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Couples Can Say 'I Do' on the Internet

Technology: San Mateo County will make Internet broadcasts a standard option for civil weddings. Guests invited via e-mail can join the ceremony in cyberspace.


In a few weeks the San Mateo County clerk's office will be asking a new question of wedding-license applicants: Would they like their civil ceremony broadcast over the Web?

After a few successful Valentine's Day experiments in Webcasting weddings from the county government building, the clerk's office has decided to make the practice a standard offering.

"This is the Silicon Valley," said Warren Slocum, the county assessor-clerk-recorder. "We're surrounded by technology and I'm interested in how technology can better serve people."

A small Internet video camera will join the wooden chairs and potted plastic plants in the little wedding room of the county building in Redwood City.

Guests invited via e-mail will be able to log on with a password and watch the exchange of vows live on their computer screens.

Slocum, whose office is also experimenting in Internet voting and puts voter registration lists online, first tried the Webcast on Valentine's Day two years ago.

He skipped them last year because his office was settling into a new county building but last week again turned on the wedding-cam.

All went well. Of 13 couples married by his office on Valentine's Day, five went online.

"If you wanted to invite your family from Texas, they could join you in cyberspace," Slocum said. "It was a fun, exciting, really cool kind of project and we're all very proud."

The image can be a little choppy. "It's not like going to a movie theater," Slocum said. But the couples didn't seem to mind.

The wedding broadcast equipment cost about $1,200. So far his office has not charged for the wedding Webcasts, though Slocum said it probably will charge about $10. A marriage license costs $78 and the county charges an additional $35 for the civil ceremonies.

San Mateo County is not the only place where people are going online with major life events.

Wedding chapels in Las Vegas are doing live-time broadcasts of couples exchanging vows.

Dozens of hospitals across the country are using an online service that sends videos of newborns across the Internet to adoring relatives who can't make it to the maternity ward.

Even a small number of funeral homes are Webcasting memorial services.

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