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When the big question has been popped and the answer is an enthusiastic "YES", you need to start planning. Whether you're imagining a small, romantic destination wedding at an exotic locale or a huge church ceremony with a few hundred - or thousand - friends and family members, there's a lot that goes into the decisions between now and "I do".
There are a wide range of websites offering to take the stress out of that process by helping you with everything from theme possibilities to recommended vendors like photographers and caterers in your area. The best wedding planning guides include a jaw-dropping array of tools that let you manage your guest list and RSVP's, track your budget, and keep track of your extensive to-do list - usually through a convenient app that you can access anytime, anywhere.
Saturday, January 23rd
Is the idea of having "registry and wedding planning made easy" a welcome thought? If you just thought "yes, PLEASE!" you'll want to check out everything available on Zola. You may have already seen their ads on TV and doubted that it could really be that easy to register for gifts, put together a beautiful wedding website, and manage your growing to-do list. We have good news for you: it really is that easy...and even better, it's free!
Although Zola is the newest of the three all-in-one online wedding planning guides we evaluated, it has quickly risen to the top. Why? Users can't say enough about the beautiful design options, the easy-to-use tools on the site and app, and the fantastically helpful folks at Zola's customer service department. Many of the features offered by this service are similar to their competitors, but the general consensus is that Zola does it all...well, better.
Let's start with your registry. Zola lets you put all of your wishes, from gifts and gift cards to honeymoon funds, all in one place. Their process is a little different from some sites: instead of linking up registries across a variety of websites, Zola curates an online store across more than 560 brands like Le Creuset and Crate & Barrel (along with cool options like Delta Airlines and Airbnb) that you can easily shop and add items. No hand scanner or store visits required. Zola also lets you manually add desired gifts from any site to your registry, in case you can't find them among the 50,000+ items in their store.
And where better to put your newly-created gift registry than on your free wedding website? Zola has hundreds of designs to choose from, no matter what your wedding theme and style may be. You can use your website to set up online RSVP's, add events like rehearsal dinners or showers, and keep everyone you've invited up-to-date on the what, where, and when. Compared with the templates and designs offered by other online wedding planning guides, Zola users say that they fell in love with all of the options. Even people with a background in graphic design said that this site is a step above the rest when it comes to gorgeous combinations of fonts, layouts, and colors.
Once you've designed your wedding website, you can order save the date cards and invitations that perfectly match it (or choose an entirely different design for mixing and matching, if you like). You'll find details about this under the Invites + Paper section of the Zola page. Want even less hassle? Opt for the guest addressing feature.
But wait: when do you send the invites? Where will the wedding be? Who's going to cater the food? Don't worry, because Zola has a great checklist to not only walk you through everything you need to do and when, but also to let you customize what's on your list according to your cultural/religious traditions and anything else you dream up. Best of all, with Zola's 5-star-rated app, you can access your checklist anytime and you'll get push notifications when something on your to-do list needs your attention.
Guest list management is a breeze with Zola too. Import information from your phone's address book, upload a spreadsheet, or send Zola's form via text/email and let invitees fill out their information themselves. The service automatically records everything from meal choices to number of guests, and you can manually change any information in the RSVP list (like if your great-aunt calls you from her rotary phone to tell you that she'll be there with bells on...).
Like most wedding planning guides, Zola has sections for getting expert advice, inspiration for your theme, attire, and more from real people. Whether you're planning a traditional church service, a casual beach ceremony, a wedding for two brides or two grooms, or anything you can dream up, chances are good that you'll find something to spark your imagination on this site. Just look under the headings for Expert Advice and Real Wedding Inspiration.
And, if you're looking for a reputable florist, a top-notch stylist, photographers and more, be sure to see the Vendor listings for your area. Unfortunately, this is the one area where Zola isn't quite as robust as many of their competitors - because Zola is still relatively new on the market - but you may still find providers in your area if you live near a major city like New Orleans, Seattle, or Atlanta.
There's some pretty steep competition in the world of online wedding planning guides, but Zola is at the top of our list. This service gives you almost every imaginable feature, tool, and tip so that every step of your wedding planning goes smoothly. Zola earns our highest recommendation as the most intuitive, easy-to-use planning guide available today.
The Knot is one of today's most popular online wedding planning guides. They offer "planning for everyone" and want to give you a warm "welcome to your day, your way".
One thing we love about The Knot is how inclusive the service is. They have a very clearly spelled-out non-discrimination policy for all couples and every vendor listed on their site. No matter who you are or who you love, you'll find encouraging, positive resources on The Knot. Here are some of the cool articles we found:
In late 2018, The Knot was purchased by our #3-ranked Wedding Planning Guide, Wedding Wire. But, at least at the time of our most recent evaluation, the two platforms offered slightly different features, so it's worth checking out both sites. That may change in the future, if the decision is made to merge both sites into a single, fully-featured service that gives you access to the full range of options offered by each one.
