Thousands of couples who were set to get married this spring have had their original wedding plans upended by the coronavirus pandemic.
While some brides- and grooms-to-be have decided to postpone their nuptials until a later date, others have moved forward with their plans anyway, albeit in a different way than they had originally imagined. Thanks to technology, these couples have been able to host virtual weddings via Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts or Facebook Live, with their family and friends celebrating their love from afar instead of with them in person.
In light of social distancing measures and government office closures, the governors of New York and Colorado issued executive orders that allow couples to obtain marriage licenses remotely. The state of New York is also permitting clerks to perform ceremonies over video conference. That’s not the case in many other places — at least not yet. So if you’re planning a wedding anytime soon, check with local officials to see if you can get a marriage license remotely, to make sure a virtual ceremony in your area is legally binding, and to ask what other requirements must be met. Even if it’s not legal where you are, there’s no reason you can’t do a symbolic tying of the knot now and a more official ceremony down the road.
Below, six couples share how they pulled off virtual weddings in the age of COVID-19.
Responses have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Abena and Ade
“Our actual wedding was scheduled for April 4, the day after our 12-year anniversary, in a California vineyard. We exchanged vows and had a virtual reception on April 4 in Brooklyn, New York.
4/4/2020 was a special date to both of us and it wasn’t going to come around again. We had a two-year engagement and were dating for 10 years. Our wedding date signified a new beginning for both of us. We worked really hard on ourselves and in our relationship to get where we are and we were determined to celebrate. We wanted to be united as one — how we celebrated didn’t matter.
On that day, my sisters and I woke up early. As I started blowing up balloons, my sister Afua arranged all the items from the Amazon deliveries around the living room. My sister Nana decorated the white cake she found with fresh white flowers as she went over the words she was about to say as the officiant; she became an ordained minister for a moment just like this. I knew the place was perfect when I heard my husband-to-be Ade say, ‘wow’ as I hid behind double doors. When the music began to play, my legs began to shake. We both started to cry and we said ‘I do’ to loving each other forever. His family cheered us on and sent blessings via FaceTime, then we signed into the Zoom session my bridesmaid Sandy arranged. Fifty-plus guests were waiting dressed up in formal wear. They had champagne glasses in hand and were all ready to toast to our union. It was perfect.” — Abena A.
Brittany and Jenna
“We had a destination wedding scheduled for April 18 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We spent the last year planning our perfect day, only for our wedding and jobs to be taken away by COVID-19. My beautiful fiancé and I decided last minute to go ahead and have a virtual ceremony here in our home state of Florida, and it was perfect. We will still have our reception at a later time, but we knew we wanted a marriage — and the wedding itself wasn’t all that important. All services were donated to us by our local community. We were so supported and loved.
The Zoom wedding could not have been more perfect! It’s an amazing feeling marrying your best friend. We picked a gorgeous park with large beautiful palm trees close to our home, and set up a small table for our unity ceremony. We originally weren’t going to wear our wedding outfits, but decided at the last moment to go ahead and do it. It ended up storming all morning and we were worried we wouldn’t be able to have it outside, but the rain cleared just in time for us to go.
After our ceremony, we took some photos and walked around the park and got a massive round of applause from park goers, so that was really cool and memorable. We also brought our two German shepherds, who are our world, to be a part of the ceremony. We wouldn’t have been able to do that with our original wedding plans, so that was truly special.” — Brittany and Jenna Lack
Talmadge and Lucas
“Our original ‘big day’ was supposed to take place on April 11, our anniversary. But we got married on April 8 at a small county building in San Diego called the Marriage Hut, complete with a walk-up window and waterfront view. We hosted a Zoom reception that evening in the living room.
Our ‘first look’ did not take place in nature in the same location as our engagement shoot as we had planned. Instead, we created a space in the living room. Lucas still got to see me in that dress. I still got to see his face light up. He was so handsome. I felt so beautiful.
