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For Better Or Worse

Profile of The Knot Inc.

Would queen of etiquette Emily Post ever address how two dads should give away their daughter or how a Buddhist-Catholic ceremony is conducted? Yeah, right. That's where The Knot Inc.'s (http://www.theknot.com) modern solutions to real weddings come in. With multimillion-dollar investments from AOL, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners and QVC-and first-hand wedding-hell experience from two of the four founders-this New York City-based multimedia concern is quickly becoming the source for true wedding bliss.

"A completely hideous experience" is how The Knot editor-in-chief Carley Roney describes preparations for her 1993 marriage to CEO David Liu, 34. "It was an intercultural wedding. My parents were divorced, and his sister wasn't speaking to his father," says Roney, 31. "Everybody I know has a life like that. But in wedding magazines, no families have problems."

Ted Leonsis, head of AOL's former Internet start-up financier the Greenhouse, couldn't help but "smell money" upon hearing The Knot's presentation in February 1996. By June, Roney and Liu, along with 33-year-old co-founders Rob Fassino and Michael Wolfson-all pals from New York University film school-had their first round of seed financing.

Bridal magazine publishers were taken aback. "About a year [after the AOL launch in September 1996], Modern Bride approached AOL, and AOL said `Sorry, The Knot's our wedding partner. You can talk to them,' " says Roney. "Then the Modern Bride people came to us saying `We'll let you put [our] logo on your site if you like.' And we were like `Why would we want to?'"

Not since the founders had to convince financiers "The Knot" wouldn't be mistaken for a sailing apparel brand have they had to struggle for approval. With a million unique visitors each month, the site, which covers topics from engagement to "newlywed nesting," offers searches for everything from wedding gowns to photographers and has a 10,000-product gift registry. It's been praised across the "best of" boards-from U.S. News & World Report to The Webby Awards. And don't assume this venture is strictly virtual: Two installments of a three-book deal have been released; the second issue of The Knot Ultimate Wedding Gown Guide hit newsstands in February; and a joint-venture wedding series co-produced with PBS is slated to go into production by this fall.

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