How To Have A Virtual Wedding

Love isn't cancelled

So you’re ready to have a virtual wedding. We know, we know. It’s nothing you would have picked, like… a month ago. But now we’re in a brand new world.

If you’ve poked around the internet for even a few minutes in the past few weeks (literally what else is there to do), you’ve probably stumbled upon a story about a virtual wedding on Zoom, or some Facebook Live nuptials. If a wedding has been on your schedule for 2020, you are probably amongst the throngs of folx considering what the actual heck to do right now. We’ve been saying it for weeks, and we’ll keep saying it… we are so damn sorry. But, if gathering your community, no matter the ‘how’, to profess your love and make a commitment to your person, is the priority… let’s make it happen.

APW has been here to talk about practical, real, heart-centered weddings for years. Now, it’s no different. You can dig through our archives and find heartwarming stories of weddings in the midst of health crises, couples who eloped with their families, at-home weddings, and more. 2020 has taken a lot from all of us already, and the fact is that probably won’t stop anytime too soon. What it can’t take, is the joy and love we choose to prioritize and hold onto. If you want to get married, right now, in the midst of a global crisis (or if you NEED to get married now), we say—go forth and say ‘I do.’

How to have a virtual wedding, graphic of a laptop and two brides

What you need to make it legal

Weddings seem like they’re all about flowers and cocktails… except they’re not. There are also some very specific legal pieces required to make a marriage legit. Since we’re staring down the face of a crisis, just know that it may not be easy or possible to fulfill these requirements. And exactly what the requirements are is hyper-specific to your state and county. It’s pretty easy to research what is required in your state with a quick google search. However, right now, just know that things are a bit of a mess in most places. In California, and many other states, the County Clerks offices are closed—making it all but impossible to get a marriage license. However, if your wedding was coming up quickly, you may already have a marriage license in hand (check the expiration date). Congratulations. Or perhaps you live somewhere that hasn’t closed down government offices yet. Hurry, go get a marriage license right now if getting married is the short-term goal!

Again, depending on where you live and the laws, here are the things you may need, and some specific details to consider based on the current state of the world.

  • A Marriage License. If you have one in hand, you’re set. If not, go the County Clerk’s Office website for your area, or a nearby county and see if they are open and still issuing licenses. Some counties have set up emergency contact information in case getting married is an emergency for you. Folx facing medical emergencies, front line or military workers, and other specific cases may make you eligible. It’s worth asking and applying.
  • An Officiant. While virtual weddings are all the rage at the moment, keep in mind that your marriage may not be legal if the officiant isn’t physically in the same space as the couple. Do some research for your area and make sure you know that you’re checking all the legal boxes. If you have to be in the same place as your officiant, consider an outdoor space where you can be at least 6 feet apart, or like this couple from New York—let your officiant stay inside and marry you through a window. Generally speaking, your officiant will need to sign the marriage license, so ask them to bring their own pen, or have some gloves at the ready for them. Even better, if you live with someone else (a roommate, parents, etc.), they can get ordained online and be your officiant—easy peasy (I’ve done it.) Oh, and some states have a self-uniting (or Quaker) marriage law, so you may not even need an officiant.
  • Witnesses. Some states also require a witness or two to be present at your ceremony and sign the marriage license. The same guidelines apply, keep a safe distance, and a safe signing process and you’ll be all set.

UPDATE: As of May 1, 2020, both New York and California have executive orders in place allowing for fully legal weddings and marriage license acquisition via virtual services! Colorado has temporarily suspended in-person mandates for marriage licenses, allowing for by-mail orders. This is amazing news for residents of these states, and hopefully a sign of things to come for the rest of the country, as the progression of this pandemic continues.

What if you can’t make Your Virtual Wedding legal?

Unfortunately, you may not have a marriage license in hand, your County Clerk’s Office may be closed, you don’t qualify for an emergency marriage license, and you can’t travel anywhere that has an open government office. Again, we’re here to say we’re sorry. So damn sorry.

Call me a diehard romantic here, but who the hell cares? If you want to get married now, do it, and make it legal later. Spend your quarantine writing the vows you want, invite your friends and family in via the internet, and commit your lives to one another. Your wedding date can still be your virtual wedding date. Break up your work-from-home week with a Wednesday celebration. Getting married is the commitment to each other and to love, as queer couples proved to us through years of illegal marriages. What better time for love than now? You can make it legal later.

In the meantime, you could make your very own marriage contract, Ketubah (if you’re Jewish), or art from your vows. Something to put in writing and remember your pandemic party by. Oh, and get your affairs in order, too (like a will and such), because if you can’t have a legal wedding, you can still make sure you and your partner are legally recognized as each other’s person.

