Pan­demic paves way for more in­ti­mate wed­dings

Ottawa Citizen - - Front Page - TAY­LOR BLEWETT

It can be re­ally dif­fi­cult to jus­tify a small wed­ding to fam­ily, friends and a so­ci­ety that so of­ten ex­pects the day to in­volve hun­dreds of guests, shared spreads of food and drink and a huge party that lasts late into the night.

And then came COVID-19. While the pan­demic and re­lated re­stric­tions have been dev­as­tat­ing for cou­ples who had their hearts set on a large, tra­di­tional wed­ding in the near fu­ture, oth­ers have found the per­fect ex­cuse for em­brac­ing the in­ti­mate cel­e­bra­tion they’ve al­ways wanted.

“We’ve had a cou­ple of our clients say — we didn’t want to have a big wed­ding, it was fam­ily pres­sure, and now COVID is giv­ing us per­mis­sion to have a small wed­ding,” said Lynzie Kent, founder of The Pop-Up Chapel Co.

Her com­pany offers an all-in­clu­sive “shared wed­ding” con­cept — think Uber but for the wed­ding in­dus­try — that sees ten cou­ples mar­ried over ten hours, us­ing the same venue.

For about $2,700, each cou­ple gets a 15-minute cer­e­mony and 45-minute re­cep­tion, com­plete with an of­fi­ciant, pho­tog­ra­phy, flowers, live mu­sic, and a toast and snacks for up to 20 guests — pretty much everything you’d ex­pect at a wed­ding, in 60 minutes — plus a do­na­tion of at least $300 to a local char­ity.

“The Millennial­s and the Gen Z au­di­ence, they are all about ex­pe­ri­ences, they are all about do­ing things that au­then­ti­cally feel right, and I think that the pan­demic is just giv­ing peo­ple per­mis­sion to plan a party that feels re­ally authentic to them,” said Kent. “And for some peo­ple, that means small.”

The com­pany is host­ing its first pan­demic-era pop-up chapel on Aug. 7 in Toronto, and will be mak­ing stops in other North Amer­i­can cities, in­clud­ing Ot­tawa, through 2020 and 2021.

By late July, five cou­ples had booked time slots for the Nov. 20 chapel at Um­brella Bar at Dow’s Lake, in­clud­ing Ot­tawa cou­ple Jor­dana True­man and Oren Har­ris.

“We were al­ways in­ter­ested in a more in­ti­mate and stress-free cel­e­bra­tion,” said True­man, a fed­eral gov­ern­ment em­ployee. “It’s more of our per­son­al­i­ties to just not have that much attention, and we re­ally think it’s more about our union as op­posed to ev­ery­body else.”

Their plan for the pop-up chapel in­cludes their clos­est fam­ily mem­bers, a videog­ra­pher to capture the day for those not at­tend­ing in per­son, and tra­di­tional el­e­ments of a Jewish wed­ding like the chup­pah and breaking of the glass, with­out all the peo­ple, True­man joked.

Stick­ing to a 20-per­son guest list has al­le­vi­ated the stress that would come with try­ing to main­tain a small wed­ding, while not want­ing any friends to feel left out.

“You have work friends, and you have child­hood friends, and you have friends that you’ve re­cently become (close) with. The num­bers re­ally get quite large, and it’s hard to cap that,” True­man said. “It’s eas­ier to just say, you know what? We re­ally have to keep it at just fam­ily for now.”

Pro­vided the COVID-19 sit­u­a­tion is sta­ble enough to al­low it come November, the cou­ple is planning on a post-wed­ding din­ner cel­e­bra­tion with friends and ex­tended fam­ily.

The money they’re sav­ing on the pared-down nup­tials will go to “a re­ally awe­some hon­ey­moon” when internatio­nal travel is an op­tion again.

It seems likely there will al­ways be a mar­ket for grand, sto­ry­book wed­dings.

“Ot­tawa cou­ples tend to be quite tra­di­tional. They want the large 150-per­son wed­ding, they want to go to the Château Lau­rier or beau­ti­ful spaces,” said Ot­tawa wed­ding plan­ner Brit­tany Frid, The Pop-Up Chapel’s local brand am­bas­sador.

Her own com­pany, Frid Events, saw the vast ma­jor­ity of wed­dings they had booked for 2020 post­poned un­til at least 2021, with many hop­ing to pre­serve plans for larger, clas­sic cel­e­bra­tions.

But she’s also seeing an uptick in de­mand for “more con­tem­po­rary ideas and in­ter­est­ing con­cepts and try­ing to break the tra­di­tion a lit­tle bit,” and said she be­lieves it’s a the start of a larger change in the in­dus­try that the COVID-19 pan­demic is ush­er­ing in.

Gath­er­ing lim­its and travel re­stric­tions are mak­ing smaller wed­dings a ne­ces­sity, while livestream and other tech­nol­ogy means loved ones can still be in­cluded from afar.

“I think that this is sud­denly go­ing to be open­ing up ev­ery­body’s eyes to the idea of host­ing small wed­dings, pe­riod,” Frid said. “Peo­ple are still go­ing to want nor­mal wed­dings, but I think that ev­ery­one will be much more open to com­pletely non-tra­di­tional op­tions now.”

Ot­tawa cou­ple Jor­dana True­man and Oren Har­ris have booked a “pop-up chapel” wed­ding for November.

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