BONUS: Day 8-The Best Apps & Websites for Planning Your Dream Honeymoon

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Planning a vacation should be about enjoying the journey of discovering all the options of destinations, attractions and activities available to you-and avoiding the stress of last-minute cramming and rushing.

Even after you decide on a destination, you have to make a decision on transportation (flight, road trip, cruise etc.) and decide on what kind of accommodations you’d like to stay in during your vacation and the types of attractions & landmarks you want to experience.

Overall, planning a fun, exciting and possibly romantic trip is all about making decisions. But, the key element to creating the best itinerary for any vacation is a stress-free, seamless decision making process. How do you go about having a seamless vacation planning process? By choosing the right websites and apps, of course. Although large vacation sites such as Expedia and Travelocity have their place, don’t be fooled into thinking that these are the best-or the only-websites for your travel planning.

So which apps and websites should you turn to? Well, I’m glad you asked! As an extra bonus for brides and grooms mired in wedding planning, I’m going to expand my usual top 5 list for this blog series to include NINE of the best apps & websites that I’ve discovered that will help you plan the perfect honeymoon with the itinerary of your dreams!

After all, with all the work you’ve been doing to plan your wedding, you deserve a well-earned, fun, adventurous and romantic honeymoon. Without further ado, here’s the list of top 9 (in no particular order) of the best apps and websites for planning your honeymoon.

1) TripIt Travel Organizer


Why It’s Awesome: TripIt magically organizes all of your travel plans in one place so you can access them anytime, anywhere—in the airport or on the road (even when you don’t have an Internet connection.) Just hit forward to send the team all of your hotel, airline, car rental, and restaurant reservations and they’ll take care of it. Want to add a few notes, links, or recommendations? Just click Add Plans and enter away. The TripIt master itinerary has all the details you need, plus maps, directions and weather, so you can keep calm and carry on. It keeps all of your travel plans in one spot and stay organized with separate itineraries for every destination—ideal for frequent travelers. You can access trip details whenever and wherever you need them—on your smartphone, tablet or online at tripit.com. You can also easily add or edit plans manually right from the app or on tripit.com and receive daily weather forecasts, directions and maps for each destination as well as use map-based search to find restaurants, businesses and attractions, then add them to your trip itinerary in one click.

2) Jetsetter for iPad Hotels & Exclusive Travel Deals

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Why It’s Awesome: Jetsetter provides insider access to the world’s greatest hotels, vacation homes and tour packages. With the app you can enjoy panoramic photography, first-hand reviews, and access Jetsetter’s exclusive flash sales — up to 50% off daily. Browse panoramic pictures and 360-degree room tours, read first-hand reviews and grab insider tips and search and discover hundreds of the world’s greatest vacations, from boutique hotels in New York City to charming villas in Tuscany. You can also access Jetsetter’s members-only deals at up to 50% off and iPad exclusive offers without having to join.

3) Dwellable Vacation Rentals

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Why It’s Awesome: Find the perfect vacation rental with this app! Compare thousands of dream rentals right on your iPhone/iPad. It covers all US destinations, including hot spots like Hawaii, Cape Cod, Gatlinburg, Orlando, Outer Banks, San Diego and many others. There are over 80,000 vacation rentals and 1,000,000 photos that you can browse through the regional map and your search results will be automatically filtered by date, beds, price or amenity.

4) Utrip

UTrip
Why It’s Awesome: It’s a European vacation, complete with an interactive map! You decide on your travel dates and it takes you to an interactive map of Europe where you can choose the county and/or city you want to travel to. Then an interactive menu pops up where you can choose your lodging for the trip. Each menu not only has photos of the hotel, descriptions of the amenities and ratings, but once you click to book a room, an interactive map will pop up. The map shows you the locations of all the restaurants, attractions, landmarks and amenities in the area with icons, descriptions, photos, ratings and reviews of each place. It’ll even give you general price ranges that you can expect to spend at each place.

5) YourTour

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Why It’s Awesome: Not only does YourTour allow you to generate city trips on the spot, but it goes beyond the city setting to offer you visits to whole regions: after all, wouldn’t it be a shame to visit Paris and then find that your adviser never mentioned Versailles to you? YourTour is currently the only travel generator which covers all of a city, one or more regions or even a whole country. What’s more, YourTour will automatically plan hotels to suit your trip and you can make all your reservations in just one click. It’s the only tool that will generate you a real trip complete with reservations based on the preferences and budget you’ve indicated. The YourTour.com website is based on a unique calculation engine that combines mainly hotels and activities in order to generate several million tours in a few seconds. YourTour’s calculation engine matches the attractions and hotels to your tastes and preferences (modifiable in the “Personalize” tab), along with price, distance to be travelled, opening hours, availability, etc.

