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COVID has really changed how we do things, huh? And while we can't wait to get back to normal life, we have a feeling certain developments, like how much we spend on weddings, might be more long-lasting. Think about it: Pre-COVID, the average American couple spent over $30,000 on their wedding. When you factor in the inevitable family drama and deluge of details, the emotional costs alone can be incalculable. Enter the microwedding: An intimate (read: tiny) affair that’s friendlier than an elopement and roughly a billion times less stressful than planning a black tie destination extravaganza for 250 souls—not to mention, it's the only option to keep everyone safe. Here’s how to plan your own microwedding and why they're actually the best idea ever—COVID or not.

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What Is a Microwedding?

Before we start planning our microwedding, we should probably explain what it is. A microwedding is essentially a smaller version of a regular wedding. While each couple's microwedding will look different, it typically means that everything is done on a tinier level. So, no, this doesn't mean getting hitched in the garage wearing matching tracksuits (although, that does sound kinda great). Instead, it means everything you wanted in the big blow-out, but on a much smaller scale. The biggest factor in creating a microwedding is shrinking your guest-list down. For some that might mean going from 160 to 16. For others it's cutting the 75 person guest list to include just eight close family members. While there are no hard numbers, we'd say a true microwedding has a head count of 20 people and under and abides by your local and state gathering guidelines. From there, the food, the flowers, the music, the dress—it's all up to you.

The Benefits of a Microwedding

1. It's the safest option during the COVID-19 pandemic

You do not want your wedding to be a super-spreader event...but you also don't want to wait until, well, who knows when? Follow in the footsteps of the droves of couples who've sidestepped their traditional plans for socially-distant microweddings. A small group means you can control the gathering by sitting people safely apart and asking them to wear masks at specific times (say, any time they're not at their assigned table). We suggest outlining your safety protocols, checking them with a health professional and distributing the final measures to your guests before and during the event.

2. You can keep the guest list to those who will respect your rules

You want your nana at the wedding, but you don't want that coworker who's been posting anti-mask rhetoric to be in the near vicinity of her. Microweddings nip those types of issues in the bud because they're inherently tiny affairs. Plus, a small enough guest list means you can splurge on some safety elements—like adding an insert into your invitations that lays out the safety guidelines of your event or gifting guests custom masks on arrival. Additionally, we even suggest taking the extra step to personally contact each person to explain the rules of your gathering and see if they'll agree to them. If they can't, they don't have to be at your wedding.

2. It reduces overall wedding stress

Who really needs the financial, social and logistical anxieties that come along with a massive fête? The micro-version of a wedding minimizes the stress from all angles. Take Frances S., a 29-year-old New York City media director, who had been planning her 200-person summer wedding up until COVID hit. The pandemic made her pivot her plans and make things smaller and she actually wound up welcoming the change. “I was the epitome of ‘the anti-bride,’ and planning a large wedding gave me extreme anxiety,” Frances told us.

3. The edited guest list

No more agonizing or arguing over whether to invite every single cousin or the fallback of implementing a no-kids policy. Simply invite your parents (or not!) and besties, and be done with it. When the guest list is cut by 90 percent, most people understand if they didn’t make the cut. Will great aunt Gloria lose it over being left out? Weigh that against being able to recognize—and be truly happy to see—every face in your crowd.

4. The doable decor

Lusting after that limited edition French china on Etsy? Go ahead. Buy a set or three. Dreaming of that florist you found on Instagram to make a table arrangement? Go ahead. DM her. When you’re just decorating one table (think: a super-chic dinner party) or one small room (hey, dancing is mandatory for you), the pressure’s off—especially when it comes to your wallet.

5. The anything-goes attire

Walking down the "aisle" of a courthouse, a garden, a restaurant or your own backyard doesn’t call for a 25-foot couture train—or the months of fittings that go with it. Want to wear a badass jumpsuit à la Solange or non-traditional color? Do your thing. And if you do want the big gown, that’s your decision to make as well. The point is, you’re controlling things, not the dress code or other people’s expectations. (P.S. That also means no need to force your BFFS into matching bridesmaids dresses either. Just sayin’.)

6. You still get to have your dream wedding

An incredible cake, dreamy flowers, a photo booth, the playlist you’ve been curating since you were nine? None of these things need to be nixed just because you’re celebrating on a smaller scale. In fact, because there are fewer guests, you can splurge on the things you care about without going bankrupt, whether that’s a chef-made meal or your flower crown. Space is limited, but when it comes to your wedding fantasies, the sky’s still the limit.

How to throw a Microwedding

1. Decide on your budget

Just like planning a 300-person soiree, a microwedding will still cost a good deal of money. For example, this Tiny Wedding package goes for $1,750—however, it only includes two guests. So, it's important to know what your limits are when it comes to your wallet. Wedding planner Jennifer Brisman breaks down the costs of a wedding like so: Officiant fee (1 percent of the budget), bridal party gifts (2 percent of the budget), tips and gratuities (2 percent of the budget), invitations and paper goods (7 percent of the budget), bride and groom attire and accessories (5 percent of the budget), photography and videography (10 percent of the budget), music and entertainment (12 percent of the budget), florals and decor (13 percent of the budget), reception venue, food, beverage and staffing (45 percent of the budget).

2. Build your guest list and stick to it

Your head count is always important. After all, wedding experts break down the total by cost per person. This also informs your where you can spend your money. Twenty guests vs. ten guests is a big difference when you consider table settings and dinner. And while your aunt Shirley desperately want you to invite cousin Ralph, try to keep in mind that the point of a microwedding is to keep things intimate. Brisman suggests making a general rule to cut your list down. For instance, “21 and over”or “no plus-ones unless it’s really serious” are easy ways to cut down on your number without hurting feelings.

Sticking to your guest list is also crucial in terms of safety when it comes to COVID-19. Make sure to check with local and state guidelines to follow gathering mandates. You want to land on a number where you can safely and legally gather and remain socially distant during all the wedding activities.

3. Research and pick a venue

The best thing about a microwedding is that you have so many more options for where you can hold it since you don't have to find a space that's roomy enough for 150 people. Whether it's a dreamy backyard that can be bedazzled with fairy lights, a public space that's important to you (like a park where you can apply for a permit) or a favorite restaurant, your venue will set the tone for the evening. And part of that tone is how safe people feel. Does your venue have sanitation policies in place in light of COVID or are they skirting around the issue? It's imperative to learn about all of your vendors' responses to COVID—especially if they're handling food services—and decide if they meet your expectations.

4. Make a splurge vs. scrimp list

Would you rather indulge in a five-course meal with 12 guests or keep things casual and then rock out with a DJ? Prioritize what you are OK splurging on and what you'd rather scrimp on. For every couple this is different, so really sit down and have that conversation with your partner to be on the same page—or at least compromise. (Ha, marriage.)

5. Peek at social media

Yes, we're giving you permission to scroll your little heart out. Follow some wedding photographers or event planners whose aesthetic you like and take note of the little things—the glassware, the sweet table, the florals. One of the best things about a microwedding is that because it's smaller, you can concentrate on the details and invest in really making them shine the way you want them to.

6. Wear what you want to wear (and give your guests a dress code)

A microwedding can be a black tie affair if you deem it so! Wear the ballgown if that's your vision and ask your guests to dress formally too. Or, wear a Canadian tuxedo and ask your guests to dress “cowboy chic.” The point is: Just because it's small affair doesn't mean you can't go big.

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