And then there were 15….
I’m going to preface this post by saying I’ve started it and rewritten it many, many times – the rules here in the UK though we have been told that we can expect the current restrictions to be in place until March. Even then, since writing the first draft and publishing this post, the new ‘tier’ system has come into place. Though it has now been confirmed that wedding ceremonies will be permitted at all levels, including level 3, and receptions permitted at level 1 and 2.
So if you’re thinking of making 2020 (and the early part of 2021) worth celebrating, can’t wait to get married to your favourite person and want to wed now (and then maybe) party later then read on… I’ve tried to make this post full of uplifting and inspiring ideas, and I hope it leaves you feeling positive!
What is a micro wedding?
A few weeks ago, new government guidelines came into force restricting weddings to just 15 people. Unlike with the previous limit of 30, anyone working at the wedding, which includes registrars and other celebrants as well as photographers and videographers, is not counted as one of the 15. Though it’s worth noting that the two of you are counted, so you can invite your 13 favourite people as guests.
Venues will have been expected to conduct their own risk assessment as to the maximum number of people they can accommodate with social distancing, and it might be below this number, so do check when enquiring.
There are also a few other restrictions that your venue will have to take into consideration, including that confetti and throwing the bouquet is discouraged (though from the post Covid weddings I’ve shot all around London, the rules seem to vary by borough)
There’s no reason, however, that a micro wedding can’t be every bit as wonderful, beautiful, heartfelt and considered as a bigger celebration and this guide aims to talk you through some of the things to consider, and to hopefully encourage you to think of the possibilities to make your wedding awesome, despite the absolute nightmare that 2020 has been.
You don’t have to go to Gretna Green…
An elopement is a super micro wedding! Usually thought of as a wedding where just the couple head off to say their vows and grab a couple of handy witnesses from the street, they can take all forms. Though more often it means a couple heading with a few of their very best friends. Sometimes it’s because one set of parents lives overseas, and it felt fairer to only have friends than one side of the family. Sometimes both sets do, and sometimes people just want to go it alone and tell everyone afterwards!
One of my favourite ever elopements was Jen & Owen’s – we hit the streets of London for some editorial inspired portraits, before myself and their videographer acted as witnesses for their ceremony, and then they headed off to dinner at their favourite restaurant.
If you want to go to dinner, the pub or to brunch afterwards and you don’t celebrate in a private room or designated cover secure venue, then you must stick to the ‘rule of six’.
I am now offering coverage from just two hours which is perfect for very tiny weddings and it covers the ceremony and an hours portrait session wherever you are.
If you’re thinking of having one….
Maybe the most important thing to the both of you is to just be married, maybe you were always going to have a smaller wedding – whatever your reasons, there is something bold and brave about deciding to go ahead when the world seems like it’s in chaos. Know that everyone who works in the world of weddings is totally routing for you.
I got married a lifetime ago (in 2009!) and we talked about a truly paired down, super tiny wedding, it snowballed due to parental pressure to invite lots of extended family and we eventually settled on 45 people, but I’d love to think how relaxed and simple it could have been with just a handful of our closest families and true besties.
Where to get married
Anywhere you like (well, within reason, the same rules regarding where you an get married apply as before – if you’re considering an outdoor wedding you might want to check out my blog post – getting married outdoors in England and Wales). Town Hall weddings are a super popular choice – for good reason – many of London’s Town Halls are beautiful, iconic spots. But don’t discount ‘regular’ wedding venues too. You can also check out some of my favourite London spots for an intimate reception.
Reasons to wait
For some people, the thought of having a small wedding just doesn’t work – maybe you have a big circle of friends or massive families. Maybe the politics of picking and choosing who comes is too much, or you’d always envisioned the evening of your wedding hitting the dance floor hard surrounded by all your besties – in this case, now is not your time and there’s no shame in that either. It’s never too early to start planning for later in 2021 or 2022, especially given the number of postponements from this year.
The good news is that some of the main costs with a bigger wedding are catering for large numbers, when drinks and food is approaching £100/head it’s easy to see where the biggest spend sometimes sits and it means you can allocate more of your budget to things to make the day feel special – your outfits, the food that you do serve, the fancy champers, a photographer to capture it all and even picking and ‘wow-ier’ venue – it’s amazing what opportunities open up when you don’t need to find somewhere big enough for 120!
An added bonus is that if you only need to co-ordinate the whereabouts of 15 or less people so if you want to do it on a weekday, that’s also going to give you a bit of flexibility with your budget.
When you plan, if you want to hold a big party next year so you can hit the dance floor with all of your friends, put some of your budget aside for that, but remember you can choose to make it much more casual – maybe a cocktail evening with a DJ, or a big party at your house.
Finding a venue
Many venues are offering specialist micro wedding packages now, to fill the void from the postponements from 2020, and to attempt to balance the books. So if you’re prepared to compromise a little on the day of the week, you might find somewhere unexpected and beautiful. As we head into the winter months, although London Town Hall weddings are popular – don’t forget to think about restaurants with private dining rooms, country barns with open fires and boutique hotels. I have seen a few shots from a gorgeous micro wedding at the wonderfully quirky Aynhoe Park.
Making it feel special
One of my favourite things about micro weddings is that you really have the opportunity to make it feel special and intimate.
