These couples ditched their 200-person guest lists for ‘micro-weddings’

When Jillian Roach thought about planning her wedding with a 200-person guest list, she was stressed out.

Multiple vendors, party buses, and large venues to host everyone — it felt so daunting, Roach didn’t know where to start.

“I just felt like it was really overwhelming and really expensive,” she said.

Faced with seemingly endless decisions to make, she and her partner ended up staying engaged for three years. Eventually, the couple opted for an intimate gathering of 56 people in September in Sydney, N.S

“It was just a small selected group of literally the closest people in our lives,” Roach said.

Nearest and dearest

Fifty-six people watched as MacDougall and Roach said their vows. (Carla Maria Photography)

One wedding planner says she’s couples are noticedditching large celebrations in favor of “micro-weddings.”

Shannon Forrester is the owner of the Forrester Center in Sydney, a venue that specializes in small events, including weddings.

Forrester said many couples she’s helped tie the knot this year have focused on inviting guests who were mainstays throughout the pandemic.

“A lot of these couples we’re seeing maybe started out with a large-scale wedding have just said, you know what? The stress of the last number of years with the pandemic has enabled us to sort of pause and step back and reflect a bit more on what’s truly important,” she said.

“Maybe they started off with a 200-person wedding and they’re looking at it and saying, well, we really haven’t spent a lot of time with so-and-so in the last number of years.”

Shrinking guest lists

Gioia and Kyle Usher were married in an outdoor ceremony in Big Baddeck, NS, to witness by 30 of their loved ones. (Ashley MacDonald)

COVID restrictions also affected wedding planning. Around 4,000 marriage licenses are issued each year in Nova Scotia, but 2020 saw only 2,574 licenses issued, according to data from the province. In 2021, the numbers climbed to 3,655.

Gioia Usher and her partner got married in September 2021 in front of grandparents, parents, siblings, godparents and a couple of friends. It ended up being about 30 people at a ceremony in Big Baddeck, NS

“We chose to do it that way because of COVID,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that no matter what happened with restrictions, if we had a small outdoor wedding it could still go ahead.”

Usher said being wed in front of their closest loved ones felt good.

“I didn’t feel nervous. I think if there were 200-and-some people in the crowd, I would be very nervous about saying something or saying the wrong thing or stumbling,” Usher said.

Newlyweds Emma Lavender and Chris Kingston tied the knot in front of about 30 close friends and family. (Samson Photography)

Close-knit group

In Lunenburg, N.S., Emma Lavender and her husband, Chris Kingston, decided to get married in a little ceremony in front of the 30th of their closest friends and family at a farmhouse.

With the uncertainty of COVID restrictions hovering over their heads, Lavender said planning a small wedding eliminated “what ifs” associated with potential pandemic lockdowns.

She also liked how personal the day felt.

“You’re not trying to meet or talk to 200 people, you have a small group of core people who have impacted your life significantly there,” she said.

Lavender said she wouldn’t have changed anything about her wedding day.

“We had the greatest time with all of our favorite people and it was just perfect,” she said.

Focus on what’s important

Forrester said small-scale nuptials are appealing to those who may have faced challenging years throughout the pandemic, especially when it comes to mental health struggles.

Some couples have told her standing in front of a room full of people to say their vows seems anxiety-inducing.

Roach said looking out at the crowd while saying her vows, she saw that every person was a close relative or friend that she loved.

“There’s just something really special about looking out and seeing people that you are so close with,” she said.

“I could actually cry just thinking about it because it’s such a special thing to look out and just only see the most special people in your life in one space.”

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