Staring into your partner’s tearful eyes, holding each other’s sweaty palms, professing your lifelong love as a hundred dear friends lean in to watch…through their laptop screens. The realities of physical distancing are giving an entirely new meaning to a “modern wedding,” as Zoom becomes the unofficial venue of 2020. And though these ceremonies are suddenly looking a whole lot different, we spoke to six Zoom brides who prove that a virtual wedding is no less momentous or magnificent (just maybe with an extra tech hiccup or two).
“It almost felt like a rehearsal”Maria Denomme
“The original plan was to take a ski lift up Boler Mountain in London, Ont., and get married on top of the hill with a total of 150 guests. When we came to the realization that our dream wedding wasn’t going to happen, we decided that we wanted to get legally married anyway because the date was special to us.
We wanted our guests to be a part of our special moment by tuning in virtually, though it was definitely challenging to get everyone connected. We had a two-hour time limit for everything including photos, so we did our legal ceremony with our vows, then released butterflies as a sentiment. At first, it was super awkward because we expected that they’d fly right away but they just stood still. Ultimately, it was a precious moment to admire them before they took off. After that, we had our first dance.
Our wild three-year-old son was present during the ceremony because he was the ring bearer, but due to the limit on gatherings, we couldn’t really have anyone monitor him. So, there were times where he was tugging on my veil and hounding the officiant to play with him. But the imperfections make the best memories!
In a way, it almost felt like a rehearsal. With all the restrictions, it was definitely different from what we envisioned from our original plan. For example, due to the layout of our venue, the groom had to have his eyes closed while I made my way to the aisle, and we wish we could’ve had our friends and family surrounding us. It was absolutely special and beautiful still in its own way, but we can’t wait until next year when we renew our vows and have our reception portion on our first anniversary.” – Sanny Annoni, London, Ont.
“You can't get more enchanted garden than songbirds drowning you out on Zoom”
“We had always planned to do a small backyard ceremony of under 50 guests that incorporated traditional Indigenous ceremonial pieces, as this is part of my culture. However, a lot of the Indigenous ceremonial pieces are community-based and had to be adapted or omitted given the need for physical distancing. For instance, we encouraged people to burn medicines or have strawberries on hand at home to participate remotely, while we had to omit the blanket ceremony entirely.
Due to the gathering limit, we also had to re-arrange roles that otherwise would have been fulfilled by close family and friends, many of which my daughter took on, such as hand drumming me down the pathway and presenting me to be married. We had five people in our backyard during the ceremony and three people watching from our neighbour’s backyard, including my mother and one of the groomsmen. Online, there were about 50, including my husband’s family from Costa Rica who couldn’t fly in due to the COVID-19.
My maid of honour hosted the Zoom, though she had never used the app before. We did a trial run two weeks out, but of course there’s always some unexpected occurrence. In our case, because we had to all stay six feet away, the phone had a hard time picking up audio, especially over the sound of some ecstatic songbirds. Of course, this became a running joke; people were very invested as to what types of birds they were and were asking for photo updates.
We decided to do a remote bouquet and garter toss. We entered all the single folks’ names into a random selector, drew the names and read them from wax-sealed envelopes during the Zoom meeting. We later sent a bouquet to the bouquet toss winner and an edible arrangement to the garter belt toss winner. We also made a collaborative Spotify playlist that was sent out in advance so guests could add songs and listen along at home. We had an Amazon wedding registry and provided e-transfer details for anyone who wanted to send a gift. In lieu of wedding favours, we donated to the Ojibwe Horse Society.
My concept was a low-key, enchanted-garden wedding with traditional Indigenous ceremonies and that’s exactly what it was; you can’t get more enchanted garden than songbirds drowning you out on Zoom.” – Natalie Bermúdez, Brampton, Ont.
“It was still the happiest day of our lives”India George
“Our wedding was planned for August 15th in Alma, N.B., with 90 guests invited from all over Canada and the U.S. The ceremony was going to be held in my parent’s backyard, overlooking the Bay of Fundy. The reception was planned for the Alma Wedding Barn, with a live East Coast fiddle band providing the music for a traditional square dance. We had arranged for a bagpiper to parade us from the ceremony to the reception through the town, which has a population of 213 people.
As the U.S.-Canada border restrictions were extended further, we realized we needed to consider altering our plans. We didn’t want our guests to choose between attending our wedding and their own safety, so we decided to do a Zoom wedding. Our original venue had a capacity limit but Zoom allowed us to virtually invite well over 100 people.
In the first few days of May, we decided that we wanted to plan for May 12th, the day we met in 2016. We didn’t want the Zoom wedding to be just a ‘back-up plan.’ We organized the marriage licence and commissioner. I got my wedding dress from a local shop, Valencia Boutique, and my husband Andrew got a new suit from Harry Rosen. He also surprised me with flowers from Academy Florists on the wedding day.
We had eight guests in person, three of which provided amazing live music. Andrew plays bass in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and I am a freelance cellist and teacher, so live music was extremely important to have at our wedding. My friend did my hair and makeup, and another was our photographer and cake-baker.
Our ceremony was approximately seven minutes long. Our giant Irish Wolfhound-Rottweiler was the ‘flower girl’ and walked me down the aisle, which was the hallway from my bedroom to the living room. She provided some comedy relief when she wanted her paw to be included while we held hands to say our vows. Andrew is not the type to cry, but he really cried. We were able to record it all on Zoom and have re-watched it several times. We accidentally recorded in gallery view, so we can see everyone’s reactions, too.
