Not Quite an Elopement, Not Quite a Big Affair: Meet ‘Fun Size Weddings’
Photo by Jacquie Lew
Feeling squeezed by the idea of an elaborate celebration of your marriage? Not really keen on the idea of running away for a two-person elopement? An intimate “pop wedding,” or “fun size” wedding might just be for you. According to Maggie Gaudaen, author of the just-released Fun Size Weddings: The Simple Guide to Planning a Tiny Wedding You’ll Love, and co-founder of Pop! Wed Co, there’s a growing segment of couples creating these unique, meaningful and highly photogenic ceremonies with few guests. (The images in this article appear in Fun Size Weddings, and depict real pop weddings.)
We chatted with Gaudaen about the difference between a pop wedding and an “event” wedding, otherwise known as a more traditional wedding ceremony and reception; how to know if a pop wedding is for you and wedding trends to look for this year.
GayWeddings.com: You have your company Pop! Wed Co, which specializes in fun-size weddings. How did you guys start?
Maggie Gaudaen: My partner, Steven, and I had been photographing weddings together since we were really little. We photographed our first wedding together when we were 16. We liked being wedding photographers, but we were realizing that these event weddings were very stressful, and the day was really long. We just kind of thought,’I wonder how we would be able to create something in between an elopement and a traditional wedding.’
I was separately shooting a lot of elopements. My elopement couples would come to me, and they would pick a really random location that wasn’t great for photos—not knowing, coming from out of town—or we would go to the courthouse and the [Washington,] D.C. courthouse just isn’t that beautiful. I thought there’s got to be a way to help these people plan their weddings so it can be really photogenic and really beautiful, but also not have all that stress of the big wedding day.
Steven and I worked together to come up with this package, and we realized, although I really love being a photographer, Steven is perfectly suited to be a wedding officiant—he’s a really good public speaker, and he’s very relaxing, so people feel relaxed around him whereas they might be nervous about getting married or having the ceremony in front of people. He got registered as a humanist wedding officiant, and we went for it. When people hire us they get a planner, a photographer and an officiant.
GW: What made you want to write Fun Size Weddings?
MG: We get inquiries from all over the world of people wanting us to help them with their weddings. The reality is that while we are growing, we’re not really able to travel a ton, as much as we would like to. I really don’t want our being unavailable to result in couples not be able to plan pop weddings, so I was hoping to write the book so that other couples would be able to plan no matter where they are in the world, or where they want to get married.
No matter if we’re available or not, they can still do that.
GW: How do you define a pop wedding?
MG: A pop wedding can really be whatever you want. The way that we define it, it’s somewhere between two to 20 people—20 being the absolute max, we usually say 15. The focus is on the ceremony as the wedding, as opposed to the focus on a party or some sort of event. Our weddings don’t include any sort of reception; our couples plan their own after party.
What we really focus on is making that experience of becoming married really special for our couples. Whether that’s deciding who is really crucial to invite to make that moment really special, or a special location that feels really good to the couple, decorations and photos that make the day really feel as special without going overboard and just becoming a huge pile of stress.
Photo by Corey Torpie
GW: And how do you know a pop wedding might be right for you?
MG: If you want to focus on your ceremony without worrying about what happens for the rest of your wedding day.
A lot of our couples do plan an after party at their mom’s house, or a local restaurant or in their backyard, or even seeing a show. Steven and I had a pop wedding, and we just went to the 9:30 Club (local club in Washington, DC) after our wedding and saw one of our favorite bands play. We invited everyone in the city that we knew, and it was great because we got to focus on our ceremony without having to spend a year planning an event. We just got to have the experience of seeing everyone we knew gathered together to do something fun together.
GW: There’s a lot of buzz about how much people are spending on weddings these days. It’s hovered around $30,000 for a few years now—is there a way to estimate what the average pop wedding costs?
MG: One of the really fun things about pop weddings is you can build it from the ground up, so your basic minimal viable wedding is a marriage license and an officiant, which is maybe a couple hundred dollars for both. Then you can add on things, so if you want to wear a fancy outfit that costs a little more money, you can add that on. If you want to have a photographer to capture your day, you can add that, but really starting from the point of all you need for a wedding is someone to marry you and a marriage license. You can make your budget whatever you want.
Our weddings are usually between $3,000 and $5,000. Couples will have after parties or not, totally up to them.
GW: There’s a couple schools of thought in terms of LGBTQ folks getting married. Some folks feel like a wedding of two people of the same gender is going to be fundamentally different than a wedding of two people of opposite genders. Then there’s another group of people that say a wedding is a wedding, and it should be customized anyway so it doesn’t matter the collection of people who are getting married.
Do you have any thoughts on that, or are there any special considerations when your clients are LGBTQ-identified?
MG: My biggest confusion around this whole subject is that gender plays into weddings at all, because I just don’t think gender really has a place in the wedding industry. You definitely see it happen where everyone’s referring to the bride—well we have a lot of grooms who contact us for weddings, and they must feel like they’re not being represented or cared about, and their opinions don’t matter. That’s terrible.
I honestly don’t think, no matter what the gender of our couples, it doesn’t change anything because we’re speaking with these couples about who they are and what they like and what means a lot of them, so gender just does not come up for us.
GW: A lot of the images presented in your book are things that have become really trendy in all types of weddings, like a mural background, or flower crowns, or wedding dresses that aren’t white. Do you have any predictions for the next generation of really cool wedding trends?
MG: Honestly, I think a lot of things that we’re thinking of as trendy now are only trendy because people are kind of just realizing that their wedding can be whatever they want it to be. With non-white wedding dresses, people feel like I have to do this because it’s my wedding, but now thanks to people kind of speaking out and saying you can do whatever you want, people are feeling more empowered to be able to wear whatever they want. I think that’s where that trend came from, people feeling like actually I don’t have to conform to this trend to get married.
I think we’re going to keep seeing things like that where people are expressing their authentic selves when they get married because they’re realizing these trends don’t have to define them.
Find Fun Size Weddings: The Simple Guide to Planning a Tiny Wedding You’ll Love on Amazon.com.
Although I've spent the last decade riffing on everything from suburban politics to race in media, documenting love stories as content manager of GayWeddings.com definitely takes the cake. A proud alumna of Howard University's journalism program, I've written for Parents.com, The Huffington Post, xoJane and Essence magazine. When I'm not writing, I'm debating the merits of Drake, obsessing over frozen yogurt or plotting my next international adventure. I want to feature you on GayWeddings.com! Always feel free to drop me a line at community [at] gayweddings.com to share your engagement, wedding and love stories.