Last year, Makayla Bellis got engaged to her best friend. It was an exciting moment for the 25-year-old Dubuque resident and her partner, Matthew, 26.
“We got engaged at the end of February, right before all the lockdowns started,” Bellis said.
As the couple began planning their wedding, they realized that it would be a long time before they could celebrate safely with their families. They thought about the possibility of postponing their big day. But as the COVID-19 pandemic rolled on into the latter part of the year, they decided to scale down their plans.
“We considered getting married at the courthouse but ultimately decided on a Zoom wedding,” she said.
On Halloween, the couple got married in their home, with four people in attendance, along with 30 Zoom guests.
“I never in a million years would have imagined getting married over a Zoom call,” Bellis said. “But now we have a unique story to tell and a wedding memory we’ll never forget. And I got married barefoot and was able to change into sweatpants immediately after. It was pretty much the ideal wedding, if you ask me.”
The Bellis’ virtual wedding also was budget-friendly. Bellis made the wedding cake and did her hair and make-up. A friend officiated, and another took photos. Her handmade silk flower bouquet came from Central Avenue Mercantile in Dubuque.
Along with virtual ceremonies, micro-weddings had become a popular option, even prior to the pandemic.
“We began hosting them last May when we were restricted to no more than 10 guests,” said Nicole Link, wedding and special events manager at Hotel Julien Dubuque. “We have five spaces in the hotel that are smaller than our large ballroom for a more intimate reception and ceremony. It’s been a lot of fun re-imagining these new weddings with each couple.”
Melanie Bressler, campus manager at Steeple Square in Dubuque, said the event center has had a micro-wedding package for some time, but the trend definitely saw growth with COVID-19.
“We typically see couples choosing the micro-wedding package who are celebrating a second wedding, renewing their vows, pop-up weddings or elopements,” she said. “But this year, we had quite a bit more interest from couples who normally would want a big wedding but didn’t want to wait to marry the love of their life due to the pandemic.”
Micro-wedding packages often are all-inclusive, making wedding planning easy.
Steeple Square’s basic micro-wedding package for up to 40 guests includes a 90-minute rental, set-up, ceremony coordinator and ceremony and photos. Upgrades can be added to allow for a small reception or additional time with the photographer.
If couples are bound and determined to go a bit bigger with their wedding plans as restrictions are lifted, venues like Sunset Ridge Winery and Four Mounds Inn in Dubuque and Oak Hill Farm in Apple River, Ill., offer outdoor wedding options, which might allow couples to up their guest count.
That is what what Dan Haggerty Jr., 38, and Mandy Brosius, 28, of Dubuque, are planning in May.
The couple has a large number of guests, although they don’t expect that everyone will attend.
“We are live streaming the ceremony and asking those with COVID symptoms or pending tests to watch at home,” Brosius said.
“We are getting married at St. Joseph the Worker (Catholic Church),” Haggerty added. “After, we plan to do a picnic-style reception at Eagle Point Park. We’re going very simple and using as much of the space as possible, using the largest rental area.”
The couple didn’t want to put off their wedding plans for too long, and they know those plans might need to be altered, which they’re prepared for.
“We’ve prepared for things like the catering, which we don’t have to set up until three weeks before,” Brosius said. “So, if we end up with a small group, we aren’t out a ton of money.”
The couple is hoping for the best, but they also know that in the age of the pandemic, it might be necessary to change their plans, something they said is good advice for other couples.
“Be prepared to change what you think your dream wedding will be,” Haggerty said. “It’s really just about you getting married first and foremost, with everything else just extra pageantry.”
Bellis said she doesn’t regret her Zoom wedding and is planning another ceremony and big party when it is safe for family and friends to gather again.
“It much more important to keep everyone safe during this time so that no one is missing from your celebrations later,” she said. “Let go of some of your ideas, and be flexible. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you get married to your best friend.”
This micro-wedding directory includes local vendors who will work with couples who want to keep their weddings on the smaller side. Couples planning on getting married this year should be aware that venues and other vendors often book quickly, even for small weddings.
Michelle London writes for the Telegraph Herald.