Image Credit: Evite
The COVID-19 pandemic has created serious challenges for couples who intended to get married in 2020. According to recent surveys, only 30.5% of these couples planned to keep their intended wedding date, while 69.5% had postponed or canceled their plans altogether.
Furthermore, Evite, the world's leading digital platform for bringing people together to celebrate their most important life moments, reported that many couples are turning to virtual ceremonies as a safer alternative. Since March, more than 127,000 guests have been invited to virtual weddings through Evite.
Maybe you like the idea of a virtual wedding ceremony but have some questions about how it's done. Like, how do you organize a virtual wedding? How can you incorporate traditional wedding customs and add personal touches to make the day feel special? What etiquette should the couple and their guests follow for a virtual event?
We have teamed up with Evite to bring you the ultimate guide to virtual wedding etiquette with answers to all of these questions and more.
Reasons to Consider a Virtual Wedding Ceremony
Mass gatherings such as weddings may pose a health risk, particularly for elderly relatives and those with pre-existing health conditions.
A virtual wedding ceremony offers a way for friends and family all over the country (and the world!) to take part in the celebration while remaining safely distanced from one another.
You can invite as many people as you'd like so nobody feels left out, and you don't have to worry about putting anyone's health at risk.
Virtual Wedding Etiquette Guidelines for Couples
When planning a virtual wedding, there are many factors to consider. Experts at Evite suggest that "First and most importantly, you'll want to talk with your partner about what form you'd like your ceremony to take and how you'll personalize the wedding to make it your own. It's your special day, and you two have the ultimate say in how you'd like to celebrate your marriage."
So, once you're clear on what you want, you'll be ready to invite your guests and fill them in on the details of your wedding. "Don't forget to clarify your expectations to guests so they'll know what to wear, whether and how to send gifts, and what will take place during the ceremony. And last but not least, make sure to help your guests feel like an important part of the celebration," says the team at Evite.
Decide What Form Your Ceremony Will Take
What kind of wedding have you and your partner dreamed of? Imagine how you'd do it if it were in-person. You could start by making lists of ideas for where you'd go, what you'd wear, what kind of a ceremony you'd have, and who would be there to celebrate with you. The only limit here is your imagination! Feel free to be creative and add personal touches to make it unique to you.
Once you've got your lists, think about how you can realistically incorporate as many of these elements as possible. If you planned on getting married somewhere outdoors, you could hold your ceremony in the backyard, or you can stay indoors and use a virtual background if the weather's not conducive. If you had your hearts set on a destination wedding in the Caribbean, you might incorporate some of that island spirit into your dress, decor, food, or drink.
According to Evite, "In some ways, a virtual ceremony is not all that different from a traditional wedding. You can wear the same attire that you'd wear at a live event--wedding dresses and suits are absolutely fair game! If you're live streaming your event to your guests, they'll be able to see you just like they would if you had gathered together in-person. And don't be afraid to ask your guests to follow suit (no pun intended!) if that's important to you."
"You can also organize and structure your wedding ceremony the same way you would plan a traditional celebration. Whether you'd like to hire a pastor or officiant to marry you, or whether you're in an area where you can legally self-officiate, you have a whole world of options to choose from. There are as many ways to create a wedding ceremony as there are couples, and you can personalize it in whatever way you'd like," added Evite.
Virtual ceremonies can also offer more flexibility than in-person events when it comes to your guest list. Whether you've hoped for a big celebration with lots of people or a smaller, more intimate gathering, the virtual wedding format can accommodate as many, or as few people as you'd like. If you have kids or pets in your home, you might like them to be involved, as well.
In addition to all of these considerations, Evite also advises you to consider other elements of a traditional wedding that are essential to you. For example, think about how you would answer the following questions:
- What will your dress code be for the wedding?
- Will you be providing food and drink for guests?
- Will there be dancing after the ceremony?
- Would you like to receive gifts? If so, how?
- Will you be setting up a gift registry or honeymoon fund? If so, where?
- Are guests allowed to bring a +1? Is there a limit to the size of your guest list?
You'd likely be answering these same questions for an in-person ceremony, but for a virtual wedding, it's especially important to get clear on the details so that you can communicate them to your guests.
Send Out Digital Invitations
Okay, so you've planned your ceremony and fleshed out the details. Now it's time to start getting the word out and inviting your guests!
Although there are several ways to go about sending virtual wedding invitations, according to Evite, digital invitations may be the easiest and most convenient option. Evite offers an extensive array of invitations in differing styles so you can find the perfect match for your wedding theme. If you upgrade to their Premium service, you can even create a custom design or add photos for a more personal touch.
