Are you looking for a photographer for your San Francisco Bay Area micro wedding? You’re in the right place! My name is Zoe Larkin, and I’ve been specializing in micro weddings and intimate weddings since 2016.
In this article, I want to answer some questions you may have about the micro wedding trend,. I’ll share some knowledge that can help you plan your tiny celebration.
Table of Contents
What is a micro wedding?
A micro wedding is a small, intentional wedding that retains aspects of a traditional wedding celebration, but on a smaller scale. A micro wedding typically has fewer than 50 guests and is therefore usually a frugal choice.
How did micro weddings become popular?
The trend towards smaller weddings has been happening for a while now. Findings from this The Knot national survey revealed that 79.7% of the 2,200 millennials surveyed, chose to have a small wedding over a big one.
The average guest count has also decreased, from 141 guests in 2016, down to 136 in 2017. For 2019, guest count had reduced further, down to 131. 2020 weddings notwithstanding, I am sure the trend will continue on a steady, year-on-year decrease.
Interestingly, however, the average cost per guest has increased. This means more focus on an intentional, specially curated experience for each guest. I am sure this is a byproduct of friendship circles in general getting smaller, while family size also continues to decline.
In short: people know fewer people. And those they do know, they want to treat to the best experience they can afford. Fewer people means access to a more curated, customized and – some would say – meaningful experience.
I’ve been observing the micro wedding trend for a while – before small weddings had their own cool name. I remember when this New York Times article came out in 2017.
The article talks about couples preparing to deal with pushback. There is the sense they’ll have to justify themselves and their wacky decision. Luckily, since then, small weddings have become far more de rigueur than they once were.
They also talk about creating a registry for those who can’t attend, and observing other well-worn wedding etiquette rules as a concession to tradition. I think much has changed since then, thanks largely to a global pandemic. The rulebook has been thrown squarely out of the window.
And I’m super glad that micro weddings are now a thing – not the ugly step-sister of a ‘proper wedding’.
Why have a San Francisco micro wedding?
You can choose exactly what you want out of your wedding day when you choose a micro wedding. You aren’t bound by a particular venue or ‘how things are done’.
As well as allowing your choice of venue, a micro wedding means you choose the time of day and duration of your event. It can be a much shorter celebration. You can pick and choose to what extent guest involvement is a part of your special day.
Wedding days can be long and exhausting, yet still go by in a whirlwind. A shorter, intentional micro wedding allows you to be truly present with just a small handful of guests.
Choose a format for your micro wedding that truly represents who you are as a couple. That might be coastal vibes, urban chic, backyard barbeque, or a forestry adventure.
Other advantages in having a micro wedding are that you’ll save yourself a lot of stress and headache. Larger celebrations tend to have many moving pieces that can be a lot to deal with.
Micro weddings are something I’ve personally been passionate about for a while. I even wrote an article about my 18 reasons why intimate weddings are the best, linked below!
Micro wedings are similar to elopements, but elopements are typically even more pared down. Learn about my elopement photography services below.
Are micro weddings really cheaper, even in San Francisco?
In almost all cases I’ve seen, yes, a micro wedding is a way of saving money on your wedding vs. a traditional wedding. This is because the largest expenses of the day tend to be venue and catering. These are two things you’ll save BIG on with a simplified, pared-down wedding.
There is the opportunity to splurge a little more on only the aspects you really value. Be it that better vintage of wine, the bigger floral arrangement, or the photographer whose work you like the most.
These things are unlikely to break the bank, in the grand scheme of things. But they can give you more wiggle room in the budget without those huge venue and food costs.
Also, if you want to save even more money on your micro wedding, you can! There are many ways of trimming the budget, namely by only spending on what you value.
With a micro wedding, no one is telling you what kind of dress constitutes a ‘wedding dress’. You don’t need a DJ, a florist, a wedding cake, a planner – if you don’t want them.
How do we find micro wedding venues in the San Francsico Bay Area?
San Francisco is your oyster! You could simply Google restaurants and small venues in the area you have in mind. Check to see if a private dining room would suit your needs. This also has the advantage of not needing to rent chairs, tables and linens.
Also think about alternative spaces that could be utilized – that might not necessarily be ‘wedding venues’. You can really get creative! I’ve photographed micro weddings in a vintage bookstore, on the beach, historical monuments, wineries, in forests, parents’ backyards, plus many different parks, hotels and more!
With the trend for virtual weddings here to stay, you could choose a small venue and then broadcast your wedding to a wider group of family and friends.
With micro weddings (and even more so for minimonies), it’s sometimes an option to go more ‘guerilla style’ with your venue.
What I mean by that is just head to a public place and set yourselves up there. Sure, you may need to be a little bit flexible in case you get moved along. For some couples this is all part of the unexpected fun of their unconventional wedding day.
For the most stress-free way of having a micro wedding, book a venue you like! Make sure they are used to dealing with, and optimizing for, smaller groups.
I also recommend working with a wedding planner, preferably one who is used to small weddings. They can connect you with fellow vendors in their network that will work well specifically for micro weddings. Especially the venue piece of the puzzle. It’s important to find a micro wedding venue that fits your style, theme, location, budget and personal requirements.
Can we combine a micro wedding with a larger celebration at a later date?