Our ceremony did not take place under the oak trees where I grew up. Our reception did not take place under the stars. Instead, we set up an intimate celebration at home. We fumbled through a Zoom video call with our loved ones — bringing roughly 80 people together from Canada, Seattle, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego.
We expressed our handwritten vows. We danced to our song — sung by my talented brother-in-law, Steven, with his guitar. We cut our cake, handmade by my loving sister Taelyn. We ate a delicious dinner, prepared by my wonderful mother. We giggled, cried and celebrated with our loved ones. We got to do all the things. While we look forward to hosting an in-person celebration at some point, our wedding day morphed into something remarkable. It would’ve been very easy to get wrapped up in the ‘disappointment’ of our day not going as planned. This virus forced us to relinquish and just let it be what it was — a whirlwind of a day that was perfect in its own way. Coronavirus may have cancelled our wedding but it did not cancel our marriage or the love.” — Talmadge Anderson
Tom and Taylor
“Our original wedding was scheduled for 4/10/20 and when we realized we had to cancel, the most important thing to us became preserving that date. It was Good Friday and we loved the even numbers. That considered, we did our Facebook Live wedding ceremony on April 10.
We had our quiet little ceremony at Great Neck Country Club in Waterford, Connecticut, with the help of a family friend and the owner of their restaurant, Langley’s. They allowed us to use the space despite them being closed to the public.
The virtual ceremony was certainly unique. We started the stream about 10 minutes early and played some instrumental music for people while they signed on. I thought that was a nice touch. What I found to be the most special was the level of intimacy. When you’re planning a wedding, people encourage you to remember what it’s ‘really all about.’ What’s important is who you’re marrying and why. We always knew that. This situation really put a stronger emphasis on that than we already had. It was the most intimate experience of my life to date and for that reason, it will always be even more special.
What was a little strange was when we kissed and were pronounced husband and wife, I was just naturally expecting to hear applause — except there was nobody there to clap! I ended up clapping for us, knowing that everyone at home was clapping for us too. It was bittersweet, missing that moment, but it was also just as blissful. At its height, I was told the ceremony had 300 live viewers, since then it’s up to 1,000 views.” — Taylor Ortolani
Christie and Jeff
“We had planned to elope on the first day of spring, and despite pretty much every other aspect of our plans going sideways, we still had each other, and that was the most important part. A few loved ones asked why we wouldn’t wait to do it, but our thinking was, why not just do it now? And it turned out very sweet to actually have our friends and family there virtually, because our original plan was for the two of us to elope by ourselves.
The ceremony in our apartment in Oakland, California, felt very intimate and honest. Jeff was barefoot. We rearranged the plants, decorated with papel picado and moved furniture to make space for our altar. One of the hardest things was that we didn’t have a photographer there to capture the day of us together, but both of us work in photography and production so we did the best we could. We set up three cameras and clipped a wireless microphone onto Jeff’s suit.
We rounded out the virtual experience with two calls: a phone running a Google Hangout and a computer running a Zoom call. We made a handmade sign to hang in front of the cameras while people waited and played a Vince Guaraldi record. Christie’s college friend officiated, and it felt very real and emotional. Seeing our friends cheer after we kissed was glorious. Such a silver lining.” — Christie Goshe and Jeff Placencia
Yemi and Fisayo
“We wanted to keep our original date of April 19, but postponed the celebration until December. The virtual wedding allowed us to make the day special but also limit contact with people. We did not want our wedding to be an event where people could get sick. The hardest thing was telling my parents that they could not attend because it was not safe.
The wedding went better than we could have predicted. It was almost as though the limited number of participants stripped away a lot of drama and made it just about the two of us. There were a few traditions we could keep: a first look, the first dance and cake cutting. Guests have told us that they each felt they had a front row seat for the ceremony. They were also able to socialize before and after the ceremony in the video chat. It was a good feeling that we could still bring our families together although they were so far. We have a lot of international family and all of us are under quarantine. So people cherish these social interactions.” — Yemi L.
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