Maggie Winters Gaudaen, the co-founder of elopement and pop-up wedding company Pop! Wed Co., says most of her clients are more focused on the actual marriage rather than the party.
“They want it to be an amazing experience but they want it to be amazing in a non-stressful, affordable way,” she says. “A lot of couples don’t want to spend a year planning it and spend what could be the down payment for a new house on a wedding.”
Gaudaen’s husband, Steven Gaudaen, is the other half of Pop! Wed Co., as the paperwork guy and the wedding officiant. She plans the ceremony and takes the photos. Pop! Wed Co. weddings usually take place in less traditional settings, such as beer breweries, vintage stores and the occasional local landmark. But, you won’t find them at the monuments. To them, D.C. has a lot more to offer.
Sometimes, part of the fun is having life continue as usual around the pop-up ceremony. Gaudaen says they never ask venues to close for a wedding, since it’s part of the experience.
“We did a wedding at Miss Pixie’s, [a vintage furniture and home goods store] and we didn’t realize there were a lot of people shopping in the store, and watching, but as soon as Steven pronounced them married, the whole store erupted in cheers.”
Most, but not all, of the Gaudaens’ clients are on the younger side. They’re not just from D.C. either. Gaudaen recently published a book on tiny-wedding planning after responding to the volume of emails from around the world got to be too much. Rather than just lay out the process point-by-point, she says she tried to reframe the way we think about weddings.
“For a lot of people in their 20s and 30s, growing up it was always about the pretty princess wedding dress, the ballgown, the huge wedding, thinking about what your wedding invites are going to look like, all from a young age. It’s a part of our culture.”
What she’s finding now is that a lot of people don’t want that kind of wedding anymore.
In her book, she counsels couples on how to build upward from the minimum viable wedding. Start with the essentials and customize it the way you want. It’s a good way to keep an eye on your budget while still personalizing your experience.
A pop-up wedding, which usually has no more than 25 guests, may be a bit smaller than you’re looking for. No problem, says Capitol Romance writer Bree Ryback. The wedding coordinator and blogger says she helps couples cut costs in other ways besides venue costs.
Capitol Romance is a D.C.-based wedding blog that Ryback started in 2011, citing her passion for supporting local businesses and helping all different kinds of couples in D.C., Maryland and Virginia plan the wedding they want to have. A lot of couples, Ryback finds, just aren’t interested in the hotel ballroom-style reception.
Instead of renting an indoor space, check out local parks and other free, public options as a ceremony location. An example Ryback gives of a laid-back, small wedding without any expensive rentals is one that took place in the couple’s own neighborhood. The couple got married at a park near their house and had a brunch reception in their backyard.
If you’re looking to invite more than 40 to 50 people to your wedding, this may not be feasible for you, but if your living space allows, it can be a great way to stay on budget — as long as you don’t mind doing the dishes.
Some couples who can’t host their own receptions opt for a dinner at a local restaurant, then hit the bars for their reception. Instead of hiring a shuttle company for you and your guests, opt for ride-sharing apps such as Lyft or Uber. And just because a wedding blog tells you that gold-plated flatware is absolutely essential for your perfect day, doesn’t mean you have to believe it. The fun of a small wedding is that it fits your personality and your budget.
For Ryback’s own wedding, she chose to “DIY” a few aspects of the big day. Her mother made the bride and bridesmaids bouquets out of Christmas ornaments and tulle. She also made Ryback’s wedding dress by hand. Ryback also used recycled paper, more Christmas ornaments, and funfetti cupcakes instead of a wedding cake to personalize her wedding day. If you’re curious, you can see photos of her big day here.
Ryback cautions that DIY doesn’t always mean cost-cutting, and you need to be prepared for a lot of late nights working on your projects, but she says the end result is worth it.
“We wanted to DIY because it gives the whole thing a more personal touch,” she says. “We felt more connected to it.”
Bil Malbon, an ordained minister in Richmond, Virginia, says he sees all types of wedding parties come through the doors of his tiny, mobile chapel.
One couple he married had a gothic wedding, he says, and then they went to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum afterward as part of their honeymoon. Another couple requested that he bring the chapel to a spot along the bank of the James River in Richmond so they could celebrate in their favorite place. The farthest he’s taken his chapel on wheels is to Chicago for an on-the-spot marriage on the Steve Harvey Show.
Having a tiny wedding doesn’t mean giving up the joy of celebrating a marriage, Malbon says.
“You can still make it very nice, elegant and intimate. You don’t need to have a large wedding to have people celebrate with you.”
An added benefit of a tiny wedding, he says, is being able to save the money you’d spend on a large-scale reception and put it toward long-lasting memories.
“Instead of spending thousands of dollars on an event that lasts a few hours, you can spend that money on a trip to Europe, to the Caribbean, or a cross-country trip. Do something that will give you years’ worth of memories.”
“I tell couples all the time, it makes the beginning of the relationship a lot more exciting when you’re not worried about paying off that one day,” Malbon says. “Be married to each other, not married to debt.”