Dressed in a delicate lace gown, Monét’s smile beamed as she joined Chris in front of the Zoom camera to say their vows in the great room of his family’s Felton home.
The candlelit space adorned with fresh flowers and stringed lights created the perfect setting for their ceremony. “Everything was beautifully arranged, and when I saw my groom standing tall and handsome, I thought, ‘This is the happiest day of my life,’” said Monét.
The bill for this over 250-guest wedding? An unheard-of $500. With virtual guests, Chris said, “There was no worry about costs.”
Chris and Monét Betz’s intimate home wedding in February wasn’t what they expected when they started planning their big day back in November 2020. “We reviewed the guest list, our budget, and venues for the ceremony. But ultimately, safety was at the very top of the list,” said Chris.
For love that bloomed in lockdown, a whittled-down pandemic wedding proved to be a blessing in disguise for some couples like them. Just 12 percent of couples who planned to get married in 2020 went fully virtual for their ceremony, according to a survey of some 7,600 couples by online wedding planning platform The Knot. More than 40 percent of those who wed in the pandemic added a streaming or video platform component to their ceremony.
The Knot reports that even after the pandemic ends, virtual wedding planning and livestreamed weddings will remain common. Its recent social media survey suggested the trend is still holding.
Even before the pandemic required downsizing for health and safety reasons, wedding planners have seen millennial brides like Monét bucking the traditions of prior generations in favor of weddings that fit their personality and values. “The decreased costs and fewer distractions provided an added blessing to an already blessed occasion,” Monét said. And after saving thousands of dollars typically spent on a traditional wedding, Chris said they look forward to traveling together as soon as it’s safe.
Simeon and Aundra Batts, who live in Newark, also appreciated the reduction in expenses for their wedding in April 2021.
Their simplistic, yet elegant mini-ceremony had a few in-person, masked guests who practiced social distancing. Joining them were 200 attendees connected via Zoom, including friends from Brazil. But the cost-saving benefit stretched beyond just the bride and groom.
“We had virtual guests attend who wouldn’t have been able to travel physically or financially, even if we weren’t in a pandemic,” said Aundra. “So having them present on Zoom was a blessing. It made it really special.”
However, the biggest motivation for Simeon and Aundra was their faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses. They initially embraced a virtual hybrid wedding as an opportunity to incorporate into the occasion two key Bible principles by which they live: respect for life and love of neighbor.
“Since our priority was looking out for other people’s lives, we planned the wedding with the safest course in mind,” said Simeon.
Keeping the wedding simple and small not only protected against the spread of COVID-19, but also gave them an opportunity to focus on the meaning of marriage rather than custom and tradition.
“Jesus taught his disciples to maintain a simple life. That’s good advice for those who are planning a wedding,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Ironically, the pandemic has given us an opportunity to see just how simple a wedding can be – while still being beautiful, joyful and memorable. It’s more than just about saving money. It helps preserve our spirituality.”
That’s how Ben and Madison Fink from Dagsboro felt when they decided to cancel their July 2020 in-person wedding that was booked prior to the pandemic. Instead, their nearly 200 guests viewed the ceremony and the couple’s first dance over Zoom. “It was wonderful,” said Ben. “Our virtual guests each sent in a personal greeting video that we viewed in a slideshow. We were thrilled with the outcome.”
Because hybrid weddings are often less complicated to coordinate, brides and grooms have found they can simply concentrate on the joy of getting married. Although virtual weddings may lack some treasured aspects of a traditional ceremony, many couples have ended up more than satisfied with this unique way to begin life’s journey together.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” said Chris. “With Zoom, nothing was missing, and no one was left out. It couldn’t have been more perfect.”