For a little while, I've been pondering the best solution to our 'Wedding Website' problem. It seemed to me that there was no obvious website platform to recommend to our clientele and yet with the growing number of interstate & international weddings and digital stationery, there was an obvious need. We have always believed in creating cohesive stationery suites - from the first mail out to the last 'Thank You' card after the big day - and to us, it made sense that the wedding website should be an aesthetic extension of the paper stationery we create.
So it is with great excitement that I can announce Ayla, from WedSites, and I have put our heads together and come up with a solution! A wedding website that will work with the vast majority of suites that we create! I can't wait to show you what we've been working on, but in the meantime, let's get to know Ayla from WedSites!
It's so lovely to be sitting down and chatting with you Ayla! Tell us a little about you and your background -
Hi, I’m Ayla! I’m a geek, wedding planner, and plant lover who is originally from Tokyo, but now calls Melbourne home. I’m also the founder of a wedding tech startup called WedSites where we guide newly engaged couples through the planning process and help them create their own wedding website to streamline the RSVP process.
Outside of work, I enjoy doing anything that doesn’t involve me spending time behind a screen. I love any excuse to get my hands dirty, whether that’s painting, gardening, cooking, or crafting!
Sounds like you're a girl after our own heart! There is nothing quite like getting your hands messy! How do you work best? What is your schedule like?
My schedule really varies from day-to-day, but it always starts with a cup of coffee and a good playlist. I like going out for a morning walk with my dog before going into work mode. It puts me in a headspace that I’m going into work rather than just rolling out of bed into my home office.
On any given day, my schedule involves checking in with our couples, creating content, and working with my team on the next development sprint of WedSites.
What inspires you creatively?
I find a lot of inspiration from learning about different industries and conversations with people. I spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen and while it’s easy to dive deep into finding inspiration through blogs, social media, and different online communities, I get the most inspiration away from my desk.
Exploring new places, locally or internationally, or even just going for a walk around the city is great. Sometimes inspiration strikes while I’m in the shower too! If you keep your eyes and ears open, put your phone down, and observe the world around us you can literally find it everywhere.
What motivated you to create WedSites?
My motivation to create WedSites started when I was asked to be Maid of Honour for my best friend’s destination wedding in Hawaii. She was in Japan at the time, her partner was in the US, and I was here in Australia.
I noticed she was using a variety of different spreadsheets, email threads, notebooks and online tools to stay organised but quickly found herself overwhelmed by it all. The geek in me was determined to find a better solution for her, but to my surprise I just couldn’t find anything that ticked all the boxes.
The majority of the wedding planning tools out there were either bombarded with ads, super clunky to use, or were bloated with features that weren’t useful for wedding planning purposes. I was really frustrated, and that’s when I had my lightbulb moment and decided to create an all-in-one digital wedding planner with all the tools you’d need to streamline your wedding planning process!
It was also super important to make it a collaborative space where you could invite your partner, bridal party, and/or wedding planner to help you knock out those tasks. Wedding planning takes a village!
How has WedSites changed as a result of lockdowns and self-isolation?
Given that we’re an online platform, we’re one of the lucky few in the wedding industry that can still operate. That said, we definitely felt the impact by the initial shock wave.
Now that we’re at the end of April, I’m seeing more couples jumping on board to tackle the wedding planning tasks that they can do while in self-isolation. Creating their wedding websites and sending out their Change the Date notices being the main tasks, but we’re also seeing newly engaged couples in the early stages of planning who are still keeping up the momentum by putting together their guest list and working out their budgets!
How have you stayed motivated during this time?
Like so many other people, these past 2 months have been a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Something that this period has really taught me is how to slow down. Not just a quick break to grab a second coffee, but to really check in and allow myself to enjoy this downtime at home.
If anything, this pandemic has given us the gift of time and perspective on how to use it. Once I made the mental shift to be kinder and allow myself to step away from work, that’s when my productivity and mood really improved. I feel motivated now because I’m getting energy from new hobbies and projects that I would have otherwise convinced myself that I didn’t have time for.
