Mayghen Wegrzyn reduced the guest list for her May 23 wedding from 200 to 50 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Here she and her husband Cameron are pictured with their bridesmaids, groomsmen and guests. Photo: Andrea Fabian.
Mayghen Stocker and Cameron Wegrzyn were planning a beautiful wedding with 200 guests, a grand venue and a live band. Once the coronavirus pandemic hit, the couple had to get creative.
Determined to keep their original May 23 wedding date, they scaled the guest list back to 50 people – including the bridal party – and became part of the “microwedding” phenomenon.
“Covid ruined a lot of people’s dream wedding, but we are so blessed we had the most perfect day – and would never want it any other way,” Mayghen Wegrzyn, a South Carolina native, said. “The venue was booked and most planning done. With Covid, we scaled down to right at 50 and changed everything but the date.”
With stay-at-home orders restricting large gatherings, “microweddings”’ also known as “minimonies,” are the newest way to celebrate marriage during uncertain times.
These intimate gatherings are gaining popularity as a way for couples to keep wedding bells ringing during the 2020 wedding season, which traditionally runs from late June to mid-October.
As the pandemic unfolded, couples were forced to postpone their special day or significantly slim down the guest list. Most couples have decided to turn to more intimate ceremonies in order to keep their original wedding dates and plan to throw larger celebrations in the future.
“We have been together for eight years and we’re so ready to be husband and wife. Even if it was us and the preacher we were going to get married May 23rd and do something later with family and friends,” Mayghen Wegrzyn said.
The Wegrzyn’s original plan was to get married at the riverfront home of a family friend, until their guest list outgrew the space. Once the pandemic hit and they were forced to slim down the guest list, their original microwedding plan was once again feasible.
“Today society puts so much pressure on a wedding couple. Who’s invited, where will it be, flowers, food, open bar. You obviously want to include everyone but it can quickly get out of hand,” Mayghen Wegrzyn said. “We were able to have an intimate wedding with our closest family and friends at the venue we wanted.”
Jessica Jones, lead wedding planner at Alexandra Madison Weddings, has taken notice of the growing trend of microweddings and adapted to it.
“It’s actually really cool; they could be using their wedding budget for only 30 people and make it a grand event for a small group… which scares people but it’s still just as beautiful,” Jones said. “Most couples plan on using their original date and then having a larger party they refer to as ‘the sequel’ later on.”
According to The Wedding Wire, the average number of guests at a typical wedding is 131. The average cost is $28,000.
With stay-at-home orders and non-essential businesses closing in the early months of the pandemic, most venues and vendors were able to provide full refunds to couples frantically replanning their special day.
“The only place we lost money was $700 deposit for the band because of the way they operated. Overall, we went from a $20k budget to spending right around $10k,” Mayghen Wegrzyn said. “I also decided to splurge a little more on flowers since it was a smaller wedding.”
The Wegrzyn’s continued using their original vendors, just on a smaller scale. The money they saved is going towards their ‘sequel’ celebration. Wegrzyn plans on having an oyster roast in March in order to celebrate new beginnings with more family and friends.
Jessica Hunt, a Columbia wedding photographer, is a fan of more intimate gatherings. Hunt finds the minimonies to be more personal because couples can pay attention to details and splurge on little things.
“I loved microweddings before the pandemic. They’re great honestly; they give the couples a lot of flexibility with what they invest in and spend money on and they can be very selective with who comes and shares their special day with them,” Hunt said.
Hunt’s business permit is valid within the city limits of Columbia, so when shelter-in-place orders went into effect in March, her business was at a halt.
“I legally couldn’t do my job. All non-essential businesses couldn’t operate and more than 50% of my couples moved to 2021,” said Hunt.
Six months into the pandemic, Hunt has adjusted to the new normal.
“My team and I are just doing our best, showing up for our clients,” said Hunt. “We get tested after every three events just to make sure we’re not spreading the virus to any of the events that we go to and just have a lot of grace showing up for these couples.”
Wedding venues have also adjusted to the small gatherings as well. The Lace House, a large venue near the Governor’s Mansion, added elopements to their services.
“In the beginning of the pandemic, most clients postponed so it didn’t hurt much there,” Karen Hedgecock, manager at Lace House at Arsenal Hill, said. “We added elopements in order to provide more intimate experiences.”
Although there are fewer couples touring the grounds for potential wedding venues, the ones that do are ultimately much more serious about finalizing the details, Hedgecock said.
“A ceremony with family is more popular now, but we’re hoping 2021 is a strong year. As of right now, we’re very booked and we’re lucky that it’s both new clients and postponements from this year,” Hedgecock said.
Due to the continuous rise in COVID cases, couples that are cautious of hosting large events are opting to postpone. Meanwhile, those who take the plunge stay within their comfort zone.
“The guests have been the ones making the call to social distance and wear their masks. Vendors have been great about adjusting too,” Jones said. “And couples have actually been super happy with how things turn out.”
Photographer Jessica Hunt captures an intimate moment during the Easley-Manhertz microwedding at The Lace House. Photo: Jessica Hunt
Photographer Jessica Hunt shoots the Albright-Tidwell small wedding. Photo: Jessica Hunt
Hunt says she enjoys the concept of microweddings such as this intimate gathering she photographed in a back yard.
Sign outside of the Wegrzyn’s wedding reception, providing guests with hand sanitizer in order to promote safe habits during the pandemic. Photo: Andrea Fabian.