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How to Switch Your Big Wedding to a Micro Wedding or Elopement

You may have always dreamed of a big wedding or have a large family who you'd love to include in your nuptials. The pandemic has sadly put these kinds of plans on hold. Out of 2,223 couples surveyed by Zola, 28% reduced their guest list to keep their ceremony and reception on their original date. Your wedding day is an expression of your love to be witnessed by your nearest and dearest, so it's only natural that you want it to be a close and joyous affair, but sadly, hugs and kisses are simply not safe during these challenging times.

It's not all doom and gloom though; two major wedding trends have emerged in 2020 which are helping couples to say "I do" in a safe and personal way.

2020 has been labelled the year of the micro wedding, with many couples switching their "big day" for a much smaller and more intimate affair—and the results are simply beautiful.

To get you inspired, we bring you this guide to hosting a micro wedding or elopement during the pandemic.

What is a Micro Wedding?

A micro wedding might be the ideal solution for many couples as it has all the elements of a traditional wedding but on a smaller scale—usually with 30 people or less.

Micro weddings are intimate, relaxed wedding celebrations that usually happen on a shorter timeline than a large wedding ceremony, mainly because there is less to plan. Micro weddings generally have a short marriage ceremony and a casual reception, which also suits some people who would rather do without the stress and cost that comes with a more formal event.

This is a popular option for couples who don't want the stress of planning a big wedding because they can still implement all of the classic traditions on a smaller scale. What's not to love about that?!

How to Plan a Micro Wedding

You don't have to scrap all of your plans when it comes to planning a micro wedding. If you already have your wedding booked for a certain day, ask if the venue and vendors are willing to scale back the celebration—and the cost—to adapt to a micro wedding. Hotels and resorts are trimming prices and most are willing to be willing to flexible during these times when so many couples are postponing their weddings. However, if you're starting from scratch, there are plenty of small wedding ideas to get you started on the right path.

Location

Due to the pandemic, you'll have to think carefully about the location of your wedding ceremony. Getting married in your backyard or at the home of a close friend or family member is ideal because you'll know who else has been in that space, and it's also likely to be very economical.

In most areas, venues are still hosting events if they can do so safely, so you can still stick with or choose your dream space and just book it for a smaller number of people.

When you contact a venue, make sure you have questions ready to ask them, like how much time is required between events for cleaning, how they disinfect their surfaces, and what guidelines they'll ask you and your guests to adhere to.

If you already had a venue booked, go over these questions with them, so they'll know you're taking their safety regulations seriously. This might make them more willing to work with you on your micro wedding.

Your Micro Wedding Guest List

The guest list is often one of the most challenging parts of planning any wedding. This is usually more difficult when planning a small wedding because, unfortunately, some people will have to miss out. Thankfully, you can explain that your decision to have a micro wedding is for everyone's comfort and safety, and people should understand your motivations.

Micro weddings typically have 20 or fewer guests, which is just right for these challenging times we live in, but this might mean having to uninvite guests if you had a big wedding planned, or seriously cull your wishlist of guests if you are just starting your planning.

You'll also need to keep your venue and location in mind. If it's someone's yard or home, you might have to adjust the guest list accordingly. If it's at a venue, you'll have to follow any guidelines they might have in place.

For a micro wedding, you'll want to make sure that you're inviting people you absolutely need to have at your wedding. Be realistic with your expectations and be courteous with guests who might not be able to attend—or don't feel safe enough to attend.

For instance, know that you might not be able to ask your college roommates because they won't be able to travel to the location. Likewise, know that any guests at risk, such as grandparents or people with health concerns, won't be able to come, though they might hate missing it.

A small perk of having a micro wedding during a pandemic is that you can live stream your wedding on social media or Zoom and let your faraway friends and family participate.

Many platforms let you record the event, so you can look back over and see comments people sent as they watched you get married. Bonus!

Vendors

Photo Credit: Lauren Rader

After you've picked your location and worked out the guest list, you'll need to figure out which vendors are necessary for your micro wedding. If you've already booked vendors, ask if they're willing to keep their commitment, providing you have safety measures in place. If you're starting from scratch, you'll be glad that there won't be much to prepare for a micro wedding.

Caterers

When it comes to caterers, you'll want to have questions ready to ask about how they prepare and serve their food. You need to know they're doing their best, not just for your own sake, but for any guests that might inquire about these details. For this reason, many couples are considering options like food trucks instead of buffets, where germs are more easily spread.

Florists

Florists are more than likely still working during the pandemic, but you'll have to consider how you'll get the flowers set up at the venue. While normally it wouldn't be a big deal to have the florist come to decorate the space, it might be better to pick up the flowers yourself or to have a friend volunteer to handle that side of things for you if you are concerned.

