More couples are choosing to wed in smaller size, intimate celebrations, known as elopements and an even newer term, microweddings. There is, however, a key difference between the two types of events. While both are fundamentally smaller in guest count (elopements are considered more secretive and of-the-moment, whereas microweddings are full-on nuptials with an intimate number of guests), about 10 percent of all weddings in the U.S. in 2018 ended up fitting into either category. Find out which option, whether it’s a microwedding or an elopement, is best for you and your partner.
What Is a Microwedding?
A microwedding, like its name suggests, will typically include anywhere from five to 50 guests—often immediate family and super-close friends only. Though tiny in guest count, a microwedding isn’t an elopement, which is usually planned and attended only by the couple (and a witness) and often performed in secret (though not always). Think of a microwedding as a beautiful cross between an elopement and a big, traditional wedding—and it might just be the perfect compromise to suit your style.
"More is not always necessarily more," says renowned event planner Stefanie Cove. “A microwedding is for the couple who wants to really focus and spend the majority of their budget on the smaller details, whereas it might be difficult to replicate the same experience for, say, 200 guests.”
While a microwedding can definitely save you money, many couples are turning it into a macro experience. According to The Knot 2018 Real Weddings Study, the average overall guest count was also down, while the average cost per guest went up. “Couples can certainly save money by going the route of microweddings, though many decide to actually spend their full budget. Only on less people,” Cove explains. “Some couples will even take their budget and host the hotel rooms for their guests, along with transportation and other items that may not normally be affordable for a larger-size wedding.”
Microweddings, however, are not the type of occasion where couples should look to cut corners from the beginning. Many couples who throw microweddings will splurge on a top-shelf open bar and a savory sit-down dinner simply, with intimacy in mind. With a guest list of 15 of your nearest and dearest, a tropical destination weekend wedding, a designer wedding dress or a decadent brunch at a five-star restaurant becomes much more feasible. and view how many people have liked a post, made comments and more.
What Is an Elopement?
The definition of an elopement has evolved in the last five years especially as couples are increasingly personalizing every aspect of their lives. Traditionally, elopements were considered spur-of-the-moment and unplanned events involving an element of secrecy. Today, there is still an air of sweeping romance involved in elopements, but couples are taking the extra steps to personalize it too.
“We always ask first about the memory couples want to create with their elopement,” says Debbie Pribyl, the General Manager at the Moorings Village in Key West, Florida. “Then, we guide them with suggestions as if they’re planning to produce their perfect dream wedding.” The property asks eloping couples to pick dates that are meaningful to their love story, in addition to incorporating sentimental touches into their wedding vows. Of course, dreamy locations are easier to reach for a smaller size group.
“I suggest all couples look for unique attractions at their chosen destination. For example, we have a lighthouse that’s about four miles offshore in the middle of the sea,” says Pribyl. “Couples can go out in a boat with an officiant, and get married on the bows of the boat in front of the lighthouse.”
Some properties will fully embrace the elements for elopements, like the Lodge at Blue Sky in Utah, which has its very own "Full Moon Ceremony." The wedding looks something like this: If a couple has witnesses or guests, everyone will travel up a mountain as they’re guided by moonlight. Once the party arrives, a “full moon elixir” is served and witnesses watch the couple exchange vows under the moon and stars.
In 2019, Kieron Hales, the co-owner of Zingerman’s Cornman Farms in Michigan, came up with a concept called the "Tiny Wedding" to address the growing demand for both microweddings and elopements. “We noticed that there was a significant number of guests who wanted to get married on our property with limited guests, limited planning and limited budget. Sadly, we did not have the right product to offer them,” he tells The Knot. “Couple this with the rise in popularity of microweddings and elopements, as well as the number of elopement planners popping up, and we knew the timing was right for several reasons.”
The Pros of Both Microweddings and Elopements
A recent survey conducted by Helzberg Diamonds found that nine out of every 10 millennials have considered eloping. The trend also encompasses the same age group of those who’ve already married, who surprisingly had an affinity for elopements. The same survey found that three out of every five couples who’ve married asserted that if they were to plan another wedding, they would elope.
"Marriage in the traditional sense is changing,” says Emily Pilk, the head of events at the Hotel Weyanoke in Farmville, Virginia. “Gone are the days when the success of a wedding was directly correlated to its price tag with a wedding that truly didn’t fit your vision as a couple. Big is not always better.”
A smaller wedding and fewer expectations allows you to be more flexible and creative. You’re free to change things up—for example, you won’t feel pressure to include wedding traditions that have never really resonated with you. Also, a teeny, tiny wedding will be easier to coordinate, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. You’ll be able to reserve a private room at that top-notch restaurant you’ve always wanted to try, fit everyone into your childhood backyard, or bring your immediate family and besties up a mountain for a scenic ceremony and picnic lunch.
"We recently worked with a lovely couple, Chaise and Patricia, who had a microwedding in one of our property’s smaller spaces known as the ‘Sassafras,’” says Pilk. “Although this isn’t our typical spot for weddings at the hotel, we were excited to transform the space and make it a unique reception spot for the couple. At the center of our decor was a plethora of greenery and flowers complemented by wooden chairs and gold accents… The wedding was under 30 people, so you could tell that everyone at the ceremony had a deeply personal connection with the bride and groom. The energy at the ceremony was full of warmth and fun [as seen at a typical wedding].”
“I find that the guests really get to know each other well and spend a good amount of time together,” says Cove. “The clients are able to focus on all of their guests throughout the weekend. Some of my favorite wedding weekends have been micro weddings in special, smaller destinations where the guests ride around on their own golf carts decorated for the wedding group.”
Though a massive guest list would make for a full and festive party, another potential pitfall is you wouldn’t be able to hug, kiss and catch up with everyone there—kind of a sad thought, right? By choosing a microwedding, you’ll be able to prioritize spending quality time with each and every loved one at your event. This is one case in which less is totally more. Whether or not you consider yourself a shy person, your dream wedding might be saying “I do” in front of 10 witnesses you adore, followed by cake and champagne at your favorite restaurant—with no pressure, just love. And you should absolutely do it.
Finally, keep in mind: Having an intimate or large, black-tie or no-tie wedding is ultimately up to you. “I think couples may get worried about trimming their guest list to the microwedding level,” Cove concludes. “I think it is best that they are honest and relay that they are having an incredibly intimate wedding with their closest family members and friends.”
In short, if you want to have a huge party with your loved ones, then so be it. And if a microwedding or an elopement sounds like it’s a reflection of you as a couple, then it’s a great way to remember your wedding day in a way that was yours. Truly.