You can definitely have a micro wedding now and a larger wedding later. It’s totally OK to leave the ‘larger wedding’ as a question mark for the time being.
The term ‘sequel wedding’ was coined before the pandemic, but the current situation has breathed new life into the concept.
A sequel wedding is the larger, more lavish wedding you have planned for a later point in time after the official, small wedding ceremony. This may be a cultural or religious celebration, or in any case the more traditional large wedding that may have been put on hold for the time being.
Many couples opt to move forward with at least the legal side of getting married without delay. Larger weddings may be tentatively planned for later this year or into subsequent years. It makes perfect sense to have a micro wedding or minimony now, and then use this time to plan and save up for a more elaborate and expensive celebration.
What’s the best day of the week and time of day for a micro wedding?
The best time of day for a smaller, shorter wedding is to time it so events finish up just before sunset. As micro weddings can be shorter events, it makes sense to optimize for the perfect light!
Also, who wants to get up super early for such a relaxed celebration?
This really works out well. You can get up in a non-rushed way, have breakfast/ brunch or lunch, then get ready for the wedding!
As for days of the week, weekdays are definitely the way to go! Many photographers (like myself) have high minimums for weekend bookings during wedding season. That’s because we can be reasonably sure that we can book those dates out to couples seeking full-day coverage.
Weekday wedding photography begins at just 3 hours and is available Monday – Friday (with some photographers, it’s Monday – Thursday, so be sure to check with your photographer).
This also goes for popular venues and other vendors too (florists, caterers, cake makers, musicians, etc). They will sometimes not be able to service small-order weddings during wedding season weekends.
What are some tips for planning a micro wedding?
- Book early if possible. This is recommended to avoid disappointment! There is nothing worse than having the dream vendor team in your mind, then finding out that they’re not available.
- That said, last minute bookings are still a possibility. Weekday weddings have much less competition than weekend dates. Vendors are normally keen to fill up those empty slots on their calendar! However, ‘last minute’ is probably a misnomer. I would still recommend giving your vendors at least 2 weeks’ notice whatever the case. This is to take care of the consultation and onboarding process.
- Think about light. Ideally you want to be in a location that has even light on you both during the ceremony (not dappled light, which is almost unworkable). Avoid lighting situations in which one of you is in the shade and the other is in the light. The photos will turn out way too contrasty. Look for even light if possible. Best case scenario is if the light is positioned behind you from the perspective of the photographer. Direct sun overhead is not the best, but it’s better than patchy light or the half shaded/half sun scenario
- Have a bad weather plan. Your venue if you have one will probably have something lined up if you need to move proceedings indoors. But if you are having a home micro wedding, make sure you have a back up plan! Will you need to rent out tents or gazebos? Is there a space inside that will work for all your guests? What if the weather is swelteringly hot – how will you keep everyone cool and able to party on?
- Don’t worry about the venue being ‘not fancy enough’ or ‘too basic’. It’s not about the venue. It’s about you. Trending on Pinterest is not the goal here. What I’m interested in as a photographer is capturing natural, beautiful photos of you and your loved ones having the time of your lives. So, put the Pinterest board away! A skilled photographer can find the best places to take the all-important photos of the two of you (and can make suggestions for where to stand for the ceremony etc)!
Consider San Francisco City Hall if you’re looking for more of a ‘done for you’ solution! I actually specialize in photographing ceremonies at San Francisco City Hall, and have a whole other ecosystem I’d like to introduce you to – starting right here!
How many hours of photography are necessary for a micro wedding?
My packages begin at 3 hours for any type of wedding. This is on purpose. It allows for the time that it *actually* takes to have even the simplest little micro wedding or mini-mony.
Many couples say they just want photos of the ceremony but to this I say… doesn’t the rest of your one important day also deserve a bit of love?
The ceremony is the beautiful culmination and highlight of the day. However, it’s also the part of the day when you are the stiffest and most anxious/ nervous.
Want those amazing candids that many photographers (including myself) specialize in now? Everyone – me, you, your guests – needs a little time to warm up to the situation, build rapport, let our guards down. It takes time and intention to create and allow moments that aren’t rushed or contrived.
So, just relax. Allow the day to flow naturally without keeping an eye on your watch for the next event to cram into our time together.
Other parts of the day you may want to incorporate into your micro wedding photography are:
- Getting ready (or ‘faux getting ready’ when we recreate the key moments)
- Wedding details (ring close-ups, shoes, bouquet, boutonnieres etc)
- Congratulations/ hugs/ tears etc after the ceremony
- Champagne toast or bite to eat after the ceremony
- Family formal photos
- A photo session with the two of you, ideally in a couple of different locations if time
- The start (30 minutes is usually enough) of your reception meal
But as it’s your own creation, you can have anything you want photographed during your micro wedding!
You could combine it with a randomly fun event that’s also taking place on your wedding day. You could go climb a mountain, have a picnic in the park or lounge by the pool with cocktails – anything you want.
Please check out the intimate wedding timeline for more information, it really takes you through the whole day and how long to allow, blow by blow.
Let’s have a micro wedding!
Woohoo! 🎉 Let’s have some stress-free, laid-back fun! 🥳 Rooting for you! If you’re looking for a wedding photographer that’s experienced in micro weddings (before they were officially a thing, hello 2020), then you’ve found your photographer!
I photograph weddings in the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California. I also travel!