How To Plan A Virtual Wedding

At the heart of a wedding is the celebration of love between two people. How that love is celebrated is completely unique to each couple. Some couples dream of a big wedding set against a picturesque backdrop, while others prefer the intimacy of eloping and saying “I do” at the courthouse. These days, as more and more couples decide to celebrate online, it’s becoming clear that planning a virtual wedding doesn’t mean you have to compromise what’s most important to you. Whether you’re experiencing a change of plans due to the coronavirus pandemic or were committing to a virtual wedding ceremony from the get-go, below are some snippets of advice and wedding planning resources to make sure your big day is fun, joyous, and celebrates life, love and all things that give us hope!

wedding save the dates wedding invitations editable sentiments editable announcements wedding change the dates

If you’ve already sent out save the date cards, consider sending editable announcements to your guest list. When customizing these cards, you can change the text from “save the date” to “We’ve changed our date!” and “details to follow” to spark the excitement of your new virtual wedding date. Plus, if you have to change the date of your big day, Shutterfly will reprint any event-based cards you create with us for free, honoring our Date-Change Promise. For help with creating and editing cards, follow our Personalizing Cards guide.

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Secure A Marriage License + Line Up An Officiant

Whether you opt to exchange vows on your original wedding date or a new date altogether, the first step will be securing an officiant to conduct your ceremony — either in person and safely distanced or virtually! If you already had someone booked for your big day, perhaps they’ll be able to step right in with your new plan for a virtual wedding. Alternatively, a friend or family member could easily become ordained online for a truly personalized ceremony.

Two gold wedding rings with gemstones are among the accessories: bridal bouquet, cards, veils and lace ribbons.

Work with your officiant to design the ceremony structure, incorporating readings, planning vows, and any other personalized elements. Make sure you research the laws in place in your area surrounding the issuance of marriage licenses. These laws will vary depending on the country and state in which you live, and some regions require a specific window of time between obtaining your license and actually getting married. Some states in the U.S. will even allow you to get married without an officiant!

You can also, of course, use your virtual wedding as a celebration instead of an official union. Many couples are opting to recognize their would-be wedding via a virtual ceremony and planning to officially (and legally) tie the knot when stay-at-home orders end.

Assemble A Virtual Wedding Planning Team

Assemble the dream team of a wedding planner, vendors, and your closest friends and family that will jive with your personality, style + budget. One of the tougher decisions you’ll have to make while organizing your virtual wedding is which vendors you’d like to remain involved (if you were already planning) and which aspects of the event you’d like to handle on your own or with bridesmaids.

For example, with social distancing still a concern in many places, it might be in your best interest to do your own hair and makeup. Or maybe you and your partner take the opportunity to bond while baking your own wedding cake! That being said, there are still plenty of ways to support and include your vendors while going virtual, whether it’s having floral arrangements dropped off at your door or purchasing a smaller version of your original cake. You can even hire your photographer to take photos outside after the ceremony. Just make sure you’re transparent and discuss details in-depth with each vendor. If you don’t know where to start, check out our wedding planning checklist or work with a planner or day-of coordinator to take some of the stress off.

Choose The Right Video Chat Platform

Between Instagram Live, Google Hangouts, Zoom Conferencing, and more – you’ve got plenty of options to choose from. Decide if you want a live stream that people can watch, or if you want to be able to see your guests just like they can see you. This will be the determining factor in how you wish to broadcast your ceremony.

Video Conferencing

Image of a team conference call on a computer screen in a home office.Zoom has definitely been the most popular video conferencing tool for weddings since attendees can set up Speaker View (probably ideal for your guests to view your ceremony) or Gallery View (you, as the couple, could have this displayed so you can see all of your guests’ reactions). You can designate one guest to take screenshots of your attendees’ reactions throughout the ceremony to include in your wedding album.

