Since I started officiating weddings, I have often wondered why some couples still bother with all the fuss and stress of a large, traditional wedding. Of course, there are those who have their hearts set on a lavish celebration but, more often than not, when I meet couples for the first time and I ask them about what's really important to them, they all seem to be very down to earth and have a fairly consistent response: They want a simple, unique and memorable ceremony which reflects their personality and values. They want to be able to share this sacred moment with the people who are closest to them. They want a relaxed, lighthearted atmosphere.
Sounds great, doesn't it?
Who wouldn't want that? And yet, for some reason, they are still opting for larger, more expensive weddings which often take on a life of their own, not to mention a hefty loan, to boot.
Over the years, I began asking myself why that is and I realized that it's probably because, until very recently, couples really didn't have many other options to choose from. It was either a) a big wedding where the ceremony was held in a place of worship followed by a banquet hall reception or b) an elopement style wedding at city hall. There wasn't much in between. But now, so many couples are opting to have the ceremony and reception at the same location which has opened up a vast number of possibilities in terms of venues, timelines, decor, etc.
Understandably, there is often a concern that if they don't have a big wedding they may exclude or offend others and then the pressure to be inclusive begins to mount... and so does the wedding budget. But we are living in an age where we now coming to terms with the effects of decades of living in excess, and that excess includes people as well as things.
I realize it's not easy to tell aunt Zelda, whom you haven't seen in 5 years that she won't be invited to the wedding but, unless you're planning on making a point of staying in touch with Zelda after the wedding, I don't really see the point. To me, it's inauthentic and having those extraneous people attend your special day can actually be burdensome. We now crave order and simplicity as we purge, organize and downsize in practically every area of our lives and the way we celebrate is no exception. We have to "Kondo-ize" the wedding industry the way we do our closets.
A few years ago I read an article in the New York Times about a new trend called "micro weddings". I thought the whole concept was brilliant and so I began researching and what that might look like in a few more years and imagining how I could adapt my business approach. I was convinced that what couples would begin to gravitate to smaller, more intimate, affordable and completely stress free options without sacrificing the elegance of a larger, more extravagant wedding. At the same time, they want a 'bespoke" experience...unique, meaningful and personalized.
What I came up with was what I originally called my "Elegant Elopement Package". These are designed as "all-inclusive" and every package includes everything you would need for a beautiful ceremony: A bridal bouquet & groom's boutonniere; 2 hours of professional photography; a live instrumentalist for the ceremony; a sparkling toast for you and your guests; a wedding cake and, of course a licensed officiant. The venue can be somewhere the couple chooses or we can also assist them in finding the perfect spot for the ceremony and, if they wanted to add refreshments or a meal at a restaurant or other cool spot, we offer that as a concierge option as well.
Since then, couples have been very excited with the idea and we've noticed a few other wedding planners and officiants who are getting on board, as well. Some of the current offerings include Pop-Up Ceremonies at any venue you can imagine, such as during sporting events or flash-mob style and the venues are pretty much only limited by the imagination... in a park; under a waterfall; in Graffiti Alley; on top of a snowy mountain; on a train; at the beach... you name it (as long as you can get a permit or permission).
Still, at XO. Life Celebrations, we want to make sure that the focus is less about the "wow" factor and more about what really matters... and that is creating a memorable experience for a couple who has chosen to mark the beginning of their lives together with a meaningful wedding ceremony, surrounded by the most important people in their lives.
Tracy B Richards is the founder and "CXO" of XO. Life Celebrations, one of Toronto's most sought after teams offering Wedding Officiant and Life Celebrant services. Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and information on services & packages can be found at xolifecelebrations.com