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In sickness and in health: Videotelephony and the future of weddings

As the pandemic restricts large gatherings from happening, many couples resort to videotelephony to share their special day with loved ones.

Childhood sweethearts Paul and Jeanna del Mundo only knew a life where they were together, roaming the same classrooms and hallways since they were eight years old. This made the 2020 lockdown nothing short of heartbreaking for the couple. Having been in a 12-year relationship, the distance made the two realize how much they treasured their time together. In the end, not even the pandemic could stop their love from culminating in a peculiar yet memorable wedding day on July 28 of last year.

Theirs was an intimate garden wedding. “We wanted our wedding to be as safe as possible with just a handful of guests in person,” the del Mundos opine. This, however, did not stop the couples’ loved ones from witnessing the magical moment through a Zoom livestream.

Through this, the del Mundos still had the rest of the people they love with them virtually. This created an atmosphere that was “more focused on the essence of the celebration,” they share. The del Mundos were just some of the many couples who had their weddings broadcasted through a video conference for their loved ones to see, forming a unique sense of togetherness despite the screen separating them and the guests. 

Lockdown love affair

The idea of online weddings came one fateful day in the middle of lockdown. Lights and sounds business owner Jun Dela Cruz got the inspiration when he watched applications such as Zoom being used for television broadcasts. “Syempre po, pandemic, walang party, walang get together, [at walang] birthdays,” he shares. “Naisip ko na parang possible magkaroon ng virtual wedding.”

(Of course, in the pandemic there are no parties, get-togethers, and birthdays. I just thought that virtual weddings through Zoom could be possible.)

And the rest was history. Once a mere afterthought, Dela Cruz’s business, Let it Zoom, became one of the country’s pioneers in online wedding coverage. As the videotelephony application rose in prominence during the pandemic, one can attend weddings through livestreams despite restrictions on social gatherings. Eventually, he encouraged other lights and sound businesses to follow his lead. RGB Lights and Sounds owner Jeanne Pauline Bacani shares, “Sabi nila samin, ‘Bumili na kayo [kaagad] ng laptop [at] ng kailangan [na equipment]. Papasahan namin kayo [ng software].’”

(They told us, “Buy laptops and other necessary equipment. We’ll share with you the software.”)

Since employees cover on-site events in real time, Dela Cruz’s basic package comes with a television set, projectors, and LED screens so that the couple can see the guests from the video meeting. However, some couples have special requests for their special event. Apart from facilitating wedding games through platforms like Kahoot!, Bacani’s clients opt for interactive “Zooming”. “At the end of the ceremony, the couple would really take time to say hello to their guests,” Bacani describes. “So, kahit na online ka lang, kakausapin ka pa rin nila.”

(Even though you’re just joining them online, they’ll still make an effort to talk to you.)

For business owners and couples alike, the trend opened a realm of possibilities. The del Mundos, who started wedding preparations pre-pandemic, found a way to celebrate their love amid distressing times. “No more stressing [over] the guest list and logistics of your guests,” the couple remarks. “You can already invite everyone, since all have access to the internet.”

Attempting to reconnect

Broadcasting a wedding via online means is a balancing act between its physical and virtual components. Apart from the masks, social distancing, and endless swab tests, choosing the right locations is vital in making the broadcast all come together. “Mostly sa weddings ngayon, mas pinipili nila is beach kasi al fresco,” Dela Cruz laments. But choosing aesthetic venues comes at a cost. He continues, “May mga area talaga sa Pilipinas na dead spot,” as many locals fall outside the coverage of internet service providers.

(Most weddings nowadays are held in beach locations because it is al fresco…A lot of areas in the Philippines are dead spots.) 

This makes internet connection a primary cause for concern. Bacani expounds, “Kung hindi maganda ang internet connection—kahit gaano kaganda ang camera mo, kahit gaano kabilis ‘yung laptop mo—wala.” Still, the show must go on, and her team ensures careful coordination with the owners and staff of the wedding venue to make magic happen.

(Even with state-of-the-art video equipment, the quality of the video is solely dependent on the strength of the internet connection.)

This includes working with photography teams, which are a traditional wedding staple. Bacani explains, “Kailangan ng magagandang angles…[kaya] parang nakikipag-away kami (videographers) lagi sa mga photo team.” However, this healthy competition is a testament to how they are committed to delivering the best experience for the wedding couple and their guests.

(You need to have good angles, so it’s as if we’re always competing with the photo team.)

Attendees could also have difficulties, as “not everyone [is] technically savvy with their gadgets,” the del Mundos share. Furthermore, guests are just as prone to bandwidth issues as the couples are; virtual setups are inevitably more vulnerable to technical glitches. Bacani laments, “Medyo mahirap [kasi] siyempre, online ka na. Magdedepend ka sa WiFi [tapos] knowing nasa Pilipinas ka, [mabagal].”

(It’s a bit difficult because it’s online. You have to depend on the WiFi connection but knowing the Philippines, the internet is slow.)

The couple admits, “Nothing can replace a face-to-face arrangement, especially [in a] once in a lifetime occasion like this.” Despite this, Bacani believes that online weddings are here to stay. She notices that these gatherings are much more intimate because guests take their time to actually witness the couple’s devotion and declaration of their love. “Hindi maiiwasan na maraming bisita pa rin ‘yung hindi makaka-attend [kasi nasa] probinsya [o] abroad. So I think they opt for [online or virtual weddings],” she continues.

(Some guests inevitably cannot attend because they come from other provinces or abroad.)

‘Til death do us part

Weddings via videotelephony are ultimately a powerful representation of the human instinct to care for one another amid a pandemic-stricken world thrust into uncertainty and fragility. “When you express love, it’s a nice feeling. Mas naa-appreciate mo ‘yung love ngayon kasi nga sobrang gulo na ng mundo,” Bacani shares.

(We appreciate love more because the world is currently in chaos.)

As human ingenuity powers through, video conferencing applications revolutionize experiences for all kinds of special occasions. By making these moments accessible even to people halfway around the globe—as long as there’s a capable enough internet connection—online weddings enable couples to enjoy the presence of all their loved ones on their special day. The true star of any wedding is the couple at the center of it all, whose love has driven them to take on the journey of life as a unit. Whenever and however they chose to tie the knot, the del Mundos remind us, “Love never fails as long as you keep the faith.”

By Andy Jaluague

By Criscela Ysabelle Racelis

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