I recently attended a friends destination wedding overseas, and it ended up being a lot harder than it needed to be. It made me realise how much goes into planning a wedding abroad or in a new place, and how sometimes the little details make life so much easier for guests travelling for your big day. In my experience finding accommodation close to the venue was hard, and the copious amount of emails back and forth before the wedding became hard to keep up with. So when I recently learnt of Melbourne founder Ayla Toyokawa and her genius business WedSites - I knew this was a game changer for brides everywhere so I was honoured to get an interview with her...
Who are you and what do you do on your weekends?
I’m a Tokyo city girl turned Melburnian who loves being in nature, especially by or in the water. I’m also a tech geek, wedding planner, amateur calligrapher, animal lover, and crazy plant lady. On weekends I love any excuse to jump in the car and head off somewhere new with my hubby and fur baby. Majority of my working hours are spent behind a computer screen, so it’s important for me to do things that don’t include a keyboard!
You're the genius founder behind WedSites - tell us how you came up with the idea?
A couple years ago my best friend got engaged and asked me to be her Maid of Honour and help plan her destination wedding in Hawaii. At the time, she was in Japan, her fianceé was in Washington DC, and I was living here in Melbourne. We were in 3 different countries and timezones trying to organize this wedding. My BFF had signed up to several different online planning tools in an attempt to stay organised, which quickly got messy...
I come from a project management, web design, and tech startup background, so I was quick to jump online to search for a better solution. To my surprise, I couldn’t find anything that really ticked all the boxes. So that was my ‘aha’ moment! I started brainstorming and wireframing this idea of an all-in-one wedding website and project management platform for months, but when I got engaged a year later, that’s when we kicked off the development of it full throttle.
My fiance (now husband) and I built the platform based on the things we needed to plan our own wedding and wanted to make it collaborative as we were both involved in the process. We used WedSites to plan our entire wedding, so we got to be our own beta testers! We both learned a lot going through the planning process and gained lots of insights which directly influenced how we developed the platform
How is the product helping couples the most?
One of the biggest benefits our couples are experiencing is the ability to set up a wedding website for their guests. Having a website just makes it easier for guests to find all the information they need to know about the wedding, and also for RSVPing. Online RSVPs are becoming increasingly popular because it’s just easier for you and your guests. Couples get to save on postage costs and your guests just have to click a button on your website. You don’t have to wait or rely on your guests to send back their RSVP cards, so it’s a win-win for both parties.
How is WedSites different from other website builders?
There are several website builders out there, but unlike a site builder like Wix or Squarespace, you’ve got all the tools and features you’d need to create a website specifically for wedding planning purposes. Wedding websites on our platform work together with a guest list manager that keeps track of all your incoming RSVPs, guest contact details, dietary requirements, and any other questions you might want to ask on your RSVP card. All this information stored inside of a pretty database that the couple can easily refer to when finalising details with vendors before the wedding.
All our website templates come with matching digital stationery, which is also trackable so you’ll know exactly when your guests have opened up your Save the Date or Invitation! There is a lot more you can do with the platform, like creating a seating chart, printing off reports, setting up payment reminders for vendors, and managing wedding-related tasks. So if you’re curious, you can find out more at Wedsites!
The move to digital options for wedding planning are becoming more popular - why do think this is?
With more millennials getting married, couples are getting more tech-savvy! In a recent wedding survey, it was reported that 80% of wedding planning is done online. This isn’t surprising when you think about it really. We’re always on the go with our mobile phones in hand. This is a big reason why we made it a point to make our wedding websites, digital stationery, and the entire platform mobile friendly!
What are your tips on creating a good wedding website?
Make your website work for you! Including the basic details is a must, but answering those common FAQs is really going to cut down that back and forth communication with guests who will have the same questions. We’ve got heaps on resources to help you create an awesome wedding website right here.
Why do you think destination weddings are becoming more popular?
Destination weddings are the perfect excuse to escape the daily grind and make a holiday out of your celebration! Some couples choose an exotic location to jet off to, while others might choose a destination that has a cultural or sentimental significance. Personally, I love destination weddings! I went to an international school and a lot of my friends end up having a destination wedding because their friends and family are dispersed throughout the world. Choosing a location that’s equal distance for the families involved seems fair in a lot of ways.
Another great perk and reason for couples choosing destination weddings over something local is if you want to keep it intimate. It can be hard to keep guest numbers down without hurting feelings if you’ve got a big family with lots of distant relatives living close by. Going abroad for your nuptials makes it easier, not everyone can make it so naturally, your guest numbers will be smaller. Plus, you can head off to your honeymoon straight away and leave your guests to enjoy on their own holidays!
Best advice for couples planning a wedding?
The best advice I can give to couples who are planning a wedding is to enjoy the process. Wedding planning can definitely get stressful at times, but it’s important not to get caught up in the small details. You’re only engaged for this short period of time and once you’re married, you’ve become an alum!
Remember that it’s simply impossible to please everyone, so do what’s going to make you two happy. Be unapologetic about it and have no regrets! At the end of the day, your guests are there to celebrate your union. No one is getting dressed up to marvel at your centrepieces and judge your choice of colour palette. Don’t let anyone make you feel or tell you otherwise!
Your favourite location for a wedding?
When I was looking for my venue, I wanted something private, relaxed, and intimate. It was also super important to me to have our dog present, so finding a dog-friendly venue was one of our top priorities! It wouldn’t have been “us” without him there.
What did your own wedding look like? (we had to include your stunning photo to the left of course too!)
I got married late last year on a private estate with a beautiful country house on the Mornington Peninsula. We got married in the garden next to this beautiful rose arbour with our ring bearer (aka dog) running around greeting all of our guests. My husband and I went to the same high school in Japan, so we share a lot of mutual friends. I’d say 50% of our guests came from overseas and for many of them it was their first time in Australia. It was like one giant beautiful reunion! Having all of our family and friends from around the world come to Melbourne, where we now call home, was so special. We couldn’t have asked for a better day.
Planning your own wedding? Make life a lot easier for you and your guests and check out WedSites to learn more about creating your perfect day!