Weddings just ain’t what they used to be. Seriously though, weddings have evolved at a rapid pace over the past decade or so to the point that a “typical” or “traditional” wedding is no longer quite so easy to define. You’ve got micro weddings, the rise of the anti-bride, couples skipping out on a wedding registry, weddings with gender-neutral bridal parties or even no party at all—these days, weddings can essentially take any form you like. And for many millennials that means keeping their ceremony limited to a select few followed by a big reception for everyone, even if their boomer relatives don’t approve.
Boomers Can’t Seem to Get on Board With This Intimate Millennial Wedding Trend
A break from tradition
The Knot and Martha Stewart both note that exchanging vows in private or having a very small, intimate ceremony is a growing trend among millennial couples. For some this means limiting the guest list to a few special individuals (BFFs, grandparents, immediate family), or just parents and siblings. Or it could mean doing a totally private ceremony for just the couple with their officiant. But of the couples we talked to who plan to follow the trend (or already have), many noted that their boomer relatives weren’t as enthusiastic about it.
“When we first started planning our wedding and brought up the idea of maybe doing a private ceremony, my aunts made it very clear they would be upset to be left out,” said Amanda, 32. “To them, the most important part of the entire event is the actual ‘getting married’ part, they don’t care so much about the dinner and dancing afterward. It was important to them to watch me and my partner make our vows and say ‘I do’.” Indeed, many of the baby boomers we spoke to explained that the joy of attending someone’s wedding is to watch them get married. Ironically, some suggested this is even more true now that ceremonies are becoming more personalized and less formal.
Commenting on her daughters’ weddings, Judith, 75, said, “It was such a joy to watch my daughters exchange their vows with their husbands, and both had people they knew officiate, making the ceremony feel so personal and filled with love. I had numerous friends comment afterward on how lovely the ceremonies were and how special it felt to watch and be there. I think [couples] may be underestimating how many people want to actually watch [them] get married.”
For Enaoris, 36, she ended up trying to bridge the gap between her and her husband’s hopes and those of her mother-in-law, who had a lot of pushback and thoughts on the couple’s idea to do an intimate destination wedding. “She is old-school, more traditional, and really wanted us to have a huge wedding,” so that all their relatives and friends could join in the celebration. “She was not thrilled about the destination aspect [with a smaller guest list] because, as she said, ‘no one is going to be able to come’. We ended up with 60 people attending, which is really not so small after all!”
Of course, for some couples the decision has less to do with breaking from tradition (or avoiding stage fright) and more to do with budget. “When we got married, we were working with a super small budget,” says Lauren, 33, “so planned to have our ceremony in our own backyard. But we didn’t really want to pack it with benches and a tent and other expenses that honestly would’ve just ruined the charm of the yard, so we did our ceremony in the afternoon with a super small group and then had a blowout party in the evening. We were able to do so many more things at the reception because that was effectively our entire budget. A few people did say they were sad to have missed the ceremony, but we did what we felt was best for us.”
Another couple we spoke with told us that their chosen location forced their hand. “We really wanted to get married up in the mountains,” explained Gen, 29. “I’d seen all these stunning photos on Pinterest (because of course I did) of couples up on a peak in their wedding garb but knew for a fact that my parents and other relatives would not want to, and in some cases couldn’t, hike all the way up there with us.” So instead, she and her husband made the trek with their officiant and photographer and the following day had a reception with all their loved ones at a nearby park—still outdoors, but far more accessible. To compensate, Gen’s parents and in-laws were invited to join them at the courthouse when they got their marriage license to make it feel extra special.
While boomers do tend to be the group most put off by breaking with tradition (though this is by no means a universal truth), Kelly, 36, notes that it was actually her friends who made the biggest hubbub about her decision to keep her guest list to just immediate family. “Surprisingly, our boomer family members were pretty supportive! My family is based on the west coast and I think some of them were hoping for an excuse to come out to NY for a wedding, but we didn't get any pushback once we announced it would be a private event. It was actually a few of my friends that really pushed back, saying they would be sad to miss out on my special day and not see me walk down the aisle.”
In the end, of course, it is entirely up to the couple on how they want to celebrate and with whom. “I think millennials and Gen Z are more understanding of letting people do what they want or need to do,” said bride-to-be Emma, 27. “To be honest, our families (mine and my partner’s) don’t get along that great and I already have anxiety about how the reception will go. It was really important to me to have at least one part of the day be entirely mine (or ours, really), so I can be fully present to really connect and enjoy it. I’m getting a lot of commentary from various relatives who feel left out but my wedding is not for them, it’s for me and my fiancée.”