Once upon a time, the most challenging decisions a bride had to make were who would be a bridesmaid, who would walk her down the aisle, and how to get out of inviting her annoying college roommate who always dresses way too provocatively at events. Granted, none of that was easy and even back in the pre-coronavirus days, the wedding stress was out of control. Now, however, brides are faced with new hurdles after already going through the previous ones, the biggest of which is whether or not to have a virtual wedding, and how to go about doing it.
Since no one can go anywhere or be near each other, those 100+ people weddings are obviously out, but a virtual wedding isn’t necessarily cut and dry either. For a legal marriage, you need the essentials (license, officiant, exchange of promises, signatures, and sometimes witnesses). If you’re considering tying the knot on-screen, however, you might be confused about how to go about making that happen.
Since more and more couples are opting for virtual nuptials, we’re breaking down the hows, the whys, and the whats you need to have a legal and memorial Zoom wedding. “Everyone deserves to be excited and celebrate this most important milestone,” says Caroline Colavita, the director of e-commerce for Adrianna Papell. “You’ll want to feel like The Bride, not just another Zoom happy hour attendee.” From the legalities to the psychology behind ceremonies, here’s how to make your Zoom wedding feel just as, if not even more special than the in-person one you originally planned.
What/Who Do You Need
Wedding 101: Every state is different surrounding the rules and regulations of marriage. As any bride will tell you, part of the process is digging deep and figuring out what, exactly, you need to be legally wed in your state (or in the state you’re getting married in) because making it simple is not part of the process. Still, most places adhere to the basics. According to Martha Stewart Weddings, “A legal ceremony includes a signed, state-issued marriage license and ‘an exchange of promises.'”
In order to make that happen, you need to obtain a marriage license, have an officiant conduct the ceremony, exchange promises (this is usually where the “I do” portion of the ceremony comes in, but this could also be exchanging of rings or doing a handfasting), and getting the necessary signatures on your license before mailing it in. In some states, this means you need to have a couple of in-person witnesses there as well to sign your license and confirm that both parties actually like, want to get married. You know, the whole signed, sealed, delivered? That’s basically the essence of what’s got to go down to make your marriage legal, whether it’s virtual or in-person.
Where You Can Do This Virtually
The hurdle couples are currently having to face is that with courthouses and other state facilities closed, obtaining a marriage license and/or having a ceremony with a legal officiant can be difficult, if not impossible. Some states, like New York, are changing the rules to allow couples to have legally binding virtual weddings, in light of the pandemic. On April 25, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order which allows New Yorkers to not only obtain marriage licenses remotely, but also allows clerks to perform ceremonies via video calls.
In addition to New York, couples in Colorado are now able to apply for marriage licenses online, and couples in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County can obtain their licenses via video call in special circumstances. Some states have select drive-in hours for obtaining licenses or having a ceremony conducted by a clerk. Call your local office for your location-specific info.
If you managed to obtain your license before the world ended (and it’s still “good”—some last only days and some last months), you can have a willing family member or friend become ordained online through the Universal Life Church or the American Marriage Ministries. This will give them the authority to legally marry you in a non-denominational ceremony. That said, depending on your state’s regulations, your officiant and/or witnesses may need to be in person. (Just please, adhere to the six feet apart rule!) Call your local clerk office or visit their website for your county’s regulations.
A Commitment Ceremony
If your state has a freeze on marriage licenses or their doors are closed (and obtaining one virtually à la New York isn’t an option), that doesn’t mean you can’t have a ceremony to celebrate the big day. Just like your birthday month, when you’re a bride, you get to have as many GD celebrations as you want. That’s just like, the rules of marriage. If you can’t get the license but want to still make a commitment on your original planned date, have a ceremony anyway.
Without a license, you can have a commitment ceremony that feels just as magical, just be careful with how you word it. “A commitment ceremony, while lovely, is not legally binding and has no requirements. It is important that the couple or the officiant not use language to imply a legal marriage is occurring, as this can be construed as fraud,” Diane Smith-Hoban, executive director of the non-denominational officiant group Journeys of the Heart explained to Martha Stewart Weddings.
