Attention Brides and Grooms! Serious subject matter here!
I want to talk about SECURITY as it relates to your engagement, wedding planning, wedding weekend, and married life thereafter. Because it all starts the minute you get engaged. As soon as you begin surfing wedding websites and enrolling as a bride on different discussion boards, you're putting your information out there. That wedding website you will be creating is a giant gaping security hole for a number of reasons I will explain below. And all of the information that you begin disseminating now is going to haunt you forever in the deepest spots on the Internet, so yes, you really do need to stop and think about this.
An absolutely ridiculous amount of information is already available about every single one of us via the Internet. And there are paid sources online that can dig even deeper. It takes next to nothing to get a copy of someone's credit report, and Social Security numbers are about as "secure" as an old-fashioned soda machine. Identity theft is affecting millions of people annually and if somebody targets you, you're pretty much screwed. With that said, why would you want to advertise more information to make yourself a target for criminals?
Wedding websites not only detail every aspect of when you're getting married (as in when your entire family will be gone and their houses likely empty for multiple events), but often provide other extraneous information like your birthdays (that "about us" section) and gives the bride's soon-to-be maiden name. Sometimes, if she lists all of her wedding party's names out too, she's also providing her mother's maiden name to any potential identity thief who spends exactly three minutes reading about her wedding plans. Need I explain why this is problematic? I'd be willing to bet that half of the wedding websites out there also tell which cities the bride and groom were born in, as well as where they went to school and where they work.
There's a reason that a neighbor traditionally sits at the home of the deceased and their immediate family during a funeral -- because an obituary is in the newspaper. For years, homes were robbed during funerals because the bad guys knew the family wouldn't be home. Weddings weren't such a problem before because announcements traditionally ran in the local newspaper after the big day, and therefore, didn't give away information about when the families' homes would be empty or when the guests would be away from their hotel rooms. This is not the case anymore.
To some extent, all brides and grooms who participate actively in social media talk about their upcoming weddings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other outlets. Even if it's not, for example, the groom himself posting "Yay, I'm getting married!" messages, he's still getting tagged left and right by his fiancé and his buddies in engagement photos and bachelor party pictures. It's a fact of life. So everybody you're friends with on Facebook knows you're getting married. And depending on your privacy settings, they may know whether you're getting married at home or away, and where you're honeymooning, and how long you'll be gone. Boo! This is not good folks!
Here's a list of 5 things you CAN do to help boost your overall security and safety for your wedding and afterwards:
1. Use a wedding website provider that gives you a password option. I tell my clients to use www.mywedding.com because they put less ads on your pages, but there are LOTS of free website platforms out there.
2. Use a real password, not the name of your wedding destination or your wedding date. You wouldn't do that with your bank card, would you?
3. Put a limited amount of information on your wedding website. I provide my clients with a travel information packet and it really has more than I wish they had to put up there (I'm an advocate of mailing the packet), but it doesn't give away any of their historical or biographical information. Just dates and locations. I know it's fun and cute to blow out your wedding website with a thousand fun pictures and great captions, but remember, you have to be careful what information you're putting out there.
4. Don't make your friends identity theft targets too. Don't caption your favorite birthday pictures with the dates. And seriously, don't list your bridesmaids' and groomsmen's last names -- because all that does is create a security risk for them as well. Especially if you're all going out of town for a destination wedding. It also gives away your mother's maiden name if you've got cousins in your bridal party.
5. Plan to have a housesitter, even if you're not having a destination wedding. Have somebody sit at the house during the wedding even if you're returning that night. And if you're going on a mini-moon, get someone to stay for a few nights. Seriously. Your entire neighborhood may know you're getting married. In this day and age, you can never be too careful. Don't leave your house empty for your wedding day, weekend or week.
After you're married, you need to be even more careful with what information you share. Remember, you also may have had a wedding registry that shows your home address at any number of stores that could tell a smart thief exactly which gifts you're receiving and where they're being delivered. It can be smart to use your parents' address, or even your office if that's feasible, in lieu of listing a home address. Later in life, when you sell your home, don't leave your framed wedding invitations up on the wall when it's being toured or you're giving away your wedding date and maiden name.
My husband, a retired police captain, said this blog depresses him because people HAVE to be so paranoid these days. But he's also the one who reminded me to tell you about the security hole in wedding gift registries. This is no joke folks. Your wedding becomes a very public event, even if you're only having a small group of guests attend, if you put a lot of information out on the Internet. Whether you're using bridal planning sites, making your own wedding website, or just posting too much information on social media, you could be creating a really big identity theft disaster for yourself down the road.
Use your best judgment -- do you want just any stranger to know where you live, whether you have children, and the name of your dog? Password protect everything, think twice about how much personally identifiable information you make available to your guests via the Internet, and then think about it one more time before you publish it. Despite what the blog provider might tell you, there's really no taking it back once it's out there. Sometimes it's just better to mail them a travel information packet the old-fashioned way.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra! And please be safe about your wedding planning decisions!