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COVID ruined weddings, so now people are eloping on Instagram

COVID ruined weddings, so now people are eloping on Instagram


It’s the Vegas wedding chapel for social media

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Illustration by Claudia Chinyere Akole

By the end of March, every single one of Kat Ferguson’s clients had canceled or postponed  their wedding. Her company, Little Creek Events, had 20 receptions scheduled for the spring and early summer of 2020. After the pandemic hit, it had none. 

“I went into my own time of reflection,” she says. “I got very quiet on Instagram. I didn’t feel like there was anything that I could post that was relevant or kind. I couldn’t post about weddings when people were canceling their weddings.”

Ferguson’s company is based in Ojai, California, an artsy enclave at the base of the Topatopa Mountains near Santa Barbara. Prior to the pandemic, couples from all over the world flew there to host their events. Weddings ranged from 120 to 180 people, and a 75-person event was considered small for Ferguson’s business. As the pandemic spread across the United States, however, even that number started to feel ludicrous. 

Ferguson watched as couples began opting for the courthouse, getting married in subdued ceremonies that bore little resemblance to the celebrations they’d originally planned. She even had one client get married at the Honda Center, which had been performing marriage ceremonies since April. “The Honda Center! With that cheesy backdrop!” Ferguson says. 

Then, a venue called to say couples were booking its space for elopements, and Ferguson had an idea. “I was like, let’s do what people are asking,” she says. “People want to elope but they don’t want to sacrifice all the style.”

Meet: the micro-wedding. 

Ferguson’s new business, The Reimagined Wedding, specializes in these events — highly Instagrammable ceremonies at a meditation center in Ojai, complete with pale pink flowers, wicker chairs, and a well-placed cactus garden. “For all intents and purposes, it works just like a Vegas wedding chapel,” Ferguson says. “But the difference is it’s beautiful.”

For a price that ranges from $2,800 to $4,300, couples get an all-inclusive elopement package that’s completely COVID-19 compliant — outdoors, with a maximum of 12 people. The venue, the officiant, the floral arch, the sound — it’s all taken care of. As are the photos, which often look like they were taken pre-pandemic. Brides wear pale pink flower crowns, guests are given cotton masks printed with tiny daisies and champagne served in crystal flutes. It’s minimalist and earthy in a way that screams, “I have money and taste, and I also don’t want to kill my great-aunt with a 150-person wedding.”

Many couples are still holding out for a 2021 wedding date. But the odds that the coronavirus crisis will be solved in the coming months seem slim. Given that grim reality, it’s refreshing to see a new wedding model take hold, one that doesn’t try to pretend the world is the same as it used to be — except, of course, on Instagram. 

Now, Ferguson schedules three to five ceremonies on a given day, allowing each couple to stay at the venue for an hour to an hour and a half. She makes sure people never see another wedding, so each event feels personal and unique. 

What started as a coronavirus trend has now become a sustainable business model. Ferguson says she plans to keep micro-weddings going, even after the pandemic subsides.

“The courthouse has always been in demand, the little Vegas chapel has always been in demand,” she says. “This is for style-driven couples. It’s a step above the courthouse. It’s definitely a little bougie. But at least we’ll never have silk flowers.”