How to be the perfect (virtual) wedding guest, according to an etiquette expert

Myelle Lansat


Myelle Lansat

Myelle Lansat

News Editor

Myelle Lansat is a news editor at Policygenius, where she writes the Easy Money newsletter and covers insurance and personal finance. Previously, she was a personal finance writer at CNBC and Acorns, and a reporter for Business Insider.

Published May 21, 2020 | 3 min read

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Wedding bells are still ringing virtually despite the pandemic. More than a quarter of couples in the U.S. are saying “I do” on their original wedding date with virtual ceremonies, according to a recent survey from The Knot.

If you’re attending an upcoming virtual wedding, it’s still possible to get the full experience — even though you’re watching someone else’s nuptials from your couch, said Elaine Swann, lifestyle and etiquette expert.

“We have to recognize this will be different and it will feel awkward at first on camera, but my advice is to push past that awkward feeling and be present in the moment,” said Swann.

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Here are four ways to make the most of your virtual wedding experience.

1. Follow typical RSVP protocol

Letting a couple know you’re attending their virtual wedding is as important as if it was an in-person ceremony, said Swann. The couple will likely be 100% in the moment and won’t have time to check their computer to see who is tuned in.

Also, be respectful of who views the ceremony with you. Just as you wouldn’t bring an unwanted plus-one to an event, don’t share the link the couple sends to view the ceremony.

“When you share someone else’s link on your platform, you are bringing uninvited guests to their occasion, and that is inappropriate,” said Swann.

2. Send a monetary gift

Finding the perfect wedding gift can be tough — especially for a virtual one. To save stress, keep it simple with a monetary gift.

“There was already an uptick in people giving money for weddings over a few years now, but with the impact of COVID-19, I’m seeing more people focus on giving money,” Swann said.

Almost half of guests prefer to give a monetary wedding gift, and 84% of people prefer to receive cash for major events, according to a 2019 Wedding & Gifts survey by Zelle.

3. Virtually share your well wishes

Wedding receptions are usually full of toasts, speeches and a guestbook. While there may not be time to give a speech during the live stream, you send a congratulatory video message directly to the couple instead, said Swann.

Rachel Kitay, a real estate broker in Chicago, recently attended her cousin’s virtual nuptials. The wedding live stream lasted about 20 minutes and guests got to watch the bride and groom take pictures, eat cupcakes and make a brief speech. There wasn’t time for additional speeches, so the couple gave guests the option to sign a digital guest book or record a custom video.

4. Create a wedding atmosphere

Elevate your virtual guest experience. Swann suggests finding a cozy nook in your home, dimming the lights and grabbing a glass of wine or champagne. Leave any distractions in another room, like your phone, and settle into the moment.

“Maybe light a few candles before and have some music playing for after to set the tone,” said Swann. “Bask in that moment so you can have that feeling of an actual experience, rather than logging on and logging off.”