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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 September, 2004, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
Technology helps tie the knot
Ian Hardy
By Ian Hardy
BBC Click Online's North American technology correspondent

Technology can help us in some surprising areas. This can include organising an entire wedding, as Ian Hardy and his then fiancée Emily found out.

Emily and Ian Hardy
Ian even proposed to Emily using creative technology
It took seven months to plan our dream day online: a "destination wedding" at the Bellagio Resort on the Las Vegas Strip, with guests from the UK, US and Hong Kong.

And we are not alone, according to Carley Roney, editor of The Knot.com.

"Almost one in 10 couples these days is getting married in a destination wedding, somewhere out of town from where they live.

"This is a tremendous trend in the wedding market that has actually been facilitated by the process of people being able to look for places online.

"It's much easier. You don't have to travel to the destination (to research it) as often as in the past, so many more people are doing it."

Technological start

Our online experience began with the engagement ring which was bought from two websites.

To avoid High Street haggling or being cheated, the diamond was ordered from a site that was mentioned positively over and over again in books and magazine articles.

I beamed my proposal to my beloved's PDA when she least suspected it
Next I found a mounting at a website called Antique Engagement Rings, owned by Leigh Nacht, one of the few jewellers in Manhattan's diamond district who has embraced the internet.

He says: "I started carrying ring mountings because enough people had their own diamonds.

"There's certain things that you just can't be as competitive on, but at least I can provide a value-added service of a pretty mounting to go with the diamond."

The proposal was another piece of technological creativity.

I designed a flowery montage and beamed it to my beloved's PDA when she least suspected it.

After a tear or three and a blubbering "yes", the real wedding planning began.

Instant access

Las Vegas was our number one choice so we looked at countless wedding chapels up and down the Strip, but from the comfort of our New York apartment, 2,500 miles away.

We settled on the Bellagio Resort because we liked the chapel but were also impressed by the 360-degree images of what would become our honeymoon suite.

Emily Hardy
The new Mrs Hardy admits a little romance was lost by ordering online
We picked a date and time and bought a package of flowers, ring pillow and unity candle all using the internet.

Cindy Hockenberg, assistant manager of Bellagio Wedding Chapel says: "It's given couples instant access to not only the packages but in most case pictures of the places where they can get married.

"They can get a lot of detailed information with pricing on our website and, I would imagine, on many of the other wedding chapels' sites as well. Before the internet, you would either have to write for brochure or come and visit in person."

Everything else seemed to fall into place: the marriage licence application, the limo and the tux rental (they even had one for my nephew).

Finding a photographer took minutes. Before the internet existed you had to visit studios and look through albums. Now, of course, it is all online.

For her part, Emily had begun to search websites for a vintage wedding dress after failing to find anything suitable in Manhattan shops. In hindsight, she admits a little of the romance was lost doing it this way.

"Usually you go out with your bridesmaids and your mother, and it's a whole big day where you feel like a princess.

"Well this is just clicking online to order it, then it comes in a box. I tried it on and then off I took it to alterations."

Limitations

There were a couple of kinks in the experience.

Our online gift registry was a real hassle for our overseas guests. Despite being a large retailer, the website could not handle international credit cards.

And the cake we ordered looked intricate and delicate on the web page - but we felt the version we got on the day merely resembled the one we had paid for.

We both agree our wedding and honeymoon were triumphs of online planning
Carley Roney says: "When you're booking so many things on the internet, you're really looking at pictures, and pictures are very different from reality.

"You need to make sure that you are clarifying every single detail with a vendor, in writing. It's not just trading a picture back and forth."

Soon we arrived at Aventura Spa Palace in Mexico for the honeymoon.

Thanks to message boards on sites like Tripadvisor.com we were fully aware of all the pros and cons of the resort.

We knew the grounds were beautiful but lacked a real beach; that the drinks and food were plentiful but not lavish; and we knew how to avoid the time-share salespeople who went under the guise of Guest Services.

We both agree our wedding and honeymoon were triumphs of online planning.

Consequently our expectations were realistic and we had an amazing time, enjoying our first week together as newly-weds and even reliving the most romantic moments of our big day, all thanks to modern technology.


Click Online is broadcast on BBC News 24: Saturday at 0745, 2030, Sunday at 0430, 0645 and 1630, and on Monday at 0030. It is also shown on BBC Two: Saturday at 0745 and BBC One: Sunday at 0645. Also BBC World.

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