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Everything you need to know to have a virtual wedding in 2020

2020 has been a wild ride for everyone, from stores and schools closing down, to travel plans being cancelled wholesale. However, one of the most difficult things about this year is that so much time and energy has gone into planning weddings which had to be cancelled due to the covid-19 pandemic.

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Countless hours have been poured into finding the right vendors and venues, only to be told that large gatherings can no longer take place. If you refuse to wait until the coronavirus blows over to hold your wedding or if you’re looking for some kind of alternative, then keep on reading – a virtual wedding may be the best option for you in the meantime!

What is a virtual wedding?

Weddings have been around for thousands of years, and though they have evolved with time and culture, the idea remains the same – bringing two people together to share their love and lives together. 

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The most recent evolution in marriage is the ability to have as few or as many elements of it virtually as makes sense for you. You may want to have a small ceremony with friends and family, and stream the wedding to those who are unable to attend for health or travel reasons. There’s also the option to stream the entire thing virtually, officiant and all (see the next section for legality.)

Regardless of your reasoning, virtual weddings are allowing couples who were planning to marry in 2020 a secondary option. One that will allow for them to celebrate with those closest to them, and carry on with the wedding of their dreams.

Are virtual weddings even legal?

Virtual weddings are relatively new, so if you’re wondering whether or not you can legally wed using this format, you’re not alone. The answer is… complicated.

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Some states have already made it legal to get married completely virtually, from registering for a certificate online, to having a virtual ceremony. These allowances may be provisional, however, so be sure to check with your state and county laws regarding marriage licensing and officiants. Another option is something called self-solemnization.

Simply put, self-solemnization means that two people are able to be married by law even without an officiant, celebrant, or judge. This is only an option in a few states currently, with CO and Washington D.C. being the only options without further stipulations. This means that you could get legally married on your own terms, and hold a virtual ceremony to celebrate with family and friends.

How to livestream a wedding

Best streaming platforms for your virtual wedding

Zoom Weddings

Zoom is a great platform for hosting large meetings, and you can invite up to 100 participants with the free version of the program. If you have more than 100 people to invite, things get a little more complicated, but there are options to host more than 100 people on Zoom. The fact that you can see your live guests with Zoom is a huge plus when trying to decide which platform to go with. However, there is a 40 minute limit on meetings with over 3 participants.

Pros 

  • See video & reactions of your guests
  • Security using Meeting IDs

Cons:

  • Additional costs for over 100 users
  • You will have to record the live video separately for future viewing.
  • Needs moderation to admit & mute guests to the event.

Facebook Live + Facebook Groups for virtual weddings

One great thing about using Facebook Live for your virtual wedding is the fact that you can have as many guests as you’d like. Additionally, you can use FB Groups to your advantage during the planning process.

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Why use a FB Group when planning your virtual wedding?

  • You can be sure to keep it personal by starting a private group focused on your wedding where you only invite guests of your wedding.
  • When you go live on the big day, simply go live within your wedding group, and only members will be able to participate in your live video. 
  • Use it as a virtual save-the-date.
  • Have your guests submit screenshots, photos, or recordings and upload them to the group for all of your friends and family to see.

You can host a live video directly from your smartphone with no extra hassle, which makes this a relatively simple option if you aren’t looking for all the extra bells and whistles.

Your stream will also be saved to go back to later, where you will also be able to download it directly to your devices to share with those who may not have a FB account, or don’t have access to the internet.

Pros 

  • Guests can still use chat and react during your live video.
  • You can invite as many guests as you’d like.
  • Keep important information in one place for your guests.
  • Live video is saved for future viewing.

Cons:

  • You won’t be able to see your virtual guests.
  • Facebook may be a little harder to navigate for some users.

Broadcast your wedding with YouTube Live

Same as with Facebook, you can share your stream on YouTube with as many guests as you please. You will need to use a desktop for this feature unless you have over 1,000 subscribers on your YT channel, which allows you to stream via mobile. This means that you’ll either have to go live using a webcam, or some kind of encoder/streaming service like OBS to allow for connectivity of external devices (cameras, microphones, etc…)

YouTube will save your stream as a video for later viewing if you so choose, which is a great option to share to family and friends that aren’t able to attend your virtual ceremony.

Pros 

  • Live video is saved for future viewing.
  • YouTube is a relatively easy platform to navigate
  • Guests can still use chat and react during your live video.