You can make sure you actually have time to chat to all your guests without feeling harried, having fewer heads to feed mean you can go to town on the dinner and the decor if you want to, you can drink the really good champagne! Instead of an evening reception with a band, why not head to a fancy hotel afterwards and actually spend your wedding night together instead of collapsing into bed exhausted and tipsy. You can always organise a big evening party again next year.
My Fave London hotels for an indulgent couple’s stay!
Instead of spending money on 100s of table favours, or spending your evenings crafting, you can enlist the help of an events stylist, or an amazing florist to set a very special table to everyone. The key is seeing this as an opportunity.
It’s also an opportunity to snap up last minute availability at some rather lovely weddings, and plug the gaps left by postponements and cancellations.
I’ve created a board on Pinterest full of ideas for styling a small, intimate wedding.
Building the guest list
This is going to be one of the trickiest challenges for the day. Most people will be understanding if they were previously invited to a larger wedding, but you’ve chosen to get married without them – they’ll still be delighted for you, and in the next section I have some ideas for how you can include those that couldn’t be there on the day.
My suggestion is to start by jotting down a list of the people who are most important to you – who are the first you share exciting news and life events with, who could you absolutely not bare to have miss the day. if this still leaves you with more than you are allowed to have there’s a few additional questions you can ask yourself – like when was the last time you saw that person, when was the last time you had a heart to heart with them, do they make you feel like you’re in competition, or in any way bring stress into your life (and if they do, they’re the first to get the chop). Give yourself permission, too, to push back if family are insisting you have to invite certain people at the expense of loosing friends you are close to. You can offer to include them in other ways, and with a tiny guest list, it’s so important to make sure it’s the people you really want with you on the day. Blanket bans like banning kids, or no plus-ones make it easier to put the guest list together, but these are not hard and fast rules if you’re friends with both of a couple, or you have kids or love your niece or nephew, then you do you.
I would start by looking at your immediate family on either side – parents, siblings (obviously this shifts if you have family members who are no longer with you)
I would also consider having a A list, and B list and so on. So if restrictions are lifted by the time your wedding happens, and there’s sufficient leadtime, you can then add some of your B List guests. I appreciate this might become political, but I’d suggest that your A List is your closest family and dearest friends, and the B List is perhaps some extended family, and maybe some +1s for your friends too. You don’t need to tell them that they were on the second list, but it might be worth bearing in mind if restrictions are lifted.
Will require a little more consideration – perhaps they can attend the ceremony but if they are vulnerable, maybe the reception is a little risky. Consider where they’ll sit and if they’ll need assistance, and you can plan the group shots around making sure they are able to leave when they’re ready.
Travel corridors, quarantine, and the risk of being on a plane makes it tricky for international guests to attend, though it’s not impossible, it’s certainly a consideration if you want to invite guests from overseas.
How to include other people
A recent wedding I photographed had a huge number of guests tuning in via Zoom, another had the bride’s parents (who were in the US) on Facetime. While I think that we’re all over the Zoom quizzes and date nights of lockdown, being able to be part of such a big life event is an honour for those that couldn’t make it in person for any reason. Live streaming your wedding to an audience can be as simple or complex as you like – you could simply ask one of your guests to log into Zoom on their phone, or you could do something a little more complex with a camera acting as a live feed into a laptop – whatever path you choose, the sentiment is the same, and people will love being included.
Here’s a tutorial online for using a camera as a live feed into Zoom.
Alternatively, I’m offering a preview of around 100 images within 48 hours of the day to share with loved ones who couldn’t make it, which will hopefully make the feel like part of the day.
You could also send gifts to those who you couldn’t include – although sending a slice of your actual wedding cake might be a bit tricky, you could send a mail order box of brownies or even a little houseplant to some of those you might have liked to have been there.
Why photos matter
Micro weddings deserve beautiful photos too – for some people this is small legal celebration with a bigger party planned later on, for others this is going to be the main event, but I firmly believe that any size of wedding day still deserves beautiful, natural, creative photos to look back on.
When fewer people can attend, it makes sense to have beautiful photos to share with those who couldn’t make it, but this is also your opportunity to use the unconventional times to get exactly the photos you’ve always wanted.
Some register offices are requiring that the couple have their interview together, so why not flip things on their head and have a first look and spend some time doing couple photos before the ceremony so that you can spend as much of your day with your guests as possible.
What to wear
Whatever the hell you want – even with a tiny wedding, feel free to be as creative as you dare. In fact I feel like a micro wedding is a license to go all-out. I’ve pulled together a Pinterest board
How to decorate
It’s entirely up to you – if details are important to you (and they make for great photos) then don’t feel you need to hold back at your reception. Having to decorate fewer tables means that you have a bigger budget for one WOW table and you can go crazy with flowers, candles, making the room feel super cosy. If you have a bit of wiggle room in your budget (now you’re not feeding 100 people) you could even consider hiring an event stylist. The added bonus of all this effort is that it will make a big space, designed for far more people, feel intimate and inviting.
Again, check out my Pinterest board for venue styling ideas.
My Favourite venue stylists
The Little Lending Co (East Anglia)
If this sounds like your cup of tea, and you’re thinking of going ahead with a small wedding despite the current covid restrictions – then I’m now booking micro weddings and elopements and I’d love to hear from you to discuss how I can make your tiny wedding awesome.