Live-streaming your wedding: Which service is best?

July 16 2014 | offbeatbride
Amanda and Jason used Skype on a smartphone with a tripod.
Amanda and Jason used Skype on a smartphone with a tripod.
Hello!
For various reasons, our family won't be able to attend our wedding.

Do you have any tips on how to go about live-streaming our ceremony and some of the reception?

Help, please!
–Kat

Guests attending your wedding over the internet: the future is HERE. We have a whole tag dedicated to offbeat couples who have live-streamed their wedding, so you're not the first to navigate these waters. Let's look at some options for virtually inviting guests to your wedding — whether it be just Grandma using Skype or dozens (hundreds? thousands?!) of viewers on a live-streaming website — including my recommendation for which one to pick. Then I'll run down some tips for making sure your stream runs seamlessly.

FIRST: Let's pick a service

Skype

Skype is so popular among Offbeat Brides that we have a whole tag archive for it. If you're only going to be streaming to one other device (computer, smartphone, or tablet), Skype is a great option. It's free for one-to-one video calls. If you upgrade, you can even have a conference call for up to 10 computers. Amanda and Jason live-streamed their elopement using Skype, and so did Andy and Cassie.

DSC_0467
Andy and Cassie talking to their virtual guests!

Apple FaceTime

If you have a MacBook, iPad, or iPhone, you can set up a video call to another Apple FaceTime user. FaceTime is one-to-one only, so those who want to see your stream will all have to be watching the same screen. If you're using an iPhone or an iPad, you can choose to use the front or back cameras while FaceTiming, and switch back and forth between the calls.

UStream

Ang and Matt used UStream to stream their wedding. UStream has apps for iOS and Android, meaning you can stream from your smartphone or tablet as well as your computer. Anyone accessing the stream can chat with other attendees and gush about how great your choice of processional music sounded. You can choose to simply broadcast, or broadcast and record for later viewing. You can't password-protect your stream unless you upgrade to the Pro plan. Ang's reasons for choosing UStream?

  • It's FREE.
  • It's easy to use.
  • It's got great image quality (especially considering that it's FREE).
  • It has Chat and Twitter capabilities so people can talk about what they're watching.
  • It's customizable — wedding logo, colors, etc.

Livestream

Livestream's free option streams video in HD, has iOS and Android apps for your smartphones and tablets, and records to the cloud, saving your video for 30 days. You can't make your event private using the free plan.

Webcam
Alicia and Cody used a laptop and an external webcam to stream.

Justin.tv


Alicia and Cody
used Justin.tv to stream their wedding. They have free and paid options for broadcasting. Alicia gave some other tips in the comments:

Justin.tv has a really easy interface where you can just plug in a webcam and let it go. If you're more tech savvy, you can use things like Flash Media Encoder or QuickTime Broadcaster to control things a bit more. We went with Justin.tv because it was free to stream in HD, but unfortunately the wireless at E|M wasn't quite fast enough to handle it. Also, Justin.tv doesn't save its videos for long (two days?), so be sure to save them immediately if you want them for posterity. Oh yes, and be sure to test things out before the day of!

Google Hangouts on Air and YouTube Live

This is where conference video calls for a handful of people and live-streaming to as many as you want come together — and this is my personal recommendation for the best service.

Like Skype, Google Hangouts on Air is free; unlike Skype, you don't need to upgrade to have conference calls with multiple computers. Nine people can join the hangout itself, and the video is simultaneously streamed to YouTube. You can set the event to public, private, or unlisted. If you set it to public, anyone can watch your stream. If you set it to private, you have to manually invite anyone you want to watch, and those people need to have a Google account. If you set it to unlisted, anyone you give the link to will be able to watch the stream live on YouTube.

YouTube Live saves the broadcast as a video and posts it automatically to your YouTube page (you can set the privacy for this, too). Your attendees can access Hangouts on their computer, tablet, or smartphone, thanks to the app.

Next week I'll have a whole step-by-step to show you how to use Google Hangouts on Air and YouTube Live!
 
 

S + S
Save a seat for your virtual guests! Photo by Jonas Seaman

OK, NOW: the technology

Obvious advice is obvious: test your set-up multiple times to make sure it works, and to learn to troubleshoot anything that might come up the day-of. Also, make sure you delegate managing the livestreaming to a techy friend or family member at the wedding — you don't want to be troubleshooting wifi in your wedding finery!