6) Hipmunk Flight & Hotel Search

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Why It’s Awesome: This app is the fastest, easiest way to search for flights and hotels, by comparing all the top travel sites so you don’t have to. Unlike every other travel app out there, Hipmunk doesn’t just show you the cheapest flight first–the app sorts by “flight agony” instead, incorporating important factors like flight duration, number of layovers and price. Hotel results are shown on a map so you can see exactly where you’ll be staying in a destination. You can also read TripAdvisor reviews in the app and turn on heatmaps to see the best areas to stay in based on unique interests like food, landmarks, nightlife and more.

7) Room 77 – Hotel Deal Finder for 200K+ Hotels

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Why It’s Awesome: Room 77 is a hotel booking app that helps travelers find the most rates and book the best prices on 200,000+ hotels worldwide. In one search, travelers can compare rates across hundreds of leading travel sites, including Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, Booking.com, Hotels.com and hotels directly, so they can be sure they are seeing the widest selection of rates and availability to get the best deal. You can easily search and find your perfect hotel from 200,000+ hotels worldwide, see more rates and room categories than anywhere else, so you always get the best deals and save up to 50% with AAA Member and Senior rates. You can also get the inside scoop on the best rooms in each hotel and after you book with Room 77, the team goes behind-the-scenes to get you a room matching your preferences. Want a quiet room or one with a view? They’ll hook you up.

8) Turquoise Holidays Honeymoon Guide

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Why It’s Awesome: You can discover dream destinations, read top tips of where to go when, what to pack and golden rules from the experts on all things honeymoon. You can learn about Turquoise’s unique gift list service, where your guests can purchase gift cards that will go towards your honeymoon and enter a world of stunning landscapes, turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and once in a lifetime journeys. Features of this app include: honeymoon tips & ideas, interactive guides for 32 countries across the globe, packing tips, budget tips, destination guides including currency, visas and flight information, interactive maps, special offers, beautiful photos and accommodation photos & descriptions.

9) Cruise Ship Mate

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Why It’s Awesome: Now you can find all cruise ships itinerary in one app! Including the following cruise lines: Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America, MSC, Oceania, P&O, Cunard, Oceania and Azamara. No matter which cruise line you’re traveling with, you can access all of these features: Cruise countdown clock, roll call, deck plans & cruise ship info, cruise port info (history, maps, locations, weather), excursion info, postcards, cruise itineraries, deck cams, cruising packing list, cruise ship tracker, vacation picture gallery and cruising tips. You will NOT need internet service to use the app on the ship. You can put your phone on “airplane mode” and still use the majority of Ship Mate’s features.

Yours in Wedding & Honeymoon Planning,

Lilian Sue

Day 7-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Creating Your Wedding Soundtrack

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When you’re planning a soundtrack for your wedding, there are three aspects you have to keep in mind: what kind of music do you and your future spouse like, what kind of music do you know that your guests love to dance to and MOST IMPORTANTLY, how do you incorporate both types of music to create a playlist that you AND your guests can have fun dancing to all night long?

If your tastes in music are anything like mine, you’d know in advance that NOT ALL the music that you enjoy listening to is music that you can dance to and there’s a chance that your guests may not agree with your music choices. Not only that, you may not agree with your guests’ musical choices either. How do you avoid a sticky situation where no one enjoys the music and they don’t want to dance?

Do your research into the songs that you enjoy, surely there must be a few rock, rap, pop or alternative songs that people could at least slow dance to. Then create a playlist with some of your favorites as well as some dance-worthy music that you don’t find cringe worthy. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Usher (mostly early 2000’s), old-school Boyz II Men and some Kanye West that could be considered dance-worthy.

So, what’s the easiest way to create your own playlist and have a guest or family member manage your wedding soundtrack for you? I’ve got top 5 of the best apps and websites for creating and managing your wedding soundtrack and getting you the kind of music you want for your reception.

1) Spotify

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Why It’s Awesome: After you download the app (for an iPod), make a playlist using your Spotify premium account OR make one from any account and subscribe to it later using a mobile device that’s logged into the premium account. Set the playlist so that it’s available offline on the mobile device of your choosing. If you’re using a iPod Touch, you need wi-fi long enough to “download” the playlist. Spotify lets you download temporary files to your iPod which last 30 days, at which point you’ll lose access and have to log back in and re-download. Test your setup wherever you plan to have the ceremony, preferably with some of the same songs you’ll be using to see how they sound and how loud they should be.

2) MyWeddingDJ

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Why It’s Awesome: Great for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, you can play songs and playlists that are already on your iTunes! It helps you create a Music Plan using your songs and playlists, suggests parts of your wedding you need music for, there are no awkward silences as it fades gracefully for all pauses and stops and crossfades between songs and when you skip a track. It prevents accidental skipping or pausing, takes requests, waits between each song or playlist.

