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How to make your virtual guests feel like they're really there

Two good things have arisen from pandemic-living: the rapid advancement of telecommunications tech and the destigmatization of staying in.

As we exit the pandemic period, don’t expect that all of your friends or family will be chomping at the bit to rejoin life as it was and, when planning your wedding, don’t expect every invited guest to attend in person.

The virtual wedding guest is here to stay. But at-a-distance wedding attendance needn’t be a limiting factor. With the right preparation, virtual attendance can be just as tear-jerking, swoon-inducing, and celebratory as being there in person.

How to make your virtual guests feel like they’re really there? Commit to the medium.

At The Wedding

First, a virtual wedding “Don’t”: do not simply queue up Zoom, drop your laptop onto a chair, and call it a day. For every gesture made for in-person guests, make adaptations suitable for your virtual guests.

These gestures may include:

  • Ensuring that all guests have a clear view of the ceremony.

  • Setting up a screen or projector so that you can see your virtual guests, too.

  • Having your officiant specifically acknowledge the presence of the virtual guests when they thank guests for their attendance.

  • Thanking and acknowledging the presence of virtual guests in your own vows and toasts.

It’s critical that you invest in the right tech to ensure the coverage and transmission of your wedding goes smoothly. If you’re going the inexpensive route, at least spring for the paid version of Zoom so you’re not racing a 45-minute time limit.

A better option, though, would be to consider investing in a videographer that specializes in filming weddings for virtual guests.

Like a TV news crew, these videographers can live-broadcast from two cameras, which provide different angles and greater coverage of your ceremony. They’ll bring professional microphones, so your virtual guests will hear every word. As a bonus, you’ll be left with a professional recording of your wedding ceremony. Win-win.

All of these gestures go the extra mile to say “I’m glad that you’re here.” This new type of wedding attendance may take time to feel normal but the important thing is that your guests will feel loved and valued nonetheless.

At A Distance

There’s no doubt that attending a wedding virtually is different from being there in person but watching a wedding from home can feel just as special. The key is making sure virtual guests enjoy some of the same luxuries as will those on site.

If your guests are tuning in from the comfort of their basement rec room, which is covered in dirty clothes and sports equipment, they’re not going to have that special wedding day experience—it’s just going to feel like watching a YouTube video on a regular Saturday afternoon.

To enhance the experience for virtual guests, consider:

  • Sending a basket of food or wine—the same you’ll be drinking at the wedding—to your virtual guests to enjoy

  • Sending physical props like the wedding program and even a bundle of rose petals to toss as you make your exit

  • Encouraging your guests to dress up to the nines like your other guests or even decorate their home.

The best part? These nice gestures don’t require a ton of work from you. Just decide what you’d like your guests to have, assemble your baskets, and send them out. And if you’re really overwhelmed, just ask your planner to handle this task!

If you have a lot of virtual guests, just mail out a packet of rose petals, a thank you note, and your wedding program. If you’ve got a special few, like grandparents, that couldn’t make the wedding, mail or drop off a lovely collection of wine and treats for them to enjoy.

Soon, your virtual guests will be having their own party—with decor, wine, and thoughtful gifts to thank them for their presence and make the entire wedding day an immersive experience, even from a distance.

Key Engagement Points

You’ve optimized the ceremony site and gone the extra mile to make your guests feel festive in their own homes. What’s missing?

The only thing your virtual guests won’t be able to enjoy is that chance encounter with the newlyweds on the dance floor or at the bar. Guests always want to speak with the couple, to congratulate them and wish them well. With your virtual guests confined to a screen, they won’t have this opportunity.

But there’s an easy fix. Set aside dedicated time—before, during, or after the wedding day—to speak with your guests on the phone or via video chat. Set a schedule, communicate the plan to your virtual guests and enjoy your brief chat together.

This needn’t be a monumental undertaking. Schedule brief chats with grandma and grandpa in between photos and the reception. Add some Zoom time for a virtual reception line or speak with cousins and colleagues the next day and text thank yous to acquaintances over the next week.

Taking the time to speak with the most important virtual guests is absolutely essential. It will make them feel like they’re on your mind and like they’re really there—speaking one on one with the happy couple.

Virtual attendance isn’t going anywhere and we shouldn’t act like this form of presence is subpar or not as important. Like the rest of your wedding day, it is what you make it. Invest in the experience of your virtual guests and they will remember your big day forever.

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