The morning of her wedding, Jackelyn Skudra awoke to devastating news. Her 7-month pregnant sister was experiencing contractions and doctors would not allow her to leave the hospital.
“Charlotte is my best friend. She was supposed to be my maid of honour. It was devastating,” she recalls.
Skudra’s brother-in-law and a family friend sprang into action, trying to find a way for Charlotte to be there in some form.
Without Skudra’s knowledge — no one wanted to get her hopes up in case it didn’t work — the men hooked into wireless connections at both the hospital and the ceremony site, then rigged laptops and webcams at both ends.
“When it was time to walk down the aisle, I still had no idea what was happening. I started to cry and people thought I was just excited to be getting married, and I was of course, but I was actually extremely sad that my sister wasn’t there,” says Skudra, now 28. “After all these years of planning each other’s wedding — I was her maid of honour; she was supposed to be mine — and now she wasn’t even going to see it.”
But as soon as the “I Dos” were said and the couple was announced, Skudra spun around to the audience and noticed her sister’s smiling face beaming from a laptop in the front row.
“It was wonderful. I just broke down,” Skudra says.
Using Skype, Charlotte got to be there for the whole day, from the ceremony to the reception to the speeches. It obviously wasn’t perfect but, for Skudra, it was more than she could have hoped, given the circumstances. (Charlotte gave birth to a healthy baby two months later. Each sister now has two children).
Skudra’s is a story that is becoming increasingly common in the wedding industry. Brides and grooms are finding more innovative ways to incorporate websites such as Skype, Facebook and Twitter into their special day.
Danielle Andrews Sunkel, owner of The Wedding Planners, says the trend began around 2005, when couples began launching personal wedding websites and blogs.
“It expanded to social networking, like Facebook and Twitter, about two years ago, but it’s really gotten heavy just in the last year,” says Sunkel, who is also the president of the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada.
Skype is especially popular for destination weddings and small, family-only weddings, she adds.
With more than 800 million users, chances are everyone from little cousin Bobby to great-grandma Ethel is on Facebook, so Sunkel recommends her clients incorporate their wedding websites with their guests’ accounts.
“It’s a really good idea to socialize your wedding,” she explains. “The idea is you create your seating chart beforehand and you post this on your wedding website. Then all the guests can see whom they’re sitting with and you can link their social media pages so people can get to know each other beforehand. It’s a really cool new thing that’s been happening in the last year.”
Sunkel is also seeing couples use Twitter to connect with wedding professionals and other couples for advice. As of October, Twitter had an estimated 100 million users.
That’s where Mindy Howard comes in. Howard is the Seattle woman behind the popular Twitter account tweetmywedding, which has more than 21,000 followers from around the globe.
Howard launched her website and corresponding twitter account about three years ago for a friend’s wedding.
“It started mostly for my girlfriend but then I started getting a lot of followers. I found, and then (sent out), wedding-related tweets that I thought were funny, especially interesting pictures, hilarious comments from weddings, and inspiring ideas.”
The concept caught on and expanded. Now, her followers tweet questions, and experts and other couples reply with advice. She’s increasingly noticing couples using Twitter to find vendors, such as photographers. But most often, Howard thinks people just want to see what other real people are doing on their big day.
The problem, she says, is that wedding magazines set an unrealistically high bar for brides.
“People love reality and that’s what I provide. I love my wedding magazines … but the industry really stresses brides out, putting out these impossible perfect weddings that real people actually can’t pull off,” she says. “These are real weddings from real people.”
She also points out that Twitter, Facebook and Skype are cost-effective ways to share your wedding. “Because in this day and age, it can be a decision if you’re going to have a downpayment on a home or invite all 250 of your friends.”