Coronavirus has undoubtedly changed some things about the wedding industry and how it works. People are prioritizing their favorite vendors and skipping out on others to save some money, changing dates to keep their big party as planned, and others are ditching the huge reception for an intimate, outdoor wedding in their backyard.
Like any other trend, wedding trends come and go, and they always repeat themselves every couple decades. I was curious how wedding trends have been changing over the past few years, what we're heading towards in terms of wedding size and traditions, and how Coronavirus accelerated these changes (or did it at all?).
I talked to four different Chicago wedding experts, including photographers Lisa Kathan and Christine Ciszczon, and planners Tionna Van Gundy and Leanne Valdes, to understand what wedding trends they saw changing and what they thought about it as we head into 2021. (P.S. There is more info on these lovely ladies below...be sure to check them out because there is some insane talent and skill in this bunch.)
How long have you been a wedding professional?
Lisa: I've been photographing weddings since 2016.
Christine: I have been shooting weddings professionally for about 12 years and started my wedding career in Southern California and then moved back to Chicago about 5 years ago.
Tionna: Tionna Van Gundy is the owner of Wedicity; A wedding & event planning firm specializing in planning, styling & event production with over 12 years of hospitality & event experience.
Leanne: I've been in this business for about 10 years. I started after helping with one of my sister's weddings, with no formal experience or training, but a lot of optimism and willingness to work hard. Over those 10 years, we've helped over 400 couples get married - so it's been a ton of work, but also one of the best adventures I've ever had.
What types of weddings do you specialize in or participate in the most often?
Lisa: Intimate weddings (20-100), tiny weddings and elopements (under 20). About half my business is tiny weddings and elopements, and many of those are at city hall, or venues that accommodate only 20 guests or fewer.
Christine: While I don’t have a set clientele I would say most of my weddings are around 150 people or smaller. I do some destination wedding work and these often tend to be under 100 people. I would say my clients tend to lean towards a preference for a blend of editorial and photojournalistic coverage.
Tionna: Wedicity specializes in fusion weddings combining religions, cultures, and/or backgrounds of all kinds for the classically modern couple!!! Our couples tend to be city-dwellers who are are the go and looking for a truly amazing celebration!
Leanne: We don't specialize in any specific wedding type - we do them all! But I would say we do specialize in helping couples who want their weddings to be personal, full of special details and seamless for themselves and their guests.
What wedding trends have you noticed changing over the past few years?
Lisa: In 2018-2019 I started to see a shift toward more couples choosing to have tiny weddings (even before Covid). However, even though they were planning smaller weddings, they weren't necessarily doing it to have a cheap wedding: they still were spending money on the things important to them (quality photography, wedding clothes, flowers, luxe party with their limited guest list).
Christine: I have seen weddings become more unique to the couple, rather than keep up with all the standard traditions. While some traditional formalities are kept, many couples opt to create an experience that reflects their personalities and preferences.
Tionna: Over the years, trends re-emerge with a new twist or a personalized approach. We pull inspiration from all aspects of life; from fashion and art to architecture and lifestyle changes.
Leanne: Weddings before Coronavirus were what we probably all envision for weddings: tons of your family & friends gathering for a beautiful experience with food, drinks, flowers and fun! We're in an interesting spot right now because weddings can't be happening that same way for a while. During this time, we're seeing folks really strip their wedding plans down to the essentials, the things and people who matter the very most to them.
Which trends are you a fan of?
Lisa: I really enjoy working with the couples who favor having smaller affairs. I like when couples make a decision to do something out-of-the-box, and smaller weddings tend to give couples more freedom to do something a little different.
Christine: I am a big fan of unique styling in all ways, whether it be a bridal cape or a pretzel bar at the cocktail hour. I just love it when couples add their personal touches to their wardrobe and their guest experience, and personally, it is always fun to photograph all the exceptional details!
Tionna: What I love most about these trends is they are continuously becoming more personalized and designed to really outfit the couples vision and who they are as a unit. I love when their personality shines through in small but impact elements throughout the wedding!
Leanne: In general, I am not really a trend follower at all. I think the best weddings are the ones that fit the couple so much that you couldn't put any other couple in their shoes and have it make sense. When you build in personal touches and details throughout the experience, it adds up to a really special day for all involved. Those kinds of memorable details are not usually trend-based, they are about who the couple is as individuals and who they are now that they have come together. If a new trend really fits the couple, I'm all about embracing it - but if you'll look back in 5, 10, 15 years and wonder why you did that - you probably shouldn't do that!
What are your thoughts on the shift of bigger weddings to more intimate weddings and elopements during Coronavirus? Do you think this will be temporary or this will cause a shift for good?
Lisa: I actually think this trend will last longer than Covid. There are couples who are planning to marry in 2021, and are hopeful the majority of the mandates will be lifted. But many are currently choosing to have a wedding with under 50 guests, because they're unsure if there will be a vaccine or treatment, and don't want to risk having to adjust their wedding plans like many 2020 couples have had to do. I feel many couples through 2022 will continue to plan smaller weddings, and once a trend develops in the wedding industry, it usually takes a few years to shift.
Christine: I have always enjoyed intimate weddings for many reasons. I find that intimate weddings tend to focus on connection and details. With having a smaller event you can curate a uniquely special experience and you end up being able to truly connect with your guests on your wedding day. I will also say with smaller weddings there is whole lot more chill on the wedding day! We may see a shift for some time towards smaller weddings. We have already seen this changing in recent years with elopements and destination weddings increasing in popularity. I definitely don’t think this will be a shift for good. I think there are many cultural influences that lead to large weddings and bridal parties and I don’t see that changing. For many, it is a tradition to celebrate with 250+ friends and family and have a bridal party full of childhood friends. While that might be put on pause for a little while, I don’t see that changing in the long run.
Tionna: Many weddings will be downsized during this time we are experiencing through the coronavirus.... however, the reality is that you cannot cancel love! We are working with our clients to host micro-ceremonies now and shifting their larger celebrations to 2021. We expect larger gatherings to emerge after there is a vaccine and the economy begins to bounce back. There will always be a market for both large and small weddings alike!!
Leanne: I do think there will be some lasting effects here. My guess is that folks will be spending less on their events going forward, in part because they will have fewer guests, but also because of the overall effect this pandemic is having on the economy. Lots of people are afraid to spend money on things that they might consider to be a luxury - like a big wedding. I also think that the ways we are learning to integrate technology into our event planning are probably going to stick around. People are being forced to be more open to them, and I think that will help us all see the benefits of embracing what technology can do for us in the world of weddings.
Overall, it seems like weddings are temporarily shrinking, but will go back to normal in time.
People are going to learn to prioritize their needs and wants, and learn how to use technology to get planning done quicker and more conveniently. And I think we can ALL agree that more personalized weddings that are actually unique to the couple is undoubtedly the way to go! As a wedding photographer myself, I definitely agree that working with couples who really know what they want and get to plan their wedding to be their wedding are always the most interesting to photograph, the most fun to party along at, and the best connections with couples I've made.
Tionna Van Gundy is the owner of Wedicity; A wedding & event planning firm specializing in planning, styling & event production with over 12 years of hospitality & event experience. Find her at wed-icity.com.