In the past few weeks, many of us in the wedding industry have been faced with the stark reality of the changing landscape, if even only for the short term. Many conversations, posts, and Zooms have had to focus on problem-solving, reschedules, cancellations, and consolations. Conversation has in large part been dominated by the negative side: the problem clients, the lost bookings, and the financial uncertainty. But, where there is change, there is opportunity for innovation. And it’s time to change the conversation. It’s time for the positive, the potential, the opportunity. Love isn’t cancelled. So how as an industry can we evolve for the sake of our clients and the survival of our businesses? Well, let me introduce Small Wedding Society.
What Is Small Wedding Society?
Small Wedding Society (SWS) is a group of five of the country’s leading wedding planners. After watching and listening to the concerns of so many, these wedding planners realized couples were looking for a streamlined approach to celebrate their love while maintaining social distancing requirements and also the pending possibility of restricted guest counts. The winds of change seem to be bringing about a return to intimate weddings, where couples will focus on experience and will be sharing that experience with their dearest family and friends. The collective of planners is focusing on creating high-quality events with guest counts under 50. Categorically the SWS distinguishes events as either high-touch “mini” weddings or creatively affordable “micro” weddings.
Who Is Small Wedding Society?
The founding members of SWS are well known luxury planners: Valerie Gernhauser, Wendy Kay, Beth Bernstein, Amy Nichols, and Gretchen Culver. This five-person coalition represents over 70 years of planning and design experience, and they are each individually known for their distinctive styles and designs created for luxury-level clientele. Each member of the SWS has created a sister brand that will manage the small wedding side of her business. So, let’s meet each member.
Location: New Orleans, LA
Luxury Brand: Sapphire Events
Lovely Brand: Ruby and Pearl
Small Wedding Brand: Minimal Matrimony
Gernhauser explained to InFullFrame, “Engaged couples are looking for a solution to meet their desire for a celebration full of the traditions they’ve hoped for, with a simplified planning process. Micro and mini weddings offer a solution that is a straightforward, streamlined planning experience, without couples feeling as though they have to sacrifice the important elements of their big day.
With a focus on the closest people, and emphasizing the essential element of the day itself — the ceremony — we are able to serve couples and their families that want to marry now, and can still have the big party later. It’s the best of both worlds!”
Location: Dallas, TX
Luxury Brand: Birds of a Feather
Lovely Brand: Partridge and Pear
Small Wedding Brand: Tiny Weddings Dallas
“Our hope is to offer you a low-stress wedding planning process with the same high-end style that she is known for with Birds of a Feather. We will bend over backwards to deliver because we value your happiness and believe wholeheartedly that wedding planning CAN actually be stress-free.”
Location: Chicago, IL
Luxury Brand: SQN Events
Small Wedding Brand: Essential I Dos by SQN
“The most important part of your wedding day is your commitment to each other. A marriage license, ordained officiant, rings, and most importantly, two people in love are all that you need to get married. Starting your life together shouldn’t be complicated, but is certainly worth honoring in a meaningful way.”
Location: San Francisco, CA
Luxury Brand: Amy Nichols Special Events
Small Wedding Brand: Intimate I Dos by Amy Nichols
“The way we’re celebrating is shifting. For some couples, this means smaller and more intimate celebrations. Choosing a micro wedding enables you to host a luxurious yet effortless affair for your nearest and dearest. By keeping the guest count low, we streamline and simplify the planning process, enabling you to enjoy your celebration with the people who matter most.”
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Luxury Brand: Rocket Science Events
Small Wedding Brand: Minne Weddings
“Minne Weddings are the hottest new way to tie the knot that take a fraction of the time and investment of a traditional wedding. Round up a group of your closest family and friends for a fun-sized celebration at one of Minnesota’s coolest spaces. All of the essentials are not only there, but have also been thoughtfully designed and effortlessly executed.”
Mini or Micro
According to SWS, a mini wedding is a wedding with 50 or fewer guests, but still has all of the same elements as a typical wedding. Meanwhile, the company defines a micro wedding as an event of 30 or fewer guests and includes a stripped-down version of what most know a wedding day to be. In most instances, members of SWS offer a 90-minute package that includes the booking of the venue, photographer, and entertainment for micro events. During the 90-minute window, couples would have their ceremony led by an officiant who (in addition to the cake, champagne, and floral decor) is also booked by the SWS-affiliated planner.
SWS uses a unique business model, as the planners who are offering the smaller micro weddings are actually booking the vendors and locations for a full day, and then sell three or four of the available, two-hour time slots to couples. This process has the opportunity to be a more efficient form of wedding planning and offers a quick, stress-free process for couples who are either not looking for a big full day event or who have delayed their large weddings to 2021 and are looking to still begin their married life together in 2020.
Of course, mini and micro weddings are not limited to this calendar year, and many in the industry speculate that some positive fallout from the coronavirus situation as it relates to the wedding industry will be a return to smaller weddings that prioritize moments and intimacy by allowing couples to enjoy unique, personalized experiences. The benefit of a 50-person wedding with the same budget as a 200-person wedding is that those dollars can go into high-end dining, entertainment, and multi-day activities.
Images by Charla Storey, design by Wendy Kay.
All of us in the industry are in the business of adapting during these times. In the coming days, months, and years, we will see if a return to prioritize people over things is something that will become and remain the core of what a wedding is. Smaller ceremonies are something we cannot escape in the short term, but will it be something we all embrace in the long term?
Speaking about the current stay-at-home policies in a recent interview for InFullFrame, HarpersBazaar.com Wedding and Travel Director Carrie Goldberg said, “I think that weddings, hopefully, will get more sentimental as a result of this. I think it will make couples realize that they want to get married for a reason, and I hope that reason is they want to celebrate their love in front of their family and friends.”
Every day, states release updated guidelines for small and large gatherings. When the doors open for weddings, SWS’ planners, having already invested over 100 hours of their time in order to create this new sustainable business model, will be ready.
Find more information about the Small Wedding Society on their website, and tell us how you see the industry changing in the comments below.