3) Gig Masters

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Why It’s Awesome: You can literally find any form of entertainment that will play any kind of music you like. From jazz and bluegrass bands to violin soloists, singers and DJs, you can find entertainment to fit your wedding music needs. You can even hire world bands who play Caribbean music, a Beatles tribute band and other entertainers as well such as impersonators, magicians and clowns. It’s definitely the go-to website to hire all kinds of musical and other entertainment.

4) Last.FM

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Why It’s Awesome: You can search for all kinds of artists and play their albums for a fee through the Android and iPhone apps, listen to the radio, create playlists and it even has personalized radio stations based on music and playlists you’ve previously created. They have full albums available for all kinds of artists from Incubus to Imagine Dragons, Daft Punk to Kanye West.

5) Djay for iPad

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Why It’s Awesome: For the budding DJ, djay gives you instant access to all your existing songs and playlists on your iPad. Browse your entire music library and easily play, mix, and scratch your favorite songs as an iPad DJ. In Automix mode, djay mixes your favorite iPod playlists with seamless DJ-style transitions. You can customize Automix to your liking by adjusting various transition options such as style, duration, shuffle, and auto-sync. djay’s sophisticated on-the-fly song analysis calculates the beats per minute (BPM) and exact location of each beat, laying the groundwork for a host of other features including Auto-Sync and beat-synchronized scratching. djay’s advanced audio wave form display gives you an overview of a song’s structure and allows you to visually cue to specific points to prepare the prefect transition. Auto-Cut Scratching automatically applies the rhythmic pattern of the currently playing song to your scratches in real-time. Simply touch and move the record with two fingers to create stunning effects and go beyond the possibilities of the analog world.

What makes these websites the best for creating an awesome soundtrack for your wedding? Well, it goes beyond just having a playlist and it incorporates everything from DJs to live bands and all genres of music that fits absolutely every wedding.

With the right tools and websites to help you expand and incorporate your wedding soundtrack, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about planning the perfect honeymoon?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for your BONUS post on ‘How Social Media Can Help You Plan the Perfect Honeymoon.’

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

Day 6-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Wedding Décor & Wedding Favors

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Whether you’re searching for materials to create the perfect centerpieces for your wedding reception or personalizing bottles of wine or photo frames for your guests to take home after the wedding; it’s vital that you do your research.

When I talk about research, I don’t just mean researching what kind of décor and wedding favors are out there that will fit your overall theme. If you’re thinking about personalizing wedding favors or creating your own centerpieces and table runners, you need to do some extensive research to see whether or not it’s worth your time and energy to DIY some décor and wedding favors.

Depending on your creative skill, you might discover that a DIY wedding décor project that you take on may take too much time and energy. Planning all the elements of your wedding is supposed to be as stress-free as possible.

Keeping it in mind that shopping for and creating your wedding décor and favors should be as seamless, relaxing and fun as the rest of your wedding planning; here are the top 5 awesome websites (in no particular order) that I found that will help you find the perfect wedding décor and favors that will fit your theme and your culture, no matter what your culture is.

1) Beau-Coup

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Why It’s Awesome: You can order all kinds of personalized wedding décor and favors, from napkins to fans, wine glasses to photo frames. They also have an extensive section for Disney-themed wedding favors and you can also order edible wedding favors such as tea, wedding cookies and chocolates. In terms of décor, you can purchase lanterns, place card holders, bubbles and everything in between.

2) Wedzu

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Why It’s Awesome: This website is totally awesome because you can purchase handmade and indie wedding décor and favors from confetti to personalized coasters. You can also order monogrammed vases, place card numbers, wildflower seed wedding favors and spice kit wedding favors. You can also purchase handmade centerpieces.

3) Tree Beginnings

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Why It’s Awesome: For nature and garden inspired weddings, you can come to this website to purchase seeds for wedding favors! You can give your guests thoughtful wedding favors of tree seedlings, sunflower, daises or forget-me-not seeds and even flower bulb favors. If you have gardening fans in your wedding, you can also give them herb wedding favors.

4) InspirAsian Creations

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Why It’s Awesome: For anyone like me who is looking to plan an Asian cultural wedding, this website is absolutely amazing! It’s got literally everything you could want for Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indian weddings. You can purchase a double happiness stamp to stamp your invites, a bamboo gift box, takeout cartons for wedding favors and even Asian themed cake toppers. I was blown away to discover that you could even purchase chopsticks as a wedding favor! If you’re having an intercultural Asian wedding, I definitely recommend this website for wedding décor and favors!
5) Vintage Origami

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Why It’s Awesome: For the vintage inspired wedding, this website is definitely for you. You can rent everything from vintage glassware to decorate the tables at your reception to vintage luggage and typewriters to give your ceremony site some old-fashioned ambience. They also provide décor accents such as postcards, old-fashioned skeleton keys and candy bowls. Personally, I love any company that allows me to get my hands on vintage typewriter keys and even quill pens.

