Before COVID-19 changed everyone’s plans, the wedding industry kept getting bigger. “With Pinterest and blogs pushing over-the-top, expensive inspiration, people wanted to do large weddings with giant installations,” explains Sierra Steifman, president and creative director of Poppies & Posies floral and event design in New York City. “While that was fun for a while, there’s something exciting about bringing it down a level and doing things on a smaller scale.”
Enter micro weddings. Typically considered a celebration of about 30 guests or fewer, these pared-down nuptials invite smaller crowds without skimping on the details. The concept has been growing in popularity in recent years, and in 2020 they became a necessity.
“I’ve been planning micro weddings on and off for a few years, and having state mandates only enhanced it more,” offers Nanuet planner Jacqueline Vazquez of Lifetime Events by Jacqueline. Vazquez says micro weddings are larger than elopements (which consist of only the couple and one or two close friends or family members) but smaller than a traditional wedding.
Still, she says, slashing the guest list doesn’t mean a bare-bones budget. Instead, couples can go big on the details they value most. “Maybe they want a famous musician or a jazz band. Maybe it’s a different location for the dinner reception — like a rooftop with really high-quality food.”
Sarah Carroll, owner of Small Shindigs, in Armonk, seconds that notion. “It’s a common misconception that smaller weddings are for the budget bride,” she confirms. “A big reason intimate weddings are so great is that your money goes farther. You can opt for upgrades that might not be feasible with a larger celebration, like a beautiful tasting menu or special china.”
“A big reason intimate weddings are so great is that your money goes further.”
—Sarah Carroll, owner of Small Shindigs
The table is one place where small celebrations can go big with Pinterest-worthy decor. “When you don’t need as many place settings, it’s easier to better reflect your tastes,” Carroll adds. And, of course, that includes the centerpieces. Karen Gómez of Bow and Rose Floral Studio, in Port Chester, has been fielding a lot of requests from couples who have decided to downsize. “For example, if you have a wedding of 250 guests, I’d suggest six low and six tall centerpieces. With a micro wedding of 30 to 50 guests, that same budget can create much fuller tables,” she says. “The tables that are there become focal points, and it really elevates the experience.”
The same thing goes for the food. Instead of your typical chicken-or-fish offering, couples can offer guests more personalized options. “It is so much easier to accommodate dietary needs and preferences than with a large wedding,” offers Garrison-based personal chef and The Art of Eating blogger Matthew Mancuso. “For 18 people, send them an email. Ask what they want.”
Not only is food better-executed on a smaller scale, couples can make dinner the entertainment. “For those who choose to forgo the DJ and dance floor, the main event is the food. Want to do a raw bar for the cocktail hour, when we’re shucking oysters as guests arrive? We can do that,” Mancuso adds. He has teamed up with wedding planner Rachael Solomon of Bad Boss Bride, in Suffern, to offer couples a comprehensive package for their petite affairs that really takes the pressure off of planning. “Normally, when I work with couples planning weddings, they’re happy, but they’re nervous,” he adds. “These couples are so happy with a lot less pressure.”
Mancuso and Solomon aren’t the only industry professionals teaming up to deliver micro weddings in the Hudson Valley. Bow and Rose’s Gómez has joined forces with Kara Delfino of Port Chester’s Beauty Alchemy to offer a comprehensive package. “Micro weddings allow vendors to become closer,” Gómez adds. “If Kara has a client who is looking for a flower crown, the design becomes more intentional. I’m able to ask her more specific questions, so it’s personal and unique, with flowers from the bride’s mother’s garden, for example.”
The two are constantly collaborating on mood boards that take both beauty and flowers into consideration. “Those details often get forgotten when the wedding is so big,” she says. Sara Danish, owner of Larchmont’s Sugar and Salt Studio catering, also works with clients on a case-by-case basis to create a complete package. “We have a coordination component to the business, to help source and set up most of their needs, and we try and be a one-stop shop, by being the liaison between clients and our trusted vendors,” she explains.
Venues are getting on the micro train, as well, working with planners and other vendors to create an all-in-one experience. Steifman, for example, is collaborating with Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills to deliver a case package. Similarly, Vazquez is seeing venues become more creative with their outdoor offerings, shifting overflow parking to niche gardens or creating social-distancing setups. The Ritz-Carlton in Westchester, for example, is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation to include a new micro-wedding venue called Kanopi. The space is perched atop the tallest building between New York City and Boston and boasts panoramic views. The Ritz will reopen as an Autograph Collection Hotel in early 2021.
Mancuso and Solomon, too, are helping couples get creative with locations, like the Edward Hopper House in Nyack. No kitchen? No problem. Mancuso can cook outside on a firepit and get resourceful with induction burners. “In the Edward Hopper House, the walls are decorated with all of Hopper’s original artwork,” he explains. “We’re putting a table in the middle and feeding 12 people a six-course dinner.”
That kind of intimate, unique experience is what micro weddings are all about. And most importantly, the true meaning of the day doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. “The number-one reason micro weddings are so special to me is that you really get to focus on the marriage piece,” Small Shindigs’ Carroll offers. “Something that really attracted me to working with clients who are having smaller weddings is that they really value the ceremony. It becomes more about having that special time with friends and family, as opposed to making sure 200 guests are having fun.”