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TheBuzz

Erika Engle

Thursday, January 15, 2004


Forever togetherness
in Hawaii has to
start somewhere


Every happily-ever-after must have a beginning and this is it, for a Hawaii-based online wedding planning service.

HappilyEverAfterHawaii.com is a do-it-yourself resource for research, budgeting, shopping and other facets of wedding planning. It is online and makes its physical debut this weekend at the Hawaii Bridal Expo at the Blaisdell Center Exhibition Hall.

"There really wasn't a (local) site where someone could do it all," said Mia Noguchi, vice president for public affairs at McNeil Wilson Communications Inc. Brides-to-be get a free 30-day trial, but Noguchi will eventually assess a $10-a-month fee.

It started out as her baby six years ago but became a joint venture more recently, borne of evening and weekend time in an equal partnership with Hawaii Web development company Wet Sand Enterprises.

There are national sites, but none which focus on the Hawaii niche for local brides-to-be or those on the mainland planning isle nuptials, say the co-founders. It will eventually be translated for the Japanese market.

"It's hard for (the sites) to really put an emphasis on one market," said Stewart Chong, managing member of Wet Sand.

The vendors listed at HappilyEverAfterHawaii.com are all small businesses so far, most of them locally based, Noguchi said. Music clips and video streams will help couples navigate entertainment and location choices and there are links to vendor Web sites for further exploration.

Vendors pay $100 a month for placement on the site and have been screened by Noguchi. "We've tried to make an effort to get vendors that would have integrity," she said.

Work to add vendors in different categories is ongoing.

Web site beta-tester Elisa Tanabe looks forward to increased vendor variety but otherwise sees nothing lacking on the site. She has been using it to plan her July 24 wedding and finds it intuitive and easy to customize.

"I think budgeting is probably the best part of the site for me," she said. While bridal magazines offer such planners, calculations are made instantly on the Web site "and you can keep it categorized really well."

"It's also nice because I can access it at work or at home, which I wouldn't be able to do with an Xcel spreadsheet," Tanabe said.

The centralized cyber-location of information on the preferred florist, rehearsal dinner time and other wedding aspects keeps everyone literally on the same page.

Two of her bridesmaids are on the mainland and their access to her plans saves on phone charges and e-mail time with no worry about differing time zones.

Tanabe's beta-tester status comes as Chong's fiancee.

Most brides do most, if not all of the planning, but Chong has used his work product to participate at least a little.

"Sometimes I get so deep in the forest, having been involved (in development of the site), that I need to step back, more as the groom, and see what happens through the site," he said.

"You can also handle online RSVPs for the bridal shower," he said. A bride may want to save the expense of sending out paper invitations for a bridal shower and the site offers e-mailable invitations.

But are they pretty e-mails?

"Yes, they are pretty e-mails," Chong said.

They also don't require bow-tying skills. "You know, I claim not to have that dexterity so I opt out of those bow-tying activities," he laughed.

Chong's brother has been married to Tanabe's sister for nearly 5 years. They didn't have the Web site to help plan their wedding.

"No, they didn't, and since then my sister started a wedding invitation business and (Chong's) business partner made her Web site. I think I need people around me to keep inventing things for me," Tanabe laughed.

The Bridal Expo runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.




See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: eengle@starbulletin.com


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