What makes these websites the best for adding cool and unique wedding décor and favors to your wedding? Well, it goes beyond just having décor and favors for your guests that fit your theme and it incorporates everything from ethnic cultures to garden items that fit absolutely every wedding.

With the right tools and websites to help you expand and incorporate fun wedding décor and favor ideas into your wedding, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about finding cool ways to create your own wedding soundtrack?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 7 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Creating Your Wedding Soundtrack.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

Day 5-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding the Best Photography

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You’ve booked your ceremony and reception venue, purchased your dream dress, ordered your favorite flowers and are en route to completing your custom, creatively unique invites-now what about photography?

Now, when I talk about photography, I’m not just talking about having the elegance, sophistication and the professional edge of hiring a photographer. I’m talking about incorporating the fun crowd-sourcing element of having your guests take photos.

You know your guests are going to have dozens of their own photos of your ceremony and reception that they’ll probably share with you via Facebook or Twitter, so why not incorporate this tendency of your guests into your wedding and give your guests and the bridal party new experiences that they’ve never had at any other wedding?

So what can you do to incorporate your guests’ love of taking photos? Well, I’m glad you asked! Below is a list of the Top 5 apps & websites (in no particular order) that will help you-and your guests-make the most of your wedding photography experience.

1) Lensley Automatic Photo Booth Rentals

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Why It’s Awesome: You can choose between the standard, branded or custom options for a photo booth. Depending on which option you choose, you can receive between 5-8 hours of service, an onsite attendant to help you and your guests with whatever you need, unlimited photo sessions, black and white photos, hosted web gallery and even Facebook and Twitter integration.

2) Sandbox Love

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Why It’s Awesome: Ok, yes, this company is a little different because it focuses on video rather than photography, but I chose it because it goes beyond just videography during the day of the wedding. You have the option of selecting packages that will chronicle your love story through an interview for your guests to view, have the team cover wedding highlights or select a cool package where your guests get to view your reasons for getting married in a unique save-the-date video.

3) Wedit

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Why It’s Awesome: Looking more into this, I love it because it’s more than just an app. When you sign up, you can receive 5 HD cameras that your guests can use to capture all sorts of photos from your ceremony and reception. You send the cameras back and the staff uploads the footage. Video and photo editing can range from $250-$400, depending on your needs. All shipping fees are included in the price for the cameras.

4) Capsule

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Why It’s Awesome: Once you sign up on the website, your capsule becomes your very own mini-website and you have several different options to add photos to it and even order your own prints. You and your guests can use their free Android or IPhone app to take photos and have them automatically uploaded to your Capsule and you can add photos to your Capsules with Instagram! Simply hashtag the Capsule join code to see your best instagram shots post instantly to your Capsule. If you have a wedding website on the Knot, it connects automatically with your Capsule and photos are uploaded as soon as they’re taken. You can share photos from your Capsule on social media, your guests can comment and like the photos you’ve posted in your Capsule and, you can use your own digital cameras to take photos and upload them into your Capsule as well.

5) The Laugh Box

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Why It’s Awesome: It’s a booth-less photobooth! Guest take photos with their phone or IPad, tag them on Instagram or Twitter with a specific hashtag and then the photos are printed at the photo station. That way, your guests can take as many photos as they would like, without having to line up for a turn in a photo booth! You can also create flipbooks by creating a short video clip print, and create a 60-page flipbook in under 90 seconds. Simply amazing! Every rental includes: A custom designed cover, complimentary DVD of videos from your event, set-up and breakdown and 2 full-time attendants and a box of laughs.

What makes these apps and websites the best for adding cool and unique photography options to your wedding? Well, it goes beyond just having an app for your guests to take photos with and it incorporates unique guest interactivity with social media, websites and more-and gives you access to more wedding photos quicker than traditional methods.

With the right tools and websites to help you expand and incorporate fun photography ideas into your wedding, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about finding cool ideas for wedding décor and wedding favors?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 6 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-DIY Wedding Décor & Favors.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

Day 4-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Getting the Right Flowers

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Now that you’ve booked a venue and you’re making headway with finding your dream dress and creating your uniquely customized wedding invitations; it’s time to turn your attention to your décor and flowers for your bouquet.

Why are flowers great for your décor and your wedding? Well, they provide fresh ambience and color that other decorations can’t, as well as some creative elegance and sophistication. They also show your guests different quirks of your and your significant others’ personalities.

Before you jump the gun and start buying flowers, let me remind you about the questions that I posed previously that you need to ask your florist:

-What kind of flowers will be or are in season around the time of my wedding?

-Will the available flowers fit the color scheme I have for the wedding?

-How many flowers will I need for boutonnieres for guests?

-Is my favorite flower (rose, calla lily etc.) grown naturally in a color that will fit into my color scheme and if does, will it also fit into my budget?

-Is there a difference between fresh and dyed flowers and if the flowers I want aren’t available in my colors, is buying dyed flowers an option?

