Quarantine creates what could become a new trend in micro-weddings and civil ceremonies
The March 21 wedding for 150 friends and family was just a week away. The venue was making final preparations. The photographer and DJ were ready. The hotel reservations were confirmed.
But there were rumblings about a pandemic. And anticipation for a grand celebration became apprehension that there would be no celebration at all for soon-to-be-wed couple Bethany Cramer and Alex Farchione. The first indication that something was amiss was when out-of-town family expressed hesitation about traveling.
“All week, we were saying ‘We’re still having our wedding, are you guys coming?’ and about half of the people told us they were not coming because they felt uncomfortable,” Cramer recalled.
Cramer and Farchione had done their own wedding planning and couldn’t imagine the special event going on with only half their guests in attendance—so they sprang into action. Within a few days, they had rescheduled the event for March 2021.
“We could have gone as early as July to rebook, but availability and pricing [were factors]—and, to be honest, my decor isn’t fit for a winter wedding,” Cramer laughed.
None of their vendors charged a penalty. “Our venue handled it above and beyond,” she admitted. “They probably had already put in the flower order, maybe the food as well, but they didn’t charge us for those things that I assume were already paid for and on hand.”
They also had a civil ceremony right away, not knowing if even that would become prohibited in the coming weeks. Their officiant met the couple at the Columbus Idea Foundry, where Cramer and Farchione are members, and remained socially distant as they said “I do,” with parents and siblings watching via Google Hangouts.
Cramer recalls, “My family was pretty scared by [COVID-19]. I think they were really thankful that we called it off, because they didn’t want to have to make that decision. I think some would have come anyway, to be with us, and we didn’t want to make it unsafe just for our sake.”
Saving the Date
Meanwhile, Kay Karg and Alex Boehnke had planned a July wedding and were determined to keep the date, no matter what happened.
“We decided we would adapt to whatever regulations were in place, but to not get married on that date was non-negotiable,” Karg said.
As time went on, they decided to postpone their 160-guest reception until 2021, then to cancel it entirely and have a more intimate reception after their wedding this year at a smaller, outdoor venue
“The more Alex and I talked about it, the more we realized that it wasn’t a good fit for us to wait a whole year, and have the wedding planning details, the budgeting, the stress with us for another year,” Karg explained.
All but one of their vendors agreed not to charge penalties for the cancellation. Still, there are challenges to be met.
“[Family invitations] have been the most stressful part,” Karg continued. “The situation that we’ve created, having kind of a mini-reception, it’s hard. Our friends totally understand. Our families understand, too, but I have a big family, and I’m the first one in [my generation] to get married… it’s hard, navigating that.”
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A Balancing Act
For others, juggling vendors has been complicated.
“Rescheduling the event is the easy part,” said Lucretia Williams of Distinct Event Planning. “Every wedding has nine to 15 vendors, so trying to reschedule up to 15 businesses, to make sure they’re available, is the real challenge.
“It’s about double the effort now, because those vendors are not only booking regular events, but also working with other clients who are also trying to reschedule.”
Some of Distinct Event Planning’s clients have rescheduled; others have changed platforms, having a micro-wedding now and a larger celebration next year, such as a reception or vow renewal.
“To say the least, it has been an adventure,” Williams laughed.
“COVID-19 has birthed micro-weddings,” said Williams. “In the past, there were ‘intimate’ weddings, but with small receptions. With COVID-19, they’ve been having just the ceremony, with the celebration next year, because you couldn’t go anywhere, because no one could host you.
“But the biggest challenge we have now, with social distancing, is that venues can’t hold as many people as they normally can. We have to measure and come up with a revised floor plan, and if someone has a venue that holds 300, well, now it holds 175. So now they have to go back and revise their guest list.”
A New Way Forward
Jen Brown of Flat 51, an event rental space in German Village, recalled, “We started seeing things change the second week of March. We had our first micro-wedding just 48 hours before the shelter-in-place order went into effect.”
After that order was lifted, Flat 51 has been busy with micro-weddings and other events, including couples who would rather say “I do” than “I postpone.” The space is a DIY space, and couples are enjoying the fact that they can come in and decorate it to their taste.
“We are definitely seeing that the wedding landscape has changed,” Brown said. “We have micro-weddings booked even into 2021, and we feel like this is a trend that is going to continue.
“It’s a completely authentic experience for them,” she explained. “We’re noticing that the smaller, more intimate setting is allowing for deeper connection with family and friends. Couples are realizing they don’t need a big, traditional wedding—they’re rewriting the book on what the entire experience looks like.”