A very cordial announcement

`E-vites': Some couples are finding e-mail wedding invitations a marriage of thrift and convenience.

April 01, 2004|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

When Valerie Fields and Jonathan Williams decided to get married last year, they didn't want to spend a fortune on the wedding. So when they looked for ways to cut costs, they immediately thought about the invitations.

Instead of sending traditional engraved invitations by mail, they used the Internet to invite guests electronically.

"E-mail is nontraditional, and we didn't want anything about our wedding or relationship to be traditional," Fields said.

More and more people are sending "e-vites" for parties, office functions, get-togethers and fund-raisers. It appears Fields and Williams aren't the only ones who've decided to use the Internet for wedding invitations.

"The thing to keep in mind about the invitation is that the invitation is the signal to the guest as to what type of event they are being invited to," said Jodi R.R. Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, based in Boston. "That means if I call up a group of my friends and say, `Hey, do you want to come watch the game with me on TV on Sunday,' it's obviously going to be a casual event. If I send an e-mail out to everyone on my block asking them to a barbecue at my house next month, this too would be a very casual interaction.

"If I send an engraved announcement two months in advance to a black-tie wedding, clearly this is a formal event. So what happens is the e-vite can be used for a wedding if it is a very, very casual wedding, so that the invitation matches, in fact, even sets the tone, for the event."

Fields and Williams planned to marry Dec. 27 at the Lighthouse Convention Center in Raleigh, N.C., in a formal ceremony complete with white gown, tuxedos, bridesmaids and groomsmen.

Fields said she realizes it was probably surprising for many of their friends to log on to their computers, open an e-mail and read a wedding invitation, but inviting guests that way just made sense for several reasons.

"I'm a professional entrepreneur, starting new business ventures and growing them is what I do," said Fields, 31. "I own three companies and help manage four others, and I receive mail for all of them. I detest paper, so the thought of getting 400 paper R.S.V.P. envelopes was scary."

Fields also said the e-vite was the quickest way to spread word about the big event.

"Our wedding was last-minute, with a three-month engagement, but we still wanted to make sure our family and friends knew we wanted them to share our joyous occasion," Fields said. "E-mail is immediate."

In addition, Fields said keeping costs down was important.

"E-mail is inexpensive," she said. "As a matter of fact, it's practically free. Both my fiance and I are servants in the ministry. Instead of spending money on the trivial things, we wanted to be a blessing to our guests and also start our future together with financial stability - for the ministry and for our household."

Smith, of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, acknowledged that wedding invitations can be pricey.

"You could do like a Crane's of William Arthur stationery, which can range from $3 an invitation to $18 an invitation, and spend a lot of money," she said, "or you could go to Kinko's and they have invitation books where they still will look nice and don't cost as much. You can be thrifty and still not look cheap."

At $3 each, Fields and Williams would have spent $1,200 on invitations alone, plus $148 on postage. At $18 per invitation, the couple would have forked over a whopping $7,200 plus postage.

Smith said she understands the need to save money, but said she thinks wedding e-vites send the wrong message to guests.

"You wonder what could possibly possess them to do something like this," Smith said. "I'm the wedding etiquette expert for two Web sites, and I answer between 40 and 60 wedding questions a week, and I have yet to see a bride - and I could make your ears curl and fall off with some of the questions brides have asked me - ask me about an e-vite for a wedding."

Setting up e-vites is fairly easy using sites such as evite.com and Sendomatic.com. And one benefit is that they can be set up with reminder notices to be sent out days or weeks later, said Greg Finney, founder of Sendomatic.com, based in San Francisco.

He said electronic wedding invitations are slowly catching on.

"There are people that actually do their wedding invitations online," Finney said. "We have a section dedicated to weddings and wedding events - everything from wedding announcements to bridal showers to bachelor and bachelorette parties to engagement announcements."

Finney said he's not surprised that Fields and others are opting to send wedding e-vites.

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