Wedding planning has never been more challenging than during this past year, with restrictions on social gatherings across the country causing the cancelation, modification, and postponement of thousands of weddings. According to The Knot Global COVID-19 Weddings Report, 56% of couples with weddings in the next five months will have a smaller guest count by 25% or more. Even a pandemic can’t cancel love, but a trend toward more intimate micro weddings has taken off.
What Is a Micro Wedding?
A micro wedding is a step up from an elopement, which might consist of just the couple or the couple plus a small wedding party. While there is no definitive cutoff on the size of a micro wedding, most wedding planners and venues describe weddings of up to 25 or 30 people as micro weddings, with 50 people being the upper limit.
“Any event that requires more of a guided timeline with notable moments throughout the evening, as well as a seated dinner, toasts, and dances in a group larger than 10 is more of a micro wedding than an elopement,” says wedding and event planner Anna Noriega of Alorè Event Firm in South Florida.
Micro weddings are not a new concept, but they’ve been popularized during the pandemic due to social distancing requirements and travel restrictions. “Smaller weddings allow your budget to stretch further and you are able to do more for [fewer] people,” Noriega says. “Perhaps a nicer venue, nicer flowers, or even a celebration that includes a pre- and post-event can all be possible when you are working with a smaller group but a healthy budget.” Depending on the destination, venue, and the number of guests, many micro weddings can be planned for less than $5,000.
How Do You Plan One?
Since they’re smaller and easier to plan, couples are booking micro weddings just one to two months out.
“Each unique destination has its own guidelines which can include everything from temperature checks, masks, socially-distant seating requirements, and no open buffets,” Noriega says. “Ask your venue and vendor what they are doing to keep you and your guests safe and ensure that you feel comfortable with their measures.”
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, Zingerman’s Cornman Farms launched a micro-wedding option last year called The Tiny Wedding for couples looking for the simplicity and affordability of a courthouse wedding, but still hoping for a beautifully curated experience. Each season, over three consecutive days, Cornman Farms hosts up to 15 micro weddings for a maximum of 10 guests, which includes the ceremony, venue rental, sparkling wine toast, bouquet, photography, and wedding cake for less than $2,500. They’re able to achieve these economies of scale while working with great local vendors by hosting multiple weddings each day. Bookings are done entirely online so there’s none of the stress and complicated logistics traditionally associated with wedding planning. Winter 2021 weddings will take place in January with a reduced capacity of six guests under the current executive order. Cornman Farms also offers a more bespoke micro wedding package for up to 20 guests year-round that includes a four-course, farm-to-table meal for $7,000 or less.
But while the financial aspect of a micro wedding might be appealing, it can be hard to whittle down the guest list. Luckily, creative audiovisual options make it possible for those who aren’t physically present to still be there in spirit. Many venues can set up a flatscreen so the ceremony can be live-streamed to friends and family anywhere in the world. Cynika Drake, event and wedding producer and president of Lavish Lifestyle Concierge, says that the micro weddings she is planning tend to be quite tech-heavy, so she works with a dedicated AV team to best capture these special moments with the ideal lighting and camera angles for virtual guests.
Tirusha Dave of Bravura Brides specializes in planning luxury Indian weddings and she suggests keeping tiered lists of guests so that if capacities increase, you can proceed accordingly. “Before COVID, Indian weddings were never micro,” she says. “But micro celebrations have become attractive alternatives for many couples, from intimate home weddings to beach weddings.” One couple she’s working with rescheduled their grand reception at the St. Regis Deer Valley to August 2021, but in the meantime, they had a sunset wedding with just their parents and a few witnesses in Muir Beach, California.
What Destinations Should You Consider?
With a smaller wedding, many couples are keeping it local if family and friends live nearby. City hotels like The Gray in Chicago, The London West Hollywood and Hotel Figueroa in Los Angeles, The Foundry in Asheville, and W Minneapolis – The Foshay have all debuted value-conscious micro wedding packages during the pandemic that might include waived event room rental fees, a complimentary night in a honeymoon suite, or fun extras like a couple’s mixology course or customized wedding gifts.
If guests are flying in from both coasts, an outdoor destination like Park City is especially appealing, with the brand new Salt Lake City International Airport making it easy to meet in the middle. “Park City has long been an ideal location for any destination wedding,” says Kasey Plourde, owner of Harvest Moon Events. “It is one of the most accessible mountain towns in the U.S. and there are hundreds of beautiful mountainside homes available to rent that can accommodate possibly your entire wedding guest list. You may even find a spot while on a hike or while skiing that’s the perfect place to say ‘I do.’” It’s important to consider interstate quarantine guidelines for guests, although this can become tricky as these guidelines are changing regularly.
Most international destinations are off the table for Americans right now, but Mexico is a real possibility, with no travel restrictions on air travel to the country combined with lowered airfare and resort prices. Velas Resorts are hosting micro weddings for up to 30 people at all six of their resorts, and they have implemented extensive health & safety measures to protect travelers, including limiting occupancy to 30% and allowing for significant spacing between guests.
Puerto Rico is another great option for a warm beach wedding if you’re trying to keep it domestic. Resorts like La Concha, El Convento Hotel in Old San Juan, and the St. Regis Bahia Beach all have thoughtfully curated wedding packages for groups of 20 people at a ballpark of $5,000 or less.
What Creative Packages Are Hotels Offering?
“With a micro wedding you have the chance to truly personalize the experience for your guests,” says Stephanie Ahoni, the Director of Catering and Events at The London West Hollywood. “For example, you can add pictures of each person to their place card, and take away gifts can be customized to each guest.” Ahoni has planned micro weddings for up to 10 guests on The London’s private rooftop, including a ceremony and reception with a champagne toast, wedding cake, and three-course wine dinner. The married couple also receives a complimentary honeymoon night in their Chelsea Suite.
The Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis is hosting intimate sunrise or sunset wedding ceremonies for 50 guests or fewer on the sky terrace, with views of the Gateway Arch and Mississippi River. The 12,000 square-foot spa and salon includes a spacious bridal lounge while the guys hang out in the Topgolf Swing Suite. Rooftop pool cabanas and beloved James Beard Award-winning local chef Gerard Craft will curate the menu. Across town, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis includes a private piano player and a rose petal turndown with their micro-wedding package.
The 21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati is capitalizing on its identity as a contemporary art museum with a hotel attached by hosting weddings for up to 30 guests throughout their second-floor art galleries beside captivating pieces by Kehinde Wiley and Bae Joonsung. The art galleries are normally open to the public but during COVID, only hotel guests have access, so micro wedding parties feel extra safe. Bridal parties can prepare for the big day at the only hotel spa in Cincinnati and the 21c banquet team has even delivered room service dinner for one wedding group that felt more comfortable hosting their reception in the privacy of their rooms via Zoom. “We want to meet everyone at their comfort level,” says Director of Sales and Marketing, Jessica Tomain.
If crisis breeds creativity, hotels and wedding venues are being more flexible than ever to help couples eager create a magical celebration of love within the confines of health guidelines and budget constraints.