What if you could take your $50,000 wedding budget and divide it by five? Many brides are doing just that with the help of a floundering event industry trying to recover from the past few dismal months. One event planning company in Memphis has revamped its whole business model to focus on this buzzy phenomenon: micro weddings. Memphis Micro Wedding Collective offers a 2.5-hour wedding package at the Memphis Botanic Garden, where every detail is completely taken care of for $4,400. Coordination, venue, bridal suite, digital invitations, florals, ceremony decor, boutonniere and bouquet, officiant, ceremony streaming services, wedding photography, and a small reception with cake, champagne toast, and passed hors d’oeuvres. Considering the average wedding costs well over $33,000, this is a significant shift. Not all micro weddings are under $5,000 (think more like $10,000), but they all include a guest count of about 50 guests or fewer.
With a low guest count, there are a few negatives and a lot of pluses. You won’t invite your mom’s second cousin, and your best friend at work might not get a plus one. Only the nearest and dearest attend, but micro weddings are planned just like traditional weddings, only on a much smaller scale. Brides around the country are realizing the upsides: a variety of venue and destination options, more quality time with loved ones, low-stress budgeting, and opportunities for personal and creative touches. Let’s dive into the world of micro weddings and glean some insight from the wedding pros.
Why is the micro wedding having a moment?
The most obvious reason the micro wedding is a rising trend is, of course, to hit a COVID-friendly guest count. Brides and planners alike are staying ever-conscious of the safety and comfort of guests and vendors … not to mention the ever-changing government guidelines to which venues must adhere. Some medium-to-large weddings aren’t legally allowed to happen right now, or if they are, there is so much red tape that brides want to simplify. “Many brides have been planning their wedding for months — sometimes even over a year. So having looked forward to their wedding date for so long, it’s understandable that some brides don’t want to push the date back any further,” explains esteemed planner Amos Gott of AmosEvents. “By moving ahead with a more intimate wedding than originally planned, they are still able to have a special ceremony, wear their wedding dress, and walk down the aisle like they always dreamed.”
However, this surge in micro weddings actually predates the pandemic. The advantages of scaling down are plentiful, one of the most obvious being the budget. “A smaller guest list is inevitably going to be less expensive. However, a smaller wedding is also an opportunity to invest in personal details that might otherwise get lost in a much larger wedding event,” Amos says. While many brides have pushed their dates to next year, others are just cutting their guest lists and cutting expenses to make room for creativity and safety.
Venues and vendors WANT your business!
We have had some unorthodox venue options crop up because they have seen their value within this mini wedding paradigm, and the possibilities are endless. Think small restaurant, library, boutique hotel, outdoor garden, zoo, historic building, Airbnb … the list goes on. In fact, venue selection is key, and it should be the first piece of the micro wedding puzzle. After losing unthinkable amounts of revenue while the country was in complete lockdown, many hotels and venues across the country now incorporate these small wedding packages into their offerings in order to bolster business as they reopen. Places like Charlotte’s Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel, for example, offer a “Minimalist Matrimony” menu with four turnkey wedding options for up to 28 guests with packages ranging from $1,250 to $4,500.
A perfect voice from the venue side, Colleen Locke runs 1220 Nashville, a gorgeous historic building in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood that’s begun offering “petite weddings” and customizable packages. “We were already positioned to host rehearsal dinners and smaller events, so the leap was not significant. 1220 was built for intimate, cultivated gatherings that are personal and intentional, so petite weddings felt like a most natural pivot,” she says.
This is also a chance to support the flexibility of vendors. “The event industry has been hard hit by the virus,” Amos adds. “Venues and vendors are happy to have the business, so they are going above and beyond to ensure the occasion is taking necessary health and safety precautions while also meeting the needs of planners and clients.” Venues work with rental companies to build elegant sanitization stands. Rental companies repackage their price lists for smaller affairs so brides can quickly pick options. “For clients who still want a customized wedding, vendors are being flexible to work with me on special elements to make the occasion unique and personalized to my brides,” Amos adds. The possibilities are immeasurably wider when you’re planning for 50 people instead of 500.
“In a smaller space with fewer people, there will be far more opportunity to pause, go slow, and experience your surroundings on such a life-changing day,” Colleen reminds us. All of these touches like thoughtful guest gifts, photo slideshows, quirky drink names, intricate floral displays … they are more appreciated and noticed by guests when you’re all together in one shared space. A bride can choose vendors that she might not have thought to be within budget or possible … like her top-pick photographer or a live-painting artist or a foodie-centric caterer. Those vendors’ bookings have likely been affected, and they are looking to pivot, too.
Smaller doesn’t mean less spectacular.
Venues and vendors have shifted to make these micro weddings just as spectacular as large-scale ones. Many couples were budgeting for larger weddings, so they have some leeway to splurge on certain things like the dress or the band or the food, but even those on a micro-budget can have fun with some of the frills and details. “First and foremost, we are all doing our best to make sure we affirm that this day will be no less special in these circumstances,” Colleen says. Planners and venues help couples see the special opportunity they have to create something completely unique and grand. “For example, florals may take on a completely different focus in a smaller venue. Let’s highlight that and create drama in a way we could never have done in a larger space,” Colleen adds excitedly.
“One shift I’ve seen is the need to keep guests busy with things to do as well as provide a feeling of safety,” Amos adds. “From creating vignettes of family wedding photos to standalone hors d’oeuvres and signature drink stations where guests can walk up and get a refreshment and move on, keeping guests moving about and exploring extends the life of the wedding event.” Additionally, this can include more personalization at the dining table such as cloth napkins with the couple’s monogram, or initials and unique menu cards embellished with artwork or wedding motif.
Return to the true meaning of a wedding.
“As we watched our community pull together through COVID, it was crystal clear we were all being reminded of that which matters most: PEOPLE!” Colleen emphasizes. “Weddings and the why behind them have been a tremendous opportunity to reflect on priorities. Big weddings are great, for sure, but many couples are finding, deep down, a bit of relief when it comes to scale. Bigger is not always better.” And since many marriages can see rocky starts and endings due to financial disagreements, it has been refreshing for newlyweds to come out the other side debt-free.
Colleen adds, “While it is definitely a challenge to refine budgets and guest lists, and pivot to honor COVID guidelines, we are finding a different sort of creative energy breathing life into our couples. What matters most? Who do we believe must be a part of this day? What are the priority details and offerings we hope to provide for our guests? We believe this moment in time is a tremendous opportunity to deep dive into the meaning behind the details and answers to these questions.”
We often hear big-wedding brides air sentiments of regret and overwhelming dizziness when they think back to their night spent pinballing between 200 friends and family. Rarely do we hear sentiments from the other direction.
“While I do miss all of the logistical details of a larger affair, micro weddings offer the opportunity to really get more creative in intimate details that a smaller guest list will notice and appreciate,” Amos says. “Micro weddings provide my clients with their own unique experience instead of a cookie-cutter event.” All the uncertainty surrounding gatherings, guests, planners and brides alike lauds the peculiarity, personality and simplicity of the micro wedding. It’s not the grand soirée that most brides (and probably their mothers) fantasized about, but we are learning more than ever to treasure quality over quantity.
Relive some of the South’s most special weddings in our archives HERE!