SAN DIEGO —
If you know someone (allegedly) getting married this year, chances are, they’re back to the drawing board.
Leah Nielsen and Craig Mizer of Lakeside were planning on getting married in November 2020 in Temecula.
“And then we get an email,” said Nielsen.
You know, the email.
Their dream venue emailed the couple back in April, saying that all weddings for 2020 were cancelled due to COVID-19. After all, coronavirus is the “something borrowed” you don’t want crashing one of the biggest days of your life.
“In just one second, everything you had planned on, it was just gone. We were back at square one,” said Nielsen.
Venues across California and the world are cancelling events to keep an uninvited guest away - COVID-19. Sure, planning a delayed wedding is better than planning an untimely funeral, but it’s still lost time and in many cases, lost money.
“I honestly didn’t know what to do and then I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to plan again. I didn’t want to get my heart set again. I threw my wedding planning book away because it was all filled out with everything we were going to do. And then, I didn’t do anything. I just sat there,” said Nielsen.
However, getting married during a pandemic isn’t as much of a buzzkill as you may think. In fact, it’s just inspired some lovebirds to get creative with their new nuptials.
That’s where the newest trend comes in: Pop-up weddings.
“It’s a small, intimate wedding and it’s all about the couple,” said Natalie Gartner, the event director and founder of Little Miss Party Planner in San Diego.
If you don’t want to wait potentially years for a COVID-19 vaccine to roll out, there’s no need to wait with a pop-up wedding. After all, this pandemic is a sobering reminder of how short life is. In just one to three hours, Gartner said her team sets up an entire wedding day for you and up to 30 guests, or just the couple if you want to take social distancing to the next level.
Gartner takes care of the officiant, photographer, music, flowers, cake, drinks, seating, make-up, decorations - you name it. You pick the location - pretty much anywhere in California - and her team takes care of the rest.
“We have to do everything - find the officiant, find the photographer, make sure everything’s good, you know, and we take the design and styling part so seriously because we want you in photos to look like you had a million-dollar wedding,” said Gartner, also an interior designer.
The actual price tag is quite a bit less than seven figures. Before COVID-19, Gartner’s company charged about $1,900 for a pop-up wedding depending on the package. Now, she said she's cut the price tag to $1,200 -plus optional adds ons - for engaged couples whose big day has been impacted by COVID-19.
“With them having planned a big wedding already for a year or two, doing something like this - making it that easy - they’re like ‘I should’ve just done this in the first place,’” said Gartner.
Gartner said she ideally likes a month’s notice to plan your big day, but due to the circumstances, her company can pull a pop-up wedding together on shorter notice.
“I’m a big softy,” she said with a laugh.
Gartner has been doing pop-up weddings for a while, but the pandemic has really accelerated the trend here in California.
“The demand has gone up insanely, like we went from maybe scheduling about three month to four a week,” said Gartner.
Gartner said guests that are sick are prohibited from attending. In some cases, your handful of guests may be asked to wear face coverings. All the equipment and decorations are wiped down. The ceremony can be livestreamed for friends and family members with preexisting conditions that don’t feel comfortable leaving home yet.
“I mean, COVID changed everything,” she added.
Gartner said while an expensive wedding with hundreds of guests usually means keeping the guests happy, a pop-up wedding is about who and what really matter - something we’ve all been reminded of during this pandemic.
“You’re still saying ‘I do.’ and tying the knot. It’s gorgeous and it’s intimate and those closest to you are there with you,” said Gartner.
Victoria Rawleigh of thatBliss said that micro-weddings, which are essentially the same thing as pop-up weddings, are booming in popularity.
"It's a lot different than most people envision for their wedding day, but it can be very romantic and meaningful - not that large weddings aren't," said Rawleigh.
For $1,999, Rawleigh's team will "bring the wedding, you bring the love." Her team also offers a more expensive package for more guests.
"I had a few clients saying things like they didn't know what they were going to do because they didn't want to have to wait to get married and start a family or they have already been waiting so long, they didn't want to have to keep waiting," she explained.
As for Nielsen and Mizer, they aren't having a pop-up or micro wedding persay, but they’re downsizing, too. On Wednesday night, they booked a outdoor, backyard wedding with a smaller guest list for April 2021.
“It makes it more of a true celebration of taking this step with that person you want to spend your life with because for us, that’s what it’s really about. Like, I don’t really care where it is at this point we just want to get married. It’s definitely more fun now, ” said Nielsen.
Fortunately, the Temecula venue refunded the couple’s deposit just before they were scheduled to send out their original “save the dates.”
“People’s health and my health is way more important and that’s where that kind of optimism came in,” said Nielsen. “Plus, how many brides do you know that midway through planning get all of their money back and get to change their mind?”
The new venue is a house with 14 beds and a pool, so close friends and family are welcome to stay and celebrate for three nights.
“I’m much more excited now,” said Nielsen.