cyberwedding
Photo courtesy of Sarah Shewey and Colin Ho

Digital Nuptials: Family, Friends and Strangers Log On to Celebrate Love

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Instead of letting the city shutdown get her down, Sarah Shewey concocted a plan to save her wedding — and open it up to the world.

“We were like, ‘No, we’re not fucking canceling our wedding.’”

That’s the declaration Sarah Shewey made after L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that public gatherings were canceled back in March. Well, first she cried a bit. Then she got drunk. Her wedding with Colin Ho, the lovingly nicknamed “Coco” to her “Shew,” was meant to take place April 25 at the Rose Garden in Exposition Park. Her despair lasted 24 hours, actually, less than 24 hours.

“I just knew that when April 25 rolled around, if I’m not doing something with everybody, it’s gonna be a really sad day,” Shew says. Her wedding would have been the first time in 40 years that her whole family came together from different parts of the globe. “So I was like, no, we’re going to do it and we’re going to make it awesome.”

After one night of boozed-up devastation, go-getter Shew woke up with a new plan. They would have a virtual, over-the-top wedding open to friends and strangers on Zoom. “I’m just an insane person and when I come up with ideas, I just do it,” she says. They dubbed it “Cyberwedding,” and hired Japanese comedian Mr. Uekusa through the website Cameo to announce the event.

“The best $50 I ever spent,” Shew says.

Perhaps now is a good time to mention that Shew runs Happily, a network of 50,000 event specialists geared specifically toward unconventional weddings. “My company’s whole business is helping weirdo DIY couples on the day,” she says. “We don’t do planning. We let people go crazy, think of anything you want, and then 30 days before, we make it happen. So that’s what I do.”

Coco and Shew were already going about things in a nontraditional way. They preplanned their proposal which took place at “The Lightning Field” in New Mexico, a massive work of land art created in 1977 by Walter De Maria. SpaceX engineer Coco 3D-printed their rings. If one slips into the garbage disposal, no problem, he can make more. And they were actually going to have a cyber-themed wedding. Now, with bizarre circumstances thrust upon them, this would be the most unconventional project Shew’s ever taken on.

Naturally, she bought lasers, a fog machine and shimmery foil curtains to serve as the nuptial backdrop. The couple indulged in several outfit changes throughout the ceremony. While Shew wore a white wedding dress for the vows, Coco got hitched in a spacesuit. “We decided to be 100% extra because the internet lets you do that,” she says with a giggle. “We got our wonderful weirdo friends to help.”

And by “extra” she’s referring to a shadow puppet show by Christine Marie telling the couple’s courtship story and a karaoke video of Kendrick Lamar’s “Love” covered by their friend Dyllan, starring Coco and Shew parading through the empty streets of downtown Los Angeles, plus a sneaky romp through the rose garden, which was virtually directed by experimental documentarians DS Chun and Mustafa Rony Zeno.

“Our whole purpose was to show what can happen when community comes together with art and technology. You can do anything! And you can feel close to people. We need that right now.”

Sarah Shewey

Still, they needed one more crucial player. Someone had to weave the prerecorded and livestreaming elements together: the vows, her uncle who officiated from afar — partially with his computer muted — the DJ at home and the delightful Zoom-enabled dance party that ensued. There would be no post-production. Shew turned to KamranV who she met via radio collective Dublab where they both serve on the board. KamranV is an arts technologist, the co-founder and CTO of Moogfest, a music, art and technology festival. He also owns Bedrock, the Echo Park rehearsal and recording space. Shew describes him as a “wizard.”

Wedding prep: Among the many wires, camera stands and monitors, KamranV and Colin Ho set up for the big event.
Wedding prep: Among the many wires, camera stands and monitors, KamranV and Colin Ho set up for the big event. Photo courtesy of Sarah Shewey and Colin Ho.

“Oh, my god,” she says, “we’re naming our firstborn child after him.” KamranV was the only person in the room for the wedding. He showed up with three cases of equipment, lots of “tiny, cool cameras” and a lighting rig. They set up five monitors and KamranV blended everything live with his video mixer.

“It was a pretty massive technical feat,” Shew says. And while she gets a little choked up wishing she could have shared the experience with her family and friends IRL, she is proud of what they accomplished.

“Our whole purpose was to show what can happen when community comes together with art and technology,” she says. “You can do anything! And you can feel close to people. We need that right now. Events suspend reality for a while. You go into this hyper-real mode and I think we accomplished that with Cyberwedding.”

Perhaps life, as we know it, has changed for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean we can’t adapt. “It’s sad to see all these protesters and people actually dying because they’re getting shot by angry people,” she says. “Everyone needs to put that energy into inventing and innovating and creating. And that’s no small task.”

In the end, 1,500 people attended their virtual wedding. And a lot of them were strangers. You can go too, and you don’t even have to wear pants. It’s up at Cocoshew.com.

Los Angeleno