Continued gathering restrictions and venue shutdowns mean wedding season still can’t safely continue as normal. And because of this, many couples are finding themselves in a tricky situation: push their wedding date (maybe even for a second or third time) or plan a virtual wedding that feels just as special as your initial dreams for your big day.
Thanks to technology a wedding with just a handful of close friends and family members doesn’t have to feel small. If you opt for a Zoom wedding, you’ll be able to invite guests near and far to safely join in on your major milestone from the comfort of their computer screens. Adding a virtual component to a wedding does take some strategizing that wouldn’t necessarily be involved for an IRL affair. Here’s how to plan a Zoom wedding everyone will remember.
What is a Zoom wedding?
Also known as a virtual or a live-streamed wedding (or a Zwedding), a Zoom wedding incorporates a video platform that allows friends and family members to tune into the special event from their computer screens. Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, Zoom weddings have allowed engaged couples the chance to celebrate with loved ones, albeit virtually, if they’ve had to rethink their original wedding plans for health and safety reasons.
“Cascading Florals” virtual wedding invitation by Paperless Post.
Benefits of a Zoom wedding
Because live-streamed weddings are typically hosted in backyards or other small, socially distant venues, they can help couples cut down on costs. They also make it easier for potential guests who live far away and may not be in a position to travel to join in on the festivities. So it’s likely that even once public health officials deem larger gatherings safe again, couples may continue opting for Zoom weddings (or at least some livestream component) for their own reasons. So, while the Zoom wedding might be a major event of 2020 and 2021, don’t be surprised if you continue to get virtual nuptials even further into the future.
How do you host a wedding on Zoom?
Because Zoom weddings are such a new phenomenon—and weddings are all about how a couple envisions their special day—there’s no strict way to host a virtual wedding on Zoom. Some add a livestream component to their ceremony, while others have a private city hall wedding that they follow up with a virtual toast. Some even opt for a virtual reception, instead of (or in addition to) live-streaming their ceremony. Think about how your dream wedding looks and consider the best way you can translate that to a computer screen. A wedding planner can help you out if you’re unsure, but these tips are great to keep in mind as you get started:
Choose your Zoom wedding technology
Zoom, Google Meet, Facebook Live, YouTube, Wedfuly, and Gather are all options hosts are using for their virtual wedding. Some sites, like Zoom, allow for password-protected meetings and virtual waiting rooms, which can be helpful. Just be mindful that some have time restrictions if you’re using a free membership. Zoom is one of the most popular options, but the best service for you depends on how many guests you’re inviting and how you want your day to go. Look into each and weigh the pros and cons before deciding.
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Burt Photography.
Decide on guest count
If you’re having an especially pared-back wedding (think: just you and your partner, plus a photographer and officiant), then you might want to have a more intimate virtual component with your closest friends and family. This gives them a better opportunity to say a few words if they’d like, and it makes everyone feel like they’re really together. Or, you can use a livestream to make sure everyone on your original guest list can “attend” your virtual wedding, even if you can only have a few guests in person. The latter is a great option for those who may have dreamed of having a big wedding with all their friends and relatives present.
Gifts or no gifts
Just like at in-person weddings, whether or not you want to accept gifts is a personal choice. If you do elect to have a registry, add it to your virtual wedding invitation with the best mailing address so guests can ship gifts directly to you. If you’re having a virtual wedding but plan to have a bigger reception later, you might choose to accept gifts then. Some couples prefer to ask that their guests don’t give gifts, or suggest that they donate to a recommended charity instead. Whatever your wishes are, make sure they’re clear to your invitees, both in-person and virtual. Here is an example of how to phrase your donation ask:
For those guests who have expressed an interest in giving us a gift, please consider making a donation to one of the charities below, in our name, instead:
Send a Zoom wedding invitation
Like with an IRL wedding, your virtual wedding invitation should give guests the who (you), the what (a Zoom Wedding), the when (the date and the time), and the where (a Zoom link). Of course, logging in to a Zoom celebration is much different from driving up to a venue, so especially for guests who may not be as technologically inclined, further instructions are helpful:
Timing: Be sure to note how early before the ceremony the Zoom room will “open” and how long the ceremony will last. If required, be sure to include a Meeting ID and Passcode on your Zoom wedding invitation as well. A few days before the wedding, you can send a follow-up message with this information as well, to make sure guests know what to do and to allow for any last-minute questions to be answered.
Schedule: Give a general timeline and order of events—e.g. if there is a toast at a specific time, make note of that. Since every Zoom event is different, this ensures your guests know when they should actually be logged on and prevents them from missing anything major. It’s helpful to clarify whether guests will be actively participating (perhaps giving a speech, if the virtual crew is relatively small) or simply watching. You can also add a dress code—which some couples opt to do to make things feel festive, even for those at home.
Camera and audio: Be clear about whether couples should have their cameras turned on or off, and when they should have their microphones muted. If you have someone hosting the wedding for you (more on that later), they can manually turn on guest’s mics if you want to get them more involved.
Script: You can also share the script of your ceremony via the description box on the meeting link, or include it in your online wedding invitation.
