Will retailers be jilted by the trend toward micro and hybrid weddings?

Photo: Getty Images/Halfpoint
Jul 16, 2021

The wedding industry is headed for a record-breaking year due to pent-up demand for nuptials, but two trends that developed over the pandemic — micro and hybrid weddings — may put a hit on spending in the years ahead.

Smaller weddings of under 100 guests were becoming popular in recent years, but micro weddings (about 25 close family members and friends) became the only recourse for many couples over the last year due to COVID-related restrictions. The even leaner elopement wedding is another related trend believed to have been accelerated by the pandemic.

The appeal of smaller weddings includes significantly lower costs, not only due to reduced guest count, but because many are held in backyards. For the couple, a smaller-scale wedding can reduce stress in planning and creates a more relaxed vibe during the affair. The couple can spend more quality time with guests and each other. And without the formalities and expectations around larger weddings, the couple gains more freedom to explore outside-the-box ideas for the event.

The hybrid wedding typically has only close relatives and friends in physical attendance but allows guests from afar to virtually celebrate the nuptials online.

“Tuning in virtually has allowed people to be more accessible to participate in a virtual toast or wedding ceremony regardless of what hurdles life throws their way,” Anna Lucia Richardson, founder of Anna Lucia Events in Tampa, told The Washington Times. “Almost anyone can set aside one hour to tune in to be a part of the moment.”

Savings from fewer guests have reportedly encouraged some couples to boost spending in other areas, such as flowers and jewelry. A Washington Post article, however, concluded that smaller and virtual weddings are driving a shift toward simpler, shorter and less-expensive wedding dresses. Skimpier wedding presents should be expected from those virtually invited to weddings.

Other pandemic-related trends include the emergence of virtual showrooms where brides and their friends select, share and vote for their favorite dresses. At-home try-on programs also took off. This year, weekday weddings are surging as postponed weddings from 2020 battle for space.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How do you see the shift toward smaller and virtual weddings and other pandemic-related changes affecting the retail opportunity? Is the trend toward smaller and virtual ceremonies and receptions here to stay?

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"Weddings have always been painfully expensive for attendees so I do think hybrid options, where guests are offered the alternative of not being in person, will stay. "

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10 Comments on "Will retailers be jilted by the trend toward micro and hybrid weddings?"

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Richard Hernandez
Richard Hernandez
Merchant Director
1 year 6 months ago

I believe that people who want to get married will continue to marry. The change will be how many will attend the weddings. I believe virtual guests will still spend like those actually in attendance.

Melissa Minkow

Weddings have always been painfully expensive for attendees, so I do think hybrid options, where guests are offered the alternative of not being in person will stay. With smaller and virtual ceremonies in mind, retailers will have to update their gifting accommodations. Virtual gifting will need to be a more efficient, trustworthy, and timely process. Packaging should be more visual so that unboxings over Zoom are still climactic, and product assortment should allow for greater personalization. Wedding vendors will also really have to ramp up their virtual capabilities to support this new era of consumers who expect to get most of their planning accomplished online.

Georganne Bender

The problem facing couples right now is control. You plan a wedding and the date gets pushed back because of COVID-19, so you pick another date, hopeful your wedding will be a go. When it can’t happen the way you want it to happen some couples opt to move forward in any way that they can.

My son is getting married October and he and his fiancée want to be married at a specific venue. The number of people to help them celebrate their day has not been cut back, but here’s the thing: we’re moving forward in the hope that things stay the way they are and that the pandemic will not affect their wedding.

So much of what is happening in the wedding industry is contingent upon what could happen next, so smaller weddings will be the norm for a while. But you can’t stop brides. At some point things will stabilize and the happy celebrations couples envisioned will happen again.

Zach Zalowitz

So I’ll present an “expert opinion” here because I got married 11 months ago mid-pandemic, and had around 45 people at the wedding. Here’s a quick recap:

  1. We bought 70 percent of the stuff for it from Etsy, the other 30 percent Amazon;
  2. Saved a ton on furniture, dance floor and reception itself;
  3. Was MUCH more intimate, and we actually got to talk to everyone;
  4. Saved money, put it into our dream house, and were none-the-lesser for it.

    If I were a betting man, I’d say the trend stays even after COVID-19 is over, whenever that’s going to be. 🙂

George Anderson

Belated congratulations, Zach.

1 year 6 months ago

I’m really curious — were any bridal boutiques interviewed for this story? As the President of the National Bridal Retailers Association and the owner of a very busy bridal store I can tell you BRIDES ARE BUYING WEDDING DRESSES. Most bridal stores across the country are reporting record sales. We can’t even keep up with demand. Every day feels like a Saturday in my store. This information was only relevant during the actual shut down. Bridal stores have also been loving the short engagements. It gives us the opportunity to sell dresses from our stock. The real story is how venues and caterers and florists have suffered. They rely on guest count for income. Less people eating, drinking and less tables to decorate make it difficult for them to be profitable.

Venky Ramesh

This is a global trend. The pandemic forced restriction on gathering sizes has led to smaller scale weddings with people getting creative on the selection of the venue and the mode of attendance. The accompanying reduction in expenses and stress is surely welcomed by the bride, groom and their parents – I can hear a collective sigh of relief.

Apart from retail, who will see fewer gift purchases, I think event management companies and wedding planners need to adapt to this hybrid model.

Jasmine Glasheen

The wedding industrial complex always struck me as odd. Why pressure people to have an obscenely expensive, extravagant celebration when they are starting their lives together? Since Gen Z is inherently skeptical of tradition, micro weddings make a lot more sense — all of the celebration and family, a fraction of the cost.

Making weddings cheaper for attendees is another great benefit of this new model. I see people get so stressed about affording to be bridesmaids — the dresses, the travel, the activities. Micro weddings will allow friends and family to celebrate their loved ones, unencumbered.

Craig Sundstrom

Obviously this depends on what type of retailer you are: if you’re a restaurant, or hotel or caterer dependent on headcount, then yes, cutting that headcount by half (or three quarters) is likely to lead to revenue loss (as noted, however, there might be some upgrading, so the loss isn’t necessarily proportional) OTOH, if you sell bridal gowns or wedding rings, no effect.

Somehow, though, it seems kind of weird to view this issue from a retail perspective; not as bad as “will decreased COVID deaths reduce opportunities for morticians and florists?” but rather missing-the-bigger-picture, nonetheless.

Kai Clarke

Yes, the move to lower-cost weddings and smaller weddings will continue, since many couples will shift their perspectives towards virtual and smaller ceremonies.

"Weddings have always been painfully expensive for attendees so I do think hybrid options, where guests are offered the alternative of not being in person, will stay. "

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