, and seven-foot bamboo poles from California.

Don’t get me wrong, the brick-and-mortar route makes sense for certain items, such as fragile pieces, perishables, and that wedding dress you drooled over in a magazine but never bothered to try on. (I found mine at a local consignment shop for $50).

But most everything else can be had with the click of the mouse. (See also: Alternative Wedding Ideas for Big Savings)

No-Brainer Wedding Website Creation: MyWedding

Personally, I think creating a wedding website for the couple is a bit hokey, but it is also a convenient way to communicate a ton of information, including directions to the event, wedding registry, photos, hotel information, and a list of area attractions. The clincher for me? I’m too environmentally-friendly (and cheap) to spring for separate RSVP cards, so I had guests respond directly to the site. There are many options for free wedding websites, but I found mywedding.com had the most straightforward setup and classiest templates.

Restaurant Supply Mecca: Instawares and LinenTablecloth

It’s no big secret that it’s less expensive to buy your own tablecloths, silverware, dishes, and glassware than to rent. My stainless steel salad forks cost eight cents each at Instawares.com. My 120-inch round tablecloths were $12 each at Linentablecloth.com (they also sell on eBay, so cross-check for deals before purchasing). An added bonus is that both these sites regularly run deals for free shipping with minimum spending limits. Granted, I went the no-frills route, preferring to spend more on flowers than on gold-encrusted place settings and silk linens. But I was able to make my money back on most items after the wedding.

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Everything Else: eBay and Etsy

Sadly, with the influx of “buy it now” vendors on eBay, the auction site has lost some of its “thrill of the chase” attitude. But it’s still a valuable resource, especially if you know exactly what you want. Here’s a sample of my wedding fare purchased from eBay: personalized favor tags, hair clips, silk flower petals, rehearsal dinner dress, wedding heels, my hound dog’s bowtie, plastic wine glasses, Spanx pantyhose, and a ring pillow.

For vintage and handmade items, the pricier Etsy furnished my birdcage veil, “Save the Date” e-invites, bridal bouquet holder, and groom’s card.

As with any other online shopping experience, there are risks of misrepresentations and shipping snafus. My vintage-inspired library drawer (which doubled as our guest book) arrived with the handle broken off. My veil, which looked so elegant in the photo, appeared frumpy in person. Fortunately, I’ve found most eBay and Etsy vendors are receptive to resolving customer concerns.

Regrets? I Have a Few.

The best advice I have to offer? Know when to pay. Research, organizational skills, a low-maintenance attitude, and a flexible job also come in handy when shopping online for a wedding.

Going against my better judgment (and to my mother’s horror), I purchased simple, inexpensive his-and-hers wedding bands on Etsy and eBay, respectively. Mine turned out fine (though I never bothered to get it formally appraised). My husband’s “titanium” ring arrived too big and got banged up within a few weeks. That frilly script that looked so regal on the proof for my wedding invitations, ordered from TheAmericanWedding, was barely legible out of the box.

Finally, I know the all-encompassing wedding planner tool at Google (including budgets, seating charts, address books, and playlists for the deejay) puts Excel to shame. Just remember you still need a real live person — be it a day-of coordinator or a family friend — to execute your vision on the actual wedding day.

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