11 Aug 2022
This week: Trading nuptials looks different than it did pre-pandemic. Behold: the rise of the micro-wedding (and the indie brands fueling them).
If you’re of a certain age (and our audience analytics tell us you just might be) chances are you’ve been attending a lot of weddings this summer. After two years of postponing plans to publicly tie the knot, couples are finally getting around to doing the damn thing.
• There were 15% more weddings this season than usual, amounting to an avalanche of RSVPs for wedding guests and an uptick in demand for venues, florals, formalwear, and food catering services. “It's not just the couples who are celebrating. So are the caterers, DJs and other service providers whose business has suffered because of all the pandemic delays,” reports NPR. But the sudden surge has posed a problem for some couples who have taken more time to book big-ticket items like wedding venues and musical entertainment. Instead of hopping on another year-long waitlist, many have simply said, let’s do it our way.
• The act of saying ‘I do’ has gone small-scale. Some honeys are opting for private town hall ceremonies, doubling back on anni-ceptions (that’s a mash-up of anniversary and reception), while others are planning for more intimate wedding parties to keep guest numbers low and wedding decor supply chain headaches to a minimum. "It represents a radical shift,” Matthew Trettel, co-founder and CEO of the Wedding Guys in Minnesota, told the Star Tribune. “It had been that 75% of our weddings were large and now it's more like 50-50, large and small.”
• Smaller celebrations don’t necessarily mean smaller wedding budgets, though. In fact, the cost of weddings is only going up, according to The New York Times. “The average cost of a wedding in 2021, around $22,000, will rise to just under $25,000.” Why? The Big I: Inflation. Thanks to supply chain kinks and pent up demand from couples who got engaged during lockdowns, the cost of getting hitched remains astronomical. What is changing? The way couples are spending their money. Instead of stretching a budget to include your mother-in-law’s neighbour’s cousin in the big day festivities, couples are reeling in their guest lists and creating more specialised and lavish experiences, like a dinner club style event, a weeklong destination experience, or a themed party for just a handful of VIP guests.
On the staying power of nontraditional weddings, Anna Price Olson, associate editorial director at Brides, said it best: “Covid taught us to basically reimagine everything, and with weddings that meant you could break the rules, invite who you really want, wear what you want.”
Mini-monies are here to stay. For indie brands, the shift to more personal, bespoke wedding experiences could be a boon for smaller-batch goods and services.
• Thanks to the post-lockdown shifts, couples are renting out restaurants over ballrooms, and are showing more interest in booking weekday weddings during quieter seating times. This increased flexibility has helped restaurateurs to be better able to host wedding parties, while not having to sacrifice highly-coveted weekend nights. In a conversation with Brides, Jove Meyer, the owner and creative director of Jove Meyer Events in New York, highlighted how smaller weddings can open up a world of unique spaces that would be inaccessible to larger weddings. “You can rent out cafés, restaurants, bars, parks, galleries,” Meyer said. “They’re already designed beautifully – meaning you can save on décor.”
• Wedding gifts, too, are going indie. While the John Lewis gift registry has been a stronghold of modern wedding culture, couples planning more intimate gatherings are using their matrimony as a way to highlight small shops that are near and dear to their hearts. Zola’s 2022 First Look Survey found that 56% of couples also said they’re intentionally speaking with their wallets when it comes to choosing vendors. “Many view their weddings as an opportunity to support small businesses in their local area, as well as an opportunity to highlight vendors who align with their own values,” the survey found. Etsy’s annual wedding trend report saw a rise in custom wedding decor and gifts, too. This year, there was an 107% increase in searches for custom wedding favours, including cutting boards, cake knives, and custom wedding couple illustrations.
• When it comes to getting dressed for the big day, micro-weddings call for more casual attire. “With a continuing rise in elopements, micro-weddings and casual-chic civil ceremonies, brides are looking away from the traditional gowns to something that better suits their modern, minimalist styling,” Hitched UK found, citing a 197% rise in searches for casual wedding dresses since March 2020. Edit Suits, a UK-based menswear brand, has seen an opportunity to meet the sudden demand for all kinds of suits. They recently set up shop at Appear Here’s London Bridge location for on-the-go wedding guests who need a wedding ‘fit in a pinch. “There are tremendous opportunities for luxury brands serving the wedding industry to expand their offerings and customer base,” Yahoo Finance reported this month.
From micro-weddings to Mamma Mia scale celebrations, brands should account for the new normal of wedding planning – which is, there is no normal. Flexibility, personalisation, and a newfound embrace of nontraditional approaches are trends that can benefit both wedding sector brands and engaged couples alike...
So let’s raise a toast to that.
Words by Nicola Pardy, a freelance writer and producer living in New York.