Formally defined, the micro wedding is an event for 50 or fewer people. In many cases, weddings have had a head count far smaller than that, due to gathering restrictions and, surprisingly, because many couples decided more was actually less. They loved the idea of having just a handful of their dearest friends and family with them on their big day. The added bonus: saving money. (Especially considering that the average pre-COVID wedding in Canada cost between $22,000 and $30,000.)
Is a micro wedding more cost-effective?
It can be, but don’t think a smaller wedding scope automatically equates to less spending. The budget for a tiny wedding can go sideways just as quickly as it could for a 200-person party. A small celebration is only cost-effective if you do the work to keep money matters in check. “Spending is often driven by emotion, and there are few things that are more emotional than a wedding,” says Melissa Leong, author of the award-winning book Happy Go Money. “Remember, the wedding is not what ultimately matters, it’s the marriage. There is much research to support the fact a life journey beginning in debt puts a relationship at a disadvantage.”
Building a budget: How much will a small wedding cost?
If you’ve never planned a wedding before, you may not know how much the associated purchases cost (who knew it costs so much to rent chairs?). This can make building a realistic budget seem difficult. The last thing you want is to start a marriage with a maxed-out line of credit or a depleted emergency fund. (Curious if a wedding budget is better spent on a mortgage? Read this.)
There are three major expenses for weddings: venue and catering, decor, and photography. Food and drink can eat up 50% of your budget; photography takes up to 20%; flowers and decor anywhere from 10% to 18%; and the remainder is for other things, like clothing, flowers, etc. Within these three pillars, you can make an expense list, breaking out exact costs, as well as adding other standalone essentials like wedding attire, transportation, stationery and your honeymoon.
Keep track of your wedding spending
Once you break down your budget, you’ll need a way to track your spending. For this, Leong says a good, old-fashioned spreadsheet still rules.
“When I was wedding planning, I shared my spreadsheet online with my now-husband,” Leong explains. “We had a projected overall budget. And if I wanted to spend more in one category, we had to subtract it from another. I wanted a downtown city venue with lobster and steak for dinner, but I had to cut [other costs] to make it happen.” Leong’s solution? “I bought a second-hand dress, had florals from Costco and booked the wedding for a Friday afternoon,” she says.
Consider a pop-up wedding, with all-inclusive costs
Another smart way to keep your wedding budget spreadsheet balanced is to choose a style of wedding where all costs are fixed. A pop-up wedding is a good example, and it has exploded in popularity in the last two years. This is a one-day event, created by a wedding planner, in which multiple couples are married in a beautifully designed, temporary setting. When you book a pop-up wedding, the cost is all-inclusive: ceremony, florals and photography.
After rescheduling their Las Vegas wedding (originally slated for 2020) three times, Toronto couple Sarah Manson-Aishford and Jeff Aishford opted for a pop-up wedding in the summer of 2021. Manson-Aishford says it was the best decision they ever made for their budget—and their stress levels.