Digital wedding invitations have another added advantage: making it easy for your guests to access the event. The team at Evite explain that "Guests can join the event online directly from the invitation. For larger parties, hosts can easily add Skype or Zoom links as well, making it really easy for guests to attend the big day!". What could be simpler than that?
Set Expectations With Guests
Evite's experts also emphasize that "when you send out your invitations, it's important to communicate the format of your ceremony to your guests. If you had already sent out invitations for an in-person event and are now changing your plans, not to worry--you can simply send out a new round of invitations with updated information for your guests."
In any case, you'll want to make it very clear that this will be a virtual event. Evite suggests using language such as "We're requesting the pleasure of your company at our virtual wedding" or "You're invited to witness our wedding day...virtually!" Then, include the details that you and your partner have already discussed, such as dress code, food and drink, dancing, gifts, and whether people may bring a +1 to the event. Be as clear and specific as possible.
If you feel like you're overcommunicating, that's probably a good sign. While you may not always have to spell all these details out for a traditional ceremony, virtual weddings can be trickier for guests to navigate, especially if they've never been to one before--and many people haven't! Make sure everyone knows exactly what to expect, and you'll avoid confusion down the road.
Include Closeups of your Engagement and Wedding Rings
At an in-person wedding, brides and grooms often are eager to show their beautiful engagement ring and wedding bands to admiring guests. If you'd like everyone to see the lovely rings you've chosen for each other, consider including closeup images of your rings with your invitations. You may want to hire a photographer to capture crystal-clear, high-resolution shots of your rings for posterity.
Not sure which rings to choose? Blue Nile's wedding ring guide answers some common questions like which styles to choose, how much to spend and how to find the right size. You can also peruse collections of women's wedding rings, men's wedding bands, and couples' rings which are sure to delight.
Reach Out to Guests Who May Need Assistance
Grandparents or other guests might be unfamiliar with the technology that's used to host virtual events. "If you've got some elderly folks on your guest list, don't forget to give them a call after sending out the invitations. Ensure they understand the virtual format of the wedding and how they can attend. You might want to also talk with these guests ahead of time about any software they'll need to download and how they can get set up for a virtual event. Make sure they have all the information they need to attend your ceremony and reassure them that their presence matters to you," advises Evite.
Help Guests Feel Included and Valued
The idea of a virtual ceremony might feel a little impersonal to some. To connect with your guests, Evite suggests creating breakout rooms after the ceremony for socializing, that way, you can personally thank each guest for attending. "If you'd like, you can even send 'care packages' of champagne, hors d'oeuvres, or cake to local guests, or send out a cocktail recipe to your invitees. A group toast can give guests a chance to express their warm wishes to you."
Virtual Wedding Etiquette Tips for Guests
If you've been invited to someone else's virtual wedding, you may have a handful of etiquette-related questions. However, the most important advice Evite can offer is as follows:
"Honor the couple's wishes regarding how they would like to celebrate their wedding. Treat the virtual ceremony with the same dignity and respect as you would an in-person event. With that said, we do have a few specific guidelines for guests of virtual gatherings."
Set Up a Space for Celebrating
Before the wedding, decide where you would like to celebrate. Choose a well-lit room in your home where you'll be comfortable and free from distractions. If you'd like, you can decorate with candles, flowers, or anything else that feels appropriate for the occasion. Additionally, make sure to set up somewhere where you can easily use your computer, tablet, or whatever device you'll use to connect to the ceremony.
Traditional Wedding Etiquette Still Applies
"In many ways, you should treat a virtual wedding the same way you would treat a traditional ceremony, so a lot of the same etiquette rules still apply," says Evite who offers the following words of advice to virtual wedding-goers:
- Make sure that you RSVP to the event so that the hosts know whether to expect you
- Don't share the Skype or Zoom link with acquaintances or strangers
- Arrive on time and ready to celebrate
- Plan to avoid distractions and interruptions
- Mute your microphone during the ceremony to minimize background noise
- Send the couple your best wishes
When In Doubt, Check the Invitation for Guidance
If you're unsure about any of the wedding details, including dress code, gifts, or +1s, consult the invitation. "If no dress code is specified," says Evite, "it's generally safe to choose cocktail attire--you don't want to show up underdressed! When buying gifts, consider choosing ones that the couple can use while sheltered at home, if needed. And although it might be tempting to invite others along with you, make sure to check with your hosts first."
Virtual wedding celebrations are becoming increasingly popular with couples wishing to get married during the pandemic. The virtual format may feel unusual at first, but with a little planning, you can have a wonderful, warm, welcoming ceremony that allows you to celebrate your special day along with the people you love most.
Visit Evite's collection of wedding invitations to learn more about how they can make your wedding extra memorable.