These top 3 apps & websites (in no particular order) will help you answer these questions and pick the best flowers for your wedding.

1) GrowersBox.com

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Why It’s Awesome: You can order your own DIY wedding flowers, arranged wedding flower packages and even petals of different flowers including roses and peonies. You can also order flower gifts and different types of wholesale flowers that I rarely seen elsewhere, from Asiatic Lilies and mini Gerbera Daisies. You also search for flower by color and purchase dyed flower at your convenience.

2) Wedding Bouquet Ideas

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Why It’s Awesome: This application shows you the galleries of hundreds of beautiful wedding bouquet ideas, designs and decorating. If you have an idea about wedding flower decorations, this application can help you. This app contains the various types and colors of flowers such as : bridal bouquet ideas, bridesmaid bouquets, tulips, roses, gardenia, daisy, hydrangea floral, paper, silk, fabric, jewelry, buttons bouquet, red, orange, blue, cream, pink, white, purple, green, spring, fall, summer, tropical and more.

3) Flowerbud.com

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Why It’s Awesome: You can purchase boxes of different flowers such as irises and lilies in different boxes and colors for your wedding as well as bonsai plants and sunflowers. If you get stuck on creating your own DIY wedding flowers, you can talk to their Wedding Coordinator for advice.

What makes these apps and websites the best for creating and compiling the best wedding flowers? Well, not only can you search for, create and customize all styles and forms of flower arrangements quicker and in the palm of your hand with easy-to-use and fun apps that are affordable, but you can also keep track of your flower orders much easier.

With the right tools and websites to help you find the right flowers that provide your ceremony and reception with some fresh ambience and reflects your personalities, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about finding the best photography for your wedding?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 5 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding the Best in Photography’.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

 

Lilian Sue

Day 3-How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-DIY Wedding Invitations and Save-the-Date Reminders

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You’ve got a wedding date set and the venue to hold it in, now you have to find somewhat to notify your guests about the wedding.

Are you looking to create your own invitations by hand? Or are you going to a graphic designer or a design and print shop for the professional touch? Or, maybe you’re looking for an integrated approach with some new media, a website and an app or two?

No matter what your preference is for your invites, you can’t get started until you answer some fundamental questions about your wedding and what you’ll be sharing about your relationship and your personalities-beyond the wedding date.

What colors are you using in your wedding theme (ie. for décor, flowers and dresses)?

-Beyond color in your wedding’s theme, do you have fun quirks and interests that reflect you and your significant other (ie. music notes, video game characters, a love of books and certain authors) that you aren’t afraid to share with your guests and make a theme out of?

-Are you open to using different materials and media for your invites (ie. fabric, typesetting, engraving etc.) as an option outside of standard paper or cardstock?

– Are you going to be incorporating cultural and/or religious symbols into your wedding as it reflects your heritage (ie. Chinese double happiness symbol, Ukrainian pysanka etc.)?

-Are you open to using an integrated approach with your invites and save-the-date reminders, incorporating physical invites with an app or website?

I will show you the best apps, websites and platforms that will help answer these questions and make the most out of your wedding invitations and save-the-date reminders that are easy to use, affordable and stress-free!

Here’s the top 4 apps, websites and platforms (in no particular order) that will help you make the most out of creating your wedding invitations and save-the-date reminders.

1) Minted.com

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Why It’s Awesome: This is an great website that not only gives you free invitation samples, the option to create save-the-date cards, postcards or magnet reminders; but also allows you to create thank you and RSVP cards. It’s also one of the few that I’ve seen that gives you the option to create cultural and religious wedding invitations through their website, but also allows you to create minibook wedding invites, wedding announcements and journals.

2) Appy Couple

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Why It’s Awesome: This app is great for connecting with your guests and share details with them that go beyond just notifying them about the wedding. You can create a wedding app and website all in one shot, let your guests know about flight and hotel information and give them a customized wedding code that allows guests to receive information via emails and on social media platforms. With the wedding code, guests can upload photos using the app and share stories automatically.

3) Up Up Creative

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Why It’s Awesome: You browse the website for the design that you like and all invitation, announcement, and photo card designs are available in printed OR printable form. By default, all designs are sold as print-ready files. These files can be printed at home, locally, or online. If you prefer to order printing from them, you can choose to do so separately. Simply click on Add Printing from the menu choices at the top of the site and order from there with 3 options for paper:100lb cover stock in bright white or cream OR upgrade to 100% cotton in white. You can also customize your order. Within 3 business days you’ll receive a digital (PDF) proof of the customized design. NOTE: For an additional fee, you can also choose to customize the fonts used on your invitation or you can choose to use a language other than English.

4) Paperless Post

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Why It’s Awesome: This app is one of the absolute best for event management because you can track cards and invites you’ve sent as well as respond to ones you’ve been sent. You can: receive push notifications for new cards and recipient activity, view RSVPs and replies from your recipients, add additional guests to your recipient list, send emails to groups of recipients by status and exchange private messages with recipients. You can also RSVP to events and comment on cards you’ve received, access event details such as date, time, and location, view guest lists and other guests’ comments and upload photos to event pages from your phone.

