CHICAGO (Reuters Life!) - Susan and Mark Golebiowski found love on an Internet dating site, so it was only appropriate that when the couple started planning their June wedding they turned to the Web.
"I don't know what our wedding would have been like without the Internet," said Susan, a 30-year-old graphic designer from Chicago. "It probably would have been a lot simpler, but not as much fun."
The Golebiowskis used the Web for everything from designing save-the-date cards to find a venue. They said it helped them save time and money.
As a generation that grew up with the Internet begins to marry, more couples are using it to plan their weddings.
And the competition online for those couples' attention and dollars is getting stiffer.
"We're looking at people who live Web-centric lives, and I don't see that anyone would ever try to plan a wedding if they're not using online sources and online help," said Wenda Harris Millard, co-chief executive at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. The company invested $5 million in planning site WeddingWire Inc this year.
"I think this is an area where you'll see quite a radical shift in usage. It's a huge market."
New generation of brides
Couples turn to online sources 84 percent of the time while wedding planning, according to The Wedding Report, a research company that tracks wedding spending and trends.
"All you have to do is search and you can find everything. It's like a dictionary at your fingertips," said Dawn Laciak, a self-professed computer geek, who used the Web for advice, planning and purchasing items for her wedding.
Between 12 percent and 15 percent of couples use a wedding planner, said David Wood, president of U.S.-based Association of Bridal Consultants.
Laciak, 39, who married her husband, Richard, in May, planned her wedding in five months. She got recommendations from online message boards and even made two friends at one wedding planning site whom she invited to attend her ceremony.
Traditional bridal magazines are a good choice for inspiration, but online sources are more helpful for planning, WeddingWire Chief Executive Tim Chi said.
"Where we saw a huge need is on the latter half of the wedding planning phase," Chi said. "The most frustrating part is getting all of your I's dotted and T's crossed."
Laciak and Golebiowski described their planning as smooth overall, but added that they did hit some snares.
Laciak said on a rushed deadline she chose a recommended videographer with whom she was less than pleased and Golebiowski said custom stamps she ordered were incorrectly sent to Texas.
Still, both were happy overall with the experience.
"I'm a very organized person so I wouldn't have handed over something I could do myself to someone else," Golebiowski said.
An estimated 2.2 million U.S. couples get married each year, with the average wedding costing about $28,000.
Steven Gross, owner and founder of Real Life Weddings, a photography studio in Chicago, said his company has its own Web site and it advertises on Web sites aimed at Chicago area couples.
"I think the Internet is a pretty important tool to get out there and stay out there," Gross said.