When we got married in 1999, we created a wedding website and gift CD for guests. My husband spent the night before our wedding burning disc after disc, and I spent the months after the wedding scanning photo after photo. These days, blogs, iTunes and digital cameras make it easy for anyone to include their friends in the celebration, and to turn this once-in-a-lifetime gathering into the birth of a shared community of friends. Create a group on Facebook or another social network so your guests can plan car pools and wedding weekend get-togethers beforehand; after the wedding, use the group to share photos, keep people in touch and ask them to share their reflections on your celebration.
If you've got a new parent in your circle of friends—or if you're counting on your friends to help you through the birth of your kids—the web can help. Set up an online calendar that friends can use to sign up for days when they'll bring meals. Keep an online grocery list so people know what supplies you need, and an online task list so people can sign up to help you out as needed. And while you're waiting for the big day to roll around, set up an email list to blast your good news to friends (putting everyone's email address in the BCC field so you're not sharing addresses among your friends who don't know each other).
My husband couldn't have turned 40 without the social web, and I think he's holding a grudge against all of social media as a result. For his 40th, we threw a huge party and invited all our friends (via email). In addition to the in-person party, I set up a virtual celebration by asking all of Rob's friends to post memories and notes to a blog I set up for that purpose. For the actual party, I spent a week baking seven different kinds of desserts, all selected from the Epicurious website based on reader reviews. Between the severe sugar high and the deluge of loving blog posts, Rob entered his 40s with a big smile.
Use social media to organize celebrations (with online invitations, shopping lists and recipes) and to mark the event (via blog post, photo or video contributions) in a way that can include friends from any part of the world.
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