Live Streaming

Another free option to utilize is live streaming on Facebook or Instagram. Assign a designated time your guests can hop on to watch you say your “I do’s” and then make sure to read all the lovely comments afterward! Make sure to include proper links to the platform you choose, etiquette instructions to your guests (are they muting themselves, do you want them to be able to comment in the feed?), and any other helpful information for people who may be using this for the first time.

Pick A Location, Dress Code, And Virtual Wedding Theme

wedding couple with floral backdropMost couples spend months — if not years — planning every minute detail of their wedding, agonizing over the venue, color schemes, menu options, and the playlist. The benefit of throwing a virtual wedding is that it’s definitely less elaborate than, say, a destination wedding in Hawaii. Regardless, it still takes a lot of organization to pull off the speeches, photos, and vows. Here are some expert tips on how to make a virtual wedding feel elegant, chic, and personalized just for you.

Prep Your Space

Whether you’re streaming from the comfort of your own home, a local outdoor area, or a more traditional wedding venue, there are some steps you can take to make sure your day is camera-ready. Pick a spot that not only looks great in-person but works well on video. Think about the areas that will make you feel most comfortable or glamorous, or that have the most space. If you have a yard or a favorite room, that’s definitely worth considering. And great lighting is key!

The type of wedding décor you choose may depend a lot on where your ceremony is taking place. For example, if you’re recording from an outdoor space like a garden, then extravagant florals may seem unnecessary. However, if the background is fairly simple, then flowers, candles, and hanging lights are all great ways to set the scene.

Beautiful decor made with garland with luminous lamps and floral decorations. Decor of flowers on wedding ceremony.

You can create a really beautiful space anywhere you are — even a tiny apartment. Think about your wedding vibe and work with your space and some extra decor touches to create a DIY backdrop. The space should simply feel right for you and your celebration.

Play With The Dress Code

There are no rules on how to dress! You can choose something more casual if you wanted to save your dramatic wedding dress for a more real-life reception. Or, just go for it! During this pandemic, it’s been exciting to have special moments to look forward to, and maybe wearing your fanciest attire will really mark the day with a beautiful and emotional stamp. For your guests’ dress code, you can encourage them to dress up (from the waist up!) for the occasion. Or consider having them wear bright colors to symbolize the celebration and add an additional burst of brightness and happiness.

Pick A Theme

vinyl wedding banner floral themed wedding

Focus on decorations and symbolic things that really embody you and your spouse as a couple. If you’re at home, you can lean into personalizing the visual elements of the festivities. Twinkly lights or customized banners can get everyone in a celebratory mood. Black tie? Break out your favorite floor-length gown and throw on some sparkly jewelry. Daytime cocktail? Dress up your space with chic floral arrangements and greenery. You should also consider picking a favorite photo that guests can cohesively set as their Zoom background. Check out our 50+ list of wedding theme ideas for more inspiration!

Finalize Your Guest List + Virtual Wedding Invitation Wording

We’ve thought about creative ways to plan a virtual wedding guest list and engage your friends and family. Without physical limits, you can rethink who you want to invite to witness your marriage ceremony. Make it big or keep it small — regardless, it’s an incredible opportunity to make your wedding more inclusive than it would have been originally.

Details To Include In Your Wedding Invitations

Not only will it be fun for guests to receive unique wedding invitations to your celebration, but they’ll get to find out what this wedding experience is all about. Do they get to dress up for the virtual wedding? Should they bring their own bottle of champagne? Is there a fun afterparty where they can break off into smaller virtual groups and socialize together?

For digital ceremonies, the most important details to include are the date, time, link to join, and any necessary login information. It’s also a good idea to have all this information available on your wedding website. Just make sure that the virtual aspect of your ceremony is loud and clear, particularly if you’re changing plans. If you are hosting any guests who are not so tech-savvy, consider calling them to confirm they understand the new plan.

Sample Virtual Wedding Invitation Wording

With virtual weddings bursting on to the scene, invitations are quickly changing. We’re here to help with some wording options to inspire your invite.

