What One Event Pro Learned While Planning Her Own Virtual Wedding
Masha Berenboym, the Los Angeles-based owner of Artists Creating Entertainment, draws on her own experience to share key takeaways for planning memorable hybrid celebrations.
Photo: Dina Douglass/Adrena PhotoLOS ANGELES—Want to learn some best practices for your own events? Take a look at how event professionals plan their own personal celebrations.
Case in point: Last month, Masha Berenboym, the owner of Los Angeles-based Artists Creating Entertainment, hosted a virtual wedding ceremony that was chock-full of inspiration for hybrid gatherings of all types. Though she’s typically curating memorable entertainment for clients such as the California Science Center, Absolut Vodka, and Sephora, Berenboym knew that her own wedding was a chance to put some of her many years of experience into action—and to show the event industry that it is still possible to hold a dream celebration during COVID-19.
The August wedding had a small, in-person component in her mother’s backyard in Sherman Oaks, Calif., plus an online audience of more than 500 people via Zoom. With a planning window of just three weeks, Berenboym tapped into her existing networking of event collaborators, led by frequent collaborator Shawna Yamamoto Event Design.
One silver lining? Berenboym and her Brazil-born groom were able to incorporate family members who might not have otherwise traveled for the ceremony. The couple’s friends and family from around the world joined virtually, using Zoom’s feature to chat and offering prerecorded messages to toast the newlyweds. Some invitees even hosted their own small viewing parties. Photo: Dina Douglass/Adrena Photo
"With the majority of guests joining us through Zoom, it still felt as if they were physically present at the wedding—and at the same time, I got to be more present in the moment," said Berenboym. "And we had more people from around the world celebrating with us than we could have ever imagined. Even after we are able to have larger gatherings and people feel more comfortable coming together in masses, I would highly recommend implementing a livestream component."
Berenboym shared some more lessons learned from pivoting to a small-scale, hybrid gathering. Here are her top tips:
1. Let someone else be in charge. “Everyone should have a day-of coordinator even for the smallest-sized event,” she suggested. “You will want to let someone else be in charge so you can enjoy your day.”
2. Even small events shouldn't skimp on decor. “Once you lock in your venue, the decor should be your next focal point. ... It’s all about making the space even more beautiful, and the rest comes after."
3. Work with vendors who really understand your vision. This is even more important during a livestreamed wedding, Berenboym noted, since you’ll have few opportunities to pause and make in-the-moment requests for the photographer. “And decor details will be a focal point for the camera throughout the evening,” she added.
4. Hire a professional team that specializes in virtual events. “It will require more know-how than you may imagine—but when done it’s right, guests joining from all over the world can feel like they're right there with you thanks to multiple angles capturing not only the rituals and entertainment but also live reactions," she said. And don’t forget to record the Zoom!
5. Find your best angles. Pick multiple angles for your still cameras to give the production team more options and the viewers at home more variety, Berenboym suggested. “And consider a split-screen that captures your reaction during the prerecorded speeches.”
6. Incorporate some of the virtual guests. “Decide ahead of time who you will ask to share their screen during the reception so that they will be camera-ready,” she said. “Last-minute production requests can throw off the flow and result in unexpected technical difficulties.”
7. Ask your guests to prerecord a congratulations video. This allows everyone to be included without having to toggle over them in real time during the event.
8. Consider adding an LED wall. Berenboym's wedding featured a large-scale LED screen that allowed her to see her virtual guests in HD, leading to a more interactive, intimate experience.
9. Entertainment is crucial! Unsurprisingly, Berenboym’s wedding didn’t skimp on entertainment, including a fire dancer offering eye-catching visual effects, Samba dancers as an homage to the groom’s roots, and live musical acts. “The entertainment elements were key because they create a show-like atmosphere with surprise performances throughout the evening,” she explained.
10. Have a virtual dance floor! “Consider a ‘dance-off’ highlighting virtual attendees getting into the groove, toggling from one participant to the next,” suggested Berenboym.
Scroll down for a look at the wedding's stylish setting.
VENDORS: Shawna Yamamoto Event Design (decor, floral) | Collective Rentals (rentals) | LA Piñata Party Rentals (rentals) | Artists Creating Entertainment (entertainment) | Jorge Ortega (sweetheart and buffet tables) | Muve.TV (Zoom video production) | Elite Audio Visual (LED screen, lighting) | Second Song (DJ) | Dina Douglass/Adrena Photography (photography) | Christopher James Cramer (videography) | Face It Sugar (beauty) | About Thyme (catering) | Sugar Studio LA (cake)