So true! I've felt the same way! What is your favourite part of running WedSites?
I love the creativity and details that goes into planning a wedding! Being a total geek, one of my favourite things about running WedSites is talking to brides and grooms to understand where they’re at, what they want to achieve, and how we can make their lives easier.
Planning a wedding is notoriously very stressful and if we can help alleviate even a bit of that stress and make the planning process enjoyable for them, that gives me so much happiness!
Do you have any exciting updates / plans for Wedsites you'd like to share?
We’re launching a new website in the coming months which I’m super excited about! We’ve done a ton of product development since we released our current website, so there are a lot of new easter egg features that aren’t currently mentioned on site that I’m excited to share.
One of those features is the ability to add your own custom calligraphy to your wedding website! This has opened up a new level of personalisation and it’s been fascinating to see how couples are using this feature to create a cohesive look across their stationery suites and wedding website.
The cat is out of the bag!! We're so excited about this feature too! What is the most under-utilised feature on WedSites that couples' should know about & use?
Another one of our easter egg features that is under-utilised are the printable wedding reports! This is really great for brides who like putting pen to paper, or if you need to quickly hand over information to your vendors. As you progress through the planning journey and use the various features in WedSites, the platform will automatically generate printables for you.
For example, once you’ve got your RSVPs back, you’ll be able to print out a report listing everyone’s dietary preferences to send to your caterer. Or if you plan on having assigned seating, you can use the seating chart builder to create a document to hand over to the venue coordinator or whoever may be helping you set those tables.
Another printable we’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback on is the guest household document. This printable gives you a list of your guests’ names and their addresses to make it easy for you or your calligrapher to refer to when addressing those invitations!
And what a lifesaver that feature is for calligraphers like myself! It's great receiving the addresses in an organised format! You've mentioned paper stationery, so is it fine to have a mix of paper and digital stationery in your suite?
Absolutely! While you can send digital Save the Dates, invitations, and emails through the platform, it’s totally up to the couple on how they’d like to share their special news!
I’ve been noticing a lot of couples (including myself) who have opted for digital Save the Dates to quickly get the word out, but are choosing to send physical invitations.
If a couple decides to send paper stationery, they can still get that streamlined experience by asking guests to RSVP on their wedding website!
What are the benefits of having a digital platform in terms of planning a wedding?
One of the biggest benefits of using technology in your wedding planning process is that it can save you a lot of time. Using a tool like WedSites can help you quickly gather your guests’ contact details, ask for their dietary requirements, and even chase up any late RSVPers on your behalf.
There’s also the practical aspect of having an accessible and dedicated space for couples to plan their weddings. Nowadays, we’ve always got some sort of device handy. It’s not realistic to be carrying around a big binder with you at all times. We’re also seeing more grooms getting involved with the planning process, so having a digital platform means you can both access it and see what you need to do next.
Wedding websites are really great for sharing important information about your wedding that you simply cannot cram onto your invitations. They’re also dynamic, so if you ever need to make an adjustment to the schedule or have more information to add, you can always do that at any point in time.
I always recommend couples to include FAQs on their wedding websites. Doing this preemptively can save you a lot of time from answering the same questions over and over again. It can also help you avoid some of those awkward conversations around wedding gifts, plus ones, or if you’re choosing to have a child-free wedding.
How do couples' make sure that there is consistency between their digital platform and their wedding stationery / day?
My advice for couples to keep a cohesive look across their entire wedding experience is to really define your vision and the style you’re going for early on. Once you’ve figured this out, making decisions becomes a lot easier.
A wedding stylist can help you bring your on-the-day vision to life, but your wedding invitation is often the first impression you give guests on what to expect and should take all these things into consideration. To keep consistency across your wedding stationery and the digital side of things, your wedding website should reflect the same colour schemes, font styles, graphics, and use the same tone of voice as your invitations!
Keep your eye out for our Blog Post & Instagram Story on how you can work with The Blackline Bottega & WedSites!