The Honolulu Star-Advertiser The Buzz column
Nov 07, 2012 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Wedding planning website HappilyEverAfterHawaii.com has relaunched, on the strength of the passion and perseverance of public relations practitioner Mia Noguchi.
She first launched the site in 2004, but the road ahead of it would not be smooth. Rather, it was as rocky as some marriages get to be. The company that originally got it online "downsized and ... never finished the site," Noguchi said. The next Web team needed to start from scratch, as the programming language used by the first was outdated, "then about six months later they went bankrupt." Now in the hands of another company that again used new, more modern programming language to build it, the site is up and running.
"I thought it was a great idea back then," she said, and despite the unanticipated ups and downs and in addition to her full-time PR work, she pushed ahead with the business because she still believes it is a good idea and a valuable service.
Noguchi actually has two businesses; the website, under Happily Ever After Hawaii LLC, and Lotus Pond Communications, her PR business.
Oh yeah, and she's the mother of two young children.
Brides and grooms-to-be can set up a free account at HEA, search for and contact local vendors, view videos of experts giving tips relating to their industry, and use the site's budgeting tool. It allows couples to enter quotes received from vendors so they can compare quotes and perhaps adjust amounts to be spent on other aspects of the upcoming nuptials, Noguchi said.
"I love the fact that the budget tracker helps couples gain an understanding of their wedding-related costs, especially since I find that most couples start with unrealistic expectations of how far their dollars will go," said wedding planner Mona Hirata, whose Weddings by Grace and Mona is a vendor on the site.
"Couples can feel a greater sense of confidence, knowing that the vendors on the site are reputable," having been checked out by the HEA team.
Any wedding vendor can be listed on the site for free, with their name, address and phone number. Those wanting an "enhanced" presence, with online links and richer multimedia content, must pay a fee.
New vendors are being added to the site regularly.
Site user and bride-to-be Christina Beyers likes the site's "all-encompassing" nature, as it includes each detail anyone might want or need for their wedding.
"The budget spreadsheet is easy to use and has become an essential of wedding planning with increasing wedding costs. I additionally like that these are local vendors, as coordinating vendors from the mainland becomes complicated," she said.
The site is well organized "and has a very user-friendly interface," and, something Beyers feels is a big timesaver, is "the option to bookmark the vendors Web page right off of the HEA website," eliminating the need to repeat searches for particular vendors.
"I agree completely with my fiancee, as dictated by the laws of impending marriage," joked Beyers' groom-to-be, Dr. Paul H. Wang.
The couple had perused national sites, and while some had Oahu sections, "navigating there required some effort," he said.
Sites with pop-up advertisements were off-putting. Additionally, "many sites seemed to steer you towards their preferred advertisers," he said. "My inbox did not immediately fill with a ton of offers after I registered" on HEA, he said.
Advertising will come to HappilyEverAfterHawaii.com, likely in January, Noguchi said, though she wants to keep it unobtrusive.
She also plans to add more features, functionality and aspects to HappilyEverAfterHawaii.com, as she has the resources and time to add them, but in the meantime she's keeping those ideas under wraps for competitive reasons.
"My goal has always been to help couples plan weddings, providing more good resources to them and to really have the vendors here in Hawaii that have worked hard to make every wedding a success. We want success on both sides," Noguchi said.
On the Net:
Reach Erika Engle at 529-4303, email@example.com or on Twitter as @erikaengle.
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