What makes these apps and websites the best for creating your customized wedding invites and save-the-date reminders? Well, not only can you search for, create and customize all styles and forms of invites quicker and in the palm of your hand with easy-to-use and fun apps that are affordable, but you can also keep track of your RSVPs much easier

With the right tools and websites to help you create the right wedding invites that reflect your relationship and your personalities, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about finding your favorite flowers to fit in with your wedding theme?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 4 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Getting the Right Flowers’.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

 

Lilian Sue

Day 2-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding Your Wedding Dress

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So you’ve found a great ceremony site and an awesome reception venue, maybe you’re currently working on getting your really cool and creative ‘save the date’ reminders out to your guests or trying to find a great photographer. But what about one of the most important dresses you’ll ever wear for a monumental occasion?

There are literally thousands of options for a wedding dress. There’s several different silhouettes from A-line to ball gown and even the option to have unique color accents on a white dress. I’ve seen blue, red and black accents on white wedding dresses.

And if you don’t want white for your wedding dress? No problem! You’ve got plenty of choices, cream, ivory, pink, blue, red, nearly any color you could think of. What if you want a dress that reflects your heritage, such as a sari or Chinese cheong sam? Well, there are a wide selection of dresses to fit any cultural tradition too, all you have to do is look.

But, with all the stress that comes with endless searches, dress fittings and even the horror of having your dream dress permanently ruined, how can finding the perfect wedding dress be fun AND stress free?

Let me show you how, using some of the best websites, social media platforms and apps to find your perfect wedding dress.

Top 4 Websites, Social Media Platforms & Apps for Finding the Perfect Wedding Dress

1) Brides Wedding Genius 4.0

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Why It’s Awesome: This great app comes from by Condé Nast Digital (the company responsible for Brides.com). You can browse for wedding dresses by silhouettes, brand and price and when you land on an image of a dress that you like you can tap it to flip through similar galleries or to locate a store in your area. You can also access more expert tips and Brides advice, save your favorites and categorize ideas in custom folders for easy access and/or to share with vendors and create drag and drop inspiration boards on BridesWeddingGenius.com with items you’ve uploaded on the go.

2) Nearly Newlywed

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Why It’s Awesome: This website turns the concept of buying used or pre-owned wedding dresses on its head. How? Well, you search the website for a wedding dress with the ‘Sell It Back’ symbol, purchase said perfect dress, wear it on your big day and then sell it back to the website. If you sell it back within 2 months of your big day, you can get up to 50% of the price you bought it for-back! If you sell it back within 3 months, you get 40% and you’ll receive 30% of the original price back when you sell it within 4 months of the big day.

3) Wedding Dress Look Book by The Knot

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Why It’s Awesome: Think of it as your on-the-go for wedding dress shopping on your iPhone from TheKnot.com — from wedding dress suggestions, customized to your body type and wedding style, to the bridal salons in your area that carry your favorite designs. With this app, you can: get suggested wedding dress search results based on your body type, wedding style, and personality. Search the hottest new wedding dresses — by style, shape, price, and designer — and bookmark your favorites for later as well as find bridal salons in your area that carry your favorite dresses.

4) Bravo Bride

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Why It’s Awesome: You can search for used dresses on this site based on silhouettes and save them as your favorites. You can purchase and sell your used wedding dress on this site as well as search affiliated wedding boutiques and talk with other brides on the forums.

What makes these apps and websites the best for finding your perfect dream wedding dress? Well, not only can you search for all styles of wedding dresses quicker and in the palm of your hand with easy-to-use and fun apps that are affordable, but you can also find where to purchase your dream dress much easier and quicker. You can also create inspiration boards and flipbooks for your favorites as well.

With the right tools and websites to help you find the perfect dream dress, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about coming up with creative and fun invitations that uniquely reflect you and your relationship and spicing things up with cool ‘save-the-date’ reminders?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 3 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-DIY Your Own Invitations & Save the Date Ideas’.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

Day 1 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding Your Ceremony Site

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After some time to come down from the high of getting engaged, you’ve no doubt slowly started looking to doing some wedding planning. Maybe you’ve even started looking into a few wedding venues.

If that’s the case, let me remind you of 5 crucial questions you must answer in order to choose the right wedding venue:

1) What kind of theme and ambience am I going for with the wedding? (ie. Elegant, Traditional, Quirky, Modern-can also impact color scheme)

2) Are there family and/or religious traditions I have to consider?

3) Will the weather or transportation play a huge factor into the venue I choose? (ie. Are you going for indoor or outdoor? Out-of-town venue? Destination wedding?)

4) What’s my budget cap for booking a ceremony venue?

