Domain Registration

Did COVID postpone your marriage? Here’s where to have an unforgettable small wedding

  • May 06, 2021

Waves gently kiss the shore of Hawaii’s Kohala Coast. The blowing of a conch shell signals the bride’s arrival. She meets her husband-to-be beneath the canopy of the wind-swept milo tree. Behind them, coral reefs dot the turquoise waters. From this spot, known as the piko or belly button of the island, you can see all five mountain ranges, not to mention ancient Hawaiian fishponds and petroglyphs.

It’s stunning to the nth degree. Except one thing was not as planned: Most of the guests didn’t attend. When Katie and Cooper Waterman, a couple from Los Angeles, got married in December last year at Mauna Lani Resort on the island of Hawaii, they had a micro wedding.

Total guest count: 25.

Post-nuptials, the group makes a beeline for the adorable Surf Shack, which serves as their own private beach bar complete with blood-orange margaritas, mini sliders and fish tacos. 

“The reception was surreal,” says Katie Waterman. “For most of the guests, it was the first time getting to sit down, listen to live music and enjoy a serviced meal, with more than just their own households. So many things that I think we might have taken for granted had it been a ‘normal’ wedding were incredibly special.”

Indeed, it was much different from the 125-person wedding they were planning on.

Loads of friends and families would have flown in from California, New York and Oahu. But COVID, of course, had a different modus operandi. It turns out their plan B was equally special – a wedding and honeymoon all rolled into one. And the couple hopes to have a larger celebration back at Mauna Lani once travel returns to normal.

“Although we would have loved to have all our family and friends, after a full year of trying to plan through COVID and the quarantines and the heavy travel restrictions put in place for Hawaii, there was still too much uncertainty to plan for that many people, and we were ready to get married,” she says.

If you recently had a wedding, we want to hear from you.

Small weddings on the rise, traditions reimagined

It’s no surprise that the microwedding trend (celebrations with 50 people or fewer) has gotten a major boost during COVID times.

“At their core, microweddings are intimate gatherings of family and very close friends,” says Anna Price Olson, associate editorial director of “This allows for time spent with every VIP guest that’s just not possible at a party for 300-plus people.”   

She says couples are embracing this vibe by seating guests at a single table for dinner, toasts and conversation. Often they will extend the party beyond one night.

“After all, if you’re already taking safety precautions and requiring COVID tests for a wedding, then why not celebrate being able to gather again with a whole weekend of festivities, like a rehearsal dinner, wedding and post-nuptials brunch, together?”

Shea Cochran, who plans events for Mauna Lani, says weddings are back in a big way. “There is an incredible amount of demand for short-term microweddings between now and early July,” she says. 

“I’m not sure the demand has ever been higher in the wedding market,” says Price Olson. “Thanks to all the weddings that were postponed due to COVID, venues; planners; and, really, all vendors are getting couples already reaching out about 2023 weddings, and they’re not too early! Some vendors’ calendars are already completely full for 2022.”

There are certainly plenty of upsides to hosting a small-scale soiree: it can be less expensive, fewer opinions are in the mix, and it’s generally easier to plan. It’s so appealing that Price Olson says she wouldn’t be surprised if the trend continues post-pandemic.

“Having a microwedding allows for more flexibility with plans, and we’re seeing couples host events at home, on their stoops, in their backyard, on the beach, on the Brooklyn Bridge, you name it,” says Price Olson. “We’re also seeing them focus more on the ceremony – i.e. the reason for the gathering – and spending more time with their guests.”

She says couples are getting creative when it comes to nixing the typical wedding traditions. Some couples are saving the “first dance” for their one-year anniversary party, serving pizza as their wedding menu or ordering takeout from their favorite restaurant.

Estancia, La Jolla, California

“The vast majority of our weddings have adjusted to having both their ceremony and reception outside in our gardens,” says Allison Meek, director of catering and events at Estancia La Jolla Hotel Spa. “This isn’t something that has even been the norm for us, but it’s created some truly magical moments. Our couples love the aesthetic of being able to have an intimate dinner with their friends and family, followed by dancing under the lights.”

Since Estancia has nine acres of garden space, she’s also getting requests for different types of entertainment, such as giant board games. The biggest trend she’s noticed is more personalized gifts, menus and place cards because of smaller guest numbers.

“A favorite of mine is personalized cookies at each place seating,” she says.

Hāna-Maui Resort, Maui, Hawaii

At Hāna-Maui Resort, a boutique hotel in the remote town of Hāna on Maui’s east side, a bride is planning a sunrise wedding with a brunch reception that continues into the afternoon complete with afternoon tea and yard games. The resort is spread out across 70 acres, so social distancing is quite easy.

Thanks to the location, between Waiʻānapanapa State Park and Haleakalā National Park, it’s also perfect for epic wedding-party hikes and for snapping gorgeous wedding photos. We’re talking bamboo forests, a 400-foot waterfall and black-sand beaches.

Not to mention, the drive there alone is well worth it: the scenic Road to Hana, is packed with caves, beaches, waterfalls and lots of places to chow down on homemade banana bread.

“A lot of wedding couples will arrange a beach day at nearby Hamoa Beach the day before the ceremony or a group hike to Oheo Gulch, stopping to swim in the waterfalls along the way,” says Erika Burnham, who manages events at Hāna-Maui Resort.

Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida

The ocean-front lawn at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island is an ideal space for a small wedding. One bride relocated her wedding to Amelia Island and did everything outside.

“She created lots of lounge seating with an extra-large dance floor,” says Alexandra Corbett, senior wedding sales manager at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. “The groom loved affogatos (Italian coffee dessert), so we created an affogato station out of our VW Bus and parked it on the Ocean Front Lawn.”

“As groups are allowed to gather again, and guest counts slowly rise, I don’t think that the lessons learned this year will be lost,” says Price Olson. “Limited guest counts amid a global pandemic forced us to prioritize what matters most at a wedding – and that is the couple promising their love and commitment to each other. The celebration is really just the cherry on top.”

Article source:

Related News


Find best hotel offers