How to Livestream Your Wedding Amid Coronavirus Social Distancing

On Sunday, March 29th, 2020, President Trump announced that the U.S. would be “extending our [social distancing] guidelines to April 30 to slow the spread” of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

With this pandemic still spreading, cities going on lockdown, mandatory quarantines, and family losses, this surely is a troubling time to be engaged. Couples are facing harsh realities and having to make some difficult decisions. Hopefully, this week’s Amarvelous Wedding blog post can help: We’ll be discussing some creative options for you to move forward with your special day virtually.

Throughout this pandemic, I am seeing couples stress over the prospect of cancelling or postponing their weddings. I am here today to tell you that YOU DO NOT NEED TO CANCEL. This post is primarily for those that want to continue with their ceremony on the original wedding date and later [post COVID-19] have a party with friends and family.

Photo Credit: Insider

Yes, you read that correctly. If your wedding is in the coming weeks, then you may be surprised to learn that you can still share your special moment with friends and family on the originally-planned date while also practicing the mandated social distancing. You probably cannot utilize your originally-planned ceremony venue or place of worship, because many venues have been closed by local government. However, if your officiant/priest is willing to do a tiny pop-up ceremony outdoors (at the mandatory 6-foot distance), then you are golden to still maintain your original wedding date!

The Virtual Wedding

Below are some questions to ask yourself before you livestream your wedding online:

Who would you like to invite to your live ceremony?

Are you interested in keeping your original guestlist or changing it? Now that you’ll have a virtual wedding, do you want to invite only immediate family and the bridal party? Or do you want to open up the happiness to a larger audience, say your social media followers or the whole world-wide-web?

Depending on what livestreaming platform you select (we cover them below!), there are different ways to invite different groups of people.

The number of viewers (or households, if they all watch together) that you would like to invite determines whether or not some of the options below are ruled out. For example, an app like Google Duo only accommodates 12 video users on a single call, whereas Youtube Live allows for unlimited users.

Photo Credit: Apple

Is privacy important to you?

Some platforms allow you to send directed email links, so only people with that link can log in to watch your livestream. Other platforms allow you to be public, and anyone on the internet can stumble upon your live video. Privacy options are a good reason to choose one platform over another.

Do you want viewers to see you in a livestream manner, or would you prefer for everyone to see each other in a video chat manner?

Some platforms only allow your viewers to see you, and you cannot see them. This is great if you are on a more public platform like Facebook Live or Youtube Live, where the whole world could be watching. No need for you to see someone that you don’t know, after all. You may wonder why you would want that though. The answer is simple: The huge benefit to choosing a mega-livestreaming option (think dozens or hundreds of wedding guests) is that there is usually no limit to the number of people who can watch. If you have a huge family, then they can all log in to watch.

If you want to be able to see each other, then your options are a little more limited. Send out an invite to family and friends with the call-in details from a program like a Zoom, Skype, WebEx call. This could be really fun, because people are getting absolutely stir-crazy due to shelter-in-place at home with nothing to do. Invite guests to wear their originally-planned wedding attire and get dressed to the nines. Any reason to shower, do your hair, and get dressed these days is welcome! Let them know your plan to take a family photo (screenshot).

Does your family have the program needed to livestream?

Facebook Livestream is a great option because many people in your family may already have a Facebook account, but for other options, then just consider that if the app needs to be downloaded to their computers, tablets, and phones, then that that may create a challenge. Other options are platforms that let you send a link for the video. In that case, usually no app download or account is needed—they just need to go to the link and start watching, after typing in their name and email address.

Photo Credit: Chicago Suntimes

Do you want the video saved after the livestream?

Not every platform saves your video and comments after the livestream is complete. Some platforms don’t save at all, and others delete after a certain number of hours or days, while others like Facebook will always have the video for you to re-watch. A bonus to Facebook is the “On-This-Day” feature where you will be reminded annually of that memory. Family and friends can send thumbs up, hearts, and comments of well wishes that you’ll be able to look back on later.

What technology do you have available?

Are you planning to video from a phone or tablet? This may be important, because certain platforms are only available via mobile device. For example, Instagram is not an app that is friendly for tablets or computers. Also, consider the technology that your guests have. Some guests may prefer a computer or tablet over a phone, and this may dictate which program you select to use.

Who is going to film: Is DIY or a specialized social media livestreaming vendor?

You can absolutely do this on your own without hiring someone, but there are a couple things to consider here. When I say DIY, I literally mean you need a third person to be the photographer. You and your fiancé are getting married and cannot be the cameraman. Do you have a person to do it? If not, then especially during a quarantine, a tripod for your cell phone is great to have.

