COVID-19 shrunk the size of in-person weddings from hundreds to dozens, and in some cases, only two. While we hope big parties will return in the near future, many of the creative wedding solutions that were born because of the pandemic will last for years to come. For example, this past year proved that fun, meaningful wedding ceremonies can be done with smaller groups in-person while many more participate via live stream.
Meet the Expert
Pete Honsberger has been a serial groomsman, speaker, and wedding toast advisor for most of his adult life. He published his first book, Wedding Toasts 101: The Guide to the Perfect Wedding Speech, in 2019.
This hybrid method will continue to be an option for elderly guests, invitees who simply live too far away or can't make the trip, or even friends living in other countries at the time of nuptials. Simply put, where there are obstacles, there are opportunities to be creative and show your love.
If you’re reading this, either you or someone you know has the wonderful opportunity to write, record, and share a virtual wedding toast. Below is a how-to guide to bringing this version of an unforgettable speech to life.
Basics Steps to Follow and Tips to Know
To achieve a meaningful virtual toast, you need it to sound good, look even better on video, and come together in the editing room. This can be a big feat if you've never said, "Send it to the editing room!" Here, how to confidently own your virtual toast’s audio, video, environment, and editing.
Consider the Audio Quality
Approach your toast under the assumption that it will be broadcast to hundreds of people. You want to ensure that the sound quality is something you’d be proud of. If you’re thinking of recording with your laptop or iPhone’s built-in microphone, I’d suggest thinking again. With no guarantee that a given wedding venue has video-compatibility, the audio could be all you have to make your impact for the new couple and their audience.
In a hybrid wedding, there’s a high likelihood that a recording of your toast will be live-streamed in real-time and then posted to one or more social media channels where thousands of people may hear it. That type of listenership deserves higher quality audio, not to mention you’d much rather have the married couple talking about your toast itself, not whether or not it sounded good.
Take that variable out of the equation: I recommend investing in a pair of Apple AirPods, a quality lapel microphone, or a podcast-style USB microphone to ensure that you’re proud of how you sound. AirPods, or an Android equivalent, are an easy solution to achieving excellent sound without putting in much work.
Film a Video You’re Proud Of
During your toast, all eyes will be on you. At a typical wedding, you’d have a few hundred people watching you in real-time but your toast would live on only in stories or mentions beyond that moment. However, with a virtual toast, the video will likely live forever online, and when it circulates back to your social media feed, you’ll want to be excited about what you see…not cringing and wishing you’d put in more effort.
The bottom line is to present yourself well. A pre-recording gives you a chance to put yourself in the director’s seat, to control the angles, the different “takes,” the lighting, and more. An adjusted wedding format deserves additional creativity by all of its participants, including you.
- Camera: Your phone is more than enough video quality for this mission but if you have a camera, feel free to use it. Just be sure that your choice connects to a quality microphone (see above), as well as to a computer where you can edit the footage. The tech-savvy among us may be able to fully edit the video with just two thumbs on your smartphone.
- Balance: Holding your phone in selfie-mode isn’t going to cut it. Utilize a specialized phone holder, dust off the tripod in your closet, have a friend/family member hold the phone extra still, or even lean it on a stack of boxes and books. Whatever you do, find the angle you want and keep it in place.
- Angles: Most people prefer an angle where the phone is slightly above your eye level, tilted downward toward your face. Use your judgment as to how much of you the audience should see.
- Lighting: While most of us don’t have professional lighting rigs lying around, there are a few easy ways to look like a pro. If windows are available, take advantage of natural light by putting your camera in front of one and facing it inward. Stand on the opposite side of the room facing the window, and the light will shine on you like nature’s spotlight. Without windows, simply find a well-lit room and take a practice video to ensure it meets your eye test. You may want to experiment by turning some lights on and off, dimming lights, or even pulling lamps from another room to play around with the look.
Consider Your Environment
Now that you have your equipment ready, challenge yourself to make your background worthy of a wedding reception. Don’t just film yourself against a blank wall—have some fun with it! Some ideas: Display photos of the couple on a bookshelf or have bubbly in the background and toast with it at the end.
Edit and Send the Final Cut
If you’ve never edited anything, don’t stress. Two free resources are iMovie, available on Apple products, or Audacity, which works with any computer. Either will allow you to upload your recorded video footage to their program, edit, and export it into a shareable file. Numerous video tutorials available on YouTube will get you comfortable using the software, likely in 10 minutes or less.
Depending on your appetite for editing, you may want to add additional video clips, sound effects, and/or background music to your toast. If the groom has a favorite movie, you can try editing in a quick clip amidst your toast for a welcome surprise. If you and the bride recorded yourselves awkwardly singing karaoke in high school, maybe you edit in a few seconds of that to put a big smile and blush on her face.
When you finish editing and export your audio/video clip, you may find it challenging to send such a large file through email. First, ask whoever is in charge of collecting the toasts if they have a preferred method of sending the file. That person should be able to give you instructions. If not, I would recommend using a Dropbox folder, a SharePoint file, or a free file-sharing service called WeTransfer. A USB drive may also be an option, but only if you plan to see this person prior to the wedding.
5 Ways to Upgrade Your Average Toast
Nailed the basics? Take your virtual toast up a notch with these advanced options.
Invest in a Ring Light
If you have any aspirations of blogging, vlogging, TikTok’ing, or content creation in the near future, it may make sense to invest in a quality ring light setup for your toast. Most models cost less than $50.
Stand in the Spotlight
Either dim or completely turn off the lights in your room. Then position a bright light either directly behind the camera, or just to its side, pointing straight at you. You can even use the Flashlight app on a different cell phone. To narrow the focus of the light, take a toilet paper or paper towel roll and put one end over the source of the light. Play around with the angles, as well as the other lights in the room, and you may be able to replicate a crowded, dimly lit reception hall with a very creative-looking spotlight.
Impress the couple (and the audience) with a surprise message directly from a celebrity or famous athlete. For as little as $5, you can purchase a personalized video message congratulating the married couple on their special day.
Incorporate Videos From Friends
You may take it upon yourself to collect a quick “congratulations” from additional friends or family members, thus turning your virtual toast into a montage of loved ones sharing their best wishes for the wedding.
Grab a Mic
Even if it’s a prop you build with balled-up aluminum foil, give yourself a microphone to speak into. This, along with your full wedding attire, will further show your level of commitment to this whole experience. If you have access to a real microphone, hold it to your mouth, perhaps with your spotlight behind you, for your recorded toast.
Where there are obstacles, there are opportunities to be creative and show your love. I hope the information above helps you and your loved ones view your virtual toast as a chance to create a unique, meaningful, and unforgettable message that will live on well beyond the wedding date.