Planning a virtual wedding and want to know how to make it a memorable experience for both you and your guests? Then you’ll want to grab a cup of coffee and get comfy. We’ve shared quite a few ideas for online nuptials over the last few weeks. Below, we’ll pull it all together into one easy bookmarkable guide, along with some brand-new tips for you. Let’s get started!
Complete Guide to Planning a Virtual Wedding From Start to Finish
As mentioned above, over the last few weeks we’ve covered every aspect of planning a virtual wedding from start to finish. Now, it’s time to put it all together! I’ll break this down into stages for you to make it easier. We’ll cover:
- Setting the groundwork: things to consider before you even start planning
- The early planning stage: invitations, choosing outfits, finding an officiant, etc.
- The reception stage: things to consider for a virtual reception, such as cakes, food, your first dance, and so on.
- Wedding day stage: last-minute considerations, tech checks, and what not.
I recommend bookmarking this page so you can refer to it during your own planning process. FYI, you can use all of the tips below and within our individual guides for planning an opposite-sex, non-binary, gay or lesbian virtual wedding.
Setting the Groundwork for a Virtual Wedding: What to Consider
Before you even start thinking about invitations, there are a few things you’ll want to consider. Let’s quickly go over them.
Decide between full virtual or a live-streamed micro wedding
Your very first decision is the most important one, as it will determine the course of the rest of your planning. Do you want to have a totally virtual wedding, or a microwedding with a handful of in-person guests and the rest watching online?
Depending on where you live and the current limitations on gatherings, local regulations may answer this for you. As of today, my state isn’t allowing indoor gatherings of more than 10 people. With you, your future spouse, and your officiant, you’re already down to just 7 potential guests. Six if you’re hiring a photographer.
If you do opt for a downsized livestreamed in-person event, I recommend checking out our guide to planning a microwedding along with this virtual wedding planning guide.
Choose a date and a platform
Once you’ve decided on the type of wedding you want to have, it’s time to pick your date as well as your livestreaming platform. The nice thing about online ceremonies is that you have more flexibility with the date since you don’t have to take travel into consideration. That said, you still want to give your guests plenty of notice so that they can make any necessary arrangements, shop for gifts, and just make sure they’re available on your big day.
As for a platform, Zoom is the most popular, but it’s not the only one out there. You could go with Google Hangouts, Facebook Live, YouTube Live, or even Instagram. Prefer something a little less DIY? Try a service like LoveStream or Simply Eloped. Whatever option you choose, just make sure it’s something everyone can access. I’d skip anything that’s strictly app-based, as not everyone has a smartphone.
Get yourself a good planner
This part is pretty straight-forward. Whether you interpret “planner” as a person who does all the heavy lifting for you or a handy book to keep track of all the details yourself, now is the time to choose one. If you opt for the latter, I love these beautiful planners.
Decide on a registry & get it set up
At this point in the pre-planning stage, you may want to choose your virtual wedding registry, or at least start thinking about the types of gifts you really want. Whether that’s household items or even just money, we found all of the best virtual wedding registry ideas for you.
If you need some ideas on what to add to it, I love these sentimental virtual wedding gifts! Oooh, or perhaps start a new tradition and ask for a gorgeous heirloom gift! Of course, you could go with traditional items and choose some of these practical must-haves for every registry.
Chose a host
One of the smartest things you can do to make the whole day go much smoother is choose someone else outside the wedding to “host” it. This person is responsible for muting people during the ceremony, introducing you at the reception, and basically just making sure the stream doesn’t devolve into chaos. This can be anyone from a close friend, part of the wedding party, or even someone that you hire.
Now that you’ve set the groundwork, it’s time to dive into the actual planning!
Early Planning Stage for Online Ceremonies
These factors below make up the bulk of your virtual wedding planning.
Make sure it’s official
First things first, you’ll want to make sure your virtual wedding is actually legal. So, begin by researching your state’s laws regarding online ceremonies. Start with our guide to everything you need to know about virtual wedding officiants and online marriage licenses. If you discover that Zoom weddings aren’t legal in your state, you can always convert to a microwedding with just you, your future spouse, and an officiant (and witnesses, if required).
