Couples opt for 'micro-weddings' as pandemic forces cancellation of bigger ceremonies
Weddings planners say there are advantages and drawbacks for smaller gatherings
Leanne Sharpe and her fiance had the perfect summer wedding all planned. The couple from Surrey, B.C., had booked a dance hall on Newcastle Island, near Nanaimo, for an event that would include dinner and dancing with about 100 guests.
And then, like for so many couples this summer, COVID-19 changed all that.
At first they thought of postponing the wedding until next year, but with no end to the pandemic in sight the couple opted to go ahead with a much smaller event this year.
"I was kind of relieved. I think it just ended up way less stressful," Sharpe said. "It was a bit of a blessing in disguise."
Over the past few months the pandemic has transformed lives, businesses and personal interactions — including major life events like weddings.
Industry experts say most couples have put off the big day until 2021, hoping that restrictions on gathering will be lifted by then. But as the pandemic continues, an increasing number of couples are opting for so-called "micro-weddings" with very few guests instead.
The industry is quickly responding.
'Let's get this done'
The Vancouver Public Library is the latest public entity to offer micro-weddings with a maximum of 10 participants, including vendors like photographers, on the rooftop patio of its main branch.
Vancouver City Hall hosted 41 micro-weddings this summer as part of a pilot project. Staff will be presenting a report to council this fall on whether to continue the program. The City of North Vancouver started to offer micro-weddings at its shipyards in July.
Were your plans to get married during <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID__19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID__19</a> interrupted? Look no further my <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LGTBQ?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LGTBQ</a>+ community, the <a href="https://twitter.com/VPL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@VPL</a> is offering micro-weddings on the rooftop garden for only $150!<br>Info and booking - <a href="https://t.co/ajEl4tcx21">https://t.co/ajEl4tcx21</a><br><br>*p.s. I'm available to help as a guest! <a href="https://t.co/zcYR1wvYJH">pic.twitter.com/zcYR1wvYJH</a>—@candietanaka
Nick Chau, creative director of B.C.-based SoWedding Photo and Cinema, says the majority of his wedding work vanished in the first couple of months of the pandemic. But now business is trickling in again, with some couples opting for a small ceremony this year, followed by a bigger celebration when the pandemic ends.
"That was precisely everyone's reaction — 'You know what? Let's get this over with. Let's get this done. I want to get married. I don't want this pandemic to dampen our celebration,' " Chau said.
One of Chau's latest selling features for weddings is livestreaming via internet, so couples can broadcast the event for guests around the world who are no longer able to attend.
But wedding vendors like Chau say the increased interest in micro-weddings is no match for the losses sustained in the past few months. Large, opulent events are the bread-and-butter of the wedding industry, and most suppliers are suffering because of restrictions on gatherings.
Holly Anne Halter, co-owner and lead planner for Vancouver-based Pop-Up Weddings, says earlier this year she had 50 weddings scheduled for this summer.
"That just completely was decimated as soon as the quarantine hit and the pandemic became a real thing in Canada," Halter said.
Destination weddings on hold
A lot of Vancouver's wedding industry caters to out-of-town couples looking for a destination event, Halter says. But most of them can no longer travel or don't want to put older family members at risk.
And Halter says couples hit financially by the pandemic are looking for a bargain — an easy find, she says, because the market is now over-saturated with vendors.
Halter says couples who may be willing to sacrifice having a larger wedding may not be willing to also comply with provincial health orders for venues that restrict guests to six per table and prohibit dancing and mingling.
"Every event right now that we've had that is coupled with a reception has either postponed till the end of next year or they've cancelled altogether," she said.
'It's a lot more casual'
Wedding officiant Barbara Densmore, who marries couples on Vancouver Island, says that may be the case for some couples.
But Densmore has discovered that those who have gone ahead with a smaller ceremony over the summer have had no regrets.
"Everything this year is a lot more relaxed and it's a lot more casual," Densmore said.
"I think with some things the pandemic has done is it's made us really be grateful for what we've got and who we've got."