Small Weddings: Trending Up with Millennials

 In Americanoizing

Like everything else in life, weddings aren’t what they used to be. Back in the day, a marriage meant a man, woman, minister, dowry and a handful of witnesses. Today, it seems like the only weddings seen on Instagram resemble full-scale productions with costume changes, set design, marketing and over-the-top performances.

For every yin, there’s a yang and despite last summer’s $10 million wedding, the pendulum is starting to swing in the other direction. To be frank, brides, grooms, and pretty much everyone on the guest list is so over the “look at me” approach to nuptials. It was cute, at first, but now an invitation tied to the neck of a swan is a guaranteed way to ignite some eye rolls.

In the larger context of our culture, minimalism in the wedding space makes a lot of sense. Home décor buzz words have evolved from “ornate” and “glamorous” to “clean” and “understated.” Simple and organic dishes are Instagrammed more frequently than elaborate creations. Honestly, is there anything more basic than #avocadotoast? As social media continues to become an integral part of our society, the need for originality and authenticity has become increasingly important. People are tired of over-production and want to feel connected to what they’re consuming.

Where does this apply in the wedding industry? Everywhere. From attire to venue, couples are going back to the basics when it comes to planning their big days.

Guest List

Let’s start with the obvious place to cut – the list. Today, we are less beholden to old-fashioned rules (like the father of the bride paying for the wedding). This allows couples to own their decisions starting with whom they want to share the day with. There are also more choices now than ever before; from the big things like the venue and the dress to small ones like favors and welcome bags. Surprisingly, some of these seemingly minor priorities weigh heavily. Today’s couples might care more about the digital shelf life of the wedding than the experience itself – meaning they’ll prioritize photography, videography and décor above a 200+ person affair. Why spend a ton on a large wedding when it can be shared with thousands online?


The Conservatory is an all-glass tropical gardenhouse wedding venue located in St. Charles, MO (St. Louis).

The less is more approach is most evident in venue selection. While marketing materials used to boast ballrooms with “capacity for up to 400” and “grand staircases,” now, ad copy uses “personal” and “intimate” as draws. For this reason, boutique spaces have become some of the most admired wedding sites. From gardens to converted buildings to art galleries to photo studios to even antique shops, couples are getting creative with their reception locales. Even backyard weddings have become trendy among millennials. Not the kind depicted in the 1991 classic flick, “Father of the Bride” (where they somehow fit a 300-person tent in their simple suburban garden), but the kind with just a handful of people at one long table, under the flicker of a string of Edison lights.

Food and Drinks

It used to be that the most expensive choice was the best one, but in today’s foodie culture, classic and artisanal flavors are more coveted than “the filet mignon.”  To anyone who has ever been to a wedding with a surprise mini grilled cheese display and has seen the reaction, this is pretty evident. From food trucks to diners to coffee shops, couples go crazy for catering packages from their favorite local spots. Many sites have strict food and beverage requirements so this can be complicated; but lately, more venues have emerged that partner with local farms and businesses. Similarly, when it comes to the cake, simpler seems to be better. Naked, drip and even mini cakes are taking up major real estate at the dessert table.


Despite how drastically ready-to-wear fashions change over time, bridal style is relatively consistent (excluding every puffy dress worn in the eighties). One noticeable shift, however, is the low-key alternative to the princess gown. The boho bride emerged a few years back and it doesn’t seem like she’s going anywhere soon. The combination of fit and flow not only flatters most figures, but adds elements of simplicity and nostalgia that have become a must for the modern bride.  On the accessory front, formal veils are fighting subtle headpieces for bridal market share. And custom, one-of-a-kind rings have way more clout than anything found in a Tiffany blue box. Bridesmaids are also not immune to the chill out trend, with new freedoms to select their own styles or even (dare I say) their own dresses!


Back in the day, décor wasn’t even a thing! How can it be downsizing? Well, the style has simplified, but the attention to detail has not. With more emphasis on the natural and seasonal, brides are looking for niche vendors who specialize in more subtle schematics. Vintage and rustic décor has become a big-time business, helping couples design their dreamlands from old and restored antique pieces. Flowers, while still an integral part of the day, are returning to the fundamentals. Florists are relying on seasonal varieties and organic arrangements to naturally enhance the space rather than overshadowing it with dramatic installations.

In Sum

Not everything in the wedding world has downsized. There are some aspects that are increasing in scale like technology. Wedding websites with registry information have become essential and if there’s an RSVP or song request option, even better. Social media currency is huge for today’s couples.  If there’s no hashtag, snapchat filter or gif maker, the wedding basically didn’t happen. Branding is also a big requisite, meaning guests expect a certain flow in the printed items and color scheme – from the save the date to the thank you note (and everything in between). There’s more expectation on all sides, requiring an extreme attention to detail and with that, comes an even greater need to prioritize.

While elaborate weddings are trending down and technology is trending up, the truth is that no matter how big, small or high-tech the wedding may be, couples today have all the tools necessary to make it their own. In fifty years, they won’t remember how on-trend their reception was, just what it meant to them (and how many likes it got on Facebook).

Follow Dara on her Website!

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