Pop-up weddings prove popular even as COVID-19 restrictions ease
Many engaged couples have had to put wedding plans on hold or even cancel them over the past two years as they negotiate lockdowns, closed borders and ever-changing public health measures.
These difficult realities have seen temporary marriages become a popular option for couples who wanted to marry in the face of COVID-19. These much smaller events grew out of the idea of multiple couples getting married at the same location in a single day, with all the planning taken care of.
And even if Alberta and other governments across Canada lift public health mandates, event planners say pop-up weddings will continue to be a big part of the wedding landscape.
“Weddings came to a screeching halt at the start of the pandemic,” said Kristy Kivia, chief planner of Black Licorice Weddings in Calgary. “We all thought it would be six weeks, months, then a year. Now couples realize that no one knows how long we will have to wait, so let’s go.
The pandemic has upended couples’ wedding plans and caused financial hardship in the wedding industry. Events have been cancelled, in some cases with little notice, in response to pandemic restrictions or because people were extra cautious in times of uncertainty. Many vendors and venues have lost revenue, and some have been forced to close completely.
Many businesses have suffered, but some have tried to adapt and fill the void by moving to pop-up weddings – smaller, pre-arranged events, often in a temporary location, with all the props such as flowers, decorations and photographs.
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While fleeting weddings aren’t new, they haven’t been at the forefront of the Alberta wedding scene. But people in the industry say COVID-19 has prompted couples to seek simpler, smaller alternatives to the traditional wedding with a long guest list.
In some cases of pop-up weddings, multiple couples get married in a single day, each having a time slot for a short, intimate ceremony with a few guests. But the pop-up genre has also come to mean more intimate affairs with only a few guests or none at all. Instead, they’re often filmed and broadcast live for those who can’t attend. The concept now includes any small wedding that “breaks with tradition”, Ms Kivia said.
“A lot of couples had quick runaways in 2020 and a bigger celebratory gathering in 2021,” she said. “It’s a matter of creativity and adaptability. It’s about finding loopholes that work, like using restaurants as a meeting place or a neighbor’s yard to provide distancing.
Pop-up weddings also require far less planning and allow couples to cut costs for what has typically been an expensive event.
“Pop-ups allow couples to share costs and are more sustainable because the same decor and setup can be used by multiple couples,” said Corina Waldie, who founded Intimate Wed in direct response to COVID-19. Ms Waldie has been planning weddings since 2015 and brought in Sydney Spidell as a business partner in 2021 to launch pop-ups.
And now, a combination of a long two-year wait and announcements that provinces are preparing to lift restrictions, or news they already have, has created pent-up demand.
Ms Spidell said she believes the growing popularity of pop-ups will continue after COVID-19. She said the pop-up format appeals to many couples because it allows for more privacy and flexibility, less planning, lower costs and a lower carbon footprint.
“The market is more conscientious now, and couples are looking for providers who reflect that,” said Ms. Spidell, Experience and Sponsorship Coordinator at Intimate Wed.
“Pop-up weddings work well under COVID restrictions, but that means they also work under almost any setting. So they will continue well beyond the pandemic.
Most pop-up wedding planners offer packages that include set-up and tear-down, venue hire, officiant, photography, flowers, decoration and cake. The relative ease and lower costs are especially appealing to couples who have already been through the turmoil of making and breaking wedding plans.
That said, some go far beyond a lean and frugal ceremony. Intimate Wed’s first pop-up wedding offering, for example, will take place at the Banff Gondola in April, where six couples can wed with views of the Bow Valley. The company’s packages go beyond a typical pop-up by including accommodations, professional wedding dressing, makeup and hair services, and an optional reception meal.
“It’s ideal for couples who want to be hands-off, but still want a uniquely memorable experience that truly goes beyond the standard default package,” Ms. Waldie says.
On the other hand, for couples who want to avoid the package altogether, pop-up weddings allow them to get creative. Take the wedding of Hayley and Cory Bainbridge, who planned a pandemic wedding last June without any guests and came up with a ceremony that incorporated mountain biking, an activity they both love.
“COVID was sort of a blessing in disguise for us,” Ms Bainbridge said. “My family is from England and Cory’s is from British Columbia. It was so stressful trying to find a way to get everyone together, and we knew it would cost so much money for us and for them. With COVID, it turned out they couldn’t come anyway.
With the help of Ms. Kivia of Black Licorice Weddings, the couple were married in McLean Creek, a popular recreation area just west of Calgary. They and their officiant rode dirt bikes into an open field in the woods amidst a mountain backdrop and held their ceremony.
As well as reducing the pressure of getting married in front of a large crowd, the couple say it had the added benefit of not putting them in debt. “It wouldn’t have worked with a lot of guests,” Mr Bainbridge said. “We have to make our marriage the way we wanted.”
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