Liz and Jon had 11 people at their wedding. Is this the new normal? – ABC Everyday
Liz Davidson has had the entirety of the pandemic to think about what makes a great wedding. Now, she has three words of advice: “keep it small”.
“I think the ideal number of guests is 30,” she says. “Just go with who you really want there at the end of the day.”
In 2019, Liz and her fiance Jon started planning to tie the knot in Fiji — surrounded by family and friends.
“It was all the aunties and all the uncles. We were making sure no one missed out,” she says.
“And then COVID hit.”
In September this year, they were married in front of just 11 guests (in line with government restrictions) 45 minutes down the road on the central coast of New South Wales. Jon’s family watched via livestream in Queensland. They had their first dance in the hotel room, alone, at the end of the night.
“It was an emotional day,” Liz says. And though it was “a little bit heartbreaking” to not have Jon’s family present, she has no regrets about pushing ahead.
“It was really intimate,” she says.
“[At a small wedding] you get more time to talk to everyone and be with your partner. You have time to eat!
The rise of the ‘micro-wedding’
Jordan Weaver, a wedding planner and stylist from Sydney, says these small weddings are a whole new subset of her business.
“Some couples are keen to get a stylist or a planner on board for an intimate dinner with just 10 people,” she says.
This started out of necessity: state-enforced limits on public gatherings and venue capacity meant that weddings had to stay small.
But Ms Weaver says the trend is really sticking around “post-COVID” — with many people feeling less obligation to have a big event, and reassessing what they want from the day itself.
“I think a lot of couples feel that when you have a big celebration, you have to do certain things,” Ms Weaver says.
That could mean hosting the wedding at home, going full DIY, or putting your money towards special entertainment and premium food/wine.
“If you’ve got fewer people, you can do something absolutely spectacular for them,” Ms Weaver says.
“It doesn’t have to be the standard chicken-and-beef-type thing.”
Planning around COVID
Fewer guests also means fewer vaccination certificates to check.
Ms Weaver says that guests’ and vendors’ vaccination status is front of mind for her clients — even those who are planning weddings for late-2022. And QR codes, social distancing and sanitisation stations are a new part of the planning process too.
“People want to put their guests at ease,” she says.
Those added logistical considerations, she says, are also leading many people to keep their wedding close to home (so there’s less stress about travel and border closures) and rethink extra events like hen’s parties and buck’s nights.
“That kind of big, traditional ‘last hurrah’ has changed,” Ms Weaver says.
“Instead, I’m seeing people opting for things like getting a [holiday rental] and having a couple of mates around.”
This all means a lot of people are missing out on festivities. But, like Liz and Jon, many couples are also using livestreaming to include friends and family in their big day.
It’s now a common service offered by wedding videographers, and there are also a number of specialised platforms that advertise “a virtual wedding experience” for guests watching from afar.
“I think it’s here to stay,” Ms Weaver says.
“There’s always going to be someone who can’t come to your wedding — whether that’s an elderly guest who can’t travel, or friends and family overseas who can’t afford to get to Australia.”
But what if you want a big wedding?
Of course, big weddings aren’t off the table completely. But, as Chantelle Buttigeig and her fiance Lee have learned, they can be really hard work.
“We always wanted a big party with all our friends and family … but now we can’t wait until it’s over,” she says.
“I know that sounds horrible, but it’s true.”
Chantelle and Lee, who live in Mudgee, originally planned on having 100 guests at their wedding on NSW’s far north coast in August.
When new restrictions made that impossible, they postponed until January. And now, though restrictions have eased, they’re watching their guest list shrink as some of her family are unvaccinated and/or unable to travel.
Thankfully, changes to border controls mean that Chantelle’s dad will now be able to make it over from Perth. But she feels guilty about the time he’ll have to take off work — for both the wedding and the two weeks of mandatory self-quarantine on the way home.
“Imagine asking someone to take a month off for your wedding,” she says.
If given her time (and non-refundable deposits) back again, Chantelle says she would go for something less stressful — something local and low-key.
It’s not about the “picture perfect” event that wedding vendors and magazines try to sell you, she says.
“It should just be about the love story.”
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