Social-media giant Facebook has introduced new 50-person video chatrooms called Messenger Rooms as an alternative to sites like Zoom and Houseparty, which have experienced exponential growth during the COVID-19 stay-at-home mandates.

Messenger Rooms, which began rolling out April 24 and will continue to expand in regions throughout the coming weeks, are perfect for bridal: a cheaper (read: free!) alternative on an already-familiar-to-stores-and-brides platform, which will feature an increased focus on experience and security.

Here’s how it works: The host must have a Facebook account and can start a Room via either Messenger or Facebook by clicking on the “Create Room” button on the Chats page. Then you set the activity for the room, the privacy settings of who can discover it, and a start time. Up to 50 people may be invited to join, including those who don’t have Facebook; chats are free with no time limit (in contrast, Zoom’s free version limits you to 40 minutes); and users can incorporate fun options like augmented reality backgrounds as well as camera filters to enhance their filming space with ambient lighting. Users also have the ability to jump between chats to visit different groups.

Ultimately, Facebook’s goal is to offer a group video product that feels more social and less corporate than what’s currently available, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. This is an important point for boutiques, which thrive by developing a rapport with brides. In fact, Messenger Rooms are the perfect platform to gather bridal parties, host virtual appointments, show off a dress to loved ones who can’t attend a physical appointment, or provide educational seminars for customers. They could also prove helpful for staff meetings and even interviews.

In terms of security, brides will likely feel more comfortable because Facebook is a familiar platform, and Messenger Rooms include several safeguards that should further reassure them: users may select chat participants, eject people if needed and lock the room. Additionally, Facebook won’t watch or listen to calls, and users cannot record video chats.

Aside from Messenger Rooms, another new Facebook video feature that could benefit boutiques is the ability to post livestreams to IGTV, giving brides and prom girls a longer timeframe to view anything you film.

Both features are worth trying out and offer plenty of positives for bridal. As with any new technology, it’s a good idea to experiment with friends, family or staff first to work out the kinks before debuting to customers.