How to Give Guests an Active Role in Your Virtual Wedding

Here are a few creative ways to connect with your remote guests and integrate them into your celebration during the pandemic.

By Alix Strauss

As couples continue to look for ways to move forward with their wedding plans during the coronavirus pandemic, guests are also looking for ways to feel more involved, connected and present.

“Guests want a deeper experience, especially because many can’t be there,” said Jason Mitchell Kahn, the owner of Jason Mitchell Kahn and Company, an event planning company in New York. “They want to offer something of themselves rather then just witnessing something online.”

Couples are missing that bond as well. “They’re looking for a deeper way to include everyone, whom they want to feel special and remembered,” he added.

Event planners, wedding party members, and couples are coming up with creative ways for guests to have a more integrated and elevated role. Here are a few ideas.

Flower Power

On Sept. 5, Daliya Karnofsky, 36, an independent dating coach, married Matt Lutsky, 32, a creator and writer of the Showtime comedy series “On Becoming a God in Central Florida,” at a lakeside Airbnb in Malibu, Calif. Sixteen family members and friends attended, while another 200 watched via Zoom. When the couple stood under the huppah, they were embraced by more than 120 paper flowers, each as distinctive as the guest who sent it to the floral designer beforehand. The paper art was then woven into the canopy along with real flowers.

“It was Matt’s idea, we wanted to feel everyone’s personal touch, and for everyone to feel like they were there,” said Ms. Karnofsky, who lives with her husband in Los Angeles. Standout materials included chocolate wrappers, a baseball with the couple’s names stitched on it, seashells, macaroni, even a bag of flour.

“We planned this during early pandemic when everyone was into crafting,” she added. “We have so many creative friends. It was fun and connective for people to see their flowers when they Zoomed. It was beautiful and special.”

Mr. Kahn, who was the couple’s wedding planner, noted that many of these experiential projects, can double as keepsakes. “They can be turned into pieces of art, framed into shadow displays, or put in a book that they’ll have forever,” he said.

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More Than a Note

Ben Baur, 34, an actor, and Craig Gates, 30, an equity derivative salesman for J.P. Morgan, were married Sept. 12, on a friend’s rooftop in New York’s TriBeCa neighborhood. To improve the feeling of guest inclusion, they sent “raise a drink” gift boxes to guests that included a monogrammed shot glass, cozy, wine stopper and a self-addressed stamped envelope and card. The New York couple collected the 70-plus notes from guests and read them together for the first time before their ceremony.

“It was a very intimate moment to have, and an opportunity for our guests to feel like part of the day,” Mr. Baur said. “That was really important to us.”

The cards were wrapped in a ribbon and placed on a silver tray, which resided next to them at their ceremony. “They were also referenced by the officiant who talked about how we had read them that morning and how we felt their love in that moment,” he said.

Mr. Baur said he was grateful and touched by what guests, specifically family members, had written. “These were so personal and heartfelt,” he said. “I don’t know if we would have gotten that moment, or connected this deeply with them if we had a regular wedding like we planned.”

I Am the Band

With entertainment acts temporarily on hold, guests are doubling as the talent. While on Zoom, Kyle Harmon, 33, performed “Amazing Grace” at Nic Shackleton and Eric Johnson’s March 20 wedding in Salt Lake City from his living room in Seattle.

Mr. Harmon, who created a new arrangement and wrote an additional chorus, sang and played guitar before 100 Zoom guests. “As best man, I really wanted to contribute something memorable and expressive,” he said. “Performing something I wrote at their wedding was an opportunity to create a meaningful moment about their love and relationship.”

He added that for now this was the new norm. “Hiring a virtual band is odd,” he said. “This gave all of us an intimate connection to one another since we couldn’t be there in person.”

The Guest Book

Couples who want a memento of who attended their wedding are collecting photos, warm wishes and signatures through customized digital guest books or reaching out to services like Miss Design Berry that will create a customized guest book for you.

Planners, too, are spearheading these projects by creating displays of cards sent in advance of events. Kate Reavey, a wedding planner and the owner of Chicago Vintage Weddings, requested Zoom participants at an August wedding at a private home in Lake Forest, Ill., send postcards.

“A lot of people did drawings or offered advice to the couple, it felt very personal,” said Ms. Reavey, who is based in Chicago. “This was our version of a Covid guest book which we repurposed into an album afterward. We wanted everyone to feel physically present.”

Ms. Reavey said the project proved successful, but she also offered some advice: “Be careful with requesting too much from guests. You don’t want anyone to feel like you’re giving them homework.”

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