Here are the main features that make The Knot so popular:
The Knot's gift registry is similar to the one on their sister site, Wedding Wire: you can choose gifts from any online store, easily sync to your wedding website, and let your guests shop easily and conveniently for the things you really want. One unique feature, however, is The Knot's Cash and Experiences registry. Especially if you're combining two households with your marriage, you may not need more stuff. Maybe what you really want is cash for home renovations, a puppy, or dance lessons. This registry is only limited by your imagination!
The Knot Gifts Back is another attractive feature when using this wedding planning guide for your gift registry. Every time a gift from your registry is purchased from a participating retailer, a percentage of that purchase is donated to one of over 100 charitable organizations.
And, if you need inspiration for the right dress/tux, rings, decor and more, just browse to the top of the page. You'll find lots of helpful articles, photos and tips under the Photos and Ideas & Advice headings.
The only thing keeping The Knot out of our top ranking is its functionality. While this platform works flawlessly for most users, we found some complaints that the site and the app were "buggy", and that getting help from customer service at The Knot was not exactly easy. A few others said that they had issues with The Knot's RSVP function.
Other than that, The Knot offers a suite of world-class features designed to make planning your wedding as joyous and stress-free as you like. We recommend the site as one of our favorite wedding planning guides.
When it comes to the best, most comprehensive Wedding Planning Guides, Wedding Wire gets the bronze medal. In December 2018, Wedding Wire acquired our #2 ranked Wedding Planning Guide, The Knot. At least at the time of this review, the two services were still operating separately and with slightly different features on each platform.
So, what does Wedding Wire have to offer? Almost everything you could want, from the ultimate Wedding Checklist to drag-and-drop seating charts and much more. And, of course, it's all free to use, either on their traditional website or through their handy app.
Let's take a closer look at the top features you'll get when using Wedding Wire as your Wedding Planning Guide.
And yes, this planning guide has all of the tips and inspiration you'd get on other wedding-focused sites. Need ideas for dresses or rings? Not sure where to go on your honeymoon? You'll find tons of suggestions, including photos from real weddings, under the Dresses and Ideas links at the top of the page.
Wondering why Wedding Wire comes in third when compared with our first-place choice? It all comes down to user reviews. Most of the people who tried both Zola and Wedding Wire said that Zola's template options and designs for wedding websites were much more visually appealing. One person said that the user interface for Wedding Wire was much more advanced, and that the wedding sites available on WW "look like the web pages of 2005". (Interestingly, those comments were found on a user forum...on Wedding Wire! Kudos to WW for openness and transparency.)
That being said, Wedding Wire is still an excellent choice if you're looking for a one-stop shop for all of your wedding planning needs. Unless something changes in the future, Wedding Wire will probably remain tied with its new sister company, The Knot, with a very respectable 4.5-star rating.
Appy Couple calls itself "the most stylish and magical platform for engaged couples to create their own online digital sharing suite". This app gives you a streamlined way to create your wedding website, send out invites via email, and much more: no need to cobble together posts across social networks, DIY websites, and so on when you can have it all in one convenient service.
We suggest you take a look at the Features page on the Appy Couple site. You'll see lots of information about what this wedding planning guide has to offer, including a "no building required" format for creating your ready-to-go wedding website, an amazing app for managing everything (and we do mean everything, from your RSVP's to editing event details) for both you and your invited guests, digital Save the Date and Thank-You capabilities, multiple event privacy (so that you can invite Grandma to the wedding but not the bachelorette party!), and much more.
This service has two paid plans:
Both packages let you keep your account active for as long as you want it - so whether it's a month after the wedding or well into the future, you'll be able to show off everything you've put together with Appy Couple.
Yes, most of your invitees are online, but what about your friends and family who trend more old school and might need a printed invitation? Certain designs (such as Citrus Press, Real Simple, South City Press) have matching print invites that can be ordered; you'll need to reach out to Appy Couple's customer service team to get a quote and a timeline.
You can even give Appy Couple as a gift to your favorite engaged pair. Email their Orders department and they'll give you a digital gift card to give.
Couples who have used Appy Couple - especially those who are very particular about their wedding website's design options - absolutely love this wedding planning resource. We found lots of compliments describing how easy it is to use, how much their guests enjoyed using the app and being kept up to date on all of the pre-wedding events, as well as how responsive the Appy Couple team is when any snags or questions have come up.
