A virtual wedding can’t truly replace a ceremony and reception with all of your loved ones (and vendors!) fully present. But even in the grand scheme of wedding planning, there are always going to have to be compromises. So ask yourself: in five or ten years, what will I want to look back on? What am I looking forward to the most about my wedding? What kind of wedding memories will be important to me?
And to help you determine whether you should say "I do" via Zoom - or postpone and wait until you have can have that open bar and 100-person guest list - here are some pros and cons to consider:
Pro: Call it a tie breaker.
If you were already on the fence and weren’t heavily invested (emotionally or financially) in a large wedding to begin with, perhaps this pandemic will simply tip the scales and encourage you to just go for that virtual wedding of your dreams. Our new circumstances are giving many couples ‘permission’ to have the small wedding or elopement they secretly wanted all along, but didn’t seriously consider because of tradition.
If you want to have your officiant perform your ceremony remotely, you might have to reconsider. In most places, getting married via video conference falls within a legal grey area. In light of the Coronavirus, some state officials have issued legal orders that give couples explicit permission to obtain their marriage license and/or have their marriage solemnized via video conferencing platforms. But most states have marriage laws that would prevent such ceremonies from being legally binding, and still haven’t provided any official statements or clear guidance on having wedding ceremonies that are officiated via video conference.
Pro: Less pressure to impress.
Being responsible for feeding and entertaining guests is stressful, and when you’re not fretting over money, music choices, menu options, and whether or not it will rain – you can relax. You can focus on what matters most: your ceremony, your vows, and the lifelong promises you will make to each other. Instead of worrying about what’s ‘expected’, or getting stuck in traditions that don’t really suit you or your partner’s lifestyles or values, you can have a wedding that’s completely, and entirely, your own.
Con: Technical issues.
Virtual wedding ceremonies are still a new and unprecedented concept. (Thanks, Coronavirus.) A different kind of planning is required, and you’ll need to anticipate a certain degree of difficulty. Not everyone is technically savvy, and not all video conferencing platforms are the same – so plan on hiring a professional planner to coordinate the setup and logistics for you, or designate capable friends and family members to assist with greeting online guests, checking on connectivity issues, positioning equipment so that everyone has a good view of the ceremony, and so on.
Pro: Save (a lot of) money.
When you’re not hosting a celebration for a hundred people, your wedding costs will diminish almost entirely before your eyes – freeing up cash for a future honeymoon or home, or eliminating potential debt. Without the worry of catering and seating costs per guest, you’ll also be able to invite everyone and anyone you’d want to attend, without fear of going over budget. Guests will also save money -- on travel expenses, hotel rooms and car rentals, clothing costs, and all the other unexpected costs of attending a wedding. No one is going to complain about having extra money in the bank!
Con: Hurting your vendors in a time of crisis.
Small businesses – especially those in the service and wedding industry – have suffered devastating blows due to wedding cancellations, and terminating your bookings will rob them of desperately needed income. And for so many wedding professionals, their jobs aren’t just a paycheck; they’re genuine livelihoods and personal passions. Whether you choose an online wedding or not, consider rescheduling your venue and vendor bookings to use for elaborate receptions or anniversary parties when pandemic safety risks subside.
Pro: No fighting or stressing about the guest list!
With a virtual wedding, you can invite anyone and everyone you want without worrying about the financial consequences – and it’s even easier to dodge the unwanted guests you were dreading feeling obligated to invite in the first place. That’s a Win/Win! To truly maximize a guest list, many couples are also choosing variations of virtual weddings, such as hybrid ceremonies, with a mix of in-person and remote online guests.
Con: Radio silence.
For many couples, there is a lot of emotional build-up and anticipation for the moments when you’re pronounced married during the ceremony, and introduced for the first time as a married couple at the reception. If you opt for a virtual ceremony, the absence of loud cheers, confetti, clinking glasses, and thunderous applause may leave you feeling let-down and disappointed.
Pro: Sense of true intimacy.
When it’s just you and your partner (and your officiant and any witnesses) standing together, there is no doubt to your intentions and why you're there. Without the orchestrated pomp and circumstance of a traditional wedding processional, there’s nothing to distract either of you from truly living in the moment and appreciating the closeness you’ll feel when you share your vows. Choosing a private ceremony also allows your officiant to create a more personal customized script, suitable for a small audience rather than a large one. And even if hundreds of guests are joining in remotely from all around the world, a virtually streamed ceremony can’t help but feel intimate to those attending in person.
Texting and video conferencing might be great ways to keep in touch with friends and update your co-workers, but you can only convey and feel so much emotion through a screen. There’s something to be said for the palpable energy that radiates through a room full of loved ones who are present to celebrate and support you – and it can be rather perturbing to liken your wedding ceremony to a Zoom meeting with your boss.
Pro: Everyone stays safe.
This is an all-important and driving factor to consider a virtual wedding. We know that the Coronavirus is highly contagious, especially indoors or in any scenario (indoors or outdoors) when physical distancing and proper ventilation and airflow can’t be maintained. Even with smaller ceremonies, or those outdoors, there is still a chance that someone could unknowingly infect you or your guests. With a virtual ceremony, your friends and relatives won’t miss a moment of the I-Do’s – and won’t risk ending up in the hospital.
Con: No big reception.
No big reception means no partying, no mingling, no close-quarters celebrating. There is nothing like getting down on the dance floor at your reception in your wedding finery with booming music, festive lights ablaze, drink in hand, and your loved ones cheering you on. And there are certainly not going to be hilarious photos you get to discover later – like ones of Uncle Joe attempting The Worm after his fourth glass of champagne. Small, socially distanced receptions, or livestreamed receptions, just aren’t for everyone.
Pro: It'll go down in history.
One thing’s for certain: we’re in the midst of a life-changing global pandemic that will be talked about for years to come, and having a virtual wedding at this time will be a unique story to be told in itself. Wedding masks have become a part of the family heirloom tradition, couples are using paper invitations for virtual ceremonies and receptions as a meaningful keepsake, and wedding photographers are including images of laptops and cellphones in more and more of their wedding photos. This is an unprecedented and memorable time in our history.
Con: No moments – or face-to-face memories – with loved ones.
This may be the biggest drawback to having a virtual ceremony: not being able to truly celebrate heart-to-heart and face-to-face with many of the people who mean the most to you. Years down the road you won’t get to fondly look back on the experience of getting ready with your closest companions, crying your way through speeches and toasts side by side, or embracing your friends and family as they shower you with well wishes and love. For many couples, these are the moments and experiences that make real memories. While hybrid weddings provide the opportunity for some in-person guests, not everyone will be able to (or want to) attend in-person, creating fewer opportunities for face-to-face memories.
Remember: You’re the only one who can determine whether you’d be merely settling for a virtual wedding, or doing yourselves a huge favor by having one – so that one year or one decade from now, there are no regrets.
Updated November 2020