How to rethink your wedding



Let’s be realistic. If your wedding was planned as a big gathering in the next two weeks (probably even months) and you don’t want to cancel, now is the time to move on to a virtual ceremony.

We have thought of ways to virtually re-plan your wedding and involve your friends and family. Let’s talk.

The first question is: who is this wedding for? Which brings us to the guest list. Without physical limits, we can rethink who we invite to witness a marriage ceremony. It is an amazing opportunity to make your wedding more inclusive than it would have been originally.

In this week’s episode, I met a couple who originally wanted to keep their wedding guest list limited. They wanted an intimate ceremony where they met all the attendees, so unfortunately, the most were out. That thought created some friction by worrying, for example, about inviting your fraternity brothers and partners.

However, the pandemic changed everything. To their surprise, they felt a pull to include plus from your community at your wedding, no less. They decided to hold a socially distant wedding ceremony on their front bench. Instead of feeling protective during their day, they felt that the more people witnessed their nuptials, the better they would feel.

They had one goal: “to look from our porch and not only see our friends who were physically present, but also the faces of our family and friends at home who cannot travel to be there,” said the bride.

Your pastor is still going to officiate, right now over Zoom. Guests attending in person will be kept six feet away. The couple asked the dozens of guests to virtually put on the white dress from the waist up and to write a handwritten love letter for the couple. They were also instructed to write a word on the back of the envelope to display on the screen during the ceremony.

You can still make it happen. Your wedding may seem different from what you had imagined, but it is almost certain that you can still get married on the original date you had in mind.

The couple decided to keep their original wedding date, May 10, 2020, because it had personal meaning to them. They changed several components of their big day: the guest list, the place, the general atmosphere, but the wedding date was not one of them.

What was once a cohesive event, a ceremony immediately followed by a reception with drinks, dances, and cakes, is now reinventing itself.

Here’s an idea: A few years ago, I made up an idea called “15 Toasts” with a friend. You choose a theme or value per dinner for a group to connect to. For wedding dinners, themes can relate to what you want your marriage to embody. It could be a mixture of silly and sincere concepts.

At each virtual dinner you host (we had 15 people at the original dinner, hence number 15), invite people in your life to prepare a story or share an experience that no one else in the room has heard and explain what it taught them about that topic. This is your toast. (And the last person has to sing their toasts. Move the night).

The second couple I introduce in this episode, Rob and Dan, referenced the concept of “15 Toasts” and created a series of eight virtual tables. They expected their 180 guests, from at least five countries, to mingle among the buffet tables. They then gave each virtual “table” a theme that they hoped would define and shape their marriage. Ideas like: adventure, loyalty and forgiveness, love and growth. Everything was arranged on a Google document. People were asked to register at a table where they did not know many other people to maintain the mixed spirit of the original wedding plan.

And every week for eight weeks since their April 4 wedding, Rob and Dan have been dining with these friends tables. These virtual dinners are definitely more intimate than the type of conversations a couple can typically have at a wedding reception.

I’m going to tell you a secret: stories are more interesting than opinions. Use this as your guiding principle for your online events. Encourage people from different corners of your life to share their stories.

These types of organized chats are also a gift for your guests. You’re saying to them: We need you. Help us start this marriage. Join us, in this particular way, which will give our wedding additional meaning.

And if we are lucky enough to see the restrictions lifted before all of your virtual toasts are done, it will be a great way to stay in touch in the future.

The stories you share must be related to the theme of the event. Think of something in your own life, something you learned in your own relationship that made a light bulb go out, that moved you, that changed your way of thinking forever.

Don’t be afraid to be fun or lighthearted too! Sharing stories is a great way to make people laugh and focus on more than just the fear and uncertainty around us.

At the end of your story, toast to the couple. And repeat until everyone has had a turn.

  • A couple in Chicago got married on a city sidewalk, then they returned to their apartment and watched one of their favorite Marvel movies.

  • Another couple held on to their original wedding date and were married on April 25. A friend of the couple rode his bicycle from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to officiate.

  • A couple got married on their porch and invited their community to watch. For dinner they made coq au vin.

  • A couple married under the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

  • Another couple got married on their rooftop (and made a great drone video).

You can see more about our wedding coverage in this strange new world at nytimes.com/weddings.