So, with all of these fantastic features and capabilities, what's stopping Appy Couple from getting our highest rating? Compared with the other services with higher rankings, this wedding planning guide is missing a few features: gift registries and actual planning checklists were the first two to stand out as we evaluated this service.
But, if those two things aren't high on your priority list, and what you really want is a gorgeous wedding website builder with cutting-edge tools for managing your guest list/RSVP's and much more, you may want Appy Couple at the top of your list.
Here Comes the Guide got its start in 1989 when founder Lynn Broadwell was desperate for a detailed list of possible venues for her wedding - and came up with nothing. (Remember, that was before WWW-anything.) This woman owned-and-operated site is one of the few that doesn't operate on commissions, so you can trust that the carefully curated resources they offer in their Wedding Planning Guide are genuinely the best, and not just ones that pay well in referral fees.
If you're completely new to planning your wedding (congrats!), we recommend you click on the Start Here link at the top of the site. You're going to feel like you're hanging out in your living room with your best girlfriends, who are going to pour you a glass of wine (or Coke Zero) and walk you through everything you need to know to plan your wedding from A to Z...starting with choosing your wedding location, which is Here Comes The Guide's specialty.
Accordingly, this site has a much better vendor database than the lower-ranked services we evaluated. From major cities to smaller metro areas, we were able to find a good range of providers and locations. We had to start with a search at the state level, but once we went to the results page (and scrolled past the featured vendors), we could narrow down to a specific area and get more filter options. For example, under the Venues category, we could indicate the Site Type and Views, desired Catering and Alcohol options, our desired budget range and our maximum expected guest count. Each vendor result had a photo, price range, available catering and location type; clicking to see more showed extra details like contact info, rental fee ranges, address, capacity, and a helpful form to request a quote directly from the venue.
Once you've jumped into the water by narrowing down your venue and other vendor options - or whenever you feel like it - you can sign up for a free MyGuide email membership, which gives you tips and discounts right into your inbox. You can also check out Here Comes the Guide's Wedding Ideas section, which will help you consider important aspects of your wedding like budgeting, specific planning timeframes, and even ways to give back.
You'll also get some recommended wedding shows/bridal fairs, if you're the kind of person that wants some hands-on ideas all in one place. And, Here Comes the Guide has links to hotels that will give you a deal on room blocks for your guests, along with rehearsal dinner venues.
Are you a checklist kind of person? We found links to all the lists this site has to offer at the bottom of the Start Here page. There's a more traditional version that assumes you've got 10-12 months (or longer) until the big day, but if you're working on a shorter time frame, you'll also find the 90-day Wedding Planning checklist. The online version of the checklist has plenty of links to the things it mentions, from wedding insurance to top 10 lists for wedding favor ideas and more.
And, of course, you can spend hours browsing all of the gorgeous images of wedding ideas. From Barns and Beaches to Gardens and Estates, you'll have no shortage of inspiring photos to help you figure out what you want to incorporate into your own special day.
Here Comes the Guide doesn't have some of the helpful tech tools offered by other online Wedding Planning Guides. You won't find an app, or tools for managing your guest list, or links for creating your gift registry. You'll have to do those things on your own or use one of the sites in our review that offers them (if it's important to you).
The overall feel of this wedding planning guide is chill, encouraging, and beautiful - which might be exactly what you need as the engagement excitement wears off and you dive into the nitty-gritty of the details of your wedding. Here Comes the Guide is a solid resource.
If you're looking for a wedding planning guide from a company that actively works "to make the wedding industry a more feminist and diverse place", you'll want to check out A Practical Wedding.
As you'll see from your first visit to the site, this service endeavors to promote businesses that are women-, LGBTQ+- and POC-owned - and to welcome and embrace couples in those groups as well. You'll also find a healthy blend of photos and stories that feature plus-size individuals, non-Christian weddings (such as Muslim, Jewish, Hindu), and other non-traditional ceremonies.
Most people will want to begin with the Get Started page. You'll find some helpful starter info and links to everything from writing your vows to tips for booking a florist (and, interestingly, links to our highest-ranked Wedding Planning Guide's free checklist/app!). A Practical Wedding doesn't offer a gift registry, an app (or even a printable checklist), or many of the other all-in-one features found on our highest-ranked services, making this site feeling more like a DIY (which is fine if that's all you need - there's even a tab for that!).
You can also find a wide variety of user stories, advice and etiquette tips, and stories of real weddings featured by A Practical Wedding. Having a large wedding? Planning for a budget under $10K? Managing friend and/or family drama? You'll find all of that and more under the rest of the tabs at the top of the page. This site keeps it real.