There are also companies that specialize in wedding livestreaming. They too have options to DIY where they send you all the tech to use. Or you can hire them to come and film the event for you. You can also consider your already-planned photographer and/or videographer. Perhaps they have experience with livestreaming?

How much are you willing to pay for a livestream?

There are many platforms that are totally free of charge. But if you’re willing to pay for the service, then you may get more benefits like additional viewers, or the video gets saved. For example, if Zoom seems like the best option for you, just note that the free option only allows maximum 100 people for a 40 minute call. But what if your ceremony is running longer than 40 minutes? Does the call drop? Talk about unneeded stress! Probably worth it to spend the extra $14.99 for the month subscription to have unlimited call timing.

Photo Credit: The Day

Is it important to you to have multiple camera angles in your live video?

You may be familiar with livestreaming as being from only one camera angle, and that truly is the most common type, but you can actually stream multiple camera angles. There are vendors that have the software and the expertise to help you broadcast a multi-angle live stream on Facebook Live or YouTube Live. These vendors set up multiple cameras, and during the live video they use the software to control which camera (usually a cell phone) is showing live. An example of this software is Switcher Studio.

The Comparison

Below is a chart of websites, apps, and companies that offer livestreaming options. I have listed my favorite options closer to the top and my least favorite on the bottom. You’ll notice some are only designed for a few people to call in at a time. While I don’t find those suitable for a wedding scenario, I wanted to still include them, in case you are familiar with that particular live video company and you were wondering the max number of people allowed.

PlatformMax Number of ViewersAbility to Save VideoSpecial Notes
Facebook LiveUnlimitedYesViewers don’t need a Facebook account to watch
YouTube LiveUnlimitedYesViewers don’t need a YouTube account to watch
WebEx100 (free)YesViewers don’t need a WebEx account but may need to install a plugin or app
Zoom100 people for 40 minutes (free)No$14.99 monthly subscription for 100 people and unlimited time, URL link email invite
TwitchUnlimitedNoVideo is deleted after 2 weeks
Instagram LiveUnlimitedNoDeleted after 24 hours unless you add as a highlight, broadcast up to 1 hour
Skype50YesRecording available for 30 days and can be downloaded
WhatsApp16YesMust click record button to activate feature
EventLive.Pro5 people for 40 minutes (free)Yes$50 one-time fee for unlimited people and time, private invite to guests
Facebook Messenger50NoAll users will need to download the additional Messenger app
Discord50NoIncreased to 50 people during COVID-19
DacastUnlimitedNoFree 30 day trial available, event pricing based on data needed for call
FaceTime32NoMust have Apple products
Snapchat16NoFun filters on top of photos
Google Duo12NoNo text chat during video call, need to have a Google account to use
Google Hangouts10NoSometimes video is not synced between users
Bunch8NoMobile only, more suitable as a platform for shared gaming
Houseparty8NoMore suitable for party games with shared screen and video
Instagram Co-Watching6NoMobile only, serves as a screen sharing video call
Squad6NoMore of a screen share all
Line4NoMore suitable for one on one video 
Twitter Periscope3NoDeleted after 24 hours
Marco Polo2NoMore suited as a back and forth video like a radio
Signal2NoMust be a Signal user to video chat
Viber2NoMinimum data speed needed for app to even load
I Do Stream50YesStarting at $199, email a link to viewers
Gotowebinar25YesNeed to select recording option prior to call, $109 annually
Livestream.com5Yes$75 per month
mystreamingwedding.comUnlimitedYesNo viewing limits, starting at $2,500 for 2 hours, professional videographer

Steps to plan your virtual ceremony:

  1. As a couple, weigh out the pros and cons of changing to a virtual wedding. Once you are sure that you want to continue with your initially-planned wedding date (and save the party for later) then continue on.
  1. Contact your officiant and ensure they are still available, able to accommodate a change of venue, and are not sick themselves. If they are, then perhaps they can recommend an alternate officiant?
  1. Organize your technology, and ensure that you have selected the right livestream platform for you. You’ll need to decide this prior to informing guests of the change—that way you can have answers to their questions. You’ll be ready for the who, what, when, and where (I’m sure everyone will understand the “why” though).
  1. For immediate family and bridal party, a phone call or video call is best to inform them of your change in nuptials.
  1. Follow that with a notice to all other wedding guests. You could do this through a call, text, email, update to the wedding website, or formal card in the mail. Keep in mind that if it’s short notice, mail service has been a bit slower during COVID-19. You may not have the time for mail.
  1. If you are choosing a platform that is live for the world to see, then consider inviting your online social media network who may have not originally been invited to the wedding and would otherwise not have been able to share in your special day. Give them the day and time to log in and catch a livestreamed feed of your nuptials.
  1. Send out a reminder email or social media post the day before and the day of your ceremony. We don’t want there to be any reason why someone forgot. Most of us are quarantined at home and looking for something to occupy our time. But it’s so easy to get sucked into HGTV rerun after rerun and lose track of time.
  1. Prepare. It’s still your wedding day! You’ll want to look and feel the part. Pamper yourself at home and get all dolled up for the occasion. If you want to save your initially-planned super formal wedding attire for the big party post COVID-19, then find something else in your closet that is suitable. Probably by now you had a bridal shower or other bridal event and have another white outfit, or you could go colorful and just wear something you love.
  1. Have so much fun, because it’s your day! And every year on this anniversary, you will remember the unconventional wedding that all your loved ones were still a part of. It’ll be the most memorable wedding anyone has ever seen (in part because it was memorialized and recorded on the internet).

