Attending a wedding at 5am (in my pyjamas)

April 13, 2012 | 7 comments

A few weeks ago, my friends Mark and Sana got married in Oxford Town Hall. My sister Hannah and I were invited, but sadly couldn’t attend, on the grounds that we were over 5,000 miles and an ocean away. They’re both wonderful people, and I’ve known Sana in particular for a very long time, so this made me very sad indeed.

So, here’s what happened.

On Saturday morning, I woke up at 5am, brushed my hair and dressed up (from the waist up). Celia, who was able to attend the wedding in person, brought her MacBook Pro. And as friends and family gathered to watch the ceremony, she FaceTimed me.

In fact, it almost didn’t happen. Mark and Sana had checked with the venue beforehand, and it looked like they had wifi – but on the day, it wasn’t working. So Sven switched his HTC Desire into hotspot mode, and I attended the wedding via FaceTime over a 4G cellphone connection. Not a planned backup – he just happened to have a broadband connection in his pocket (as many of the guests probably did). Thank you Android; thank you Apple.

Now, granted, it was a little fuzzy – that’s a picture of the happy couple after signing the registry book to the right there – but it was more than enough to see and hear what was going on.

Let’s step back for a moment and think about what this might have required ten years ago. Two sets of ISDN lines, a webcam and specialist software? Some kind of satellite connection? Yet today, it was possible with commodity hardware. It didn’t even use much of Sven’s cellphone data allowance.

People talk about the Internet as being information at your fingertips, anywhere; I like to think of it as being a way to connect anyone to anyone in deeper and deeper ways. Here’s some footage from the wedding reception, a little later on, which I recorded using the screen capture software Screeny (that’s Mark playing drums):

Forget flying cars, or scaremongering tales of social networking making us more emotionally isolated: the future we’re living in is more human, more democratic and more personal than ever before. Sitting in Berkeley, getting choked up over a wedding 8 timezones away, I felt more grateful than ever before for all the ways that technology brings us together.

5am wedding guests

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7 Comments

  1. I wish you could have been there in person of course, but seeing you both via the magic of the internet was definitely the next best thing.  Mark and I were so, so happy you managed to share our day despite being half the world away!

    Susannah Baldwin April 14, 2012 (2:52 am)
  2. Slight correction: We don’t have 4G in the UK yet.

    But the fact that this is doable on cheap(ish) commodity software/hardware is plain awesome.

    Andrew Ducker April 14, 2012 (5:45 am)
  3. D’oh! Good catch. I knew that, of course, but I’m so used to my 4G over here. Well, that makes it doubly impressive!

    Ben Werdmuller April 14, 2012 (10:57 am)
  4. I was really, truly ecstatic. Absolutely wished I could have been there in person, but given that I couldn’t, this was a dream.

    Ben Werdmuller April 14, 2012 (10:58 am)
  5. That is pretty awesome. I Facetimed my dad from Death Valley whilst on my honeymoon. Made me cry!

    Sally Lloyd April 16, 2012 (3:35 am)
  6. It is not a new observation; the internet makes the world a much smaller and more human place. I have friends and business contacts all over the world, family too. My mum reads my twitter stream and feels a part of my life even when I’m travelling. 

    The big thing for me is actually a little thing; nobody has to say goodbye any more, because you’re always able to talk to someone instantly.

    Marcus Povey April 17, 2012 (3:15 am)
  7. Yes, this!  Saying goodbye has generally ceased to be a sad thing for me because I can still connect with most people (plus I’ve figured out how to get around the world for cheap, so I don’t assume it’ll necessarily be many years before I see someone again).

    Loved this post, Ben – thanks for sharing the footage. I wish I could’ve been there too. As it was, I’d just landed in Kuala Lumpur …

    Nine May 11, 2012 (6:28 am)

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