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'Micro weddings' give couples the chance to splurge on what matters to them

CALGARY — Eryn and Chris Lucas didn't set out to have a small wedding.

The Toronto couple had been planning and budgeting for the wedding of their dreams, with 120 invited guests, when the COVID-19 pandemic derailed their plans.

Forced to shift gears, the Lucas's found themselves tying the knot two months later than planned, in November of 2020 — with only their parents, siblings and a few very close friends in attendance.

They have no regrets.

"With 20 people there instead of 120, it was so lovely and intimate," Eryn said. "When we look back at it, we say it was our perfect day."

There have always been couples for whom spending tens of thousands of dollars on a single blowout day is unappealing. 

However, the last two years of public health restrictions and limits on gathering sizes have not only brought the small wedding into the mainstream, they've made it trendy. A search online for "micro weddings" turns up an array of companies and event venues offering glamorous elopement packages and stylish small-scale ceremonies.

A smaller wedding can help a couple save money for other life priorities. Chris and Eryn say they spent less than $10,000, compared with the up to $30,000 they had budgeted for their original vision. They were able to put away that extra cash for a down payment on a house.

But having a "micro wedding" also gives couples the ability to splurge on specific elements of their wedding day that they might not otherwise be able to. In other words, a micro wedding can be more luxurious than a big wedding — if you want it to be.

"Little money-saving things like stationery, for example," said Bryn Armstrong, founder of Primp & Pop Events, which specializes in pop-up ceremonies, elopements and micro weddings in Muskoka, Toronto and Niagara. The company's packages include an officiant, three to four hours of professional photography, the venue and ceremony, flowers, and a light reception, all for about $10,000.

"Couples aren't sending out a slough of invitations, so they’re using that money for maybe a nicer bottle of wine during dinner, rather than the basic bar package. I've seen couples splurge on the catering, maybe even having a private chef come in. You can really enhance the experience."

Armstrong said some of her clients are using the money they've saved by choosing a smaller event to treat their immediate family and closest friends to an entire wedding weekend of events — sometimes renting an Airbnb or a cabin or a boat, or bringing in a yoga instructor or a masseuse.

"There's a difference when it comes to what you can do with a budget that you maybe had for 100 people, now you’re only planning for eight to 20," she said. "You can look at adding to or enhancing the day, and it also gives you a great opportunity to look at different venues that you otherwise couldn’t host a large number of people at."

United Church minister Christine Smaller founded her Toronto-based micro wedding company "Joyously Inclusive" three years before the pandemic. Since the arrival of COVID-19, her business has exploded.

"We always had to explain what we do, and now we never have to explain it," Smaller said. "Micro weddings have entered the public consciousness.”

For around $2,500, Joyously Inclusive offers a "beautiful, small wedding" package for up to 10 guests, complete with custom ceremony and officiant, a decorated venue, professional photography, and a two-tiered wedding cake and flowers.

“We’re offering a low-cost option. It’s not a substitute for a big wedding," Smaller said. "But it’s actually the kind of wedding that a lot of people want.”

For their part, Eryn and Chris Lucas said having a micro wedding allowed them to have everything they had once dreamt of, without the extravagant price tag.

"I had my big white dress, I had hair and makeup come to me, we rented a limo to get to the venue, and afterwards we moved over to a restaurant for an outdoor dining dinner," Eryn said.

"I had everything I would have had with my big wedding, just with less people."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2022.

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press