COVID-19: Having a Virtual Wedding (and Other Alternatives)

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As the current COVID-19 outbreak escalates, and the government urges people to “stay at home,” heartbroken couples have postponed (or canceled) their weddings to stop the spread of the virus. With a backlogged 2021 season likely, more Americans are turning to video communication apps such as Zoom and saying “I do” online. In states where it’s allowed, some couples are holding ceremonies with 10 (or fewer) guests. Others are eloping to international destinations. This is what getting married in a coronavirus world looks like. 

While the future is uncertain, the current pandemic will pass. In the meantime, couples should explore alternative options before they cancel their nuptials. 

Postpone or Not Postpone?

The latest research suggests that over half of Americans have postponed their weddings for some date in the future. However, nobody really knows when things will get back to normal. The primary reason for most postponements is to slow down the spread of the virus. However, even in parts of the country currently unaffected by the pandemic, local industries have ground to a halt, making it almost impossible to get wed.

Wedding planners, coordinators, florists, photographers, caterers — every wedding professional has been impacted by the pandemic for one reason or another. Most U.S. states have issued “shelter in place” orders for the general public, meaning most wedding-related businesses are considered “non-essential” at this time of crisis. The American wedding industry, worth a staggering $53 billion, has never experienced anything like this.

Of course, this won’t last forever, and things will go back to normal again. However, couples are scrambling to reschedule their weddings, which could end up with a huge backlog next year. As a result, many couples are sticking to their original dates and stripping back their weddings. 

Downsize

Although this is a fast-moving situation, at the time of writing, the federal government is urging Americans to limit social gatherings to 10 people. Right now, weddings can still happen, but they just need to be downsized considerably. For smaller weddings, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, couples who have invited lots of guests — the average wedding in 2019 had 125 guests — should ask themselves this question: Who’s coming? 

For brides who have dreamed of the ultimate wedding since childhood, a small ceremony — or “micro-ceremony” — might come as a big shock, but they should consider sticking to their original date. Plus, they can always throw a bigger party this time next year. 

For many couples right now, the current health crisis has made them reassess what’s important — the people they love and care about.

“We both had a little cry,” Isobel Burston tells The Guardian newspaper. She was supposed to get married to her fiance, Ian, in April, but made alternative plans. “We knew we couldn’t ask people to put their health at risk.”

Eloping

Some couples have considered eloping to far-flung destinations, where coronavirus has had less of an impact. There were even reports that Princess Beatrice of York, ninth-in-line to the British throne, contemplated getting married abroad. The problem is, the outbreak is still spreading

across the world, and health experts warn that most countries will be impacted in some way. Plus, the U.S. federal government has issued travel restrictions to citizens who want to leave the country. 

Right now, eloping isn’t the best idea.

Get Married Online

In recent weeks, more couples have decided to stick with their original wedding plans — but get married online. Video conferencing apps let couples celebrate their love, while guests, watching from home, respect social distancing guidelines. Zoom, in particular, is becoming the go-to destination for couples tying the knot, and thousands of “stay-at-home” couples could use this platform in the next few weeks.

High-school sweethearts Sophie Austin and Ben Jackson had planned to get married on Saturday, April 4. In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, they canceled their wedding and got married on Zoom instead. 

Sophie and Ben aren’t the only ones.

“A search for #ZoomWedding on Instagram turns up over 100 photos of couples who’ve live-streamed their nuptials,” says The Verge. “As the hashtag suggests, Zoom — the enterprise video streaming platform that was used in pre-coronavirus days mostly for business meetings — has become the venue of choice for couples hosting digital weddings.”

Zoom is pretty easy to use and lets couples do (nearly) all the things they planned: Get married, cut the cake, throw the bouquet, dance to a soppy ballad. Their guests are still there; they are just on the other side of a screen. And yes, guests can still use online registries to give wedding gifts!

All guests need is an email address and a smartphone to watch a Zoom wedding. Sure, with limited guests, it’s not the same as the real thing but, at this unprecedented time, it still provides couples with a magical once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

It’s not just Zoom. A virtual wedding can take place on video conferencing apps such as Google Hangouts, Slack, Skype, Blue Jeans, and more.

Final Word

Research from the Wedding Report suggests that 28 percent of couples are trying to reschedule their wedding to a later date in 2020; 22.5 percent are postponing to 2021; and 6.5 percent have canceled their weddings altogether. Interestingly, 43 percent of couples have no idea what to do.

One thing’s for sure: The current pandemic has rocked the wedding industry, but there are lots of reasons to stay positive. Holding a smaller ceremony or live-streaming nuptials on a video communication app can still be a great way to celebrate a marriage — and, years and years from now, it’s something interesting to tell the grandchildren! 

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