What to know if you're thinking about having a virtual wedding, according to experts
As social distancing mandates roll on, there seems to be no end to the ingenuity of people finding ways to connect despite discouraged physical contact. The latest trend to develop out of “coronavirus culture”? The virtual wedding. With gatherings still being limited in many states to 10 or less people, a lack of options has forced some couples to get creative, take to Zoom, and carry out the nuptials they may have otherwise cancelled or postponed until after the pandemic. And while it may be unconventional, it’s actually pretty easy to execute and can be way less stressful than a typical wedding.
If you’re thinking about taking your big day online, HelloGiggles talked to a few experts in the wedding biz about everything you need to know.
How to plan a virtual wedding
Pivoting from a traditional event to a completely online affair can seem daunting, but you don’t necessarily have to make many big tweaks to your original plan in order to make it suitable for a video chat. According to Alyssa Longobucco, Senior Style and Planning Editor at The Knot, you can absolutely still prioritize the classic touches you wanted in a digital ceremony. “Choose meaningful attire and incorporate some of those wedding reception mainstays into your chat, like having a first dance together, cutting a cake, reciting vows aloud,” she tells HelloGiggles. “The more you normalize the experience and include touchpoints from your original ‘plan,’ the less you’ll feel like you missed out.”
Once you’ve locked down what aspects of the IRL plan you want to keep, it’s time to think of logistics. If you haven’t procured a marriage license yet from your local City Hall or County Clerk’s office and that institution is now closed, your marriage may not be recognized by your state until you sign a license. That said, there’s nothing wrong with carrying out a symbolic ceremony now, especially if your intended officiant is able to conduct the ceremony remotely, then look into getting a marriage license at a later date.
Since a webcam wedding can have all the awkward moments of a conference call when multiple people try to talk at once, Karen Norian, a wedding planner for Simply Eloped, tells HelloGiggles it’s important to confirm that anyone who’s meant to speak during the event is properly prepared. “Make sure that whoever is involved in your ceremony—such as the officiant or a guest who will be speaking—has microphones or headphones with a microphone in it,” Norian says. “Remind guests beforehand that if they are not involved in the ceremony to keep their microphones muted until it’s time to applaud or engage in some way.”
Then, time out your ceremony and devise a cue system so everyone knows when it’s their turn to speak. Then, if you plan to have a virtual reception after, use the same cue system for any speeches or other moments that involve guests, Norian says. “Ensuring that everyone is on the same page prior to the wedding taking place will save you a ton of unnecessary stress and hassle when it’s time for the ceremony or reception to begin,” she notes.
How to live stream your wedding
It’s crucial to confirm that your internet connection is solid. If you’re going to broadcast your wedding to all your loved ones virtually, you want to make sure that they get to see everything, without important moments dropping out. “There’s nothing worse than having slow or lagging internet problems, so make sure the space you’re performing your virtual wedding has decent internet service,” Norian says. “In the event that there are internet troubles, make sure you are recording your ceremony (whether you’re on Zoom or are using Loom to record your screen) so that if guests were cut off for a period of time, they can watch the recording to see what they missed.”
Next up, choose your streaming platform. “There are a number of great video call platforms that could be used for this—you could use profile-based software like Skype, or you can use simple online platforms like Zoom or Whereby, which just require attendees to click on a link you share with them,” Valentina Ring, owner and head planner of London-based wedding company The Star Inside tells HelloGiggles. Just note that Zoom does have some drawbacks, such as charging for group calls that go beyond 45 minutes. “Zoom bombing,” or hackers showing up in private chats, is also a problem the platform is still working to correct. “There are also dedicated live streaming options like Livestream.com, though signing up for this will require a small investment,” Ring says.
Social media is another simple option, she notes. Facebook streaming, Instagram Live, Google Hangouts, or YouTube are all straightforward and effective platforms, and if you and your guests already follow each other, inviting them to the event will be easy.
After testing out your platform a few times, send a detailed note over to your guests about the timing of the feed and how to access it. You can also create excitement surrounding the event by using your platform to give guests sneak peeks of the morning of your wedding, Ring adds. “Send them some fun behind-the-scenes images or videos of the two of you getting ready or setting up the room,” she suggests.
How to get your wedding coordinator or vendors involved
If you’re not the planning type and have been heavily reliant on a vendor or wedding coordinator up until this point, do not fear—there are still ways you can get them involved if you choose. “While some vendors will not feasibly be able to assist with a virtual celebration, some may be able to provide services from afar; your cake baker may be able to make a small cake and coordinate a contactless delivery with you, and the same goes with your florist for wearable flowers for you and your partner,” Longobucco says.
Tap your wedding coordinator if you want help reaching out to vendors and getting everything set up for the virtual ceremony. And don’t skip on photography if you don’t want to—Longobucco notes that some photographers are willing to do virtual photoshoots, so reach out to them directly and ask if they’d be up for it.
Overall, vendors and coordinators will likely be happy to work with you in whatever capacity they can. With many weddings currently being postponed or cancelled, the continued support in their business will be much appreciated. “Wedding vendors truly invest their lives in helping couples celebrate love and are working around the clock to support their couples through this unfortunate time,” Longobucco says.
How to make a virtual wedding feel special
Even if your big day isn’t how you originally envisioned it, there are still plenty of ways you can make it great. Brainstorm some creative touches with your spouse-to-be, loved ones, or your wedding coordinator. If you were really excited for your signature cocktail at your reception, for example, send a recipe over to guests and tell them to prepare the drink right before the toast. Or, if you were looking forward to a coordinated dance with your bridal party, why not send them over the latest TikTok dance trend, have them learn it, and carve out a part of your reception where you all do it together? You could even message guests a Spotify playlist you curated, have them turn it on at the same time, and lead a virtual dance party.
To show your guests your continued appreciation for their support in your big day, you can also give them tokens that’ll help them feel like they were physically there with you. “You can send small bouquets that look and smell like your bridal bouquet, a taster of the cake you’re having, a mini bottle of champagne, or even cute photo booth props to be used when you’re all catching up on video after the ceremony,” Ring says.
Making major changes to an event you were planning for months or years can feel devastating at first, but the plus side is that your wedding will be one hell of a memory for you and your guests—and free from anyone complaining about the food.