How to Rethink Your Wedding

By | May 11, 2020

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

We’ve thought about ways to replan your wedding virtually and engage your friends and family. Let’s talk.

The first question to ask is: Who is this wedding for? Which leads us to the guest list. Without physical limits, we can rethink whom we invite to witness a marriage ceremony. It’s an incredible 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 knew everyone in attendance, so unfortunately, plus-ones were out. That thinking created some friction as they fretted, for example, over inviting his fraternity brothers and their partners.

However, the pandemic changed everything. To their surprise, they felt a pull to include more of their community in their wedding, not less. They decided to hold a socially distant wedding ceremony on their front stoop. Instead of feeling protective over their day, they felt that the more people witnessing their nuptials, the merrier it would feel.

Their pastor is still going to officiate — just now over Zoom. Guests attending in-person will stand six feet apart. The couple asked the dozens of guests tuning in virtually to wear white from the waist up and to compose a handwritten love letter for the couple. They were also instructed to write one word on the back of the envelope which they’ll show onscreen during the ceremony.

You can still make it happen. Your wedding might look different than you’d envisioned, but you can almost certainly 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 for them. They changed several components of their big day — the guest list, the venue, the overall vibe — but the wedding date was not one of them.

What was once a cohesive event — a ceremony followed immediately by a reception with drinks, dancing and cake — is now reimagined.

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

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

The second couple I feature in this episode, Rob and Dan, riffed on the “15 Toasts” concept and created a string of eight virtual dinner tables. They were looking forward to having their 180 guests, from at least five countries, mingle among the buffet tables. So they gave each virtual “table” a theme that they hoped would define and shape their marriage. Ideas like: adventure, loyalty and forgiveness, love and growth. It was all arranged over a Google document. People were asked to sign up for a table where they didn’t know many other people to keep the mingling spirit of the original wedding plan.

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

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

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These kinds of organized chats are a gift to your guests too. You’re saying to them: We need you. Help us kick off this marriage. Join us, in this a particular way, which will give our wedding added meaning.

And if we’re lucky enough to see restrictions lifted before all your virtual toasts are performed, it’ll be a good way to stay in contact well into the future.

Stories you share should relate 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 off, that moved you, that changed your thinking forever.

Don’t be afraid to be funny or lighthearted, too! Sharing stories is a great way to get people laughing and focus on something other than the fear and uncertainty swirling around us.

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

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

  • Another couple held fast to their original wedding date, and were married 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 got married under the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

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

You can see more of our coverage of weddings in this strange new world at