Couples continue to march down the aisle with smaller, more intimate weddings
Whether couples plan to go barefoot on the beach to say their vows or dress to the nines at a high-end island venue, a common denominator is the desire for smaller and more meaningful weddings, island wedding planners said. Some couples are getting married in their living room, then planning a larger reception in the future when traveling and gathering are easier. COVID-19 restrictions over the past year created a need to have smaller guest lists in manageable venues, experts say. The side effects result in more personal moments.
Even large weddings that typically would have had 150 guests now only have 60 on average, said Peter Ochoa, director of events at The Bryan Museum, 1315 21st St. in Galveston.
“It is more intimate,” Ochoa said. “It’s the new normal. And it’s more fun.”
But even more weddings now have only 10 or fewer guests, planners said.
“No matter how big your wedding is, it’s still just the bride and the groom in the wedding portrait,” said Connie DeRome, owner of Island Flowers. “Give me your dream of dreams, and we’ll figure out how to make it come true in this pandemic.”
Smaller affairs don’t disappoint, said DeRome, a master florist and designer who coordinates weddings with other members of the Galveston Bridal Group, which is a one-stop wedding service shop at 2328 Market St. in Galveston. She recalled one wedding last year planned for 350 guests that turned into something different with a pleasant surprise.
“Only 24 people attended, but it was still set for 350,” DeRome said. “The bride loved it.”
With fewer guests, the bride’s anxiety level relaxed proportionately, DeRome said.
The Total Wedding Experience in Galveston also is seeing smaller gatherings, owner Jane Park said.
“People really are dealing with a lot right now,” Park said. “The stress of getting married on top of that can be overwhelming.”
For that specific reason, Park encourages couples to find someone to help them plan and coordinate their wedding.
“Enlist help wherever you can find it,” she said. “Even if it’s not me.”
Her business offers mini-wedding packages to help meet the need for intimate weddings.
“It’s the same as a regular wedding, but on a smaller scale,” Park said.
Most venues and coordinators will work with a couple to create the right-sized wedding. Galveston Bridal Group can coordinate pop-up weddings on the beach that are quick to plan and cost about $500.
While The Bryan Museum has ample space for large and opulent weddings, the venue also welcomes small and modest affairs, Ochoa said. He has arranged intimate ceremonies for students graduating from the University of Texas Medical Branch, he said.
Whether it’s a high-end event or a smaller, less expensive affair, coordinating all the vendors is important, planners said. Florists, photographers, caterers, linen providers and DJs need to arrive at a certain time in a specific order, DeRome said.
In 2020, an anxious couple from Utah had planned a destination wedding in Central America, but when COVID-19 restrictions limited out-of-country travel, the couple contacted Galveston Bridal Group, DeRome said. Then she got busy creating their dream wedding with a Galveston twist.
DeRome arranged monstera leaves, birds of prey and ginger flowers to set the tone for a tropical-themed wedding on the beach for the Utah couple. Working with other businesses in the Galveston Bridal Group, the wedding came together quickly, she said. A reception at Riondo’s Ristorante, 2328 Strand St., followed the service on the beach. Orchids adorned the wedding cake from Cakes by Jula, a League City-based business.
“It takes a village to run a wedding,” Ochoa said. “We try to use a lot of the same core group.
When I started six years ago, from day one, I tried to make a conscious effort to use Galveston talent.”
The museum’s gazebo, conservatory, bridal suite and groomsmen’s lounge offer an elevated experience with an emphasis on customer service, Ochoa said.
“Everyone we work with is super nice,” he said.
Some couples getting married at the museum choose an over-the-top, romantic, European backdrop just as swoon-worthy as the set of a Regency romance drama on Netflix. Houston-based Rexberry Luxury Weddings and Events creates those type of installations with huge urns filled with thousands of flowers, Ochoa said.
“It’s layers of lushness and extravagance,” he said.
Other couples choose classic black-tie events for formal weddings, and others choose a Southern-style wedding that looks simple at first glance but is full of details, Ochoa said. An occasional bride at The Bryan Museum has worn cowboy boots and a vintage dress, he said.
“Most of our brides wear Manolo Blahniks,” Ochoa said.
Although the pandemic changed the way people get married, some in the industry are seeing a return of big weddings and glimmers of normalcy.
“I don’t think it’s 100 percent normal — people are still doing social distancing and masking, but there’s definitely more weddings than were happening last year,” said Giovanna Radzieski, spa director at Hotel Galvez, 2024 Seawall Blvd. in Galveston.
The Spa at the Hotel Galvez offers hair and makeup services for wedding parties at the hotel and for other venues, including cruise ships in Galveston. Cruises have been suspended since the pandemic. And some people have postponed weddings because of the pandemic. But that’s changing, Radzieski said.
“Weddings have been obviously smaller, more intimate, but people are still having their weddings, still coming to get their hair done,” Radzieski said. “This month and in the future we’re starting to see more normal big weddings again. It’s nice to see.”
Editor Laura Elder contributed to this article.