Will you be attending our wedding? Check "yes", "no", or "via Skype." Gone are the days when one actually had to be physically present to witness a day of matrimony. Weddings, baby showers, or other big events can be live streamed with far-away friends and family with just a phone or tablet for next to nothing (or even free).
Skype let this family in Canada witness a wedding across the pond in the UK, helped elderly grandparents in Florida attend their granddaughter's wedding in Colorado, and also allowed a mother stricken with cancer to watch her daughter's wedding from a hospital bed. One wedding in Denver even FaceTime'd in a bridesmaid from Virginia; a groomsman walked her down the aisle on an iPad.
When guests are far away or in poor health, live streaming a wedding or other event can make them feel a part of the action. It can also expand an intimate guest list, sharing a private family ceremony with all of the friends who weren't able to attend.
Skype, the "Kleenex" or "Xerox" of the video chat world, can be accessed from a laptop computer, or from a smartphone or tablet with the Skype app. For a one-on-one call, such as conferencing in a far-away friend, Skype is free. But a $10-per-month Skype Premium subscription allows group chats with up to 10 people.
Apple's FaceTime is available to anyone with an iPhone, iPad or Mac for one-on-one calling. Apple's mobile devices are equipped with front and back facing cameras which are easy to switch between, making FaceTime seamless for an in-person wedding ambassador, like a cousin, to easily flip between face chatting with an far-away aunt and showing her the bouquet toss.
HangWith & Ustream
Both are free apps for iOS and Android, allowing users to broadcast live video to any number of people. Virtual attendees can text chat in the background about how beautiful the bride looks, or how excited they are to find out "It's a boy!" at the baby shower.
YouTube Live & Google+ Hangouts On Air
Already set up with YouTube or Google+ to share news and video with friends? Use an existing account to schedule and stream live events with friends, family and followers. Both require a laptop and reliable wi-fi, but have the added bonus of automatically saving the stream to your Google+ page and YouTube channel for future viewing.
(Images: Shottle Hall, Amanda Kooser/CNET, Google+)