It’s very important to us, our family and close friends to celebrate in person and for our extended families to get to know each other, so we saved parts of the ceremony for next summer, such as the exchanging of the rings and our personal written vows. Although the circumstances were less than ideal, it was still the happiest day of our lives.” – Natalie Dawe, Winnipeg
“We’re very lucky to have the space available to us at family homes”Ana Rancourt
“We had planned a cocktail-style wedding at The Spice Factory in Hamilton, Ont. It was going to be dressy-casual with passed appetizers and a taco station. We had our cake ordered and all the plans were set for it to take place on June 13, with 120 guests invited.
On May 30, the venue advised they wouldn’t be hosting any weddings in June, so ours was cancelled. We were truly disappointed to find out they wouldn’t return our deposit. Fortunately for us, we had backup plans in motion for a Zoom wedding in the backyard of my sister’s house in Burlington, Ont. She has a beautiful home – and high-speed internet.
We treated the day like any other wedding day: got ready, had a photographer (who is a close friend) take photos and were married by a reverend. My dad and I walked down the aisle, and so did the flower girl and witnesses. Then, we started the Zoom call when we were in place at the altar, which was a balloon arch created by my sister. We had 10 guests in person and approximately 90 who joined via Zoom. People gathered in small groups at home and watched together. They got dressed up and had drinks to congratulate us.
We then concluded the Zoom call and proceeded with pictures, drinks and catered appetizers and charcuterie with our small group of guests. Our favourite part was how intimate the evening was. It was beautiful and small, a perfect match for our personalities.
When we watched the video of the Zoom after, there were some funny and glitchy moments, but they were all laughed off and had little effect on the day. It was all perfect, and we felt like we didn’t miss out, as we plan to celebrate again later with all our guests. We’re planning a casual outdoor party in my parents’ backyard in September and are hoping this event will be able to happen. We plan to have a bonfire with food, drinks and s’mores. We’re very lucky to have the space available to us at family homes for our events.
Looking back, we couldn’t be happier. We feel that we made the best of the circumstances. Our wedding was about making vows to each other and sharing our commitment with our friends and family, and that is exactly what we did.” – Teddie Eden, Caledonia, Ont.
“Getting our wedding licence was by far the most complicated part”Frantz Celestin
“We are Jehovah’s Witnesses and so we had planned for our wedding ceremony to take place at our place of worship in Brampton, Ont., on May 29th with 180 people. We had arrangements with a catering company and a banquet hall for the reception. We’re both of Caribbean descent, so we had planned to include a bit of our culture into our celebration, too. The icing on the cake would have been our honeymoon in St. Lucia.
In the middle of March, while we were in the process of delivering wedding invitations, the government of Ontario declared a state of emergency. The uncertainty of its duration made us quickly realize that we needed to adjust our preparations. We decided on a Zoom wedding because we really wanted our family and friends to witness our special occasion together.
It took us about a month to plan everything. We decided to have our wedding at a condo in Mississauga, Ont. We were both nervous and a little confused because we had never witnessed a Zoom wedding before. Getting our wedding licence was by far the most complicated part. Almost every location that issued licences were closed – we called almost every city in the province until we found one that was open. After that, the rest of the planning was easier. We ordered what we needed online, and a couple of weeks before the weeding, Mona Richie Boutique called to say that my original dress would be ready for the big day after all because they were open for curbside pickup.
We had 250 guests at our virtual ceremony. Our families from back home that would not have been able to attend our wedding were able to connect and celebrate with us. We had a beautiful wedding discourse that was 20 minutes long, followed by our vows and the legalization. Our family and friends surprised us with a little car parade, followed by a romantic dinner for two. In a word, it was all breathtaking, and everything went way better than we had planned.
We’re planning on having a party to celebrate with everybody and thank them for all the support on our one-year anniversary. Seeing the amount of love we received despite being in the middle of a global pandemic is something we cannot describe in words. We told ourselves during the planning that our wedding is just one day, but our marriage is forever. We’re so happy that we decided to follow through with our plan to have a virtual wedding.” – Brantha Brown, Brampton, Ont.
“I just wanted to be married to the love of my life”
“We were supposed to get married at a golf course in Pitt Meadows, B.C., with 130 guests, but about a month before, we came to the realization that it wasn’t going to happen the way we had planned. I knew I still wanted to get married, but we actually didn’t decide to put our wedding on Zoom until a week before. At first I didn’t want to because I thought it would be embarrassing, but the more I really thought about it, I knew that so many people were in my situation and, at the end of the day, I just wanted to be married to the love of my life.
My wedding planner helped us with a little tech support, and we put up what was supposed to be our champagne wall for the wedding as the backdrop to add a nice bit of greenery. Thankfully my cousin, who is a pastor, had recently moved back to B.C., so he was able to marry us. There was a point when I was repeating my vows that I completely forgot what he had just said and had to have him repeat it; I also said out loud how sweaty my hands were!
We streamed just the ceremony, so after we finished talking to our guests on Zoom – about 70 of our original 130 got to watch – we had a cake and charcuterie. People even came by in their cars after to take pictures.
We’ve already planned our re-creation ceremony and reception for April next year. The stubborn part of me will always be a bit miffed that I had to change my wedding date, but you can’t plan every single detail of your life, and that’s beautiful.” – Miranda Sanchez, Abbotsford, B.C.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.