Danielle Woodcock was planning her wedding when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, delaying and eventually cancelling her big day. By the time she revisited it in 2021, she had decided to go in a different direction – a micro-wedding.
Her guest list, once around 100, dwindled to 30 people, and in the end, she and her partner James Costello spent less than $10,000.
Before going the micro-wedding route, the venue and food alone was going to cost well over $10,000, she said.
While many couples had smaller weddings in recent years because of pandemic restrictions, decades-high inflation is leading many to opt for a micro-wedding, which typically includes up to 50 guests.
Though increased costs were a factor when Woodcock started planning again, the pandemic also made her rethink the whole wedding.
Their October 2022 wedding planned by Toronto Micro Weddings was intimate, personalized and — most importantly — fun, she said, instead of stressful and budget-breaking.
"We didn't feel like we lost out on anything."
TD’s annual Love and Money survey of American couples, conducted in November 2021, found that almost a third were planning on having a micro-wedding — and that was before inflation peaked on both sides of the border in the summer of 2022. It’s also before central banks started raising interest rates, driving up the cost of borrowing.
Tiffany MacIsaac and her husband started Toronto Micro Weddings through their event planning company in 2018. That part of their business saw a significant boost during the pandemic and inflation has only made it more appealing to clients, she said.
“It's just so hard to get a head start in life in general right now,” said MacIsaac, creative director at Toronto Creative Events (TCE).
“I think that the pandemic forced people to have micro-weddings. But the more people went to other people's micro-weddings, the more it's become now something that's just socially acceptable and an option moving forward,” she said, adding that "inquiries haven't stopped."
Many couples these days feel like they have to decide between having their dream wedding and being able to save for the future, she said.
“We wanted to create a package that made it possible to do both.”
To help keep costs down for couples, companies that plan micro-weddings partner with event vendors and venues, acting as middlemen to make things easier on the couple and the vendors. Some venues are also starting to offer their own micro-wedding packages.
MacIsaac said TCE is opening their own venue and is particularly focused on working with emerging and marginalized artists.
Toronto Micro Weddings’ base package for a ceremony and cocktail reception starts at $8,000, and MacIsaac is also happy to make cost-effective recommendations for things the package doesn't cover — she often points brides to places that rent out wedding dresses.
Some couples are taking the micro-wedding trend a step further and opting for pop-up weddings.
This means a company will set up a wedding venue for a day or a weekend and couples can pay to use it, usually for just the ceremony with some refreshments, explained Nataleigh Ballantyne, founder of Love Shack Toronto, a wedding planning business.
Ballantyne and her now-husband started their business with a shipping-container wedding pop-up in Toronto which opened in July 2020. Accommodating up to eight guests, Ballantyne wanted the space to have a Las-Vegas-chapel feel, and it served as an alternative for people to get married under COVID-19 guidelines.
Though the shipping container was temporary, Love Shack Toronto now does a mix of micro-weddings and pop-ups.
A common misconception about micro-weddings is that because they cost less, they’re not as special, said Ballantyne.
“I think micro-weddings allow people to really prioritize what's important to them for that day,” she explained, recommending that couples make a “deal-breaker list” so they can figure out what to prioritize financially.
The guest list is often the toughest part of a small wedding, said Ballantyne, but her advice about prioritization extends to guests — follow your heart, and focus on what’s most important to you.
“If you can't live without those people being there, then do what feels right,” she said.
“The thing about weddings, micro or not, is that there is truly no right or wrong answer.”
Toronto Micro Weddings clients Alicia and Khaled Maadarani got married in July 2022, and the couple said inflation was a big factor in their decision to have a micro-wedding.
As they looked into their options, they realized a 50-person event would set them back around $13,000; but their wedding totalled roughly $8,000 instead.
It was a big relief for the couple, who say they were able to stress less about money before and after their big day.
“I feel like as long as you have people there that you love and care about, that's all that really matters,” said Alicia Maadarani.
“Stressing yourself out over a big wedding with a big budget isn't really worth it.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 10, 2023.
Rosa Saba, The Canadian Press