Published: Monday, Mar. 22nd, 2021
Last fall, 20% of AMM Ministers surveyed said that more than half of their weddings had gone virtual, and fluctuating state restrictions suggest the trend will continue for quite a while. That’s a lot of online nuptials!
If you’re asked to officiate an online wedding this year, you’ll want to look and sound your best.
Performing an online wedding requires you, as the officiant, to pay attention to certain details that other types of ceremonies don’t -- things such as lighting, background decor, and keeping your eyes focused near your device’s camera, and more.
In some states, officiants are allowed to perform ceremonies fully remotely. In these cases, state-specific rules might require officiants to host the videoconference wedding themselves, while physically located in the state or county where the marriage license was issued. In these cases and others, it might be useful for officiants to have access to their own video-conferencing account.
Hosting may seem stressful to officiants who are inexperienced with online platforms. Luckily, once an event begins, hosts can select co-hosts to handle all the details! This means that the guest(s) tasked with managing the tech side of things can easily help out, while the officiant focuses on getting the couple married. (In most cases, the couple or family will host the event, but we recommend all officiants become familiar with basic hosting duties, just in case!)
Before the rise in Zoom weddings, most ceremonies took place in-person at traditional venues, where monitoring the lighting wasn’t a responsibility of the officiant. But if you’re officiating over Zoom, Skype, or another platform, you’ll need to consider how well lit you are “on camera.”
Use a light source that’s bright but diffused, and consider using a cooler-tone bulb. Avoid harsh glares on your eye glasses or jewelry that will distract you or the guests, and position yourself so that there are no dark shadows falling on your face, script, or along the wall behind you.
This is especially helpful for those ceremonies where the officiant and the couple are not in the same physical location. Make your backgrounds match!
By this, we mean decorate your space in the same way a couple does. For example, if a couple decorates with twinkle lights and soft green foliage, add some of the same to your space! This goes for candles, color schemes, and other aesthetic details that would be taken for granted in a traditional ceremony. Matching decors adds a feeling of consistency and closeness!
If an officiant and couple are in the same physical space but guests are not, ask guests to decorate their spaces in festive ways to create the same collective, celebratory feeling. Of course, matching is never necessary, but it can add a fun aesthetic detail to the couple’s memorable day.
Just as you would during an in-person wedding, direct comments to specific guests and members of the wedding party, to give guests an interactive wedding experience. Reference the parents or mentors of the soon-to-be-weds, or give a special shout out to VIP guests whenever it’s appropriate.
To make this easier, ask guests to put their relationship with the couple next to their name on-screen, to make them easier to identify. For example, “Mary - Mother of the Bride”, or “Damon - Groom’s best friend since 2nd grade!”
When using video-conferencing technology, many of us have a tendency to let our eyes wander across the screen. And tablets with side cameras, or awkwardly placed webcams, will cause a remote officiant to appear as if they’re looking off to the side, even if their eyes are on the couple!
To avoid these distractions, be aware of where your device camera is positioned, and make sure that your face and eyes are tilted toward it as much as possible while you deliver the ceremony. Don’t stress though -- looking natural is far more important than staring directly into the camera. And if you’re joining remotely, don’t forget to keep an eye on the couple’s responses!
Yes, online weddings can still have processions! While guests might not be able to watch a bride walk down a long aisle (unless a tech savvy coordinator assists with a mobile streaming device!), you can still help couples plan a memorable entrance.
Have the couple enter from the side, or use a decorative curtain in front of the ceremony space, to be opened when the ceremony is scheduled to start.
If the couple asks friends or family to participate with special readings or speeches, meet with them ahead of time (over videoconference, of course) just as you would for an in-person ceremony. If there’s time, schedule a full rehearsal (yes, a virtual one!).
Ask for a copy of their reading, an estimate of how long it will take to present, and if they’re familiar using the platform the couple has chosen. Offer them advice on lighting, background decor, and camera angles -- all the same great tips you utilize yourself!
Now that you know the basics for officiating an online wedding like a pro, put your skills together with this unique sample script!
Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!