Having a Small Wedding: Elopements, Micro Weddings, and Minimonies – Oh My!

ContagiousCOVID, Planning 1 Comment

If you’re planning a wedding right now, odds are you’ve at least come across these terms; perhaps you’ve even considered them for your own day! Although smaller weddings have always been a thing, with the recent pandemic and uncertainty of the live events industry, their popularity has suddenly soared. So much so, that even wedding professionals who have historically never engaged in this style wedding, are suddenly pivoting, hoping to gain a volume of business that will prove to be sustainable.

I’m not going to be the mean girl that tells these vendors they can’t sit with us – look, the truth is, businesses need to adapt in order to stay afloat, so I applaud the effort. However, I’ve come across more than a few wedding pros who use the terminology incorrectly, so in an effort to clear up any confusion, I thought a blog post is in order to outline the differences. If you’re a couple, use this information to determine the best route for you; if you’re a vendor, I hope you find this information helpful!

The rise of the small wedding

Small weddings are nothing new – in fact, nearly 10% of weddings in the U.S. each year fall into the small wedding category. By definition, a wedding is considered small if it has 50 or fewer guests. Given that gathering size is a key factor in the reopening plans during the pandemic, it should come as no surprise that the 10% figure is expected to skyrocket in 2020.

There are many advantages to hosting a small wedding – my personal favorite is that a smaller crowd means the couple has more time to spend with their guests individually. When we have larger weddings, we strategically plan time for our couples to visit guests during dinner – sometimes we can schedule this during cocktail hour, if photos are done beforehand, and other times it’s planned during dinner – but, it is planned, so it’s a bit choreographed and couples definitely feel the pressure to keep conversation relatively short so they can get around the entire room and see everyone. With small weddings, this becomes less of a challenge and happens organically.

Another advantage that isn’t commonly considered is the couple’s own comfort level. A great example of this is for a couple who plans to write their own vows: you may be more comfortable sharing in front of your closest friends and family than you would in front of, say… you’re dad’s boss.

Of course, there are logistical advantages, as well: with a smaller guest count, your caterer may be more open to a highly customized menu, you’ll have a wider selection of venues to choose from, and let’s not forget, fewer guests mean more flexibility with your budget. So if you really want that swoon-worthy tablescape with lush florals and upgraded everything, it becomes a little more achievable with a lower guest count.

Elopements, Micro Weddings, and Minimonies: What’s the Difference?

I see these terms being used interchangeably and I think it’s time to set the record straight: elopements and micro weddings are not the same. Minimonies and elopements are also not the same. I know it can be confusing because they’re all small weddings, since they all have fewer than 50 guests.

An elopement typically involves less planning and logistics than a micro wedding or a minimony. By definition, an elopement is an act or instance of running off secretly, as to be married. Although this definition is slightly outdated (many couples elope in a non-secretive fashion), the essence is still the same: it’s a little more spur of the moment, and generally does not include a guest list. Today, couples who elope may choose to hire a handful of wedding professionals: mainly a designer to create a beautiful setting, and a photographer/videographer to document the day. Many couples who elope will send out announcements after the fact to let their friends and family members know they got married. My personal favorites are the ones that include images from the day. Elopements are great for couples who want to make things official, but don’t have an interest in a celebration after the fact.

For the couple that wants that celebration, consider a micro wedding. Micro weddings follow the traditional wedding timeline: there is planning involved, a guest list (of 50 or fewer guests), invitations, and a traditional wedding pro team to support the event. Micro weddings are commonly seen as a great way to have a beautiful wedding on a realistic budget, but the truth is, many couples who host micro weddings actually spend more per guest: so many micro weddings take on the aesthetic of a luxurious wedding with top of the line rentals in expensive venues with incredible florals. Micro weddings usually feature top-shelf open bars and an incredible meal – no corners are cut.

Minimonies (and sequel weddings) are becoming a personal favorite – it’s essentially a mini ceremony that involves an officiant, a small group of loved ones, and select wedding professionals (generally a photographer and/or videographer). Minimonies are different from elopements because they are generally more planned: typically they feature custom vows, a first dance, maybe some floral arrangements and even a mini wedding cake. This year especially, many minimonies are followed by what’s called a sequel wedding, the larger party that takes place on a separate date, after the minimony. Sequel weddings are not unique or new: in fact, many couples over the years have opted to have two distinct weddings: for cultural, religious, or other reasons – but with the coronavirus pandemic forcing couples to rework their plans, the minimony/sequel wedding combination is a great way for couples to honor their original wedding date without giving up the vision of a grand celebration.

Photo by Studio Nouveau from Karine & Mark’s Boston micro wedding.

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