Wedding planners are great for couples who have the money to hire a professional.
Those with more modest budgets can only hope to come up with 50 or 150 free hours to take care of things themselves, and pray the resulting stress doesn't yield recriminations all honeymoon long.
Mobile apps like Brides Wedding Genius (free, for Apple devices), iWedding Deluxe ($10, for Apple devices) and Wedding Plan-It ($3, for Android) won't make professional wedding planners fear for their paychecks. But owners of smartphones, iPads and iPods will find that one of these apps will substantially reduce wedding stress, and maybe even save a few bucks as well.
Brides Wedding Genius, which will be introduced Thursday, is the newest member of this lineup, and in many ways it is the most promising, given its pedigree. Brides magazine has covered the wedding industry since 1934, and it is published by Condé Nast, which has a good track record in mobile apps (Epicurious and Wired magazine's iPad app are among them).
The Wedding Genius does fairly well in balancing comprehensiveness and simplicity. It is nicely laid out and easy on the eye, with magazine-quality photos throughout.
The "Guides" section features ideas for gowns and bridesmaids' dresses, jewelry and travel. Users can touch a button and store their favorite ideas in an "Inspiration Folder," which can also store photos from other sources.
Although I was married in the era before smartphones, I could easily imagine my wife using this app to flick through dress ideas while she waited in line at the bank or the grocery.
The app's best feature is a Task Tracker that, for an extra $3, presents couples with a planning calendar based on their wedding date, and a fairly easy way to e-mail tasks, ideas and status updates to others, and allow them to update their progress. Four months before the wedding, the app suggests completing a plan for the rehearsal dinner; one week before, the app suggests the bride break in her shoes, and so on.
Unlike many other apps, Wedding Genius offers tips for each task. (Scuff shoe soles with sandpaper, for instance, or choose flowers that won't wilt quickly in the wedding's expected weather conditions.)
Wedding Genius was built in conjunction with NearbyNow, a company that offers business and entertainment suggestions based on location, and NearbyNow's participation in this app gives it an advantage. Where other apps set a deadline for buying the dress, Wedding Genius can offer a list of suggested vendors that carry a featured dress, and help users reserve the dress at a nearby store and make an appointment to try it on.
Wedding Genius will also help users find jewelers for featured items, and it says that in the future, it expects to suggest vendors in other categories as well.
Thankfully, the app doesn't assume that couples will plan their weddings exclusively on their phones.
The Digital Wedding Binder feature includes a personalized page on Bridesweddinggenius.com that lets users sync the app's data and share tasks and news with whomever they choose.
There is one caveat. I tested Wedding Genius on a device the company provided, before it appeared in the App Store. The software was slow when I tried it -- a problem I attributed to its not-ready-for-prime-time status. But people leery about adopting something that's not tried and true might want to wait a week to see if the iTunes reviewers unearth flaws worth fixing in an update.
IWedding Deluxe ($10 for Apple devices), another iPhone planner, while good, offers fewer features than Brides Wedding Genius.
Brides Wedding Genius is unabashedly pitched at brides, while iWedding Deluxe is more inclusive. Open the app and it asks for the user's gender and the gender of the betrothed. It then asks for a budget and wedding date.
From there, users can opt for a highly detailed planner, or a more basic approach. The app can provide cost estimates, or users may enter them. Unlike Wedding Genius, though, iWedding offers no guidance in choosing vendors.
Android users have no option quite as refined as Wedding Genius, but Wedding PlanIt is still fairly good. The app lets users populate a guest list with contacts from the phone, and post photos linked to a wedding vendor, among other things. Whether users will want to track the guest list on a phone, instead of on a bigger Web page, as with Wedding Genius, is another question.
Android users who want to spend less -- as in, nothing -- will still find something worthwhile. Wedding PlanIt has a free version that has the same features of the paid alternative but with ads, while Wedding Countdown, another free app, is a down-to-the-second countdown to marital bliss.
BlackBerry, as usual, has many fewer options. Wedding Organizer ($3), which made its debut in late May, is at least comparable to Wedding PlanIt in that it offers 17 categories of tasks and suggestions for prioritizing their completion.
The app is less elegantly designed than, say, the Brides Wedding Genius, and the photography is decidedly less impressive. And the app has no user reviews to help avoid possible hiccups. But given the dearth of choice for BlackBerry users, it should be a welcome option.
Of course, some people may find that no amount of technological help, mobile or not, will alleviate the stress of planning a wedding.
Unfortunately, unbelievably, no app yet exists to help guide couples through a pleasurable and stress-free elopement.
I'd give it a week.
Android, iPhone and iPod Touch users can use the new Vonage Mobile app to make free calls to Facebook friends who also have the app. The service works over Wi-Fi and cellular networks, and the app need not be active to receive calls.... MeetMoi Now, a free new Android app, tracks your location and the location of other singles who use the app, and sends you a message when you're within a mile of one another. (Like Vonage Mobile, meetMoi Now also runs in the background.)
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