Planning for the big day, but thinking smaller

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Cabo Casa Fryzer, one of the properties in the Villas by Journey Mexico program.
Cabo Casa Fryzer, one of the properties in the Villas by Journey Mexico program.

Weddings scheduled during the pandemic have been nothing short of nightmarish. From dwindling guest lists to full-on cancellations, wedding aisles in 2020 are strewn with disappointments and dashed dreams.

Many couples have eloped or decided to put off their dream bash until the pandemic subsides. But for those determined to do something special right now, a microwedding offers a hopeful alternative. 

"There has been a shift to small weddings the last couple of years as the demographic of the couples who are getting married is changing," said Gretchen Culver, owner of Minne Weddings, a wedding planner in Minneapolis. 

"Millennials value different things than generations before, and the idea of a microwedding is very appealing to them. Covid-19 has been the catalyst giving couples permission to think outside the traditional wedding box."

The benefits of going micro

Microweddings typically include a guest list of up to 30 people, often immediate family and close friends. Opting for the more intimate affair can make the booking much simpler: Waitlists for scheduling large-scale weddings are seriously backlogged, whereas smaller, easily planned affairs often don't encounter a booking waitlist at all.

"Microweddings are trending during Covid as smaller weddings allow for greater social distancing, sanitizing stations and other safety measures," said Cynika Drake, president of Lavish Lifestyles Concierge, a boutique travel concierge and event planner. 

"They also allow the bride and groom, should they choose, to have guests' temperatures checked. Some couples are opting to have guests tested for Covid on site, with results within 15 minutes before entering the ceremony; with 40 guests or less this is pretty easy to do."

Microweddings typically last only a few hours at most, just long enough for a ceremony, drinks and hors d'oeuvres. They also can be considerably cheaper. According to the Knot 2019 Real Weddings Study, the average cost of a wedding in 2019 was $33,900. That may not be in the budget in the middle of a pandemic, so microweddings can provide a welcome price adjustment.

"A smaller head count can ease the overall cost by 50% depending on if the couple only has a ceremony and perhaps dessert and a Champagne toast after the ceremony with guests, skipping a more formal reception," said Drake.

That said, couples who are saving on guest head count have also been reallocating funds to go over the top in terms of food, entertainment and decor.

Destinations and venues

Small wedding, small venue. While larger resorts are known for their wedding facilities and packages, smaller, boutique hotels and private villas enable Covid-conscious couples to have much more control of their environment. 

"A boutique hotel is going to be more intimate than a chain hotel, but with all the amenities," said Keith Willard, president of Keith Willard Events. 

"You don't have to worry about crowds of people overshadowing or disrupting your event. The staff tend to be very attentive, and many of the worries of a home affair are alleviated. The hotel also means that out-of-town guests don't have to find their own lodgings or transportation."

The same is true for renting private villas. With private villas, guests do not have to worry about sharing the space with anyone else and can even have control over the staff that flows in and out. 

"We're seeing a huge trend toward private homes and villas," said Zach Rabinor, CEO of Journey Mexico, which has its own Villas by Journey Mexico program, with more than 350 personally verified and inspected villas across Mexico. He has booked several microweddings. 

"In terms of exposure risk, you just have more control of a villa as opposed to a hotel," he said. "We've even had people pay to have staff tested prior to arrival and pay to have them quarantine during the entire stay of the guests."

For domestic microweddings, Drake recommends New York; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; New Orleans; and Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, Calif.

For international weddings, the No. 1 destination right now would have to be Mexico, due to its proximity to the U.S. as well as its less rigid entry requirements.

In the Caribbean, Turks & Caicos is a top wedding location. They are welcoming U.S. visitors with a negative Covid test. Their inventory of private villas is also impressive, ideal for a small, private event.

Similarly, Jamaica is open to visitors, who are required to present a PCR or antigen test at the airport prior to departure and again upon arrival. If your clients do opt for Jamaica, Kiradijan recommends the GoldenEye Resort.

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