  • We’re Going Virtual! Please join us as {name} and {name} exchange vows virtually.
  • New plan! We invite you to join us, virtually, as we exchange our vows.
  • Change of plans! Due to the circumstances, we have taken our wedding virtual.
  • We’re requesting the pleasure of your company at our virtual wedding.
  • We’re social distancing! And we invite you to virtually attend our wedding.
  • We still do! Just virtually. You’re invited to our virtual wedding.
  • You’re invited to witness our wedding day… virtually!
  • We can’t say we do without all of you! Please join us, virtually, as we exchange our vows.
  • Marry now, party later! Join us for our wedding ceremony now, virtually, and celebrate with us in person at a later date.
  • Love isn’t canceled! And neither is our wedding. We’ve gone virtual.

Have A Plan And Rehearse It the Day Before

Wedding to do list top view. Present boxes, calendar for marriage planning and various bridal stuff on white rustic table. Memorable date organization background

You’ll definitely want to do a test run or two before the big day of your virtual wedding, to ensure your backdrop is even, you have the right angle for recording and all of the tech is running smoothly. The morning of, do what you normally would — have a mimosa, host your wedding party on a separate Zoom or Facetime, take time to get ready, and spend a few minutes with your partner, or don’t, if you weren’t planning on seeing them!. Make sure you two have discussed this, and the logistics. Do you want your partner waiting at the top of the aisle, standing onscreen while you enter from another room? Do you want to start it with both of you on the screen together? Rehearse everything beforehand and most importantly, don’t forget to push record!

Put together an itinerary for the event, and be sure to think about ways you can customize it to bring out your personality as a couple. We’ve put together an outline for you below to help kick things off.

4:30 PM – Guest arrival
Everyone logs in to your streaming platform of choice. Make sure to have your camera lined up to face your “ceremony area,” and don’t forget to make a playlist and have about 30 minutes of “prelude music” for this time.

5:00 PM – Ceremony time
Your officiant should enter (in person or virtually) first! They can welcome guests before the two of you enter. You can have some fun here as well, entering separately or together, and changing the music to your processional song (make sure to end it before the ceremony begins). From here, your officiant will take it away with the intimate ceremony the three of you designed as your friends and families watch on. Cue the happy tears!

5:30 PM – Speeches
Be sure to chat with your closest family and wedding party members beforehand about giving a toast at your wedding. Now’s the time to sit down and let your loved ones share their sentiments with the group. This is where the “bring your own champagne” will come in handy so that everyone can toast together!

6:00 PM – Gifts
Remember, your guests are here to celebrate YOU! Be sure to include your wedding gift registry information on the invitations, and take time to open and share your new items with your guests.

6:30 PM – Final Toast
One final toast and it’s time for you and your SPOUSE to enjoy the evening! We recommend ordering in your favorite meal — and of course, do not forget the cake!

Document Your Big Day And Enjoy Every Moment

Regardless of where you choose to tie the knot, do not forget to document the big day. Depending on the coronavirus guidelines in your area, you may be able to safely work with a photographer. However, even if it’s just the two of you, you can use the self-timer feature on your phone to capture portraits of the day! You can also designate one guest to take screenshots of your attendees’ reactions throughout the ceremony.

personalized wedding photo album wedding photo book

Under circumstances like these, your images are going to speak louder and hold even more meaning, so capturing the true emotion and authenticity is more important than ever. Professional and classy or casual and silly, you’ll want photos to add to your personalized wedding album that you can cherish for years to come.

Closing Thoughts

Just because you had to take things online doesn’t mean you have to give up on making the event feel like your own. Aside from tradition, the primary purpose of a wedding is to celebrate a union and have fun – so make sure you do just that! Get creative and engage your guests through thoughtful, interactive experiences. Keep it simple, and most importantly, keep it you!

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