How to Livestream Your Wedding
Livestreaming is not a new concept. In fact, the first livestream was over 20 years ago and YouTube made it available to the masses way back in 2008. Facebook and Instagram Live Stories have been a part of our daily lives (pun intended) since 2015.
Despite its popularity, only now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, has the livestreaming of weddings really been seriously considered as an option for most couples.
Since Minnesota's stay at home order began in March, the majority of my couples have reached out to ask how livestreaming might work for their weddings, and the answer is a bit more complex than, "log on and press play," so I decided to write this handy guide for you as you explore the possibilities.
While the rise in popularity for livestreaming weddings is a direct response to our present circumstances, I believe it is here to stay. Long after COVID-19 fades into the past, wedding livestreams will be the perfect option for so many guests who may have limited mobility, be ill, or who simply can't afford to travel. One of my biggest regrets from my wedding day was that my grandmother was unable to attend, and if livestreaming had even crossed my mind back then, I would have offered that for her in a heartbeat.
So let's get started with how to livestream your wedding!
1. Get Permission
First things first, you want to be sure people who will appear in the video are okay with being broadcast to the world. This may include your officiant, any vendors on site, and members of your wedding party. Most likely, everyone will be excited about the livestream and totally on board, but it's still nice to make sure people are aware.
It is especially important to get permission from any musicians who might be playing music during your livestream. They may have specific policies about how their performance is recorded or broadcast and there may be copyright issues you aren't aware of.
2. Choose Your Platform
There are so many platforms out there that work well for livestreaming a wedding. I've listed just a few below, highlighting some of their key features and drawbacks, but this is by no means an exhaustive list and you'll want to do some research to find the one that's just right for you.
If you've been conscious at any point in the last two months, you've probably experienced a Zoom meeting. Did you know you can stream your wedding on Zoom as well? Compared to other platforms on this list, Zoom works best if you'd like your guests to have the ability to use video and audio during your feed. In fact, it works really well for this. At the time of this writing, I've only been involved in one Zoom wedding, but it was so much fun, as guests chatted with each other before the ceremony began.
The major drawbacks to using Zoom are that with the free account, you're limited to 100 guests and a 40-minute stream. So unless you plan to have an incredibly short ceremony (about 10 minutes or less), you'll probably need to upgrade to their paid version. Depending on your setup and whether you're able to spotlight the host's video, you may also need to educate your guests on how to "pin" the video of the ceremony on their screen, so that they're watching you instead of looking up cousin Billy's nostrils.
Facebook Live & YouTube Live
I'm putting Facebook Live and YouTube Live in here as one category because they work pretty much the same. You'll need a Facebook or Google account, respectively, to set them up, and while your guests will need an account to interact with the video (ie, like and comment), anybody with the link can view it. Both platforms will also automatically record the video and save it to your account to watch later!
Just be sure you set your video to private or your Facebook friends and YouTube followers may join in uninvited.
Use a Livestreaming App
If you want to do anything particularly fancy, like switching between camera views, you may want to consider using a livestreaming app. Follow the links below to find some of the best:
3. Test the Technology
You'll want to test your technology well before your wedding day to ensure your streaming platform plays nicely with any additional technology you might be using (like microphones, external cameras, etc.) The last thing you want is to show up on the day of your wedding only to learn that you forgot to purchase the expensive adapter needed to connect an audio source to your feed.
You may also want to test the venue's wifi signal and play around with and adjust guest interaction features (you don't want Aunt Carol to accidentally unmute herself while shouting at your 3-year-old nephew just as you begin your vows).
4. Assign a Technician
You shouldn't be concerned about the livestream on your wedding day. Let your tech-savvy friend do it instead. You'll want somebody assigned to set up the camera(s) and microphones, run the livestream, and perform any troubleshooting as necessary.
This person may also be able to play additional music, video recordings, and slides during your livestream if desired.
5. Assign a Host or virtual wedding party
In addition to your technician, you may want an MC who is responsible for hosting the livestream and interacting with your guests. This could be a member of your wedding party or any friend with a bubbly personality.