5) How many people am I prepared to have attend the ceremony?

Have you thought about what kind of theme your wedding will have or what your budget will be for finding a ceremony & reception venue? Are you worried about how long and how much energy you’ll have to spend looking for the right venue?

Let me show you the Top 4 websites, apps & social media tricks (in no particular order) to find the best wedding venue for your city

1) Facebook Graph Search

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Why It’s Awesome: Because Graph Search can look up anything from photos to local businesses-INCLUDING wedding venues your friends like, you can search for ‘[insert vendor need here]– that my friends like’ to get a list of options. The search results show which of your friends has liked each vendor, so you can message your friend to ask questions or get a referral.

2) Eventective

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Why It’s Awesome: This website has literally every kind of venue you can ask for a wedding, from reception halls, to restaurants, resorts and hotels. You can search for venues all over the US and Canada and you can even log onto their online forum to get advice on weddings and other events and read how-to articles.

3) WeddingMapper App

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Why It’s Awesome: This awesome app allows you to create lists of your vendors including your ceremony and reception venues, manage their contact information and other notes and schedule payments as well as track payment information all in one place.

4) I Do Venues App

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Why It’s Awesome: Comprehensive venue app for ceremony and reception venues in California. A comprehensive directory along with full galleries and information on each venues’ layout so you can see exactly how each theme, design idea and color palette will look.

Why are these sites, social media platforms and apps so great for finding the perfect ceremony and/or reception venue? Well, they save you time and energy and eliminates guesswork as well as endless searches on Google for your city’s best ceremony and reception venues.

They’ll give you the tools and the ability to see everything from locations and photos to layouts for each venue and you’ll be able to keep track of your favourite venues using these sites and apps, including tracking the payment history for the venue of your choice.

So with the right tools, sites and apps to get your ceremony and reception venues sorted, what’s next on the list for wedding planning? Figuring out how you’re going to find the perfect wedding dress for such a monumental occasion with Day 2: How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding the Perfect Wedding Dress.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

Introducing ‘How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning’

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If you’re newly engaged and find yourself overwhelmed by questions from family and friends and the sheer amount of things that have to be done for a wedding, from getting a reception venue to finding a photographer; this blog series is for you.

With this blog series, I’m going to show you how social media can make finding the perfect wedding dress, the right photographer and the best ceremony and reception venues-easier and quicker. Not only that, social media can add a creative marketing flair to your wedding, including helping you discover how DIY elements can give your wedding a unique individual flair not seen anywhere else.

For example, did you know that by using social media to help plan your wedding you can:

-Ask other engaged couples for help, all over the world-no matter what time it is?

-Have a mobile message board & community to inform & converse with guests always on hand

-Find unique and never before seen items and ideas from individualized rings (complete with fingerprints) to DIY centerpieces

-Find a reliable, affordable, unique and fun solution to an expensive DJ or live band

-Discover fun ideas for your first dance and for your vows.

-Always keep your wedding budget (including graphs of how much you’ve allocated to each element of the wedding) in the palm of your hand.

-Curate any and all information (such as flights, hotels & city attractions) for your out-of-town guests to have while they’re on the go

-Grab the expertise from top wedding blogs and incorporate them into your private, online inspiration board

-Keep all you wedding related tasks organized and synced to all of your social media profiles

-Find the perfect venue for your ceremony and reception, no matter how quirky and how big the guest list

For the next 8 weeks, I’ll be showing you how to use social media to do all of these things for your wedding and more.

First up, Day 1: How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning: Finding Your Ceremony Venue.

In the meantime, check out this awesome slideshow on a few important questions you should be asking about weddings.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

5 Ways to Strengthen Customer Loyalty

customer loyalty

Whether you own a bricks-and-mortar store, online business or a Fortune 500 company, whether you offer products, services or experiences, you know that customers are the ones that determine whether a business thrives or fails.

No matter the target audience, each and every company needs customers to believe in what they do, to support the core of those beliefs by purchasing products, services or experiences. The type of customers matters too. While you can increase foot traffic and ultimately revenue by increasing the number of customers that buy online or walk through your store, it’s infinitely more beneficial to have repeat customers who are loyal to your brand and who believe what you believe in.

So, besides continuing to offer amazing products, services and experiences that fulfill customers’ needs, wants and help make their lives more enjoyable, how do you build and strengthen customer loyalty?

Here are 5 unique ways you can increase customer loyalty to your brand, both online and offline:

1) Develop a Customer Loyalty Program

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Customers deserve to know that you appreciate their business and sometimes that requires more than a ‘Thank You’ card or a once-a-year holiday discount.

Try developing a loyalty program that rewards your customers for what they do online and offline. For example, you own a fashion apparel store and you notice that one loyal customer in particular is posting several different images of them modeling and sharing your clothing lines and accessories over the course of a few months via Instagram. Without any prompting from you, this loyal customer has become a brand ambassador of sorts for your company and is sharing regular user-generated content on your social networks.

