Beautiful Small Weddings
When weddings are scaled back in size and locations change, couples and planners come up with creative ways to celebrate
Blair Fischer and Erik Toll had a wedding date, a dress, flowers and a guest list set for their 250-person wedding, scheduled in Austin, Texas, in 2020. But the Colorado couple realized that a trip to Austin and a big gathering scheduled in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t going to happen. They decided to shrink the wedding to just 13 people and to get married over the summer in Tolland, near Boulder, on Erik’s family ranch. The couple rode in on horses from their ranch. Megan Stark and John LaCouture were planning a winter wedding for 180 people in San Jose del Cabo. Plans were in full swing, but COVID-19 put a hard stop to their nuptials as well.
Both brides ended up pulling off small weddings in just a few weeks without an ounce of regret. “I am from a family of planners,” said Stark, whose family started Classic Party Rental in Englewood (the company is now called Colorado Party Rental). “This allowed us to do what we wanted, and not to have to tailor it to everyone else.” For her and LaCouture, who ended up getting married at a family hunting cabin outside of Telluride, the last-minute affair meant something low-key with low stress. “I ordered the dress from a shop in California and had never even tried it on,” Stark said. She added a hat for flair. Megan’s mom did all the cooking for a menu that included salmon, brisket and macaroni and cheese. And Stark used her party business, Park Ppl Co., to give their 35 guests blankets, food, wine, pillows and an umbrella. That guaranteed automatic social distancing.
Across Colorado, wedding planners, photographers, caterers, florists, jewelers and dress shops are seeing changes— but different doesn’t always mean less extravagant. At the Broadmoor, one of Colorado’s premier wedding destinations, event manager Melissa Fike said 2020 was surprisingly busy. The Broadmoor hosted 70 weddings, up from about 60 the year before. The difference, she said, was the number of guests in attendance. Many couples planned for 250 people and ended up with 25. But, “The next day the couple is just as married!” she said. Revenue is certainly down with smaller wedding parties, but many people postponed and Fike is confident that the upcoming Colorado wedding season will see a full comeback.
Creativity was the key in 2020. One couple originally planned a wedding in Italy. With no ability to travel, they shifted their venue to the Broadmoor, where Fike and her team created an Italian-themed wedding for the couple’s immediate family members.
Cate Carpenter owns Little White Dress Shop in RiNo, and along with fellow bridal business owners, her shop closed in March for a few months. But, she said, a bride wants to feel like a bride, and those who kept their wedding dates still wanted a special dress. Whether you say “I do” in your backyard or at a country club, the special gown for pictures and the memories remain important. Carpenter said she saw a lower volume of brides than originally planned, but she felt lucky that the dress remained an important part of whatever kind of celebration emerged
Denver event planner John Tobey told a similar story of 2020, agreeing that creativity was everything. Individual food stations, custom masks and tents, heaters and family dance zones were among the elements of celebrations that were all about “over-the-top loveliness.” One of his favorite examples was a micro-wedding where the couple sent individually packaged charcuterie boards, red and white wine and a bottle of Aperol spritzers to each of the 325 guests who couldn’t attend. They live-streamed the event and did a toast with the guests around the country.
Brides still have their wedding dream, Tobey said. “They want the pomp and circumstance, but they also want intimacy, details and beauty. Last year showed us that it can be done without hundreds of people in attendance.”
For many brides, the smaller ceremony will mean still having a big party down the road. Both Stark and Fischer had already purchased their dresses and had put down deposits on the locations when their plans had to change. Stark said the venue in Cabo won’t return her money, so she and her husband are planning a big party there at the end of 2021. For Stark, the change of plans was an unexpected bonus. Her father, who passed away in September 2018, had talked about how great it would be to throw a party at the Telluride lodge one day. When Megan originally thought of the wedding there, she knew the space couldn’t accommodate the larger party they had originally planned. But when they pared it down, the location felt just right. “I knew it would be what my dad would have wanted,” she said.
For both couples, keeping the wedding in Colorado meant an important guest could attend. The brides replaced the traditional bridal party with a furry family member. Stark and LaCouture’s dog, Milly, and Fischer and Toll’s dog, Charlie, stood up with them—or actually, sat down.
There are lessons from 2020 that can be applied to 2021 and beyond. Love, ceremony and being with those dearest to you make any day special. Add a little imagination and you are sure to hear wedding bells ringing in every corner of Colorado this wedding season.
Lindsey Schwartz is an award-winning television producer and writer, having produced for “48 Hours,” “Dateline NBC” and CBS News. In 2020, she wrote and produced two episodes of a new series for MSNBC called “What’s Eating America.” She won a regional Emmy in 2020 for her writing on Rocky Mountain PBS’ “Heartbreak to Hope,” which marked the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre.