Digital Marriage—Making Sure Your Online Wedding is Safe and Secure
Love finds a way. Even in a pandemic.
Across this year and last, a growing number of couples are sticking to their wedding dates as planned, yet with a twist—they’re holding them online.
Whether to comply with local guidance, accommodate friends and family who cannot travel, or some mix of both, online weddings are indeed happening. They take many forms—from streaming a small ceremony at a church or venue, to a couple in their home with an officiant in another location and attendees viewing online, love is indeed finding a way.
I was intrigued and ultimately moved by the story of one couple, Irene and Troy, which I read in an article about couples who have opted to hold an online wedding. According to the article, Irene said that the timing could not have been better. “My father, who is older in age, was especially thrilled to join our wedding from the comfort of his home, and virtually shared his sentiments on video for all to see. One of our guests who watched the virtual marriage shared: ‘We were moved and uplifted by it all… by your love to each other, your commitment, your generosity. We all needed it [at this time]: the affirmation of life and beauty and faith. It made us all happy. And, in a way, fulfilled.'”
That’s absolutely wonderful and a testament to the way a wedding can lift us all, particularly now—the embodiment of commitment, resilience, and love.
With more and more articles and services taking shape that describe the planning of an online wedding, I’d like to share a few of my thoughts about the technical and security considerations that will inevitably come up as couples plan and hold their online wedding ceremonies.
Make it official before you make it official
First off, you’ll need an official wedding license and to make sure that your locality recognizes an online wedding. Earlier in the pandemic, several states and localities issued legal orders to allow couples to get their wedding licenses online and even conduct their wedding online with a recognized officiant. Naturally, the answer as to whether you can hold an official wedding will vary where you live and what the exact requirements are. The best advice here is to consult with your local officials or family law practitioner to determine what options are legally available to you—from obtaining a wedding license either by mail or online, to who must officiate and witness the ceremony and how.
If you’re livestreaming your ceremony, a strong and reliable internet connection will top your list of must-haves. If it turns out that your location has so-so Wi-Fi or no internet at all, you can look into a mobile hotspot device. Available as either as a prepaid device or as a rental, the advantage of using a mobile hotspot device over the hotspot on your phone is that it can host multiple devices, have a better connection range than your phone, and last much longer than your phone in terms of battery usage.
Of course, the performance of a mobile hotspot will be influenced by the network that’s available to it. Check the specs of the device and the coverage in the area to see if it can support streaming reliably.
Given that 5G mobile connectivity is making its first appearances, you may find that your 5G-ready phone is a better choice than a 4G LTE mobile hotspot device. If this sounds like a bit much to you, or if you’d simply rather focus on other things for your big days, this is an area where you may want the help of a producer to coordinate this aspect of your online wedding.
Consider hiring a producer to coordinate your online wedding
An online wedding is a live streaming event, just like a show, your show, and it’s one you’ll want to have go off seamlessly so you and everyone else can bask in the moment. If you’ve been working, studying, or socializing online, you know what kind of headaches can crop up with video conferencing—bad lighting, bad sound, or simply the dreaded bad internet connection. That’s where a producer can help, both on the big day and well in advance of it too.
Depending on the size and experience you want for an online wedding ceremony, you can hire a dedicated producer who can oversee the technical aspects of your ceremony and even act as a digital emcee who can orchestrate the flow of your big day by making introductions, playing music, controlling the microphones of guests, or even setting up a digital receiving line so that everyone can get some dedicated time with the couple. They can help you select the streaming platform for your needs as well.
Online services like Wedfuly and SimplyEloped offer a variety of plans that can handle details such as these for you, from getting the right tech and camera angles in place to rehearsals just like an in-person ceremony—with the bonus of troubleshooting any issues. Other options include looking into local DJ services, as some of them have adapted to run online weddings too. As with any such service or wedding vendor like your photographer or florist, do your research. Look for testimonials from other couples and their guests to get a sense if the service and the experience they provide is the right fit for you.
Keep out wedding crashers
Just like you need to keep any sort of video conference secure, that goes extra for your online wedding. My earlier advice on keeping video conferences secure still holds sway, yet I’ll add a few more things specific to weddings:
- Don’t post the link to your wedding on social media. No need to broadcast it that way such that the general public, or a bad actor, can barge in. Instead, provide the link to your wedding as part of your R.S.V.P. process. That will give you a reasonable estimate of your attendance and help you act as the gatekeeper as to who attends and who does not.
- Create a waiting room. This allows you or your producer or coordinator to act as an usher and only allow invited guests into the ceremony.
Inviting guests to your online wedding with email invitations
The mailed wedding invitation will always be an elegant and personal touch, yet the online wedding begs another kind of invitation—the sharing of a link and a password. As mentioned above, you can include this in your R.S.V.P. process by requesting your guests to share their email with you to receive the link and password. Another option is to use a shared spreadsheet in the cloud, like a Google Sheets or an Excel document in Office 365. You can direct invitees to the document and have them fill out their email address, number of attendees, and so on. This way, you can email your guests the secure link and password to your wedding when you’re ready.
If you’re feeling extra confident with online tools, you can set up an account with Mailchimp and deliver a mass email invite (designed with your colors and photos too) to your friends and family in one fell swoop. Similarly, there are yet more options for paperless invites. Check out this article for a rundown of other couple-friendly wedding invitation resources.
What if you’re attending an online wedding?
Contemporary wedding etiquette has taken shape over dozens of years, and once again it has adapted to the times. Some tips about online wedding etiquette are obvious. Like wearing sweatpants below dress attire is a no-no. However, some are a bit more subtle. From gift-giving to receptions to when to mute or unmute your mic, this article touches on many of the basics.
And don’t be shy to ask the couple or their coordinator questions if you’re uncertain about how the day will unfold or how you should dress. Just as with any wedding, some may be more formal or more casual than others. You can take a cue from the couple. In all, putting some extra effort into dressing up and maybe putting some flowers or a nice setting in the background will appear on the happy couple’s screen in wonderful ways. Imagine the look on their faces when they see you and your space looking joyful too!
If you’re looking for tips on how to get your devices and viewing space working and looking great, check out my earlier article on “Setting the Stage for Your Job Interview.” While it’s certainly focused on online interviews, much of the advice applies to setting up your device and your space for attending a wedding too.
Get ready for your big day online!
For those of you who have your big day circled on the calendar, or soon will, congratulations! Whether you’re planning a ceremony that’s completely online or some manner of hybrid for your guests, I hope that what I’ve shared here will make your online wedding safer, more secure, and, above all, that much more memorable in the best of ways.