Virtual Weddings in the Pandemic

Virtual Weddings in the Pandemic

Part of our blog series on Virtual Events in the Pandemic

Have you ever wished you could attend a wedding virtually? Probably not. Although when I got married to my wonderful wife, Lauren, over 21 years ago, I think we both would have been very tempted to make it a virtual gathering. It would have reduced the stress on planning and balancing all the competing interests of family members.

But when I was married in 1999, hosting an event virtually was definitely not an option either culturally or technologically. Today, in the midst of a pandemic, I doubt many newlyweds like the idea that virtual weddings may be a necessity.

Whether it’s for the safety of elderly family members, to reduce travel, or as part of restrictions on large gatherings, it’s more and more common to have a virtual wedding these days. It could be either totally virtual or a hybrid event where some attendees are in person and others are remote.

Newlyweds Nestor and Skarleth

I was personally looking forward to a trip this year to Honduras to attend the wedding of my friend and co-worker, Nestor Bermudez. Nestor is one of our very talented developers at WebRTC.ventures, and I was very happy to hear of his engagement. Unfortunately, coronavirus threw him and his bride, Skarleth, a curveball.  

After initially planning to delay the wedding until after the pandemic, in the end they decided to have a smaller wedding with some local family members and a livestream for those of us who could not attend in person.

In this blog post, Nestor shares some tips from his experiences hosting a virtual wedding. I’ll also include a few screenshots from my perspective as a remote attendee. Nestor used HopIn to host his wedding, which is a tool often used for virtual business conferences.

And now, let’s hear from the proudly married Nestor himself…

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Virtual Wedding Tips, by Nestor

Everything in life is a learning opportunity. Our wedding was no different. 

We had a blast and were lucky to have a lot of family and friends be there, right next to us. Though due to travel and event size restrictions, many others could not make it in person. 

We were determined to have those people be there in some fashion. We had seen some news about couples running a virtual wedding and so we decided to give it a try. 

Nestor checks the livestream shortly before the wedding begins…

So this is what we learned from doing just that:

  1. If you were planning to have your civil ceremony at your City Hall and now you are doing it somewhere else, make absolutely sure that your paperwork is still valid. Some documents may have already expired but because of COVID and some may validity periods may have been extended.
  2. There are many tools out there that could be used to run your big ceremony. Do some research. A couple of the ones we considered: Zoom, Hangouts, Hopin, RunTheWorld.
  3. Following up on the previous point, make sure the tool you choose gives you more than just a video call. For example, try to engage with the remote attendees in similar ways to how you would in person. 
    • During weddings, people ask the groom and the bride all sorts of questions. Give them a way to do that remotely, too.
    • Conversely, the bride and the groom sometimes ask the attendees to answer some questions about themselves. 
    • You might have said or thought as we did, “I’m gonna match you up with my friend X, he/she is single” to more than one of your friends. Having a virtual wedding doesn’t need to take that away from you. There are tools that allow you to match with others in a chat-roulette style.
In the chat sidebar to the livestream, there were a series of fun poll questions for attendees, imagining the future lives of the happy couple (what would be their ideal pet? How many children would they like?)

Now, to the technical aspects of running your virtual wedding:

  1. Make sure you have a decent camera connected to the computer/system you will be using to stream the event. Consider multiple camera feeds.
  2. You may think that since it is a virtual event the number of people attending is not a concern. While that is mostly true, it does make a difference on the way you want to stream your event. If you only expect a small number of people (<20) the stream can be real-time similar to a call on Zoom or Hangouts. But if you expect a larger number of people then that will not give them the best experience. Look at streaming your event in a TV-broadcast-like setup where there is a small delay but it gives you the ability to stream it to a large number of people.
  3. Get a decent microphone or audio system. This is needed anyways for the in-person attendees if they are spread apart (especially because of Covid)
  4. Make sure you have a back-up internet connection, even if it is just your cellphone’s hotspot
  5. Play around a little with the positioning of your camera/laptop before the event starts. Do you want to capture the moment the bride enters the room? Do you want a close-up of the groom and bride while they are giving their votes? Do you want to show your friends eating/dancing in the reception?

Finally, don’t worry if some of the above details are not fully ironed out or not present at all. A lot of them were actually things we didn’t do at our wedding and only realized after the fact. We had a great time, nonetheless, and thank everyone for joining us!

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Back to the attendee perspective …

Congratulations Nestor and Skarleth!

I really enjoyed being able to attend Nestor’s wedding virtually, though I really missed the opportunity to see him get married and celebrate in person. Weddings are certainly an example where in-person will always be better. But even after the pandemic subsides, I think live streaming major life events to family and friends who can’t be present will remain a trend.

In their live feed, we were able to witness the entire ceremony. As with any live event or broadcast, positioning of cameras, microphones and lighting sources are all key. We were able to hear the ceremony well, but the natural lighting from outside the tent tended to overwhelm the lighting under the tent, and so it was hard to see the married couple themselves. Ideally, for a livestream you would consider multiple camera feeds so you can see the couple come in as well as see their faces during the ceremony itself. However, a more complicated setup like this will require either a local videographer with lots of equipment, or a customized software solution that makes it easy for the bride and groom to make one of their nieces or nephews into the “Producer of Honor” for their ceremony to switch between camera or microphone feeds throughout the ceremony.

I admit, there are some things that happened late at night at my own wedding in 1999 that it’s best are not on camera … allow me to just say that you should not attempt a backspin or any other breakdance moves at your own wedding if your tuxedo pants are even just a little bit tight.  

This is what I thought I was going to look like during my own wedding reception. Reality turned out a bit different!

Livestreaming the ceremony may soon enough replace the role of an in person videographer. Those videographers will need to offer advanced livestreaming tools that go beyond just showing a video feed if they want to stay in business. As Nestor alludes to, virtual wedding participants want to stay engaged via things like live chat with other attendees, polls, and more.  

One idea that I had while watching Nestor’s wedding is it would be nice to allow the remote participants to record a brief video greeting to the married couple. Those recordings and well wishes would have been more personal than the, “Congratulations!!!” that we were all typing into the group chat. They also could have become part of the wedding video for them to look at afterwards, or even have been shown on a monitor at the in-person event for those there to enjoy as well. So there’s a business idea you can have for free. I’ve got too many things to work on already!

Do you have ideas for how to build a custom virtual wedding application, or any other live video application that will help stream and capture life’s magical moments, even when we can’t all be together in person? Perhaps you are the “Steve Jobs of weddings” who will revolutionize how future weddings will be held in a globally distributed world? Our team can build it for you! 

At WebRTC.ventures, we have experience building live video applications for a variety of industries and we’d like to help you bring your ideas to life. Contact us today and let’s make every remote event meaningful.

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