READ MORE: Certificate of Virtual Marriage
Craft your guest list
The next step is deciding on your guest list. Even though you’re streaming it, you still want to make sure that all of the special people in your life can watch. If you’re doing a Zoom reception after the ceremony, try to keep that list down to about 50 people max. Fewer is better. Too many people talking at once on a Zoom call can lead to utter chaos!
Your next step is choosing your invitations and getting them sent off to your guests. Check out our guide to virtual wedding invitations for what to put in them, when to send them, and so on. It even includes five of our favorite options!
Choose your outfits
Now, it’s time to find the perfect outfit for your big day! If you already bought a gown, suit, or tux before COVID crashed your big planned wedding, go ahead and wear it! The only time I wouldn’t is if you’re planning a larger in-person wedding when things calm down. If you haven’t bought something- or don’t want to wear what you already have- check out this guide to virtual wedding clothes. It’ll also give you ideas for your guests, in case you want to set a dress code for them.
Hire a photographer, if necessary
While a photographer isn’t vital to the success of your online wedding, it can make the day go a lot smoother. Choose someone who has experience with livestreaming and that can handle all of the techy aspects. By letting someone else handle those details, you can kick back and just enjoy your day without worrying about equipment failure. If you’re planning a same-sex wedding, check out our tips for find LGBTQ-friendly photographers.
Plan your wedding décor
Even though your wedding is virtual, you still want to make it feel like your dream day. That’s where decorations come in. Start by choosing a great Zoom background! Then, focus on decorating the space around you and your honey. Maybe choose a beautiful floral arch, or some elegant streamers and balloons (yes, they can be elegant). If you need help, check out these 10 stunning virtual wedding backgrounds and décor ideas.
With your ceremony planned, it’s time to start thinking about the after party.
Planning for your Virtual Wedding Reception
If you’re just planning to livestream the ceremony itself and skipping the reception, you can jump ahead to the next section. However, I think you deserve a little after party to celebrate your new status as a married couple! So, keep reading for some ideas on how to pull it off.
Food and cake
Coming up with food ideas for guests that are scattered all over the place is incredibly challenging. So, you may want to skip the whole “sit down and eat together” theme and just do a cake-cutting ceremony. Bonus- since you’re saving money on food, you can choose a really amazing cake! Need some inspiration? Check out these amazing cake and food ideas for your virtual wedding.
If you do want to give your guests a tasty treat to enjoy during the party, go ahead and send them one of these awesome gift baskets.
While you can get away without serving any sort of food during a virtual wedding, music is the highlight of the party. At the very least, you’ll want to wow your guests with your first dance as a married couple! With that in mind, we found some amazing first dance online classes that you can take before the big day.
While most receptions focus on dancing and eating, you can also incorporate other elements into your virtual version. For example, perhaps set up a photo slideshow of you and your honey throughout the years. Play it before the reception starts, as everyone is arriving.
Party games are also a great way to keep the fun going. Plan for maybe one or two to play during lulls in conversation. Check out our favorite wedding games to spice up an online reception.
Last, you’ll want a way to remember everyone who celebrated with you! One of these virtual wedding guest books will do the trick. Some are totally free, while others offer a more professional-level experience (with the pro-level pricing, of course).
With every detail of your wedding and reception planned, all that’s left to do is get ready!
Preparing for your big day: last-minute considerations
If you were hosting an in-person wedding, you’d spend the actual day getting pampered and prepped, right? Well, there’s no reason not to do that for an online wedding! You’ll just need to shift focus a bit and do it from the safety of your own home. Don’t worry, we’ll help! Check out these amazing tips for how to get pampered for a virtual wedding, including hair and makeup tutorials.
Once you’re ready and relaxed, there are only a few more little details to take care of.
If you hired a planner or host, they can handle these items on your to-do list.
- Make sure all of your guests have what they need to log into the stream. Just send out a text asking “is everyone good to go?”
- Start all viewers on mute (and leave them there until the reception).
- Make sure your camera is set up right! If you’re using your phone, turn it horizontal.
- Do a sound check to make sure everyone can hear you.
I love this video below with tips for setting up tech for your big moment.
That about covers it! The only thing left to do is get married and have an amazing day! Congratulations! You may now kiss your Mr. or Mrs.!