Whether you're limiting event attendance due to social distancing restrictions or trying to find a way to include distant family and friends in a small local ceremony, a virtual wedding might be in your plans as an alternative to postponing your wedding indefinitely. Virtual weddings involve different challenges than a traditional ceremony might, so it's not just a matter of having someone record the vows. These nine tips for planning a virtual wedding help you create the wedding of your dreams even if you're going all-digital.
1. Sort out the logistics
Before you can hold a virtual wedding, you need to make sure you have all the necessary paperwork and equipment. Whether you can get your marriage license digitally or your state requires an in-person visit, you may need to arrange a trip to the courthouse for you or your spouse-to-be.
Look into whether your local jurisdiction allows completely virtual weddings or whether you need an in-person officiant or witnesses. If you need those people to be in the room with you, that might take more logistical planning for social distancing than an all-virtual event would.
If you were planning a large ceremony and reception, you might want to separate the two and have a small ceremony now, then host a big reception later once things return to normal. Couples with guests in multiple time zones might need to coordinate to figure out the best time for everyone, which might mean scheduling your wedding for a different time of day than originally planned. You may need to send Change the Date postcards letting everyone know that you've switched to a virtual format if invitations for your live event went out already.
2. Hire professional help
Planning a virtual wedding can seem overwhelming, so consider hiring professional help to manage the equipment and take care of any logistical issues. The last thing you need to be worrying about on your wedding day is how to fix a livestreaming issue, so assign someone to take care of that for you. Audio and lighting are separate concerns you might need to address, since you want guests watching from home to be able to see and hear everything clearly.
Planning a virtual wedding can seem overwhelming, so consider hiring professional help
Couples might also want to hire a photographer to document the wedding from a safe distance and schedule a pre-ceremony photo shoot outdoors where it's easy to socially distance. Consider contracting a DJ to create a perfectly timed playlist during the event so you don't have to worry about turning music on and off throughout your ceremony. Enlisting professionals to take care of the details leaves you free to relax and enjoy the day with your spouse-to-be.
3. Choose your platform
There are a lot of online meeting platforms that can work for a virtual wedding, so look into a few different options before deciding on a specific one. Zoom Conferencing, Instagram Live, Google Hangouts, and Facebook Live are all possible options, but they each offer different features. Your specific needs may depend on whether you are hosting an intimate ceremony with only a few invited guests watching from afar or a more complex affair that requires separate feeds for your officiant and each of your attendants.
Once you decide on a particular platform, you also need to determine what guidelines your guests should follow. You might want to require that everyone stays muted unless giving a reading or reciting a prayer, or you might ask people to refrain from commenting in the text comment thread until after the official ceremony is complete.
Some guests might be unfamiliar with the platform you're using, especially older guests who don't use technology often. You may need to send out printed instructions beforehand or do a test run with grandparents to teach them how to mute the microphone or get back to the room if they accidentally click themselves out mid-ceremony.
4. Send out invitations
Your guest list for a virtual wedding might not be the same as if you were having the wedding in person. If you plan to have a few people at the live event and others watching from home, make this clear in your invitations and pre-wedding planning process.
You can still send out traditional wedding invitations even if you're having a virtual wedding. Simply specify on the invitation where and how to access the live feed and ask guests to RSVP so you can anticipate your equipment needs. Pocket invitations are a good idea for virtual weddings since you can easily include information cards with step-by-step login instructions for your video feed and a timeline of events.
5. Schedule your big day
When it comes to scheduling your wedding day, leave nothing to chance. Have a written timeline of the important moments in your ceremony and plan out what you want to do before and after the big event. This might include scheduling a short Zoom session with bridesmaids to share a pre-wedding makeup and hairstyling session or having a one-on-one video chat with your parents just before walking down the aisle.
When it comes to the ceremony itself, the trend with virtual weddings is to keep it short. This might mean eliminating some of the things you originally intended to incorporate and focusing on just those aspects that mean the most to you and your beloved.
Think about plans for after your ceremony as well. You might want to set up a virtual reception or smaller after parties where guests can break off into individual small-group video conferences to celebrate and chat. Another idea is to schedule a few minutes for each guest to unmute their microphone and say a few words to the newlywed couple.
6. Find creative ways to include your guests
Virtual interactions often feel more distant than in-person events, so take time to come up with ways to make guests feel immersed in your wedding celebration. Send out any text of poems or prayers beforehand so everyone can follow along and set up a virtual guest book on your wedding website so your loved ones can write their well wishes before or after the ceremony. You might want to give guests a printable copy of your vows, so they know what you're saying even if the audio isn't completely clear.
Some couples mail out vials of confetti for guests to toss at the end of the virtual wedding or send a drink recipe that guests can make to use during a post-wedding toast.
7. Rehearse beforehand
Even though you're going virtual, you still need to rehearse before the actual wedding. This also includes doing a small trial run of your video conferencing equipment to make sure everything is placed correctly and working right. Broadcast your rehearsal to a few close friends who can alert you to any issues so you don't discover at the last minute that some people can't hear the officiant, or the wedding music is so loud it drowns out your vows.
8. Enjoy your wedding
While it may not have been exactly what you initially envisioned, a virtual wedding can be as meaningful as a live ceremony. Try to act normally and ignore the cameras and screens while you concentrate on your vows and the commitment you're making.
9. Share your joy after the wedding
Once your wedding is over, put up a recording of the ceremony on your wedding website or personal social media page so people who couldn't attend can watch later. Send out thank you cards to everyone who participated to show your appreciation.
No matter how much your plans have changed, a virtual wedding can be as special and momentous as a live ceremony. The important part is that you and your beloved are making a commitment to each other in front of those who love you most, and you're sharing your joy even if it's across miles instead of across the room.