Photographers

Even if you're having a small wedding, you'll still want beautiful photographs! Check out local photographers and see what packages they're offering during the pandemic, especially for micro weddings. This is likely to be more affordable because you have fewer guests.

Ensure they'll be comfortable with the number of guests you'll have, and make sure your guests will be comfortable with having a photographer around.

Do You Need Vendors at All?

It's possible to keep your micro wedding low key and casual and not deal with any vendors at all if you wish. As long as you have yourselves, a venue, your wedding rings, and a bit of creativity; you can make DIY decorations bring your own flowers. Or you could just focus on the love between the two of you and go without any of these decor details.

What About the Reception?

It's tradition to have dinner and dancing after the couple has exchanged vows, but the reception may need to be adapted or postponed depending on what restrictions are in place. Many couples are choosing to have a "Sequel Wedding", which is a bigger party planned at a later date when it's safe to do so; some couples are scheduling this for their first wedding anniversary.

If you have to do away with the reception altogether, don't despair. Since guests would not be masked during a reception and probably would not be able to socially distance as much as they could during the ceremony, doing away with this part of the wedding could be seen as a courtesy to guests.

Is an Elopement Right for You?

Elopements have always been a popular option for couples who want to do away with the stress and costs of a larger wedding and keep things super simple. Elopements have seen a surge in popularity this year on account of the pandemic because they involve such a small number of guests. But just because they are small, elopements don't have to be a no-frills affair at the courthouse—they can still be incredibly special.

What Does Elope Mean?

Historically, to elope meant that you were getting married without telling anyone. These days, it typically means that you and your partner are getting married without any guests attending the ceremony.

Depending on where you're getting married, you might need to a witness or two, but this could be a photographer or someone else at the venue. What is more, some states allow couples to perform their own marriage ceremonies!

How to Plan an Elopement

Part of the romance of an elopement is that it seems like you're getting married without having to plan anything. However, that's not entirely true as there are a few details you'll need to work out beforehand.

Courthouse Weddings

It's possible to elope just by going to your city hall or courthouse and getting married there. You'll sign papers in front of a city official, but you'll also have a chance to recite your own vows, exchange wedding bands, kiss your new spouse, and have photographs taken. If you and your partner are more focused on the marriage itself rather than celebrating, this is a no-frills way to get it done and start your happily ever after.

Costs

Getting married at the courthouse will typically only cost the fee for the marriage license. Since there's no need to decorate the space, you won't have to think about decorations, though you can bring of course bring a bouquet to add some romance. You would also need to factor in your wedding clothes, and any special meal or cake you plan to have after signing the license.

A courthouse wedding is still something you will want to document for your friends and family. You can typically have a photographer with you at the courthouse to capture this special moment, but make sure this is still acceptable before you hire one. The courthouse might limit how many people can be in certain areas at a time, and you don't want to hire a photographer only to find that they can't be with you when you sign the papers.

County Requirements

Make sure you check the requirements in the county where you plan to marry. Some places require a waiting period between applying for the marriage license and being able to use it.

You'll need to make sure you have all the required documents, like photo ID, social security card, birth certificate, and paperwork if you've previously been married and divorced. In the past, a number of states required a blood test, but currently, only Montana still carries that requirement.

Still, it's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to taking care of all the preliminary details. If you have a wedding date in mind, you don't want to be prevented from getting married on that date just because you forgot some paperwork.

Elopement Packages

If you want to get away and elope, even more resorts, hotels, and wedding venues are currently offering elopement packages due to the pandemic. These packages have the basics all figured out for you—the ceremony location, the officiant, and a suite to stay in for your first night together as an officially married couple.

Depending on the venue and the package, you might also get perks like a photographer, flowers for the ceremony, a wedding cake, refreshments after the ceremony, and a special dinner on your wedding night.

The best thing about these packages is that someone else has done all of the work for you. You book the date, bring the bride's wedding ring and the groom's wedding band, and custom vows if you're going that route, then the venue's elopement planner takes care of the rest so you can sit back and enjoy your special day to the fullest.

Final Thoughts

This year has brought many surprises but it has also taught us the importance of being flexible adapting to our new reality. The health and safety of yourselves, your family and your friends, is the top priority, but that doesn't mean you have to cancel or postpone your wedding. By hosting a micro wedding or elopement, you can still declare your love for each other with those who matter most to you, even if they only join you virtually.

Many venues are offering attractive elopement and micro wedding packages, which while being incredibly special and personal, will also save you financially versus a large scale wedding. Consider it savings for a honeymoon or to buy your first house together!

While changing plans can feel overwhelming, especially when it involves your closest family and friends—take heart; everyone else is in the same boat, and with a bit of planning and creativity, you can still say "I do" to your soulmate and start the next chapter of your lives together in style. We think that's something worth celebrating!

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