Video and registry links: We may be partial, but we think using online wedding invitations for Zoom weddings makes the most sense. You can select “virtual location” to add your ceremony link directly to the invite. Paperless Post invitations also make it easy to communicate updates to guests with follow-up tools, and you can also add a link to your wedding registry or website. There are different options for the invite—textable, animated Flyers are great for those who have big guest lists, or if you prefer the look of stationery, online Card invitations (with envelopes to match) feel just as traditional and formal as snail mail.
“Ventôse” Zoom wedding invitation by Putnam & Putnam for Paperless Post.
No one wants to troubleshoot tech issues on their wedding day. Designate a tech-savvy friend or family member to log in early and offer to help any guest who runs into technical problems. On your virtual wedding invitation, note that this assistance is available ahead of the Zoom call. Alternatively, you can send a step-by-step tutorial or offer to have virtual walkthroughs ahead of the big day with guests who are unfamiliar with the platform.
And just as you’d have a wedding rehearsal for an in-person wedding, the same holds true for a Zoom celebration. Ask a friend (ideally one who is long distance) to join in a test run the week before the wedding to make sure everything goes smoothly. You can also enlist the help of a friend or family member (perhaps the maid of honor or best man) to act as a host on the Zoom call. Sites like Wedfuly offer virtual wedding planners that can act as an emcee and oversee the virtual ceremony. Throughout the pandemic, many local wedding planners and DJs have also started to offer similar programming, so you can see if someone in your area can provide this kind of support, too.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to record the ceremony, just as you would save a wedding video. Ad you can watch it later to see your guests’ on-screen reactions. You can even hire a videographer to safely film your livestream, making it feel truly immersive for your online wedding guests (and relieving you of the burden of figuring out your best angles).
Zoom wedding ideas
A Zoom wedding can be as simple as a live-streamed backyard ceremony—or it can broadcast just one component of your big day (like a toast) to a larger group. While a virtual wedding is invariably a different kind of celebration than a big in-person one, it still holds so much potential to be a memorable, fun event. Here are some ways you can make your Zoom nuptials feel extra-special.
Photos courtesy of Rebecca Burt Photography.
This in-person/online combination gives you the best of both worlds. You’re able to have your wedding with your closest friends and family members and your larger circle on Zoom. Invite just a few guests to join you at an in-person outdoor ceremony following proper social distancing guidelines, and pass along a virtual link to a larger group. Share your vows ceremony with the livestream tuned in, and follow it up by cutting your wedding cake on camera.
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Burt Photography.
Virtual wedding toast
If you’re getting married at a city hall, there’s a chance you won’t be able to film your ceremony (or, if you want something a little more intimate, you might prefer not to livestream your ceremony anyway). In this case, you can have a toast afterwards with a small group of friends and family members on Zoom. Ask a few loved ones to share a toast, or keep it an open forum—especially if you limit your guest list (say, 12 to 15 people tops), pretty much everyone can have the opportunity to speak. If you want to take things up a notch, you can send each guest a small bottle of Champagne or prosecco so they have something to toast with. You can also give guests the chance to pre-record a video toast (or prepare a slideshow) if they feel nervous about talking on the spot.
“Golden Pair” virtual wedding toast invitations by Paperless Post; “The Wedding Must Go On” by Paperless Post.
Ask for a travel fund in lieu of registry gifts
If you live far from your close family or friends, instead of making a gift registry, you can kindly ask for donations to a travel fund so that you can celebrate in-person once it’s safe to travel again. Make sure guests don’t feel pressured to do so by saying that virtual well-wishes are just as appreciated.
Virtual cake cutting
Get guests who live both near and far involved in your cake cutting. Instead of a Champagne toast, ask guests to bake their own treats that they can enjoy while on a Zoom call—and have them send photos of their creations for your wedding album. Alternatively, if your guest list is small enough to make it financially reasonable, you can send guests a treat from Milkbar or Goldbelly that they can enjoy on-camera.
Zoom now, party later
If you decide you don’t want to wait to get married but still want to have a big party, you can have a Zoom ceremony or toast after you officially tie the knot, but note to your virtual guests that they’ll be invited to an in-person celebration later down the road. You can consider this a pre-save the date, if you will.
If “Zoom wedding” doesn’t feel quite festive enough for you, you can refer to your big day as a “zwedding”—a cute, new term some couples have been using for their virtual nuptials to make them feel less like an ordinary Zoom meeting for work. This celebration can be a minimony or a simple toast—just be sure you remind guests to BYOB. And if you’re planning on speeches, give potential speakers a head’s up.
More festive suggestions
Other ways you can make Zoom weddings feel exciting include providing guests with custom Zoom backgrounds (our Personal Design Services team can help make one that coordinates with your venue or invitation). Or setting a specific color for the dress code, so that guests feel like they’re part of a group even when they’re just gathering on-screen. You can also encourage guests to have wine or seltzer ready for a toast, and you can send them small treats or favors ahead of time by mail. You can even get the pets involved. Include your friends and family members’ furry friends on the invitations, with or without a dress code for them. At the end of the day, a little creativity can go a long way—and you can have the wedding of your dreams in the way you might have least expected it.
“Raw Edge” and “Virtual Vows” Zoom wedding invitations by Paperless Post
Ready to start planning? Kick off your Zoom wedding with elegant and effortless virtual wedding invitations by Paperless Post.