Cons:

  • You can’t livestream from mobile unless you are partnered with YouTube.
  • You won’t be able to see your virtual guests.
  • There isn’t an easy way to reserve a link, so guests will have to

How to invite guests to your virtual wedding

With weddings looking completely different, you may be asking “How am I supposed to invite my guests to a virtual event? Should I still send a physical invitation? Is there such a thing as a virtual invitation?” Let’s start with the basics of physically inviting your guests to the live event.

If you choose to have a Zoom wedding, you can schedule a “meeting” and share the calendar link with your guests. This will work as both a Save The Date, and as a painless way for them to join you at the right time on your special day. 

Using Facebook Live you can create a private group that has all of the details about your upcoming wedding, and invite your guests to the group so they can stay updated along the way. When it’s finally time to say “I do”, go live in the group and everyone will be able to watch from there.
This isn’t to say that you can’t still send out a physical invitation, or a virtual invitation via email. Just be sure that you include steps to reaching your virtual event, whether that is through Zoom or some other software or service.

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Hire a virtual wedding coordinator

Whether it’s a friend or a professional coordinator, be sure that you have someone who is tech savvy testing and checking during the whole planning process, and ESPECIALLY on the big day. Tech issues can pop up out of nowhere, so you’ll want to be sure that someone is able to take care of them and allow you to enjoy your day free of extra stress. 

Make sure that they have a checklist of all the things which need to be checked and double checked, including internet connectivity wherever your service is being held, audio, and video for your virtual wedding. 

You may also want to consider running a rehearsal where you can test with a practice video the morning of or day before, to be sure that all of the wrinkles are ironed out before clicking the “go live” button.

Streaming Gear that will help

There is a lot that goes into streaming at a professional level, so we’ve come up with a list of equipment that will guide you through the process. Keep in mind that you can rent or borrow many of the items on this list, so you won’t have to necessarily buy everything for a single use.

Camera + Tripod

If you are looking for high-quality output for your virtual wedding, consider renting from a service like lensrentals or cameralensrentals. You can find DSLR cameras and tripods available for weekly rentals, which can save you hundreds of dollars if you won’t be using this equipment aside from your wedding. 

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Don’t care about professional level video quality? These days, camera quality on smartphones isn’t too far off from professional equipment, so going live straight from your phone is definitely an option. You may still want to pick up a tripod along with a universal phone mount so you can set and forget your phone.

HDMI capture card

Using a DSLR or other high-quality camera will require some additional hardware/software since you can’t natively use them as a webcam or capture source. If you have or rent a Canon DSLR camera, check to see if you can use the new EOS Webcam Utility to easily connect as a webcam. Otherwise you will have to look into purchasing or renting an Elgato Cam Link 4K or another capture device to translate the video to your computer.

Bluetooth or USB mic

Whether you’re using your phone or are renting a DSLR, you’ll likely want to grab at least one microphone depending on the layout of your wedding. Something like a bluetooth lav mics can work really well for picking up the ceremony, but may be difficult to work with through a single source like your phone. 

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Attaching a shotgun mic to your camera or phone may be a better option to pick up directional sound from your ceremony, and something like the Rode VideoMic NTG will allow for you to connect directly to a DSLR, PC, or smartphone for professional audio quality.

Apps and software to make your virtual wedding a success

There are already some services available that can help you coordinate and pull off the perfect virtual wedding. 

Wedfuly

Wedfully offers a 2 hour timeframe in which they will host and MC your zoom ceremony and reception. They also offer a 45 minute prelude where they offer tech support, additional setup help, and welcome your guests to your virtual ceremony. Be sure to check out their site to see what else is included in The Wedfuly Techy package..

LoveStream 

LoveStream is another virtual wedding service that offers foolproof products to help you through the entire virtual wedding process. LoveStream has 3 separate packages to choose from, as well as the option to create a custom LoveStream to cater to your needs specifically. One cool option with this service is the add-on of equipment rental directly through LoveStream for an additional fee.

Spotify

You can use Spotify to build playlists of songs that you think would work perfectly during your wedding day. Then, let it run straight through in the order that you set the list up, or have your coordinator or a DJ play specific songs to certain cues.

OBS 

OBS is an open source program used for video recording and live streaming. You can use this software to build out custom scenes, add devices (like cameras and microphones) to your wedding stream, 

Ready to plan your Virtual wedding? 

Though a virtual wedding may not be anyone’s first choice, and those of us having one may end up having a traditional ceremony at some point in the future, this technology is literally a life saver for some. Hopefully this guide helped you along the decision making process and gave you some ideas for how to have the wedding of your dreams, even if that does mean having it virtually.

Tyler + Lauren / dc portrait gallery engagement session

Anand + Christine // creative engagement session