This host might encourage guests to interact with the livestream, ask them to share who they are and where they're tuning in from, educate guests on any features available in the streaming platform, and mute guests when necessary. They may introduce members of your wedding party and any distinguished guests.
Depending on the streaming platform you use, you could even have multiple people perform different aspects of this role. They may be able to pre-record greetings, readings, and other messages to play to guests during the livestream.
6. Share the Link
Now for the most important part of your livestream...inviting people to it! So, who should you invite to your virtual wedding and how should you do it?
This is pretty new for everyone, and we haven't exactly nailed down the etiquette just yet. For now, we have the following recommendations:
Make the livestream a backup option for your invited guests, not the first option for your B-list or your full Facebook friends list. As you receive RSVPs back from your guests, send a personalized email to each party who "regrettably declines" inviting them to the livestream and sharing the link.
Obviously, if you need to reduce your count of in-person guests due to COVID-19 related concerns or restrictions, you can use your livestream link as a first option. Still, plan to send the link only to those you would have invited in person rather than sharing it with the whole universe.
You may also wish to include the link on your wedding website if you have one.
In addition to a link, I recommend setting up a password your guests must enter to access the livestream so that random people don't stumble on your feed.
7. Set Up the Equipment
On the day of the wedding, you'll want to have your technician set up all of your equipment well before the ceremony begins so that they can work out any issues as they arise. I recommend about two hours before the ceremony begins.
At the bare minimum, you'll need a mobile device to livestream your wedding. We also highly recommend using a tripod, so the video isn't shaking all over the place throughout your wedding.
Some other tips about your equipment:
You may want to consider setting up multiple external cameras around the venue so you can get the best shots as you walk down the aisle, exchange your vows, and have your first kiss.
Remember, while your guests will love seeing you virtually on your wedding day, they want to be able to hear you too, so well placed microphones are a must. If you can't get microphones, a phone placed near the altar with the audio signal sent to your livestream will suffice.
The soul of a good livestream is how strong your signal is. Ask your venue whether there is a dedicated network you can connect to. If there is only one publicly accessible network, be sure to ask your in-person guests to refrain from using wifi so that you have the strongest signal possible.
To avoid harsh feedback loops, mute all but one device in your venue at a time. Your guests may not notice that there is no feedback, but you can bet they'll notice if there is.
8. Do a Rehearsal
Just as it's important to rehearse your ceremony, you should also rehearse your livestream. Your technician will want to be sure they can connect to your streaming service and that the audio and video are working properly. If anybody will be passing around microphones, they'll want to know who gets it and when.
It's best to do your rehearsal before your guests begin to arrive.
9. Start the Stream
One the cameras are set, you've tested the technology, and had a rehearsal, you're ready to go live! I recommend starting your stream half an hour before the ceremony begins so people have time to get logged in, work out any technical issues they may be experiencing, and say hello.
I have a few recommendations regarding your stream:
Just stream the ceremony. Streaming your reception may sound like fun, but it can be awkward for people to be filmed partying, drinking, and dancing, and just as awkward for the guest sitting quietly at home watching everybody have a good time.
Be sure you're recording the video and saving the chat log; those will be nice mementos for you to look back on!
Give guests an opportunity before, during, or after the ceremony to interact with the feed, either through video or text. Maybe you can plan something fun that everybody can be involved in together, like a toast.
At the end of the ceremony, be sure to have your host or officiant say something to officially signal the end of the ceremony to your online guests, so they aren't left to second guess whether or not they should log off.
10. Let Us Take Care of It
It is my hope that after reading this post, you feel empowered and ready to take on livestreaming for your wedding. That said, we're here if you'd rather have somebody take care of it all for you.
Woodland Events offers livestreaming services that include a two-camera and two-microphone setup, a dedicated technician to set up and run your livestream, and a custom website where your guests can watch and interact with your livestream without any special login information. We'll even provide you with a high-quality recording after the service!
Livestreaming services are available to all of our existing clients for $150 and for everybody else (for weddings within 30 miles of our Eagan, MN office) for $250.
We have lots of options for what can appear on your personal streaming page. Check out the slideshow below for some samples!
Have any questions for us about livestreaming your wedding? Ask in the comments below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!
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