Three months ago, the phrase “Zoom wedding” hadn’t even entered our collective vocabulary. Cut to *these uncertain times* and couples across the globe are frantically googling “how to host a virtual ceremony” with one hand as they dial up florists and cake shops with the other. And as for the almost-newlyweds desperately refreshing their news app, hoping for a miracle end to all this? It’s time to accept that some form of online celebration is pretty much the only way anyone is safely getting married in 2020. (And potentially beyond, but let’s not kill the vibe too much. Weddings are fun, remember!)
But how does one *actually* get married on the internet? Because there’s more to it than just making sure your WiFi is strong, we tapped a couple that’s been there, tied the knot and got the Youtube LiveStream to prove it. Straight from their quarantine honeymoon destination (AKA their home in Lethbridge, Alta.), here are some best practices and top tips from Hudson and Mason Sheen, two twenty-somethings who threw together a virtual wedding in literal weeks. “We just felt like we were supposed to go ahead and get married,” says Hudson. “And it ended up being the perfect day for us.”
Make sure it’s for you
This seems an obvious one but it’s vital: Do you really *want* to get married on Zoom? Or is it worth waiting it out? As candidates go, Mason and Hudson were ideal, in that they’d always planned a short engagement, and, so crucially, hadn’t spent two years finessing every detail and getting invested in or attached to “the dream” of their wedding day. It’s not that they didn’t have plans—a ceremony held at their faith’s temple and a reception for all their friends after were booked—but their priorities changed. “There are so many things that feel so important when you’re planning a wedding,” says Hudson, “but we realised that all of it is just some fluff, some fun stuff. All we really wanted was to get married, and start our lives together.” But if you’re someone who *does* want the fluff and fun stuff, and you know you’ll regret not having the peony wall, your 27 bridesmaids and every other flourish you’d planned? Own your truth, go back to the Pinterest board and throw yourself into planning something for…2024?
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Let this wedding day be its own thing
If you’re planning a Zoom wedding, you have to let go of the wedding day you’d planned pre-COVID. In Hudson and Mason’s case they literally changed the actual date, moving up from May 29 to April 25 because they were worried the quarantine rules would get even stricter, the license office might close and, well, why wait if you’re not tied into things like venue bookings, celebrant availability and your guests’ schedules? “We decided we might as well just do it in her family’s backyard, on their pool deck,” says Mason, who describes how they sent out digital invites with the viewing link just ten days before the wedding. “It wasn’t what we’d envisioned, but in a way, it actually took a lot of the pressure off. We could focus on the moment, instead of worrying about a schedule.” That lack of distraction—photo sessions to cram in, friends to entertain—meant they could focus on being present. “I’m not a crier, but when we were about to get married, and the sky was bright pink and the clouds were baby blue, and she was standing there so gorgeous in her white dress…I just couldn’t hold it back.” Adds Hudson: “We had our families around us, and there weren’t any worries in that moment. I held his hands, and it just felt right.” (Speaking of that wedding dress: By some miracle, it arrived at the bridal shop ahead of schedule, so Hudson was able to wear the one she’d originally picked. Mason, on the other hand, ended up having to order his tie on Amazon.)
Know the rules and regs
Unlike in New York, where you can be married by a celebrant Zoom’ing in from elsewhere, in Canada both people getting married and their officiant have to be in the same physical location in order for things to be legit. As of right now, every province and territory bar Quebec, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, allows for gatherings of five or more people (and in BC, up to 50 now!). This will obviously involve some hard decisions, especially in the “max of 5 people” scenarios. Some couples have chosen a parent each, others their best man and maid of honour…however you dice it, you do have to choose two people to be your witnesses and sign the registry. (Pro safety tip: Make sure there’s a separate pen for each of the signees!) In Hudson and Mason’s case, keeping under Alberta’s restriction of 15 people, they seated some of his family members on one side of the pool deck and hers on the other, while their minister was six feet away in his own space, even when they were saying their vows. Don’t be afraid to get creative with that physical distancing: “There’s an empty lot beside the house,” says Hudson, “and Mason’s grandparents actually parked their car there and watched the ceremony over the fence.”
Go wild with your virtual invites!
Unless you were always planning a particularly small wedding, this will obviously mean you can physically have, like, 0.00001% of the people you were planning to invite…hence getting others involved via video. For Hudson and Mason, this actually turned out to be a silver lining: “We actually were able to include way more people, including my extended family who wouldn’t have all been able to fly in anyway,” says Hudson, adding that they ended up with over 200 people tuning in for their vows, when originally they’d planned for 40 at the temple part of the ceremony. Their reception guest list was always much larger—400!—but they’re planning to hold a bash (fingers crossed) in December.
Let other people help you
Hudson and Mason were actually overwhelmed by the way people offered to help them make their big day still feel special. Their decorator left supplies for them to pick up on their doorstep, and their families pitched in to turn their pool deck into a wedding venue, spearheaded by Hudson’s sister, while Mason’s sister took their wedding photographs. A friend of the family, who livestreams local sports games, volunteered up equipment so their Youtube was broadcast in high-quality video. After they got married, a procession of their friends drove by in decorated cars, so they still had a version of that classic “exiting the church with confetti” moment. “We saw how many people love us and support us,” says Hudson.
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Test the tech—and then forget about it
“It was stressful!” admits Mason of setting up the Youtube livestream (which they opted for, by the way, over Zoom because it allowed for more attendees. Plus, it stays up once the live is done, so they now have a recording of their wedding forever.) They did a run through of the ceremony beforehand, just to make sure everything they wanted was in the shot, but when it came to the real thing, they both say they totally forgot the cameras were even there. “It’s funny because the video actually captures things we didn’t know were happening,” says Mason. “People told us later that two geese flew across the sky just as we were about to kiss. Apparently at another point, the moon, the sun and the evening stars all lined up in the sky above us.”