Getting #married: Using social media to celebrate the sacred

Posted Jan 13, 2012 | New Media Project

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An interview with author Meredith Gould

On November 5, 2011, sociologist, social media expert, and author Meredith Gould married The Rev. Canon Dan Webster, Canon for Evangelism and Ministry Development for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and former news producer for NBC. The couple chose to use various social media applications to organize, plan, and share their wedding with a wider community than would be possible using traditional means.

Meredith has shared their experiences with using social media in this way in her new book Getting #married: Using social media to celebrate the sacred, which is now available in trade paperback and as a Kindle version. In her book, she provides the couple’s rationale for their extensive use of social media in their wedding and shares many useful tips for others who may be interested in doing something similar for their own sacred event. Suggestions for specific tools, timing, how to work with clergy for whom this may be a new idea, and other resources are also included.

Having read (and enjoyed) a pre-release copy of the book, we interviewed Meredith about her book and her wedding to share with you.

What benefits did you hope to gain by using social media so extensively in your wedding plans? Did you get the benefits you were hoping for?

I had several goals in mind when I (with Dan’s support) decided to use so much social media before and during our wedding. For one thing, I’d become uncomfortable with the privatization of weddings and so Getting #Married begins with a brief overview of Christian history relative to this sacrament.

In the opening chapter I note how church weddings have become less public over the centuries. I guessed social media could help restore the community nature of Holy Matrimony to our wedding. I was right!

Also, as a practical matter, I knew online tools and technologies would make it much easier to provide information (e.g., about the ceremony); get information (e.g., about secular legal matters . . . and my dress!); generate a community of support; and involve people who couldn’t attend in person.

I experienced all these benefits. Even more important, we were able to demonstrate how the dignity, reverence, and joy of sacred celebration are in no way diminished by the prudent use of new media. Two months later, I’m still hearing from people who attended IRL (in real life) and online about the joy of being included.

Did you get any negative reactions from family, friends, or guests about using social media in this way?

No one reacted negatively to our using social media, possibly because just about everyone we know realizes it’s here to stay! In fact, so many guests were Twitterati, that I included Twitter handles on name tags.

The very small percentage of guests who remain blissfully unaware of twenty-first century communication either didn’t notice tweeting from (silent) phones or opted for curiosity.

In Getting #Married I describe how we included an invitation to “silence your phone (and) do feel free to post whatever moves or inspires you” in our wedding worship bulletin. We did this to alert people to best practices and underscore how we personally value social media.

Do you have suggestions about ways the social media tools you used for your wedding might work for other kinds of religious services or activities to provide similar benefits?

I wrote Getting #Married to explain the why as well as the how of using social media in a church setting. (I also priced it less than a cup of designer coffee!)

Every tool and technique I mention could be easily used to help plan and open up attendance at baptisms, confirmations, and other church-based celebrations, as well as during weekly worship. Alas, there has been quite a bit of not-always-respectful debate about this, which is why I include an appendix titled, “Dear Pastor.” In that section I ask clergy to prayerfully consider what might be driving a desire to ban social media tools.

Your readers might be interested to know that Getting #Married was vetted by Roman Catholic and Protestant clergy and lay ministers, most of whom I know via Twitter and LinkedIn!

What is your favorite story arising from this experiment?

Just one?  Well, your readers should visit The Rev. Penny Nash’s blog on Thursday, January 12, to read about the #tweddingshower organized by my healthcare colleagues. That’s a great story!

Runner-up would have to be the squeals—although I doubt they’ll appreciate me characterizing their utterances as such—among The Virtual Abbey (@Virtual_Abbey) folks meeting IRL (in real life) for the first time after years of praying the Daily Office together on Twitter. Wild.

And while having nothing to do with social media, I must mention the Episcopal Carmelite nun in full habit who interrupted herself while talking with me to announce, “I’m coveting your dress.” She also mentioned having WiFi at their convent.

Did you use social media on your honeymoon, too?

What’s your best guess?? Here’s a clue: Our wedding liturgy, which began mid-afternoon, was followed by a lovely “High Tea” reception at the Cathedral. We were back home, changed into comfy clothes, and online by 6:30 p.m.

As is generally the case, I logged onto Twitter, and Dan logged onto Facebook. I also checked the #3xCharm tweets that I had aggregated with CoverItLive. By 8:00 p.m., lovingly snarky tweets starting showing up in the public Twitter stream, suggesting we do something else on our wedding night. Yet another example of how social media builds and sustains community. Thanks be to God!

Getting #Married
Meredith Gould, Ph.D., @meredithgould, sociologist and author of eight books including The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today (Morehouse), is also the founder of the weekly church social media chat (#chsocm) on Twitter. Dr. Gould’s new book, Getting #Married: Using Social Media to Celebrate the Sacred is available in trade paperback from CreateSpace and on Kindle from Amazon.

The New Media Project is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact newmediaproject@cts.edu.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Meredith Gould 31 Jan
    Grateful to have this interview posted here. I appreciate all that you're doing to advance the cause for using social media wisely and well in the service of church and faith.

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