A Practical Wedding has a Vendor directory, but unless you live in a major metro area, you might have to spend a lot of time sorting through all of the featured businesses for your entire state. (There's no ability to search by zip code.) In several metro areas, we found very few options for venues. For example, in Central Florida - think Disney, Cocoa Beach, springs and other places with natural beauty, etc. - the results list only included a Jamaica destination wedding and one ranch resort. Most of the other categories were similarly limited in options.
This wedding planning guide doesn't have all of the features found on our higher-rated services (like gift registries and apps that tie everything together right on your phone), and its limited scope of vendors is part of the reason for this site's lower overall ranking compared with other online resources. For those reasons, we think A Practical Wedding is probably best suited to couples who don't fit the traditional mold and want to see what other people have done to create the wedding of their dreams - and who don't need all of the bells-and-whistles of some of the more popular services.
Woman Getting Married has been around since 2009. This Wedding Planning Guide focuses on several areas of wedding prep:
Browsing through the Woman Getting Married site felt like what you'd read on Buzzfeed or Popsugar: "18 Wedding Hair Accessories to Complement Your Bridal 'Do", "10 Down-Home Country Wedding Ideas", and "10 Ways to Make Your Wedding Ceremony Unique" are just a few of the articles you'll find.
When it comes to their database of vendors, Woman Getting Married wasn't as robust as some of the other Wedding Planning Guides we evaluated. In our area - a midsize metro region - there were only 6 recommended vendors within a 50-mile radius.
How about checklists? The online version offered by Woman Getting Married is pretty detailed, with plenty of links to relevant articles, places to buy items mentioned, and so on. But, if you want a printable list, Woman Getting Married's is pretty sparse: a link to a basic one-page list provided by their featured favorite bridesmaid dress vendor. That comes up a little short for a nervous bride or groom who wants to have everything laid out on paper.
One unique feature of this wedding planning guide is the Thursday podcast. If you've got 15 minutes or half an hour (maybe during your work commute or while you're out for a run), you can get a lot of advice similar to what you'll find in Woman Getting Married's online articles.
Compared with most of the wedding planning guides we reviewed, Woman Getting Married doesn't offer anything exceptionally different or useful. It's not a bad resource - and hey, it's free! - but chances are good that you'll find a better range of tips, vendors, and other helpful info from another site.
Wedding Planner & Guide has been helping couples create and plan their weddings for more than three decades. The service is based in Madison, Wisconsin, so the photographers and other vendors featured on this website are local to that area.
But, if you're just looking for general inspiration and ideas for what you might like your own wedding to look like - and not necessarily to hire a specific vendor (yet) - you may find some helpful resources on this site. Check out the categories at the top of the page for what you need:
Especially if you are a pen-and-paper person rather than an app-user, you might like the checklists section of Wedding Planner & Guide. Offered at no cost, the downloadable/printable PDF gives you a calendar checklist spanning the time from immediately after the engagement to 12 days after the wedding, places to record your estimated and actual expenses, wedding attendants and special participants, and much more.
Otherwise, you'll mostly have to browse the site to find what you're looking for. There isn't a lot of direction on the Wedding Planner & Guide site; it mostly feels like an Insta-inspired journey through images that might give you an idea for what you'd like to see in your own event. On the Inspiration page, there are filters on the left side of the page that let you search the images by Style, Locations/Views, Color, Season, Details (hair, veils, bouquet, etc.) and Business Name.
As we wandered through many of the pages and images on the website, we noticed that it's not as LGBTQ+ inclusive as some of the other wedding planning guides in our review - all but one of the images on the main page at the time of our review were male-female couples - but this may have more to do with the slightly more conservative population of Wisconsin (not necessarily Madison) than anything else.
You won't find the same wealth of resources in our higher-ranked services when using the Wedding Planner & Guide site - no handy app for planning guest lists, no connections with gift registries, etc. But, on the off chance that you live in or near Madison, this could be a great site for not only getting ideas but also for connecting with reputable vendors in your area. Otherwise, you'll probably find this guide to be too limited to use for any in-depth wedding planning.
You can also get inspiration and advice from real couples. Thinking of having a wedding in the woods during winter? Check out what other brides and/or grooms did - and maybe even get practical tips for staying warm and keeping everyone from getting wet! Not sure how to navigate tricky family dynamics, which friends to invite to be in the wedding party, or how to word an invitation that includes everyone? Most of these wedding planning guides have in-depth advice and answers to guide you.
You've got a lot on your mind already, so how can you tell which online wedding planning guide is the right fit for you and your significant other? Here are several factors to keep in mind as you consider what's available:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best Wedding Planning Guides available today. We hope this information helps you create and plan the best wedding you've ever dreamed of!
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