Social media and the use of multi-media arts made for an interactive wedding experience for the guests of Elora bride Emily Dutton and her fiancé Zac Rendell, of Cambridge. From hashtags and websites to YouTube gratitude, this pair had a media strategy and their own wedding brand, ensuring everyone felt included.
“We’re in communications and we’re creative people,” Emily said. “We wanted to do something different and creative.”
The pair met while studying public relations at Conestoga College in Kitchener.
“We worked alongside each other over four years,” Emily said, adding that helped them plan their wedding as a team. “We work really well together. We are both very ambitious. We motivate each other.”
The challenge of planning a wedding was an opportunity to put their PR skills to work. They began by branding their own wedding.
“We made a logo and combined our names to make the shape of a heart and it was consistent on everything,” she said, including the invitations, wedding programs, guest gifts, signage, etc. It was also the backdrop of the ceremony.
“The logo was on the screen the whole time of the ceremony while we were married.”
Part of the couple’s plan was to create a wedding website as a one-stop resource for guests. Through research they discovered many wedding showcase websites. Emily says it’s an affordable option with various web templates to choose from, including those that help you manage your guest RSVPs online.
“We just used wix.com,” Emily said. “It’s free and very easy to use.”
Wix.com offers couples the ability to embed their names or a wedding title in the URL link, or they can choose to buy an original domain name to direct to the website. Emily and Zac opted to add their brand name, ‘ezrendellwedding’ into the URL link.
The website platform has customizable templates that make it easy for couples to determine the layout of the website, upload images and add details. For Emily and Zac, the pages included ‘Our Story,’ which featured a video of Zac’s engagement proposal, photos of the couple and quotes from both of them about how they met. The ‘Our Party’ section featured headshots and small bios of each member of the wedding party. Then there was a page for Wedding Details, RSVP, Gifts and Getting There.
“I put maps up for the wedding and reception through Google Maps, with a link to download a PDF of the maps, and included photos of what the venues looked like,” Emily said, adding she had to think of guests coming from different areas of the province.
The RSVP tab included the menu of the reception.
“We did a basic manual form on the website, that allowed people to choose their meals and add comments,” she explained, adding this allowed people to declare any food issues or allergies for the caterer.
“The site sent us an Excel spreadsheet from the website so we could see the guests’ choices,” she said.
Having the couple’s gift registry online offered guests access to the registry number, chosen retail locations and the price range of items on their list.
“We really understood the value of communicating everything and key messages of what we wanted people to know,” Emily said, adding a wedding website provided one location to share important details with guests, and to gather responses.
“There are old-school people who like to get the (proper) invitation – it’s tradition – but we wanted to keep it simple and send them to the website,” Emily said.
Using their graphic design skills, the couple also designed their version of a wedding invitation on 5X7 double-sided cardstock.
“We sent out a photo of Zac and I and our logo with the wedding date, and on the back, the date and times of the wedding and reception along with the website link.”
Not only did this option save them money on printing and postage, it sped up the RSVP process.
“There was a looming mail-strike … and if we had to wait for RSVPs it would have taken forever,” Emily said, adding people responded faster with a website.
Engagement with guests carried into the wedding ceremony, too. The couple exchanged vows at their church in Cambridge, the community where they would settle after the wedding day. Comfortable in their venue, they wanted guests to feel the same. This was an opportunity for the couple to tell the story of them, their journey – and how it all came to this moment.
“We made a video to show what kind of people we are, why we wanted to get married, what our future plans are,” Emily said, noting they had fun with the use of the medium, including a Question & Answer segment with the bride and groom, and talking about their personal connection to each person in the wedding party.
“It kept everyone engaged and got them to know more about us, as a couple,” Emily said.
She adds, “Our church was a perfect location. We knew everyone. And to have the screen and mics and know the tech guys…. it made things really easy.”
For her guests, it was entertainment.
“It kept the pace for the ceremony and got people amped up about the wedding about to happen, as we walked down the aisle,” Emily said.
Zac’s father performed the wedding ceremony, which Emily believes gave the experience even more meaning for the couple.
“He helped to ensure the passages were relevant to us, and we wrote our own vows … so it was very personal … and everything was true to us,” she said.
Emily and Zac’s wedding reception took place at the Waterloo Regional Museum, in September 2016. It was a modern venue for a modern couple, and the backdrop for another fun aspect of their wedding: the social media hashtag #ezrendellwedding.
“The millennial trend is to hashtag everything. Leading up to the wedding, throughout the wedding planning, we shared moments so people could see the events leading up to it,” Emily said. “It’s a trend, but the real reason is so that if you want to follow along and see what’s going on, you could follow the whole day and share photos.”
To encourage their guests to participate, the couple created a Polaroid framed photo booth and asked guests to take candid shots using their cell phones and share them on social media via the wedding hashtag.
“Then you can see everything you missed at your own wedding,” Emily said. “It’s great for family members who couldn’t make the wedding, or for those who you were unable to invite, to at least follow along.”
When the wedding was over, there were many thank-you notes to write, but again the couple found a unique way to express their gratitude.
“I have terrible handwriting and so does he, and I didn’t want to type a personalized thank-you,” she said, laughing. “So Zac had a vision to do a You Tube channel and do thank-you videos.”
Approximately 50 personalized video thank-yous were created (one for each family or couple), each between two to three minutes in length. It took three days to make the videos appear seamless.
To keep the videos cohesive in appearance, the couple recorded every personal message in the same outfits, with careful attention to make sure their hair, Emily’s make-up and everything in the background of the shot was exactly the same.
“The first minute (of the video) is a recap of the wedding, like maybe photos or video footage, talk about what we’re doing now and give an update on our plans,” Emily said.” And then we did a personal thank you.”
She adds, “We made them private so only the person it’s directed to could watch it.”
After each filming, Zac would trim the beginning and the end of the footage and add the personalized piece.
Finally, they created another postcard to their guests, with a photo of the wedding and a note of thanks, stating: “for a personal thank-you go to this link.” Each postcard included that guest’s personalized You Tube link address.
The response from their family and friends was wonderful.
“They liked it. They thought it was unique and they hadn’t experienced anything like that before,” Emily said. “They thought it was very personalized and specific to them, so they felt appreciated for spending the day with us … so that was a success.”
Emily and Zac put much effort into making the wedding memorable, by finding unique ways to include guests in their story.
“We just had our vision overall of what we wanted, so our family members knew why this day was important to us,” Emily said.
With creativity and very little expense, Emily and Zac created an interactive experience for their guests; one they are sure to remember. In doing so, they told the story of their relationship.
Mr. and Mrs. Rendell created the brand of happily ever after.
You Tube Channel: private
Photo credit: Vicki Rivers Photography