Adaptability. Amidst a COVID-19 pandemic that’s changed the way we approach virtually every aspect of living—that single word seems to be the overarching theme of the past year. Though necessary, adapting and adjusting hasn’t been easy, particularly when something as affecting as COVID-19 crosses paths with our most exciting major life events: landing that dream job; traveling to faraway places; welcoming new life into the family; saying “I do” to your love at a perfectly executed wedding ceremony (you know, the one you’ve been envisioning since before the proposal happened).
But surviving our new normal with COVID in 2021 doesn’t mean we should cancel, or even postpone, those cherished memories-in-the-making, and gorgeous weddings are no exception to the rule. Recent years have proven that micro weddings are the perfect compromise between large weddings and completely under-the-radar elopements (which are typically more last-minute and with only a miniscule guest list). Read on to learn how to plan a micro wedding during COVID in 2021, and how to plan this micro wedding in style.
While these smaller, more intimate weddings comprise of 50 guests or less, they still allow newlyweds to celebrate their marriage with good friends and family—a quality that neither elopements or trendier, COVID-friendly ‘minimonies’ (characterized by 10 or fewer guests) allow. And the advantages of going the intimate wedding route extend far beyond a flexible guest list—just ask a wedding expert like Casie Nguyen.
“Not only do micro weddings focus on the wants and needs of the bride and groom, but they allow the couple to have a ceremony for a lower cost… plus, these ceremonies are COVID-compliant,” says Nguyen, a long-time event producer based in Los Angeles. “So these ceremonies can still be special and detail-oriented—but simply without the stress of larger gatherings.”
The idea of a wedding ceremony with all the beauty and jubilee, yet only a fraction of the anxiety (either COVID or planning related) is totally enticing. We put together a guide to help you get familiar with the ins and outs of how to plan the perfect small-scale big day.
What are the basics of planning a micro wedding?
Our favorite aspect of a smaller wedding is that they’re still an elegant and ageless way to get married—so those who embrace this type of nuptial can embrace every bit of the wedding planning process without sacrificing time-honored traditions, such as inviting your closest loved ones to celebrate with you and your partner.
“Because the guest list is smaller, if you opt for a micro wedding, you won’t have to feel guilty about not inviting your twice-removed aunt who you last spoke to when you were five,” notes Nguyen.
This is not to say it’ll be easy having to limit your guest list. But approaching the subject with grace and confidence will make it easier for you to break the news to inquiring non-invitees, and once they see photos of the ceremony on social media, these distant friends and extended family members are more likely to understand how intimate of an event it was, and why they didn’t make the cut.
What are the benefits of having a smaller-sized wedding in 2021?
Another reason to love smaller weddings is that they allow newlyweds-to-be to indulge their own nuptial aspirations. For instance, both brides and grooms will be relieved to hear that in 2021 many wedding experts still encourage couples to have a registry regardless of how small the wedding is, as friends and family may want to give gifts at any small gathering leading up to the ceremony itself. With a registry, loved ones can support your big moment while knowing their gifts will be put to good use (while you and Mr. Right can finally get your hands on those matching bathrobes you’ve been eyeing for the past seven months).
And though making things official via a minimony or elopement is also COVID-friendly, neither formats cater to brides who have long been looking forward to diving head-first into the creative aspects of their ceremony—like creating a decorative theme, finding the perfect venue, or styling your wedding ensemble. Unlike larger ceremonies, micro celebrations truly allow a bride to invest more time or resources in perfecting every detail of her wedding in a manner that uniquely serves her and the groom’s interests, as there are far less competing opinions to attend to with small-scale weddings.
Are micro weddings more affordable than traditionally sized weddings?
These weddings are smaller celebrations with less guests to invest in—thus, they’re relatively more affordable when compared to their standard, full-size counterparts (just last year, The Knot reported that the average wedding size included just over 130 guests). This point alone might be enough to convince some couples to ditch the idea of sticking with a larger wedding in 2021 without having to stress about guests’ health and safety, or the intense process of planning an event with so many guests.
“When you have major weddings, each guest [costs] $100 to $200 on average with an open bar package, which can add up,” Nguyen elaborates. “With micro weddings, the guest count is smaller, which helps on costs—the amount that my clients save from micro weddings allows them to be as creative as they want because far less of their budget is being tossed at catering expenses.”
But more creative freedom and cheaper catering aren’t the only financial benefits to planning a smaller celebration; many of these ceremonies permit couples to reduce (or even skip!) venue costs, too by hosting a backyard wedding. “I’m seeing a lot of micro weddings happening at the bride and grooms’ backyard, or that of a close friend or family member, which reduces venue costs because you don’t have to worry about capacity… with the way event producers have been planning backyard weddings, it’s a total transformation! Many venues now offer small wedding packages for parties of ten, which are a fraction of the cost of a normal wedding—what was once a $20,000 package is now significantly less because of this smaller guest count.”
However, keep in mind that despite having an understated wedding in 2021, vendors will still charge wedding prices, which are known for being higher than expenses for any other special occasion or event. This means that for essentials like a wedding cake, transportation, photography, flowers, music, and other needs, the size of your wedding will not exempt you from the infamous “wedding tax.” Still, the average micro wedding is likely to be cheaper than the average size wedding.
What are some COVID-compliant precautionary measures you can take as a bride or a guest to ensure a safer environment during COVID?
In 2021, perhaps the most appealing aspect of planning a micro wedding is their general compliance with COVID-19 safety protocol in the wake of the ongoing pandemic. When done carefully and compassionately, these small-scale celebrations can be not only fun and heartwarming, but low-risk. Those planning on pursuing this route should take as many precautionary measures as possible to maintain a healthy, positive, COVID-safe environment for both themselves and their beloved guests—and although challenging, COVID-safety should be as much of a priority as other aspects of organizing and strategizing the big day.
Nguyen says the first step to figuring out how to plan a micro wedding during COVID in 2021, is for couples to be aware of their county’s COVID-19 status, and see what limitations their local government have put in place regarding gatherings, big or small.
“Depending on the county you’re in, there are limitations on how many hours you can be out for, how many people can gather at one time, and where,” she reminds.
Nguyen notes that a bride can take various other COVID precautionary measures to create a safer environment for not only her guests, but vendors. “Safety is an important concern to both guests and vendors. For me, that means all of my vendors have to sign a liability waiver and wear the proper protective gear, and my tables are usually outside, seating small groups of four to six, spread at least six feet apart.”
She also notes that it’s a great idea to have hand-sanitizing and/or portable hand-washing stations throughout (some even blend into the décor, she says), temperature checks, and liability waivers to “ensure everyone [can] have fun and be safe.”
Unpredictable weather is another circumstance to consider—for example, tents should be available if rain is in the forecast, or outdoor furnaces may be useful in chillier climates. And when in doubt, COVID testing is always a responsible way to work towards creating a healthy space for all. While Nguyen says that some vendors offer on-site testing, bride and grooms shouldn’t feel guilty about requiring their guests to test negative for COVID before attending the ceremony.
“Overall, micro weddings are a great way to celebrate with your loved ones in a really special way and in a safer environment than what we would do if there wasn’t a pandemic, says Nguyen. “They’re still such beautiful celebrations—and it’s even more beautiful that we’re all figuring this out together.”