Warning, this is a lengthy review but I really hope it will help you in your wedding planning!
My Wedding Experience History
You’ve all heard of those girls that have their weddings planned in grade school – some guys probably think that is how life really is… some girls probably think that’s what they are supposed to do. Well all I can say is that for Me, My Sister and My recent Sister in law – that’s not how it is. When my sister got engaged in 2003 we knew nothing about weddings. Here I thought the biggest issue was the dress, then suddenly we started to find out that every detail (the hall, flowers, cake, even the little candy favors you give out) could take a lot of time, thought and money.
This is where TheKnot.com comes in. My sister found it well looking for help on certain wedding questions we had and eventually I registered as well. She got married in Oct 2004 and I didn’t visit the site for awhile. Then my brother got engaged and we had different questions and different things to figure out. I was back at TheKnot again! Finally, I got engaged in May 2006 and I already knew all the work a wedding took and decided it was time to start learning and making some decisions. My sister’s wedding planning was hectic because we were both clueless, my brother’s wedding was hectic because we were still semi-clueless. I’m lazy – I don’t like hectic – and mine was not going to be hectic! So after these two weddings I thought it was time to at least THINK about what I would want.
Rules when planning ahead
Now that I’ve told you my life story, this review ought to tell you what great FREE services you can get if you register for TheKnot.com today. You don’t have to be engaged to start planning your wedding, but I do have 3 rules to pre-planning…
1) Don’t make the plans if you don’t have a man! I at least knew who I was going to marry when I started planning, but I have a few friends that have decided their entire wedding and they aren’t even dating anyone. I don’t think that’s wise. Your wedding will be different based on not only the Bride’s wants and needs but the Groom’s as well. I’m not saying the boyfriend has to be involved in the pre-planning, but having a boyfriend means you can at least think about your decisions and consider if he would agree – if you don’t have anyone, your basically making a lot of plans that will likely change.
2) Don’t buy a thing if you ain’t got the ring! As much as I did *think* and research before the engagement, I didn’t make any purchases until it was official. Spending money beforehand is just stupid in my opinion. I have seen people think everything’s going as planned, and then suddenly the guy backs out and they never get engaged – yet she already spent money towards the wedding! You may want to check out samples, but if you are spending more than 10$ then you are spending too much.
3) Go with your gut and keep your mouth shut! Finally, pre-planning is the best time to think without interruptions. As soon as you are engaged everyone is going to start asking what you are going to wear, where your going to do it, what colors you’ll use, etc – but by pre-planning you have the opportunity to really think about what you would want without anyone throwing their 2 cents in. I admit, every bride needs help planning the wedding – but I also believe every bride needs to decide what she wants before someone else starts trying to tell you what to do.
Now you have the rules so it’s time to review the services I used at theknot.com to pre-plan my wedding. There are a whole lot of services I didn’t use, but these are what I found the most useful for my purposes. Enjoy!!!
When you first create an account, the MyKnot button that’s on every page will take you to your personalized collection of links, tools, and saved stuff. They show the most useful tools here, and give you some summary data such as how many checklist items you have to do, how many guests you have listed, and more. You can also access your saved items from this very user friendly page! There is a countdown to your wedding and other sections of the site are affected by how many days you have left.
This is the first thing you’ll want to play with – but it will take some tweaking. The checklist shows you all the things they think you should be doing at this point in your planning. Although a lot of the things on the list are good reminders, there were a lot I checked off as “completed” because I wasn’t going to do them. For example a few of the items are about interviewing, picking, and booking a wedding consultant. If you know you are not using a consultant, you can check off all these items as complete to remove them from the list. The only thing that stinks is that you cannot delete the items, but at least you won’t have them on your to-do list anymore.
I also found myself adding things that I knew I needed to do. I’ve added about 30 items overall and it is really pretty simple. Even if you don’t want to actually use this checklist, it is still a real good thing to browse through. It helps you by indicating what you should be booking, planning, or working on based on how many months you have left. For the clueless bride, it will help you know that you should have picked your photographer by now, or that you should be looking for dresses. It also serves to remind you of things you may not have thought of. I find this as a useful tool, but I do use my own lists to keep track of things my own way as well.
At first I thought the Budget Calculator was cool, but now I’m finding it is only useful as a reference. When you visit the calculator, you can enter in the number of guests you plan on inviting, and how much money you have to spend. It then calculates a bunch of pre-chosen items and tells you what your budget should be for these items. Overtime you are supposed to update the budget by entering in the ACTUAL price you paid for certain things, and the budget is supposed to recalculate, but I found this didn’t always work. For example, I spent way less on the hall, cake and bar services than I was “budgeted” for. I thought the calculator would take the extra money and spread it throughout the rest of the items, but it didn’t. Instead some money seems to be unaccounted for and things aren’t adding up right. Although the “Spent to Date” and the “Total Left to Spend” are adding up correctly, the budget for the other items is not.
I found that when looking for price ranges in the beginning, the budget calculator helped a lot. But now that I am actually tracking payments, it’s much easier to just use a Table on my computer than trying to figure this out online. I do store payments in the calculator, but I use this only as a guide to how much I have left to spend and to remind myself what I still need to purchase.
