Soon-to-be-married couples are increasingly streaming their weddings and receptions on the Internet. It's partly for posterity, partly for ego and partly to give distant friends and family a glimpse of the proceedings if they couldn't make the happy occasion.
Ustream, a San Francisco-based live-video service reports that 20,000 U.S. couples have "streamed" their wedding ceremony in the past year -- a 250 percent jump from the year before.
"Not everyone can make it to the ceremony," says David Thompson, chief marketing officer at Ustream, "but that doesn't mean they have to miss out on the big event."
What kind of impact is video streaming having on the $50 billion U.S. wedding industry? And more importantly, what impact, financial and otherwise, is video streaming having on newlyweds?
"For many couples, video broadcasts are becoming another 'must-have' just like flowers, cake and still photography," says Jim McGinnis, professional photographer and founder of Chapelle De L'Amour, a wedding chapel service in Las Vegas. "Our multi-camera setup is a key selling point for our venues, especially for clients who have family spread across the globe, and want to share the moment in real time."
Couples considering a video webcast can expect to pay about $99 for a standard broadcast, but that cost goes up fast if you add a videographer and a crew to handle the broadcast for you. In that case, expect to pay anywhere between $800 and $3,000, Ustream says.
At least from a financial point of view, it can still be a win-win for you and any distant guests who can't make the wedding. Think of it is as a three-step process:
Step one: Send out invitations to your wedding. Make sure to mention the wedding will be available for webcast in real time.
Step two: Distant invitees or older ones suffering from health issues may opt to view the ceremony and reception online. That saves them about $500 to $1,000 for not having to make the trip, according to figures from Ustream (and up to $1,500 or more if your wedding is at a resort.)
Step three: With your "Web guests" saving so much cash from avoiding the trip, they may be more generous with your wedding present. A bonus: Streaming also saves you money on wedding costs, by limiting the amount of guests.
Naturally, in most cases you'd rather have your guests on hand, face-to-face, to celebrate your wedding day.
But if your guests just can't pull it off, video streaming is a good "Plan B" for your wedding day. And it could be a benefit financially too.
Latest Wedding Must-Have: Live Streaming Your Ceremony
Marriages are all about fidelity, which makes loyalty programs a perfect fit when it comes to planning your summer wedding trips. Instead of focusing on getting the cheapest hotel room, car rental or plane ticket for each wedding, you might consider comparison shopping for the best loyalty programs. Not only can they save you on your initial costs, but -- depending on the program -- they might even help you pay for a honeymoon of your own.
Presents are nice, but between the showers and brunches, parties and receptions, it can sometimes seem like the run-up to a wedding is less a blessed occasion and more a marathon fundraiser. If you're afraid that your parade of gift giving is going to leave you scrambling to make the rent, one good tip is to set yourself a budget for each wedding. Placing a limit on your spending can leave you feeling like you've given enough, rather than been had.
There's a little-known etiquette rule: If you're buying a ticket to Tahiti to see the happy couple get hitched, you don't need to bring a toaster along for the ride. Or, to put it another way, if you're going to a destination wedding, your attendance is gift enough (although a bottle of champagne is always a nice gesture...)
If you are looking at buying a long list of wedding gifts, why not try one of the classic recipes for wedding bliss: helping out with the big day itself. If you know how to bake wedding cakes or arrange flowers, you've already got the kind of skill that can cut your gift-giving expenses. If not, you might think about offering to kick in a case of wine for each of your friends' weddings ... then, make a bulk deal with your local wine merchant and see if you can cut your costs even further.
Little known fact: You are not contractually required to use the gift registry. If the only things left on the list are a $300 food processor and a $500 set of towels, it is perfectly acceptable for you to get something else. For that matter, you can buy a gift card, kick in with a group of friends to buy a big-ticket item ... or even go to a different store altogether.
Tuxedo rentals are one of the biggest clothing scams going: A weekend rental generally costs $100 or more -- about as much as you'd pay to buy a basic model. Admittedly, if you purchase, you aren't going to get whole lot for that price -- your tux will be polyester or rayon, not wool, and won't be a brand name. Then again, since you own it, you can get it tailored to fit perfectly. And if you're going to need it a few times in the next few years, even a higher-end tux can quickly pay for itself. Best of all, it won't smell like the last occupant -- and that's a wedding gift that's truly priceless.