No one could have imagined at the start of the year that wedding numbers would be restricted by law to only 15 people. Planning a wedding in normal times is stressful enough but even more challenging during these COVID times. I say this not just as a wedding dress designer but as someone who got married a couple of weeks ago!
I happily got engaged just before lockdown - our celebration drinks were the last time we went to a bar before the restrictions came in. We experienced all the stress and uncertainty of planning a wedding during these times, debating how and when we might be able to get married. Knowing a second wave of COVID may well be upon us, we looked for a way to get married now, stay within the rules to make it safe as houses for everyone, but also have all our friends “there”. I married my best friend two weeks ago with just 15 of our nearest and dearest in the flesh, but another 50 people watching online on a Zoom call. It was small, it was intimate, it was beautiful and all our friends and family were there to share the special moment, albeit some in a virtual way. It was the best day ever! The most important thing to us was making a special commitment to one another. I got to marry Stu, who’s been my lockdown rock. Really looking forward to the big party later, when we get to do it all over again.
I have to say my heart literally skipped a beat and I felt so much joy when we saw everyone's happy faces on screen sharing the love all holding a glass to celebrate once the ceremony was over. People dressed up as if they were going to a wedding and we had guests from as far away as Italy and Florida. Everyone could see everyone else and there were loads of friends who hadn't seen each other for ages too. There were tears. There was laughter. There was love. The most important thing... is that I got to marry Stu, who’s been my lockdown rock.
As with any wedding, there were lots of things that didn’t go quite right(!), so I thought I’d share some invaluable tips for any bride who’d like to do the same. We had a Zoom Station which we decorated with flowers. For some of the tips below, we used zoom to broadcast our wedding, but you could use Google Meet but you'd need to sign up for a package, or we've had lockdown brides who live streamed it on instagram.
1. Invest in a good HD camera and microphone to record the call on Zoom and also on your laptop via 'Camera' app on PC or 'Quicktime on macs.
Invest in a good camera and microphone that picks up the best picture and sound. Our picture quality was a bit blurry on my laptop, it can be on a zoom call, so don't rely on that recording for a video of your special moment. If your computer/tablet camera isn’t fantastic quality I would recommend investing in an HD camera which you can attach to your laptop so everyone can clearly see what’s happening. Luckily we had some great mobile phone videos, which we’ve shared with everyone afterwards. You can record it twice, via zoom (which you can record as gallery or speaker view) and on your laptop via a suitable app.
2. If you record it on Zoom, think about which view you'd like recorded - gallery or speaker view!
We recorded the Zoom call as a lovely memento of the day. What we hadn’t quite realised though, was that whatever you see on the Zoom call is what is recorded - unless you've gone into the settings and selected the option to record it several ways as gallery and speaker! We had it on gallery view so we could see everyone’s faces on screen, and be able to say hello, but this meant there wasn’t a full screen recording of the ceremony itself. If you invest in a good camera, you may want to record the event separately on another device via another app like QuickTime or on Windows there is already an app called Camera. The Camera app has ratio and resolution settings so you can change the quality of the video. In Zoom settings there's an option to record the speaker, gallery and shared screens separately, make sure you select that one!
It was one of the best moments of the day, once the ceremony was over to go over and see everyone's gorgeous faces and and be able to tell everyone I loved them. If you have more than 25 people, remember to scroll over to the next gallery window showing the other screens so you don't miss any of your guests. It is possible to show 49 sreens, but the screens become so small so may not be easy to see. Better to scroll forwards.
3. In "security", turn off 'unmute participants' so your virtual guests have an uninterrupted view.
Zoom automatically switches to the speaker’s screen when they are speaking which you don’t want when its recording and its also makes it difficult for your virtual guests watching - so make sure in security that you have the option clicked to prevent participants unmuting themselves.
4. Turn off the annoying bleeping noise that Zoom makes each time someone joins.
You can switch off the sound on your laptop to stop it bleeping during the ceremony, we didn’t do this and it was just a little off-putting! It also doesn’t just all happen at the start – with lots of people on, the connection always gets a bit shaky so people re-join and the bleeping continues! Luckily you can’t hear that sound in the video recording.
5. Make sure there is no 'Waiting Room' as you'll have to individually admit all your guests one-by-one.
Didn't matter how many times i checked, and checked and checked... mysteriously... on the big day there was suddenly a waiting room that wasn't there before on the Zoom call. As we set up the lap top, I could see there were 50 guests all waiting to enter the zoom call - cue - total panic followed by a mini-meltdown. I’d just spent a really lovely morning getting ready with Sally at Hair by Duboux who was giving me extra long wavy hair and helping me add a bespoke head piece by Kelly Spence. Luckily my step-daughter Alice was on hand to sort this out and let everyone in one by one! Definitely appoint a Zoom operator and definitely do NOT try to do it yourself!
6. Careful of nervous face - it will show on camera! Mine certainly did in the beginning!
I’ve never been great at handling nerves and what bride isn’t nervous on her big day?! When the waiting room on the zoom call palaver happened, I tried as hard as I could to not let those nerves show but unfortunately I failed miserably and my initial facial expressions were rather more comical than I would have liked! Needless to say, once the vows were exchanged and we were married, it was just endless happiness from there on in. It’s a good practice run for when we have the larger celebration to make things much simpler and keep aware of that ‘crazy face’ for the pics!
7. Check the surroundings where the microphone is, how it sounds and do a road test a few days before.
Computer cameras are designed for close up viewing and you don’t have to have the laptop very far away from you to make you look miles away! Road test where to put the laptop so that you look close enough for guests to watch on possibly small screens, the microphone can pick up what is being said and you have a good Wi-Fi connection.
8. Fairy lights in the surrounding can make it look really pretty and ethereal in the pics and zoom call.
We had lots of trees surrounding us which was lovely as we exchanged our vows, but some fairy lights in the trees would have been really pretty in the pics.
9. Consider keeping the zoom call on after the ceremony for the reception, or use insta live so your virtual guests can hear the speeches.
We didn’t have a reception as we’re looking forward to having one with everyone (in the flesh!) next year, but you could have a second zoom station where you’ll be eating and your guests can hear the speeches. Just make sure that you have enough space on your lap top to record the video and have the right lights so they can see what’s happening. We had a Terrabyte of space on our laptop to avoid running out of space. Also make sure you add plenty of time on the zoom call so it doesn’t just suddenly stop.
Hannah, was a lockdown bride who wore our gold Valetti dress and she live streamed her wedding on instagram to share her special moment with those who couldn't make it. Read her story about her special day here.
10. Take time to send everyone cards or photos to thank them for joining.
It’s a nice touch and it also makes people feel like they were involved and part of the wedding. Sharing some close up pics will make your Zoom guests feel even more like they were part of the day!
It wasn’t easy to organise but the day went off brilliantly and everyone who joined the call loved the experience. Just when we all thought we were sick of video calls, we found a way to breathe some new life into the amazing technology we all now seem to take for granted!
Small is beautiful. Let's spread love and help weddings continue. Weddings may have been hit hard during this pandemic, but there are ways we can make it special. Love will not be beaten.