About the tools

  • You'll need an internet connection (wifi or ethernet) at your venue, or your device will have to have mobile internet or be able to be used as a wireless hotspot. Ethernet is perhaps more reliable and faster, but can only be used for laptops or computers. Remember that video can take a chunk out of your mobile data, so try to use wifi or a broadband connection when possible!
  • You'll also need a computer, smartphone, or tablet equipped with a webcam to capture the video. Remember that not all webcams are created equal! You might want to look into a smartphone tripod mount or a tablet tripod mount, or assign someone with very steady hands to hold the smartphone or tablet.
  • Video quality is contingent on the webcam, your internet connection, and the service you're using. Some of the services below only let you stream at a certain quality on their free plan. Play around with some different options to see what works best for you.
  • Disable any "go to sleep" or screensaver functions on the device.

For the guests — virtual and non-virtual

  • Figure out a good angle to film from and consider appointing someone to keep an eye on the stream during the ceremony. Set up a sign so that guests understand that they can be seen and heard if they approach the live stream!
  • Check out these "play-along-at-home" favours for your virtual attendees!
  • If you're using a laptop, you could save a seat for it.

  • If you're doing a public stream, remember that your video could get flagged for copyright infringement if you play copyrighted music. Consider having someone mute the mic on the device during the music.
  • Make sure your virtual attendees know how to get to the page where you'll be streaming the wedding. Will you share the link with them in an email, Facebook update, or IM? Or will you embed the video on your blog?
  • Remember that some of these options necessitate an account ahead of time. Make sure your virtual attendees have this set up before the day-of.

And now, here's my follow-up tutorial for using Google Hangouts on Air/YouTube Live.

For those of you livestreaming your weddings, which streaming services are you using and why?

  1. We used UStream to stream our wedding. We were actually able to embed the viewer directly onto our wedsite, so people could watch it there (or click through to watch on ustream's website, if they wanted)

    Some people said it worked, and some people said it didn't though. I'm not sure why :/

  2. My friend just ustreamed her wedding and it was amazing! Her BIL used an iPhone to film it. Only issue with the iPhone was the sound pick up, so I'd suggest seeing if there's a way to either have whoever or whatever is filming close, or see if there's a mic attachment.

  3. We've had several of our clients live stream their weddings, usually for grandparents or other family that couldn't attend for whatever reason. It's great that consumer tech gadgets will allow this, but it usually comes with a lot of frustration in actually getting everything to sync and work properly… but the results are always worth the effort! Thanks for putting this article together. Definitely going to be a pin for our couples to access in the future! Thanks, Jayson and Rachael

  4. Excellent EXCELLENT article!

    So you made no mention of the wedding-based broadcast site i.e. IdoStream, my Streaming Wedding, etc. Are they offering anything beyond what the more generic sites you've listed offer? What would be the reason to use a wedding oriented site…if any?

    • Hi Barbara! I did come across IdoStream in my research. The reason I didn't include it was because it's actually a service you pay for, like a videographer. And I didn't think the website looked that great, to be completely honest. But! If anyone has good experiences with services like these, we'd love to hear it!

  5. Wow, thanks so much for all these options!

    Both of our parental sets really want to have a videographer even though my fiance and I are like "eek! video and camera following us around all day?! panic!" One of their main reasons is for people who can't be at the wedding. The only person I'm really sad about not being there is my grandad who can't fly, but maybe we can work something out with one of these sites. I love the photo with the laptop on Skype in a chair like a guest. Ideas, ideas…

  6. It's such an innovative idea! And not so difficult to do. I can't be on the wedding of my best friend, because of my health problems. But now I know how to resolve it! Thank you for inspiration 🙂

  7. Awesome Post! My fiance and I are getting married on the beach. I am worried about the virtual guests not being able to hear. Do you have a recommendation for any external webcams?

    • Nema, I read your comment about the virtual guest not being able to hear. For them to hear well you'll need to have wireless audio set up. They'll have to be a wireless mic on either the groom, officiant, or if your voices will be amplified through a sound board then a connection (wired or wireless) to the sound board. That audio source will then need to be connected to what ever is streaming the video. You may run into some audio sync problems if not done right though. Hope that helps!

  8. If the video is private, do we still need to mute it during the music because I would love to also broadcast our first dance.

  9. You can live stream your wedding using tools like R-HUB live streaming servers. It streams real-time collaboration to participant’s browsers over the Internet on any devices including PC, MAC, iOS and Android mobile devices.

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