Field Notes

How to Livestream Your Wedding

Thanks to video-streaming apps and services, couples who choose to get married while self-isolating can share their special moments with family and friends.

Dani Kohanzadeh and Nathan Saadat livestreamed their March 27 wedding in the backyard of Ms. Kohanzadeh’s childhood home in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Credit...Madeleine Massey

While social distancing and restrictions on travel and large gatherings have forced many couples to postpone their wedding celebrations, some are still choosing to marry and are inviting guests to witness their union from the comfort of their own homes via live video streams.

“Livestreaming a wedding is becoming mainstream,” said Vishal Joshi, the founder and chief executive of Joy, a wedding planning and technology company based in San Francisco that recently started a free livestreaming feature on its website.

Dani Kohanzadeh and Nathan Saadat, who live in Los Angeles and had planned a large wedding on March 28 at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, Calif., turned to the videoconferencing app Zoom for their scaled-down ceremony. The couple exchanged vows March 27 in the backyard of Ms. Kohanzadeh’s childhood home in Beverly Hills, Calif. Their eight immediate family members attended in person, while Rabbi Tova Leibovic-Douglas and more than 400 of their friends and family tuned in during the livestream.

“We were originally going to FaceTime with just a few aunts and uncles, but we decided why not invite everyone since we were doing it virtually,” said Ms. Kohanzadeh, a 25-year-old field manager at a nonprofit organization.

“Our wedding felt imperfectly perfect,” added Mr. Saadat, 31, a lawyer and property manager. “In all of its makeshift-ness, it also felt so intimate and personal.” The couple hope to eventually celebrate with all their guests in person but haven’t yet set a date.

Want to livestream your wedding? Here are a few tips that can help you broadcast your memorable event.

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Credit...Madeleine Massey

There are several options when it comes to picking a platform or service that will allow you to livestream your wedding, including Zoom, Skype, Google Hangout, Facebook, and FaceTime. But keep in mind: There are limitations.

Zoom, a cloud platform for professional video and audio conferencing, allows you to broadcast on a private cloud, but its free version limits calls to only 40 minutes and up to 100 participants. If you want to have a longer ceremony, you’ll need to pay $14.99 for its monthly “pro” product. (And to have a video call of up to 500 participants, you’ll need to pay a $50 fee.)

Google Hangout is also free, but only 25 people can join a video call. You can upgrade to the basic plan, which allows for up to 250 participants per call (which you can access using a 14-day free trial).

Facebook’s livestream function is free and does not limit the number of participants and allows for up to eight hours of livestreaming. Skype’s group video option is free, but it only allows for up to 50 people. Apple’s Group FaceTime is also free, and allows up to 32 people, but guests must have an Apple device (an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch) to join.

Depending on the service you use, you may be able to preserve the video on the platform or on YouTube — enabling you and your guests to watch it in the future at any time.

“There’s a lot that goes into livestreaming a wedding,” said Caroline Creidenberg, the founder and chief executive of Wedfuly, a Denver-based online wedding planning company. “It’s not as simple as pressing a button and letting the camera roll.”

Jolie Behrns-Vitale, 35, and Brad Kelly, 36, who livestreamed a wedding ceremony at their home in Detroit, invited guests to join their celebration via livestream using the Joy app. They married March 28 after canceling their wedding, which was scheduled for the same date, at an art gallery in the city. The couple encountered technical issues during their livestream. “Zoom has a 40-minute timeout when you use the free version, so we did the first half of our wedding ceremony and right when I was about to say my vows everyone got kicked off,” said Ms. Behrns-Vitale, a data analytics director at a retail company. “We were able to get everyone back on fairly quickly, but it wasn’t the smoothest transition.”

To avoid technology hiccups, Ms. Creidenberg suggests couples ask someone to manage their livestream and oversee tasks such as muting guests while the couple exchanges vows. “We run a rehearsal the morning of or the day before the ceremony so that couples can make sure their camera is set up properly and the audio is working correctly,” she said.

For couples who aren’t tech savvy, or who don’t want to deal with the hassle of handling technical issues during their ceremony, Mr. Joshi suggests they assign a person to help set up the livestream, ensure it runs smoothly, troubleshoot any issues and answer questions from guests.