This customer deserves to be rewarded for her brand loyalty online, so why not reward her with a gift bag full of your accessories, a $25 gift card or even a free t-shirt for her repeat business? It doesn’t have to be a huge reward in your loyalty program, just something that shows customers that you appreciate and encourage their repeat business and that you pay attention to their online interactions with their brand.

Conversely, if a customer comes into your store and regularly purchases accessories, beauty products or certain services like a hair cut from you, you should reward them with a loyalty card that allows them to earn point on those purchases and then redeem those points for rewards like a special gift, treatment package or gift card with a larger value.

Starbucks’ loyalty program is a great example of this. You can earn Stars that go towards free food/drink rewards, early access to new products and custom offers on products you enjoy when you opt into the MyStarbucks Rewards email newsletter by using your registered Starbucks, Teavana or La Boulange card to purchase Starbucks products on the app, in store or at your grocery store.

You earn two Stars per day and depending on how many you have, you’re registered into different reward levels. The Welcome Level gives you the following perks: Birthday drink or treat on the house, Birthday coupon for 15% off purchases at StarbucksStore.com and custom offers via email.
The Green Level (which you receive after collecting 5 stars in a year) gives you: Birthday drink or treat on the house, Birthday coupon for 15% off purchases at StarbucksStore.com, custom offers via email and free in-store refills of hot or ice brewed coffee or tea. The Gold Level (after you collect 30 stars in a year) gives you all of the above plus a free food/drink item after earning another 12 stars and a personalized Gold Card.

Every step of the way, you must monitor your customers’ purchasing habits as well as their online interactions with your brand and develop a loyalty program that rewards them for those actions in order to continue to build and strengthen customer loyalty.

2) Foster a Sense of Ownership

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If you’re testing out a new product or service, a great way to solicit customer feedback and foster a sense of ownership in the product by making them feel like stakeholders in the company is to ask them to beta test the product.

Not only is it an awesome way to generate customer loyalty and ensure that they feel they’re being listened to, but it gives your company an actual tested product or service before it hits the market for the general public. That way, you can leverage positive customer testimonials and build a reputation for the product/service/experience before it hits the marketplace.

For example, there are several video game developers and studios that often need their games beta-tested before the actual games hit the market to be reviewed by noted video game critics and websites and released to the general public. Nintendo hires several beta-testers through other third-party companies to help them test out their games to iron out any bugs and make changes before they hit the market.

It’s a great way to foster brand loyalty and allowing customers to foster a sense of ownership in the brand and ensure that their feedback is listened to can be its own form of a intangible reward.

3) Offer Premium Services

peter shankman mortons

For loyal customers who are repeat shoppers at your store or online business, try offering premium services to thank them for their repeat business. Similar to perhaps to the higher reward levels in a loyalty program, premium services don’t need a sign-up function. Instead, using email newsletter and transaction tracking, reward these repeat customers that you find with perks such as free shipping, free wrapping, extended business hours and even free upgrades on services.

How’s this for premium service? Author and business consultant Peter Shankman was getting ready to board a flight that was the last leg of a long day of traveling. He sent out a tweet that read: “Hey, @Mortons – can you meet me at newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. :)” He got off the plane at Newark to find a tuxedoed gentleman holding a bag that contained a 24 oz. Morton’s porterhouse, shrimp, potatoes, bread, napkins and silverware. That’s premium customer service if I ever heard of any. Someone at Morton’s had to monitor Twitter, notify the chef, have the chef make the food and then have it hand-delivered to the right terminal at the airport at the right time. That’s definitely going the extra mile for your customers.

4) Make customers feel special

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Host exclusive events for your top customers off-site and outside the office or profile them via an email newsletter or social media shout-out. Top customers deserve to have a few exclusive perks to let them know how much you value their business.

Vancouver-based security company Tri-Ed hosted an off-site customer appreciation event with wine and beer tasting, Sushi and Oyster bar and a photo booth at an off-site restaurant. Raffle prizes like mini iPad, a Canon digital camera and 32” LED Samsung TV were given to top customers that attended the event. That’s definitely showing your top customers how much you appreciate and value their business.

5) Reward Referrals

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Reward your top customers who refer their friends, family and colleagues to your business with discounts and other rewards. Customer referrals are a powerful tool in new business development and not only does it help to grow your current customer base, but also lets your current customers know how much you appreciate their recommendations.

Julep, an online beauty and skincare retailer rewards referrals with a $15 credit for every person that clicks on your referral link to join Maven along with Jules rewards points with every monthly box and special occasions like your birthday and Maven anniversary.

Stay tuned for more posts on content marketing, building marketing strategies and learning how to use cool platforms. In the meantime, if you want to learn how to incorporate more customer content into your marketing, check out my post on Turning User Generated Content into Sales for Your Company.