Make Your virtual Wedding special

Just because you’re having a different kind of wedding doesn’t mean it can’t feel special. Here are a few ideas of ways to make sure your wedding day still feels like yours.

  • Guests. Obviously, or not. Elope, or invite 1,000 of your closest friends and family via Zoom or Facebook Live. Just make sure that it’s as much of what you and your partner want as possible.
  • Invitations. Speaking of guests, you’ll need a way to let them know what’s going on. We’re huge fans of some of the new ‘change the date‘ products available in the world. We also love services like Paperless Post and Greenvelope where you could send your guests a digital invitation with all the links and how-to’s they need to successfully log in and join in the fun. (Pro-tip: give overly detailed instructions for how to log in and join the call. Your Great Aunt Ruth will really appreciate it.)
  • Flowers. Most floral farmers are struggling these days, with canceled events and closed down flower markets. However, there are plenty of florists still up for a gig, and they’d love to do a porch drop off. Just ask. Plus, fresh flowers keep showing up in grocery stores and you can DIY some flowers for your day. I mean, what else do you have to do? Just go pick them up on your essential grocery store trip, or look into a flower delivery option!
  • Outfits. Don’t hold back here. If you already have your fanciest clothes ready, wear them. If not, see about ordering something special for your (virtual) wedding day! (Many stores are not shipping, but Rent The Runway still is, and they have the best ballgowns in stock right now… because nobody but you needs a ballgown) Ask your guests to dress up, too. It’ll make it all the more fun.
  • Food and Drinks. Ask your guests to have their favorite drink ready. Mix up a batch of cocktails for you and your love. Send your guests the cocktail recipe. Get dinner delivered from a local restaurant, or champagne from a delivery service. Don’t hold back. After all, this is your wedding.
  • Cake. There are plenty of bakeries who would love to whip up a special cake for you and your fiancx right now. Let them! Or fancy up a grocery store cake. If none of that works out, you could spend the day before making a homemade cake together!
  • Rings. Do you already have them? Awesome, don’t forget them… just kidding, you’re not leaving the house! But if not, order some. ASAP. Plenty of amazing smaller jewelers are having deals right now and you could have your rings shipped right to your door. Yay! Need something quick? Use whatever you’ve got on hand to hold the place for now, and frame it later. That twist tie will have an all-new meaning.
  • Photos. Again, depending on where you are and the rules in place, you may be able to get a photographer to meet you outside your home with their long-range lenses for a quick celebratory photoshoot to mark the occasion. If not, some photographers have even adapted to this new world and are offering virtual photo sessions. Fun!
  • Music. You can totally DIY some tunes for the event. Also, lots of DJ’s that I’ve worked with in the past have been live DJing on Instagram and Facebook Live for fun lately. Reach out to someone local, or the DJ you planned to use, and ask if they’ll play music for your ceremony and a dance party after!

Technology and Logistics

If you’re going to have a virtual wedding that your friends and family can join in on, you’ll need to figure out a few logistical things. And, please test all the elements in advance to minimize the stress as you’re about to say your ‘I do’s.’ (REMINDER: for a legal wedding ceremony, you and your officiant and witnesses may need to be physically in the same space. Do your research.)

  • Pick a platform. There’s Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, etc. You have choices that are free, and ones that cost money. Some that will live stream to social media, and others you could make a recording from. You can also choose based on how you want your guests involved. My top pick would be Zoom. If you pay for a month of service (hello, cheapest venue ever), you can have tons of family and friends join the call, you’ll be able to see their faces, and you can record the call to watch over and over again. Plus, everyone can hang out after the ceremony, give toasts and speeches, and even have a dance party.
  • Gather your tech supplies. Make sure you have your computer or tablet, a charger (this is key!), and a tripod or a way to prop it all up.
  • Pick a spot. Will your virtual wedding be in your living room? Your backyard? Figure out where you have the space, the wifi power, plugs, and lighting that feels best.
  • Test it all. Do I trial run with a friend or two. Make sure that they can see you, hear you, etc. Zoom and other platforms sometimes require a password, make very sure that’s working exactly as you’d expect. Wouldn’t want grandma to miss the vows.

Now, Get married already!

We’re sorry your wedding day may not be shaking out as you expected (like, really really sorry). But we hope this can help you celebrate the love that even 2020 can’t take from you. Cheers to your love. After all, love is what will see us through this.

Did we miss anything? Have you had a virtual wedding? Do you have amazing ideas for how to pull off a special event in spring of 2020? Share them here. We’re all in this together, and we can’t wait to hear about all your special events and moments. Have a love story from the times of crisis to share? Click right here

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