My Guest List
I do like the guest list, and I used it to enter in/add up everyone I want to invite. What’s cool is that you can check mark what events each person is invited to: Mom’s invited to the Shower, Rehearsal dinner, Wedding… Dad’s invited to the Rehearsal Dinner, Wedding… Friend is only invited to the Wedding. Then you can also choose “A or B” list for each person. I am inviting everyone on both my A and B list, but I used the A button to indicate people I thought could come, and the B list for those I assumed could not come. It helps because on the top there is a count for your A/B lists so you can mentally say “13 people will not be able to come”.
You can use this list also to indicate who said Yes/No, and what they bought you, and whether or not you sent Thank you cards. It’s a really handy, extensive database! I found, however, that when you export it to Excel it exports each person individually instead of grouping families and couples together (even though on the online list couples are in one entry – it exports to excel in 2 entries) I solved this problem by adding everyone online first, than exporting them to Excel. From there I deleted all the double entries and I used Excel from that point forward. The online guest list really helped because it made a nice format, and provided all the fields I would need – plus some I would never have thought of if I tried to make my own spreadsheet. It was a great starting point, but once you have it in Excel it’s much easier to manipulate. I suggest even you use the guest list and then export it to excel because it will save you the time of creating your own spreadsheet from scratch. Deleting duplicate entries was not a big deal to me at all.
My Web Page
The wedding webpage is neat because you can put in basic information, some pictures, and some news regarding your wedding. Guests can come to your webpage to see where the wedding is, and any updates you provide. It’s all really simple! You just follow the steps to create the page and fill in the information. Then you can send out newsletters from your webpage whenever you want to update your guests. If you do use the online Guest List, you can use your webpage as an “RSVP” so people can respond online. I choose not to do this because I’d rather have the response card in my hand to prove the person responded. I didn’t want to worry about myself accidentally clicking someone as Yes or No before they responded.
The webpage also searches for all your registries on the popular sites. It found my registry at Bed Bath and Beyond and added a link to it. If you register at a lot of places, that is a really useful feature. Instead of sending guests a registry card for every place you have registered, just tell them to look at your wedding webpage!
This part of MyKnot actually makes up a lot of different things. Your notebook shows anything you have “saved” on the site including dresses, flowers, vendors, articles, etc. They are nicely organized so you can find any of your saved items in seconds. There are many areas you can search and save, below are a few examples.
My Saved Gowns
TheKnot has a very large database of gowns! This is a place every bride must browse for gowns. Do not plan on finding a gown on TheKnot and then buying it, because you never know until you try it on, but do plan on finding plenty of Ideas and getting a feel for what you like. TheKnot search is really cool and allows you to narrow gowns by price and various features (sleeves, train, cut, etc). Each gown can be zoomed in and you can see what stores in your state sell that designer. Then, armed with ideas, you can go to the bridal shops with a much better understanding of what you want to try on.
I doubt you will buy a gown you saw online, but you will probably buy something similar! My sister did not even find some of the gowns she saw online, but she ended up finding similar gowns and that’s what she bought. I did find some of the gowns from online, but they are not quite the same in person, and I ended up going with something a little different.
My Saved Articles
There are a million articles on TheKnot, all organized by event – such as ceremonies, receptions, honeymoons, and everything in between. Any time you find a helpful tip you want to remember, you can save the article and access them here. I found TheKnot to be pretty inclusive in answering all my questions. For example, we were worried people might get mad if we don’t invite kids, but I found a few helpful Knot articles that made me feel better and basically said the benefits of not inviting kids (besides saving us tons of money!). About 90% of the time, I think the advice is great… but there is that 10% where I think the advice is not very good. Not everyone is going to agree with every tip and article found on the site, but it’s worth reading just to get ideas! These people are obviously experts and have experienced many different situations – they have answers for everybody.
My Saved Vendors
TheKnot has an area to search for vendors local to your area for your reception, photography, flowers, and more. Anytime you find a nearby vendor you want to check out, save it and you can access it here! The vendor detail page will provide the contact info, and price ranges, for each vendor. Most vendors I found also provided a website link. The photographer I used was found on TheKnot, and the hall I choose was also listed there. You can most likely find what you are looking for (or at least find a place to start looking) if you browse this section!
My Wedding Photo Album
A new feature TheKnot is offering is to make your wedding photo album available to share with your family via the web. I thought this was a neat idea and I will be using it as soon as I get pictures to put up!
Local and General Forums
I did not use these much, but when I did, they were incredibly helpful! You can find a forum for your local area, or just chat in a general forum. I first visited these forums because I was in a desperate search for a pretty place to take my outdoor pictures. I had found a very pretty picture online that a photographer had used as an ad that stated it was “nearby” my city. I posted a thread on my local forum asking if anyone knew where this was taken and I got responses right away! I ended up finding the place, and taking my outdoor pictures there. Besides finding the place, the brides-to-be in my area were also able to suggest other local parks and gardens that I ended up saving as backups in case my initial plan fell through. It really is nice to have that local connection to talk with others who may have already found what you are looking for.
And On and On an On…
I have only touched on the services TheKnot offers! You can also come here to chat, create shopping lists, review beauty checklists, buy gifts, buy wedding supplies, or even register for your shower! Not all the features will be useful to everyone, but I found enough help on this site to make it well worth a visit every couple of days. I have yet to have a question that TheKnot hadn’t already answered. Best of all, it’s FREE! If you are planning a wedding, you should sign up today!!!!