Wedfuly, which partnered with Zoom in March to provide a virtual wedding option for its customers, offers a free virtual coordinator to take on such duties. “This person should be making sure everyone is muted and unmuted when they need to be,” Ms. Creidenberg said. In addition, they can play music, videos, or slides, said, and “they can act as M.C. and tech support during the call so that if any issues do come up, the guests can contact this person instead of the couple or the family.”

To avoid any issues, Jenn Philippon and Spencer Booth, both 25 of Columbus, Ohio, opted to have Wedfuly handle their upcoming wedding.

The couple had planned to marry April 18 at the White Dove Barn in Beech Grove, Tenn. At first they postponed their wedding until June 12, 2021, because of the coronavirus outbreak. But after seeing a few virtual wedding ceremonies posted on Instagram and Facebook, they had a change of heart and decided to exchange their vows on their original wedding date on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus, where they met in 2015 as students. Although campus buildings are closed to the public, campus grounds remain open, allowing the couple to host their small ceremony there.

“After we say our vows we’re going to do our first dance, a toast, and a cake cutting,” said Ms. Philippon, a pharmacist.

A minister and the couple’s immediate family attended the wedding in person and more than 200 people joined via Zoom, “which is more than the 180 guests we were planning to have at our wedding, because some of our friends will be sharing the link with their parents or siblings or people who weren’t going to attend the wedding,” said Mr. Booth, a forensic accountant.

“When you livestream your wedding, you can invite a lot more friends and family to join you without having to break the bank,” said Mr. Joshi, who recommends couples consider expanding their guest list. Send an electronic invite to guests to let them know when you plan to livestream the event. “You can also announce the date and time on your social media,” Mr. Joshi said.

Pro tip: Make sure your event is password protected to prevent uninvited users from crashing the party. (Reports of “Zoombombing,” where online users break into Zoom meetings, have emerged in recent weeks.)

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Credit...Madeleine Massey

Creating a backdrop that captures your style can make your virtual ceremony feel more personal. Ms. Kohanzadeh and Mr. Saadat, who got married at the home of the bride’s parents in Beverly Hills, Calif., set up a huppah near the swimming pool. “We built it ourselves out of PVC pipes we bought at Home Depot, and we used Scotch tape to attach flowers,” Mr. Saadat said. “We’re Persian Jews, and it was really important to us to incorporate some of our religious traditions.” (The couple also signed a ketubah, a Jewish marriage contract.)

Need some design inspiration? Strategically placed flowers or candles can transform a backyard or a room into a beautiful setting for a wedding, Ms. Creidenberg said.

You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment to set up a livestream, Mr. Joshi said. “Select your personal device with the highest quality camera, whether it’s a laptop, smartphone or tablet,” he said.

Mr. Joshi suggests buying an inexpensive tripod to safely position your device to help provide a steady shot. For optimal audio, find a quiet space away from loud background noise. Your device’s built-in microphone will typically suffice, Mr. Joshi said, “but adding an external microphone will improve your audio quality and is relatively inexpensive, with several options available under the $50 mark.” But he added: “If you are livestreaming in an outdoor location, such as your backyard, a microphone is a worthwhile investment.”

To ensure your livestream is well lit, “consider the time of day of your ceremony and find the spot in your house with the best lighting at that time,” Mr. Joshi said. Also, avoid direct overhead lights, which can cause shadows.

“Another important pre-livestream step is to make sure you have a strong Wi-Fi signal,” Mr. Joshi said. He recommends checking the internet speed using www.speedtest.net.

It’s also important to consider how your camera is positioned. “We recommend flipping the phone to be horizontal so that the guests have a wider view,” Ms. Creidenberg said.

Although your guests will be tuning in remotely, they can still take part in the festivities. For instance, you can ask virtual attendees to make cocktails at home and share a toast with you, or encourage people to wear black-tie attire.

Another way to engage your audience is to unmute their audio and ask them to recite a prayer or sing a song that’s meaningful to you. And, depending on what service you’re using to livestream your wedding, guests may be able to post comments during the event and express their well wishes.

If you’re planning on having a larger wedding celebration with guests down the road, consider saving something special for the event.

“I didn’t wear my wedding dress,” Ms. Behrns-Vitale said. “I wore a white-laced shirt I bought on Amazon. We figured we would save my wedding dress and Brad’s suit for our real wedding, which we’re planning to have in October.”

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