Are Small Weddings & Intimate Elopements The New Normal After COVID-19? • Brei Olivier


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Are Small Weddings & Intimate Elopements The New Normal After COVID-19?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you know ALL about the coronavirus. Where it came from, how it spread, all of the political bickering back and forth… yada yada yada.

But I want to talk about the future of weddings.

***UPDATE on 4/27/20 @ 4:04pm: Governor Edwards says Louisiana does not meet the critera to reopen and is extending the State level stay-at-home mandate to May 15, 2020.***

Back in March, the CDC officially recommended all weddings be cancelled in the United States up until mid-May. Today is April 27, 2020 and what all of us in the wedding industry, at least those of us here in New Orleans, are learning more every day is that this is a fluid situation. 

CDC recommendations for weddings coronavirus

You, on the other hand, probably had everything figured out for your wedding. Maybe you had a couple things left to do, but you knew what your decor would look like, vendors, and general plans of how your wedding day would happen. You were also mentally prepared to deal with a crying flowergirl, a guest who maybe had a little too much to drink, and all of the other things that happen as a part of the general chaos on wedding day.

Then COVID-19 showed up and sent the entire world into a spiral. Sure, you had a plan for everything… except a viral pandemic that literally shut down life as we know it.

At this point in time (today is April 27, 2020), we’ve gotten through a major portion of the stay-at-home order, and a lot of the conversation surrounding coronavirus happening now is about the country opening up again

But what exactly does that look like? Multiple people including Governor Cuomo from New York have said they will gradually open up rather than all at once. Our mayor here in New Orleans has said that cases will need to decline for 21 days straight before we can consider a gradual re-opening of the city.

So what does that mean for weddings with possibly 250+ guests? What about weddings with 50 guests?

Small weddings new trend in 2020 after coronavirus

What will weddings look like when everything starts opening up again?

With many events far into the future being cancelled like the Olympics, Burning Man, & Voodoo, and even some universities thinking about not coming back until 2021,  you might be thinking “If they’re postponing… do I need to consider it too?” 

The good news is that a wedding is much different than an event or campus with tens of thousands of people, but that doesn’t mean the thought of it isn’t still a bit nerve wracking!

Currently in New Orleans, the stay-at-home mandate extends through May 16, 2020. With everything up in the air, that leaves me (and probably you) with questions like…

  1. Does that mean weddings will be able to continue on as planned after May 16? 
  2. Are sanitary stations going be required & do we need to get on that?
  3. Will we have to check everyone’s temperature before attending?
  4. Will we need to hire (read: pay for) even more servers for our food lines?
  5. And mostly: Will there be a cap on the number of guests allowed to attend our wedding?

Who is to say when or if what we know as normal will return? Currently we don’t know exactly what is going to happen in the wake of this pandemic on a country-wide scale, and we don’t know what the future holds for the wedding industry either.

As for New Orleans, the local government isn’t being very clear of what to expect going forward. Hopefully our governor will address this during his update today at 4pm CST.

So does this mean we’re just supposed to cancel love until all of this goes away? Are you reading this thinking that somehow, someway there has to be a better option?

What if I told you there is another option?

What if I told you that reducing your guest list back somewhat, or even completely, and having a small wedding or elopement would give you the chance to still have the dreamy wedding day you had been looking forward to?

Believe it or not, small weddings & elopements have already been on the rise in the past few years. Why? Because millennials are drawn to the stripped back, less stressful version of a traditional wedding.

Small wedding New Orleans

Small weddings & elopements allow you to ditch the expectations, chaos, and production of hosting a few hundred guests and instead have a “just-us” experience that focuses on you being able to spend uninterrupted, quality time together on the day you get married.

Having a small wedding or elopement could also relieve some pressure off of your guests. Alissa and her fiance set to have their date on October 2, 2020 but reduced the number of guests from 100 to 28.

“We decided [that] with [the] majority of our friends and families being [laid] off [of] work, it wouldn’t be fair to ask them to scramble to come to our reception, especially with knowing everyone’s finances are a bit tight right now […] The good thing is that we [will still be] married and that’s what matter[s] more to us. Also it gives us a chance to [have] the weekend we always wanted.” -Alissa

 If you’re open to a modified version of your day, here is a guide to answer some of your questions and help you decide whether an elopement or an intimate wedding is right for you.


What is an elopement?

Elopements are not what they used to be. Today’s version is not the unplanned, cheap, or cheesy ceremonies our parents knew. Now an elopement is an intentionally small wedding where the focus of the day is completely on you two. You can think of it as a “just us” experience. A totally stripped back version of a wedding with 15 guests or fewer that focuses only on what truly matters to you.

The best thing about elopements is that there are no rules. Getting married in this way gives you the chance to create a wedding day that truly reflects who you are.

Where can I elope?

Practically anywhere. When you don’t have many guests to accommodate, you can get married in almost any place imaginable.

  • Can be an official wedding venue
  • Can be a private residence. Cozy backyard wedding with twinkle lights, anyone?
  • A hiking trail overlooking beautiful scenery
  • In a local or national park (though check for shutdowns and most need a permit!!!)
  • Click here  or here to check out my favorite small wedding venues in New Orleans

Do I tell everyone we’ve invited that we’re going to elope instead?

If you were having a traditional wedding but now wanting to elope, you might consider telling your guests. One way to do this is to send out an announcement beforehand to your guests. Something to be be prepared for emotionally is for someone, or a few people, to not be super supportive of your choice. 

You also have the option to keep your new plans to yourself for the time being then send out a “We Eloped!” announcement after the fact!

How can we include our closest family and friends in our elopement?

Three ideas for including your favorite people in your elopement are:

  1. Have them write you letters that you open the morning of your wedding or during your ceremony.
  2. Include them with a livestream of your ceremony
  3. Have your mom, BFF, grandma, etc pick out dresses with you
  4. Hire an awesome photographer and capture the full story of your day from start to finish, just like you would have for your traditional wedding. Then share it with them!

Intimate Weddings

What is an intimate wedding?

An intimate wedding can have up to around 50 guests and generally has a timeline that includes a ceremony & a reception. 

Where can I have an intimate wedding?

While you’re a little more limited on locations with an intimate wedding, there are still plenty of options available and something like a backyard, the Starlight Lounge, or the Tree of Life could totally work. Click here to check out my favorite venues for small weddings in New Orleans.

Consider making it a multi-day event

Just because you’re having a small wedding doesn’t mean you can’t have multiple days of celebrations! You’re still allowed to have a “rehearsal dinner” and even a brunch with everyone on the morning following your wedding day. You still get to celebrate you and your spouse! 

Have a big celebration later

Whether you choose to elope or have an intimate wedding, you can always have a big celebration later when they’re allowed again! This is already a super popular choice with couples who elope. It can be anything from a backyard BBQ with everyone to a huge party. If you really had your heart set on a big reception, how about having a 1 year anniversary party that doubles as your reception?

The New Normal?

Small weddings and elopements were already on the rise before the coronavirus pandemic, and now they are definitely being thrust into the spotlight as more and more couples scale back their big weddings. 

And that leaves me wondering… will even more couples choose to have a small wedding or elopement in the future? If you know anything about me, you know I’m a HUGE advocate of  small weddings and elopements… so I personally hope the trend sticks around for good!

What about you? Are you a bride or groom who has considered a small wedding or elopement in the wake of COVID-19? Do you think small weddings and elopements be the new normal?

More resources on New Orleans elopements & small weddings

More resources on the coronavirus pandemic

The status of this worldwide situation is changing every day (sometimes more!), and it’s important that you stay up to date with the latest information. I highly recommend you checking these official resources:

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