Some challenges with live video nuptials:

  • Some of the video options above require you to download a program prior to use (some examples are Zoom and Skype). If you select one of these programs, then advise your guests to download the app a day before your call, so they can ensure they know how to use the technology and don’t miss the ceremony.
  • Sorry, Android users, but you won’t be able to use Apple’s FaceTime app, and unfortunately there isn’t a native FaceTime-like app for Android devices. You will have to download a third-party app in order to livestream or video chat.
  • Sorry, Apple users, but sometimes if you don’t have the newest and most updated phone, tablet, and version of iOS, then you won’t be able to access the larger Group-FaceTime calls.
  • For those readers that are all about Instagram, it would be possible to do your video as an Instagram Story, but it will break up your main video into a bunch of smaller clips and then delete the videos after a short period of time, so this may not be the best idea if you want to look back on the video down the road.
  • For couples with elderly members of their family that may not be tech-savvy, being that we are in quarantine and can’t help them set up these programs, they may miss the video. However, if you pick a platform that saves the video after, you can always play it for them once life goes back to normal. And, as mentioned above, there are options where all they have to do is click a link, and it will open your livestream wedding on their browser.
  • Ensure that your WiFi strength and speed, or your 5G/LTE cell reception, is good in the ceremony area. Test the live video before the event to ensure that your camera can withstand the bandwidth demand. Keep this factor in mind for some of the options below too. The larger companies (Facebook, Microsoft, etc.) will usually have more than enough server capacity to host your wedding online, if you plan on a few dozen people joining by video.
  • In order to make your video accessible to as many friends and family as possible, you may decide to open it to the public. Bear in mind that that also opens it up to exes, co-workers, and even media/news outlets. Being public, there is a chance that your nuptials go viral.

These other tips can compliment your live video nuptials:

  • Drive-By Wedding Receiving Line: You can combine a virtual wedding with the in person component of a drive-by receiving line. This one is for families that live in the same area. Announce the exact location of your outdoor nuptials and then state the time of the drive-by wedding receiving line. Post ceremony, you and your partner will stand on the sidewalk and get live in-person well wishes from each family that drives by in their vehicles (maintaining safe social distancing). I recommend you keep your live video going, as the entire receiving line is super personal and a great memory to have.
Photo Credit: Daily Record
  • Hire a Photographer and Videographer: Don’t forget that photographers and videographers can social distance too. You already had them booked for your original wedding date, so you know they are available. Due to these crazy pandemic circumstances, they will most likely allow you to forward your full payment to a new date and then give you your package at the future selected dates. However, it doesn’t hurt to give them a call and see if you can hire them for an hour or two while you do a brief ceremony and photo shoot with your new spouse. You deserve this moment to be something you can look back on later. It will pay to have your day memorialized professionally.
  • Postponement Invites: Discuss options with your wedding planner, venue, and vendors. You’ll need to pick a new date (far enough from COVID-19) that works for all parties. After the date is selected, be sure to send out a postponement invite with the new date. Minted has curated a full section of their invites specifically for wedding postponement notifications. You can access that page here.
  • Refresh Vows: When it comes to the actual day of the party, you have the option to do a dinner followed by a party, or you can also opt to repeat vows in front of everyone before you get down to dinner and party. You are technically already married, but that’s a fast and sweet way to give your guests a reminder of the best part of your wedding ceremony.

I hope you found these tips on how to have your virtual ceremony now and party later by utilizing a livestream service. There are so many digital platforms available to allow you to continue on with your wedding ceremony amid mandatory social distancing. If you are engaged and weighing out all your options, just remember it’s about you and your fiancé getting married, having fun, and being at peace with the decision you ultimately decide to go with. Happy planning!

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