According to The Knot’s 2019 Real Weddings Study, the average cost for a wedding in Virginia is $33,300 — and that’s just dollars and cents. Take into account the time, energy and emotional stress of scouting the ideal location, agreeing on a caterer, alcohol, music, photography, and of course, the guest list and ensuing arguments as friendships are measured and behavioral quirks of uncles and cousins are hashed over.
Now, factor in the uncertainty, fear and restrictions of COVID-19. Cancelations and postponements have been frequent in 2020, and whether out of necessity or choice, the betrothed are planning smaller, more intimate celebrations. Perhaps the necessity of a smaller wedding is proving that there is value in intimacy. Your special day should be less about production and more about quality and surrounding yourself with those who are most important to you.
Large and lavish blowout weddings are not going anywhere anytime soon. Neither are elopements or intimate gatherings at City Hall. Many couples are simply seeking out the luxury and sense of occasion that comes with a big wedding — just on a smaller scale and without breaking the bank.
Minimization and trimming the fat have become increasingly more appealing as couples weigh the financial aspect as well as how they want to remember their big day. Couples often invite hundreds of guests to attend their nuptials and hardly have time to enjoy the food, have a meaningful conversation or spend quality time with anyone.
“We wanted it to be special and we wanted to remember everything,” says newlywed Christina Judd. “So many of our friends had blow-out weddings. Their parents spent all this money and they didn’t remember anything because they couldn’t stop and enjoy the celebration. We decided to have it in our backyard.”
Pandemic or not, some couples are content with a backyard barbecue and beer wedding and reception while others want the full Monty, but that’s just not feasible amid the madness and restrictions of today.
“We had 15 people at our wedding,” says Lucian Crocket of Midlothian. “We wanted a smaller wedding, but not that small!” When faced with the realization that their celebration would be limited in size, he and his fiance decided to have a true microwedding in Roaring Gap, North Carolina.
“We had a rehearsal dinner, flowers, a photographer, my wife’s mom is a calligrapher so she did the invitations, we got married in a chapel with flower girls and a ring bearer. I’d say we had all the elements of a real wedding, just on a much smaller scale,” Crocket says.
Companies are forming to meet the needs of this expanding niche market while catering to the new normal of a world changed by COVID-19. “The pandemic is making couples prioritize what is really important on their wedding day — especially concerning those who are attending and the true meaning of the day,” says Williamsburg-based Micro-Weddings Virginia owner Gari-Ann Kia. “The difference between a small wedding and a microwedding is that a microwedding still has all the elegance of a much larger event. It still has a gorgeous venue, amazing florals, top-notch planning, and professional vendors — but on a much smaller scale.”
In 2020, several of Richmond’s most popular locations have seen a dramatic increase in micoweddings. Known for its natural beauty and stunning grounds, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden capitalized on the uptick of microweddings due to the pandemic. “We’ve quickly realized that there’s a definite shift in the wedding industry for couples who are pivoting to a more intimate gathering for their big day, whether out of necessity or trend,” says Wedding and Private Events Coordinator Jaclyn Wilkins. “Through these last few months of the pandemic, our microwedding package has been one of the most popular packages we offer (accompanying our elopement package as our No. 1 seller this year), booking for 2020 and into next year.”
The Virginia War Memorial offers all-inclusive microwedding packages starting as low as $875. And even the unlikeliest of wedding venues are finding creative ways to accommodate brides and grooms during the pandemic. In September, the Altria Theater hosted a rehearsal dinner and wedding for more than 100 people with a lavish reception to boot, all while following strict social distancing and safety guidelines.
For some couples who began planning a traditional wedding in 2018 and 2019, the curveball of COVID-19 hit hard. But a silver lining and possibly the beginning of a new trend has come to light.
“A lot of our couples went through a series of emotions,” says Kim Moody, co-owner and planner at The Estate at River Run. “There was this massive angst of wondering if the pandemic was going to affect them, and when that became apparent, it was earth-shattering. But what we noticed was a major sense of closeness and a close-knit intimate experience with the families. The couples were really listening to the pastor and the actual taking of the vows became much more serious. It was like the whole world kind of stopped and they were able to enjoy those moments so much more intimately than if there were eight bridesmaids and 200 guests in attendance.”
Minimoons & Weddingmoons
Easy, inexpensive and low-key travel is the natural choice for many, while for others, jetting off to a sun-drenched beach to drink piña coladas with your new life partner is the only way to celebrate marriage. Even before the pandemic, the idea of a “weddingmoon” (staying in place for the big day and honeymoon) was common.
“The pandemic has drastically changed our industry. Couples are much more focused on domestic travel this year,” says Holly Cole of The Vacation Chic travel agency in Richmond. “But, even with everything that’s going on, I [also see a rise in] couples interested in all-inclusive wedding packages outside of the U.S. The cost, the service and the peace of mind really can’t be beaten. You still have input, but they think for you and see every detail.” This means less stress for the couple, especially in the time of COVID, because all the honeymoon plans are worked out pre-travel with the resort.
While travel agents still see a steady flow of couples choosing all-inclusive getaway packages, some newlyweds want to stay local without losing a sense of leisure and vacation. Fortunately, a number of local destinations in or just outside greater Richmond await. You only have to go as far as downtown for a mellow minimoon at the historic Linden Row Inn or spend a long weekend at the nearby Graduate Richmond hotel. If it’s pampering you and your partner desire, head west and spend your honeymoon playing golf and relaxing in the spa at the Boar’s Head Resort, Charlottesville’s only four-diamond resort. Regardless of limitations due to the pandemic, personal preference, concerns about traveling or cost, newlyweds do not have to go far to have a proper honeymoon in 2020 and 2021.
These all-inclusive venues are just a sampling of sites making it easy to create a wedding and honeymoon extended-stay combo without leaving the Richmond region.
Downtown Richmond’s premier boutique hotel, Quirk offers couples a start-to-finish wedding experience, from rehearsal dinner to reception to honeymoon. Packages vary based on choice of a la cart amenities. Multiple wedding reception spaces include the Q Rooftop Bar, with a breathtaking aerial view of the city. Local artwork, large windows and custom designed furnishings create cozy spaces for the happy couple and their overnight guests. quirkhotel.com
Fairview Farm Events
Pastoral settings with modern conveniences await just west of Midlothian. Fairview Farm attracts couples searching for an upscale experience with a down-home feel. A large renovated farmhouse and dairy barn loft provide spaces for rest and relaxation as well as entertainment. Up to 50 overnight guests can stay on site. fairviewfarmevents.com
The Jefferson Hotel
Celebrate in luxury and honeymoon in place at the elegant Jefferson Hotel. For more than a century, couples have flocked to the luxurious historic landmark to say, “I do” and descend the famous grand staircase as a married couple. With multiple ballrooms and meeting spaces, it’s easy to book the entire wedding weekend from the welcome party to the farewell brunch. jeffersonhotel.com
The Mill at Fine Creek
Find your fairytale wedding destination in central Virginia. Nestled among 10 acres of lush green surroundings, The Mill at Fine Creek offers three private outdoor ceremony sites, 13 cottages for guests, full-service catering with award-winning cuisine and a neighboring brewery. themillatfinecreek.com
Tucked away on 55 acres of rolling hills in Manakin-Sabot, Dover Hall’s 33,000-square-foot English Tudor-inspired estate transports couples and their guests to a long-forgotten era. Celebrate in style amid stunning vistas and grand architecture. Five guest bedrooms provide overnight accommodations for up to 10 guests for an unforgettable wedding weekend. doverhall.com