John Roehsler took his wedding vows, exchanged rings with his bride — and turned to the webcam.
"Whoever's watching ... we're sorry that you couldn't be here," the groom said. "But you are here, so that's great. The 21st century rocks."
Roehsler and his bride, the former Neperthey Velasco, used a webcast to allow friends and family from roughly 10 states and a dozen countries to view their wedding ceremony live. It's a service now offered for weddings and funerals to allow far-flung family and friends to take part.
Wedding webcasts have been offered by a few companies for several years, and Las Vegas wedding chapels also market webcast ceremonies. But webcasting a wedding remains unusual; no couple has used the service in Virginia's Wise County, the first to acquire the technology in 2000, said Clerk of Court Jack Kennedy.
The Roehslers' June wedding was the first to use the wedding webcast capabilities in New Castle County, where the couple live. Their seven-minute ceremony included all the standard wedding prose, along with a few extras for the Web audience.
"John, please take Neperthey's ring, so the whole camera and everyone can see here," said Ken Boulden, clerk of the peace for New Castle County.
The wedding's intended online viewers included members of the bride's family in countries such as the Philippines and Thailand. But members of the groom's family watched online, too, because the wedding took place quickly under terms of the bride's visa. The couple is also expecting a baby in October.
"Our priorities shifted significantly," John Roehsler said. "Expecting a child when we entered a new country, we're both unemployed — the grand ceremony was an afterthought at that point. We both wanted to get down to business."
Unfortunately, many international viewers saw only blank screens, possibly due to problems with Internet service providers, the groom said. Some in the U.S. also could not watch the ceremony because of firewalls on computer systems at their workplaces.
Boulden said his office doesn't have control over such issues.
"Out of three dozen tests in different countries around the globe ... we have only hit that problem two or three times," he said. "It's the exception; it's not the rule."
John Roehsler's cousin, Michele Leech, had no trouble watching the ceremony from Canton, Ga.
"It was almost like I was in the room with them," Leech said, noting a small delay in the audio. "The most special thing to me about it was not only seeing the couple getting married and the happiness that went with that, but also seeing some family that I haven't seen for years."
The Roehslers paid $30 for the webcasting service and $20 for a DVD of the ceremony.
Burgeoning businessPrivate companies typically charge $350 to $600 to webcast a wedding and archive it for 30 days of online viewing. All couples need is a video camera, a computer and Internet access. Asking a company to take care of videography and computers increases costs to up to $2,000, which may not include travel expenses.
Even though couples can now have their event webcast with relative ease, couples still do not think of the service unless they have loved ones who cannot attend, said Ariel Andres, owner of WebcastMyWedding.net in Dallas.
"Webcasting a wedding is not on that to-do list yet," said Andres, who averages three or four wedding webcasts each month. "But what's happening is more and more people are thinking about who can't make it, and that's when they start thinking about webcasting a wedding."
VowCast of Smyrna, Ga., a division of Impact Media Solutions' educational webcasting business, has webcast about 45 ceremonies in a little more than a year of operation.
For families looking at transportation costs, webcasting is a way to save money. For instance, Doug and Muff Hackett of Squamish, British Columbia, are paying for two weddings within two weeks of each other: Their son, Jesse, and their daughter, Megan, are both getting married in July — and the parents of Jesse Hackett's fiancee can't fly in from Australia.
"To be (webcasting) both weddings is less expensive than one airline ticket, so it just seemed like a really good idea," said Muff Hackett, who is using Andres' service for both weddings.
Bob and Ann Willey of Denton, Md., paid less than $600 to webcast their September ceremony. The groom's son, Jason, had just arrived in Australia for a nine-month business project, and coming home would have cost him thousands of dollars. So Jason Willey watched the ceremony at 4 a.m. in his pajamas and says he now has a memory of the event.
"I can talk to (family members) about it, whereas if this hadn't happened, I would just be hearing stories," he said.