Etiquette expert weighs in on virtual wedding dos and don’ts

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The world pivoted to computer screens overnight and now a lot of people are using online platforms to communicate. Not only have meetings and work transitioned online but so have major life events, like weddings. 

“It’s in 12 days, what could happen in 12 days? We’re so close.” Katie Santry and her husband were supposed to get married surrounded by over 300 of their close family and friends on March 28.

Once the world shutdown and the pandemic caused communities to stay away from large groups, their plans quickly changed. They had to reevaluate how they would handle the situation in a few short days. They decided they wanted to keep their original wedding date and ultimately figure the rest out after this pandemic.

Santry rented an AirBnB for the day and decorated the condo with a few hundred dollars worth of decorations. They set up a stand for their phone and live streamed their wedding on Facebook.

“When we came out and did the ceremony, we Facebook lived it and after we went back on Zoom,.” Santry said.

All of their friends and family were joining them on Zoom for some toasts and virtual celebrations.

Cathy Fallon teaches etiquette for a living. She’s worked with children, adults, athletes and everyone in between. She says she’s already had numerous inquiries about how to handle situations online or through video chats. 

“It’s a new territory,” Fallon said.

It’s so new, no one really knows how it’s supposed to be done.

“I tell my brides, ‘Send detailed invitations so people know what you expect of them and what they should expect,'” Fallon said.

She has some advice for wedding guests who plan on logging on to a wedding this year:

  • Log on to the event at least five minutes ahead of time so you’re not popping up late. 
  • It’s crucial to dress up because not only does it show respect, but it helps the couple feel a little more comfortable with this unique situation.
  • Mute your microphone during the ceremony. 
  • Gifts are a must. Fallon said to consider two things when discussing wedding gifts: your budget and how well you know the couple. She says a lot of couples understand in these times, many people have been out of work, so a delayed gift is fine. She also said just a nice card in the meantime is also respectful and most couples will understand. “Treat gift giving as if you’re attending in person.”
  • Do not record or share videos of the ceremony online unless you’ve already talked to the couple about it. It’s their day and they should have some control of some part of their big day.
  • Don’t share or send out the Zoom link to the wedding. They have invited certain people for a reason and unless they okay it, sharing with strangers is a big no. 

As for Katie Santry and her new husband, their day may have been different than they could have ever expected, but they wouldn’t change it for the world.

“It was honestly perfect,” Santry said. “We talk about it all the time and I believe everything happens for a reason.”

And when it comes to virtual meetings and online chats, there are also some things Fallon said you should remember. Here are her top tips and etiquette guidelines for meetings online:

  • Eat a snack before virtual meetings so you are not distracted by a growling stomach.
  • Light up the camera with more than your smile. Get natural light or ring light or a lamp and shine it on your face where the lamp doesn’t show on camera.
  • Find the lens. Imagine an audience is inside that lens and speak directly to it. You’ll instantly exude more executive presence.
  • Fill the frame. Dominate the screen for more gravitas.
  • Eliminate distractions. You don’t have to have a professional backdrop, but no clutter.
  • The host should be the last one to leave just to make sure no one gets cut off or loses a last-minute point.
  • Stay on mute if you are not talking. 
  • Use a video option if possible. Otherwise, it’s a conference call.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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