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When the pandemic hit, many couples decided to postpone their wedding. Others, however, are doing what has become a red-hot COVID wedding trend: having a micro wedding.

Essentially, it’s a scaled-down version of the grand shebang that follows state guidelines, which in Massachusetts means private residential gatherings of up to 10 people indoors and no more than 25 outdoors. For public settings and event venues, gatherings can be up to 25 people indoors and no more than 50 outside. So what has driven the popularity of pocket-size weddings?

Janie Haas. Photograph by Genevieve de Manio  

The reasons are many, says Janie Haas of Janie Haas Events, who has planned numerous mini weddings during COVID-19. “Some couples had the venue or vendors under contract, so decided to get married and have a big celebration at a later date,” she says. “There are other couples who wanted to get married and it was never about the celebration or they always wanted a small wedding and the mandates legitimized that.” 

Encore Boston Harbor's executive director of hotel sales and catering Kassi Weist has found that most of her micro wedding couples simply didn’t want to put their lives on hold. “Some want to start a family, while others wanted to start creating new, positive memories together,” she says. “Others were planning a wedding in an international destination, but because of travel restrictions, decided to get married locally. Encore, being a large resort with so many amenities, like the restaurants, spa, and casino, feels like a destination without the risk of traveling.” 

Melissa Thunberg, CEO of Bramble Hospitality, says that many couples who “had wanted hundreds of guests at a big hotel decided to have an intimate wedding at a smaller spot [like Willowdale Estate or the Briar Barn Inn] because the original venue was closed or their date wasn’t available a year later.” Take Gianna and Greg Baglioni, who got married at the Briar Barn Inn last Halloween. 

“We were noodling with a ski wedding or doing a big farm wedding,” says Gianna Baglioni, “and then a girlfriend said to us, ‘I’m kind of jealous. If I were you and could invite 20 or so guests, I’d do it in a heartbeat.’” 

Photographs by Brynna Grae Lee

“After going through so many plans and competing with so many couples who had postponed, we decided to make it happen,” says her husband, Greg, who helped whittle down the guest list from 200 to 25, which included the couple. “It was a mix of family and friends and the perfect amount of people because we weren’t getting lost in a sea of guests.” 

“It really forced us to focus on what mattered most to us,” adds Gianna, “which was the company, the food, and the vibe.” All guests got COVID-19 tests prior to the wedding and followed health protocols during the event. After an outdoor ceremony nearby, the couple gathered with near and dear in the dining room of Grove for cocktails and a gourmet dinner. An adjacent patio strung with bistro lights provided outside space, where guests could mingle under a glowing, full moon. 

Because their wedding was so small, the couple splurged on various items, including grander floral arrangements, fancier foods, like mini cheeseboards at each place setting, and more upscale décor, including crystal geodes on each table. Instead of renting the two sweetheart chairs at their dinner table, the couple bought them to serve as keepsakes. “The hardest part of planning the wedding, which we did in three weeks,” says Gianna, “was scaling back the guest list and dealing with the anxiety of our guests’ safety. But we did everything we could and it ended up working out beautifully.”

At Encore Boston Harbor, couples can marry outside in the garden or gazebo and congregate for dinner in multiple spaces suitable for small groups. “Guests need to be seated for food and drink, so we have cocktails and appetizers at each table,” says Weist, followed by a plated dinner. “Our chef has created several micro wedding menus, but couples can choose a la carte. The benefit of having turnkey expenses taken care of, like food, florals, and the venue, is that it’s a lot less stress for couples and they can focus on soaking up the moment and seeing friends.”

Since petite weddings involve so few guests, many couples are springing for things they wouldn’t have considered with a crowd. “Because there can be no mingling at bars, for example, we’ve done self-service ice buckets holding single-serve bottles of Moët & Chandon champagne with a straw inside,” says Haas. Some newlyweds have offered their guests a choice of three entrees. One couple had a five-course tasting menu paired with wine. “With fewer guests, couples can really step back and think about how to personalize their event with details,” says Haas.

Because the state has banned dance floors due to social distancing issues, wedding venues have created intriguing alternatives. “We are offering an outdoor game package,” says Thunberg, “with giant Jenga, checkers, and Ladder Ball with all the hygiene protocols. Photo booths are also popular, as are fun dessert stations, like outdoor s’more’s and ice cream sundae stations, which you don’t often see at bigger weddings.”

Personalized hand sanitizers have become the new pandemic favor and for health reasons, couples are cutting junior wedding cakes and offering guests plated cupcakes. Also, colored bracelets have become the new polite, nonverbal way for wedding guests to convey their comfort level when socializing. A red bracelet means the person’s social distancing, a yellow bracelet indicates they’re being cautious and green says, “I’m okay if you’re around me.” Haas notes, there are even some doctors who will come to the couple’s venue and administer rapid coronavirus tests that yield results in 15 minutes. 

“I’ve done a ton of weddings and I’ve cried at micro weddings more than ever,” says Weist. “I think it’s a combination of all the emotions building up to the event and then being able to meet and exceed a couple’s dreams.” 

“My advice to couples considering a micro wedding is to go for it,” says Gianna Baglioni. “There is magic that happens when it is that small.” 

“You’ll never regret it,” adds her husband. “Your wedding will always be a big day, no matter how large or small it is.”,,,