The only difference between the two ceremonies is that a commitment ceremony isn’t legally binding. But if that’s the day you want, have a ceremony and then sign the paperwork once you’re able. Just because it’s not at the same time, it doesn’t make it any less official. There are tons of tips online about how to have a commitment ceremony, but basically, you just can’t use language that says “you’re married.” Bonus? You don’t need an officiant or anything particular to make it work—it can be entirely your own.
How To Make It Special
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remember when our hardest decision was who to invite to our weddings? Now it’s which online streaming platform to use.😫 beautiful lake house corona elopement story submitted by @waverlyrood: “Our big wedding was planned in Savannah for April 18th but we had to postpone due to corona, so we had a tiny ceremony at my groom’s lake house – his brother officiated and just our parents were in attendance & friends over zoom!! We are so happy and can’t wait to celebrate with everyone in September.”
So, you’re having a virtual commitment ceremony, whether legally binding or not. THIS IS EXCITING, and don’t let anyone tell you any differently. “We are living during a key point in history and one of the most important moments of your adult life,” says Louisa Rechter and Alessandra Perez-Rubio, the Founders of Mestiza New York. “You will want to document every moment, tell your grandchildren about what happened that day, and pull out the dress you wore as a cherished family heirloom! It will be incredibly special and memorable.”
Utilizing rituals and wedding traditions, such as dances, music, dressing up, and dining, will literally help your mind understand you’re starting a new stage of your life.
Dress The Part: Whether you wear ~the~ dress or order something new, this is the time to get full-on glam. “Do a try-on session with your mom and/or maid of honor. Get their input just as you would at your local bridal salon,” suggests Colavita. Don’t be afraid to wear a non-traditional gown—this is about YOU feeling bridal. While Amazon has delayed shipping for non-essential items, other retailers, such as Rent The Runway, Adrianna Papell, and Mestiza are still fulfilling orders in a timely manner so you can get a gorgeous look in time for your Zoom ceremony.
Set The Stage: Pull out those Christmas lights, order some flowers from a local nursery, have some mimosas while getting ready, and light allllll of the candles. Just because your wedding is different than you originally planned, it doesn’t make it any less special. In fact, considering you’re facing the GLOBAL F*CKING PANDEMIC together and making the best of it, that kind of makes this even more special if you ask me. You’re like, very brave and very pretty. So, live it up! Decorate your space, put on those false lashes, play that perfectly curated prelude music.
Keep The Traditions: Always dreamed of having your dad walk you down the aisle, having your first dance with your hubby, or cutting the cake together? There’s no reason you can’t do all of those long-loved (or hated) traditions. Hell, being at home means you can be even more creative and do exactly what you want. Have a cardboard cutout of your dad made so he can walk down the hallway with you. Sew some dog bones on a garter and toss it to you’re pups after your S.O. removes it. Have a literal cake fight in your backyard. Do it all and do it exactly how you want because the only people that matter are you two.
Document The Experience: Zoom weddings are all the rage right now, so don’t hold back from documenting your day/prep just as you would with an in-person ceremony. Have a hashtag, have a bachelorette party, and spam your feeds with photos just as you would have originally. “Get a selfie stick with a tripod and timer so your significant other can capture the evening. You will want special photos to look back on,” advises Colavita. Just because the celebrations might look a little different, it doesn’t make them any less Insta-worthy.
Soak It Up: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This is still your day. This is still your wedding. This is still your marriage. Get dressed up, decorate your space, and have a staycation honeymoon right after. It might feel silly, but go over-the-top making your day feel memorable from home. Someday when you look back, you’ll remember how you started your love story during a very dark time in our history, and honestly? I can’t really think of anything more romantic than that.
Images: Eliza Szablinska / Unsplash; Giphy (3)