Ruwandi Perera notes the rise of online weddings in the post-COVID era

Weddings are joyous events but they can be tiring to plan, hectic to organise, exhausting to host and very costly. Like many things that were simplified, made cheaper and more accessible in the wake of pandemic-related lockdowns, weddings too have been through a digital transformation.

During the pandemic, online weddings were an alternative to in-person functions and they were livestreamed over Zoom or Skype. The officiant and couple were present at a location, and friends and family who couldn’t attend could watch online in real time.

Today however, online weddings can be fully virtual where no one needs to be in the same room. The officiant will connect online, and so will the bride, groom and guests. While the couple might miss out on the physical exchanging of rings, they will be officially married.

Once a grey area, the legal side of online marriages is becoming clearer by the day. Nevertheless, couples who are considering getting married online should check whether such weddings are legal in their country.

In Sri Lanka for instance, the physical presence of the parties is necessary for such an event to take place.

Online weddings are recognised throughout the US but can only be performed in a few states. Since last October, the UAE has allowed online weddings for non-Muslims, provided that at least one party is a resident, and both are unmarried and over 21.

Everything from booking an appointment to making payments takes place online and eventually, a digitally signed marriage certificate is issued.

Digital has simplified everything – if you tick all the legal boxes, you can get married in as little as a business day, from any part of the globe that has a good internet connection. No elaborate functions, fancy receptions, thumping alcohol bills or guests.

Perfect – if that’s what you want!

However, there are things that still need to be arranged even if you plan to walk down the digital aisle.

First on the list is to find a registered marriage officiant to perform the ceremony for you. Then you need to check that all parties – bride, groom and officiant – have a strong and reliable internet connection. After all, it won’t be good to have a lag between one ‘I do’ and the next.

Digital weddings have created the need for digital wedding planners. They will ensure that everything is carefully organised – from having good lighting and sound, to compering, making sure the music plays on time, controlling guest microphones and registering the couple for gifts.

Guests and invitations also need to be managed when hosting a digital wedding. It’s necessary to send each guest a secure link as part of the invitation and ask them to RSVP. Creating a waiting room is also helpful to avoid people joining before the ceremony.

And of course, it’s important to share secure links with only the invitees and reduce the risk of hacking – you wouldn’t want the entire world watching your wedding as if it’s a reality show!

So are online weddings here to stay?

Probably. With the rising cost of living and more people getting married to partners residing in other countries, digital weddings may seem like the perfect solution.

They are much cheaper than a typical wedding and convenient, not only for the bride and groom but invitees as well. And venues and vendors don’t present a headache to the organisers.

Online weddings are also great if you want to share your special day with many people. And for couples who don’t want to leave a heavy carbon trail, such events are environmentally sustainable.

But virtual weddings have their own set of challenges, most of which are technical difficulties. Bad internet connections, poor lighting and sound quality, noise and other unplanned complications can change a quick and seamless wedding ceremony into a long and agonising ordeal.

And of course, you don’t get the physical connection and human touch.

The future of virtual weddings will be exciting with avatars, the metaverse and other advancements such as AI making them more lifelike. But one wonders whether they will eventually become the norm or simply be a passing fad.