Published on April 22, 2020

virtual-wedding-etiquette-domino Pin It
Photography by Meghan McNeer

When you imagined your special day, you likely didn’t dream of it being via FaceTime. Or Zoom. Or Instagram Live. But if your wedding has been affected by COVID-19 and postponing it is out of the question, it might be time to switch gears entirely—luckily, going virtual isn’t as hard as it seems. After all, you can get your cocktails delivered and, depending on where you live, might even be able to have someone officiate via webcam (New York just legalized videoconference ceremonies). 

That said, pulling the whole shindig together definitely takes a bit of planning—so we turned to the experts to iron out the kinks. Enter event planner Lindsay Landman and Zola editorial manager Lindsay Dolak. Here’s how they would tackle everything from the toasts to the cake.

The Invites

Let your guests know what’s going on as soon as possible—though given the circumstances, a couple days’ notice is totally fine. “You can also use your wedding website to clue guests in about your new plans, or simply send out an email or a text,” says Dolak. 

The Nitty-Gritty

Virtual ceremonies may be legal in some places, but be sure to double check the fine print in your state and county. “I recommend calling your local marriage office to confirm specifics,” says Dolak. “Though if you aren’t able to get in contact, you can always host a commitment ceremony now and deal with the paperwork later.” 

The Main Event 

“Keep it real and keep it relevant,” says Landman. Hold onto the elements that are most important to you, but go ahead and freestyle: Inspired by John Krasinski’s recent SGN episode, Landman suggests channeling Love Actually and recruiting some musical friends to escort the bride onto the screen. 

One caveat: Unlike a traditional ceremony, you’ll really need to focus on the audio. “If the guests can’t hear the vows, they’ll be bummed, so plan ahead of time to have a setup that’s more advanced than your computer microphone,” continues Landman. She swears by Blue’s Snowball and opting for an iPhone or iPad (rather than a desktop) for optimal camera quality. 

The Toasts

Don’t just rely on guests having a glass of champagne handy; a bit of planning will go a long way. “Encourage them to make their favorite cocktail, or if you wanted to have a signature drink, you can even send out the recipe for people to make at home,” recommends Dolak. When it comes to the speeches themselves, the same rules apply to their IRL counterparts: Keep them short, well prepared, and upbeat. “For sure, props and images will go over way better in a digital format, so you get some creative liberty here,” adds Landman. 

The Menu

“If you have a relatively small group and the ability to do it logistically and financially, it would be a blast to send your guests a little care package ahead of time—maybe a pair of cupcakes and a split of champagne so they can ‘cut’ the cake with you after the virtual ceremony,” says Landman. Or if you’d rather your attendees DIY the food, include a little “provisions” list along with your invite to let them know what to have on hand. As for how to replace sit-down dinner conversations, try swapping them for themed trivia or the newlywed game. 

The Music

The key to any good party? A memorable playlist. Landman suggests making a custom one that everyone can enjoy during the Zoom call—then you can share the link with them afterward. “It’s almost like a favor that they can enjoy and use to remember your crazy digital wedding for years to come!” she says. 

The Extra Mile

“One of the best ideas I’ve heard about is a bridesmaid who reached out to guests and asked them to take a video of themselves dancing at home,” shares Dolak. “She edited them together and sent it to the couple as a special way to celebrate.” Surprise the bride and groom with a drive-by wedding: Have local friends and family pile into their respective cars and cruise by the home on the big day. 

The Gifts 

Tap into the increased time we’re all spending cooking right now and register for classics like a KitchenAid stand mixer or a Le Creuset Dutch oven that you’ll actually get to use right away. “Or something that will lift your spirits, like a subscription to Blue Apron, a fancy bar tool set, or an aroma diffuser,” says Dolak. You can also ask your guests to donate to first responders or create a fund for restaurant workers in lieu of traditional goodies—though Landman says you shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting a bit of normalcy in your registry. “It’s okay to take the blender and run,” she adds. 

It’s hammer time: Follow @reno_notebook for easy rental updates, clever DIYs, and tips to nail your next project.

Discussion