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Micro Weddings: The Evolution Of The Modern Wedding

When you think of a wedding, what comes to mind? Is it a large formal affair with hundreds of people in attendance? Or, is it an intimate scenario in a backyard with only your nearest and dearest with you? According to the co-owners of Kansas City’s Cakewalk Events, Amy Rizzo and Kristen Bushmoyer, most people’s vision of a wedding is a version of either of these scenarios. However, there is a third option. This emerging trend doesn’t yet have a clearly defined moniker. For now, we might aptly refer to it as the all-inclusive micro wedding.

Kansas City artist and entrepreneur Kathryn Hogan had a hand in bringing this trend to the forefront. After renewing wedding vows with her husband in Las Vegas, Nevada, Kathryn wondered why Sin City was the only place a couple could go for a turnkey wedding. Thus, in 2013, Vow Exchange was born.

The local wedding events company includes two small wedding venues – one in Liberty and another in Kansas City’s Crossroads District. Kathryn curated an assortment of fashionable off-the-shelf wedding packages and the customers came in droves. After serving more than 1,500 couples in her first eight years of business, she attributes the demand for intimate weddings to a shift in lifestyle. “Diverse couples need diverse options,” Kathryn said. “People don’t get married, buy the house, and have kids in that order anymore. A big wedding feels overwhelming and is expensive. It doesn’t always fit their life goals.”

Having taken over the operations at Vow Exchange, Kristen and Amy can attest to Kathryn’s point of view. They see a diverse clientele ranging from young professionals to couples celebrating their second marriage. “People in their late 20s and early 30s are basically trying to start a life, maybe buy a house, or a nice starter home,” Kristen said. “Having a big wedding at the same time – I feel like something had to give and we’re seeing it’s the big, giant wedding. We also get a lot of second-time marriages and those couples still want a really meaningful celebration.”

Cakewalk has maintained Kathryn’s ready-made wedding packages, available within the Vow Exchange venues. This alternative approach to a wedding allows couples to relax, enjoy their day, and spend quality time with their guests. “When we say all-inclusive, people can walk in off the street, bring their marriage license, get your dress, and you’re done planning your wedding,” Amy said.

Customizable packages allow couples to pick and choose the services they want within an online portal. Options run the gamut from a 30-minute wedding for two, to a four and one-half hour event, including a ceremony and reception with variations in between. This flexibility benefits couples for whom the financial reality of a Pinterest-perfect, large-scale wedding comes as a shock. “We have a lot of couples that come to us with misconceptions about what a large wedding is,” Amy said. “Unfortunately, they have already gotten really far down the track of planning it and are basically at the point where they have to throw in the towel on the big wedding.”

The Vow Exchange venues can host anywhere from 60 to 75 guests. According to Kristen, the average traditional wedding accommodates up to 300 people and costs $25,000 to $35,000. By comparison, intimate weddings significantly help to curb costs. “When you have a bigger wedding, you have to pay for a huge venue to accommodate them,” she said. “You also have to pay per person for everybody to have dinner and drinks. It can be bank-breaking. If you’re doing that for 50 people, like our space, it can be pretty affordable.”  

Many brides might be tempted to go the DIY wedding route to save money. However, with the high cost of artificial flowers and decor, plus the effort it takes to create and display arrangements, Amy and Kristen agree DIY is not a budget option. “There is a misconception that, ‘I’ll just do a backyard wedding, that will be easier,’ ” Amy said. “I can’t think of anything harder. Maybe you’re not paying for a venue, but you’re paying for so much else just to make it a habitable space.”

Kristen, a self-professed Facebook Marketplace addict, regularly sees DIY wedding decor for sale. “Every weekend I see the DIY wedding stuff on Facebook Marketplace – the acrylic painted welcome sign or the mirror welcome sign with their name stenciled on it,” she said. “They had to put a pretty hefty upfront investment on those items, and I imagine they are banking on the resale.”

Moreover, Kristen pointed to the allure of the Insta-worthy event that many brides aspire to create, which inspires DIY weddings and ballooning event costs. “Prior to social media, you’d see bridal magazines but you weren’t having everybody’s wedding shoved in your face constantly,” Kristen said. “I mean, does that even matter? Aren’t you there to get married to this person that you love and be with your family and celebrate?”

Whether or not a couple strives for a picture-perfect event, big guest lists are no longer expected. The ladies at Cakewalk contend COVID broke certain wedding norms, such as the inherent pressure to invite distant relatives and friends of parents. “You shouldn’t feel guilty about not inviting somebody that you’re not going to see again for the next 10 years until the next generation’s weddings come around,” Kristen said. 

Additionally, couples who choose a smaller wedding can spend more quality time together and with their guests. “These are people you really want to see and spend time with,” Kristen said. “The way we have the venue and time frame set up, the couple gets to talk to every person.”

Ultimately, a wedding isn’t about the decor or the number of people on the guest list. Rather, it’s about the couple and the love they share. Amy said she often sees couples get into the weeds, thinking their wedding needs to be custom, but she believes the couples make each event unique. “Everybody is different,” she said. “We have seen literally hundreds of weddings and with back-to-back weddings on the same day. It’s mind-blowing how different the couples and families are. Some people get really dressed up and other people show up in cowboy boots and jeans. There is no right way to do it, and it’s just a cool thing to be in an environment where people feel like they can express themselves a little bit and relax.” 

Featured in the June 1, 2024 issue of The Independent
Photographers: Honeybee Photography & Design, Chessa Kae Photography, Kate Moore Photographics, Captured by Lyndsey, and Maggie G Photo

By Monica V. Reynolds


Monica V. Reynolds is an award-winning former reporter who honed her skills at a daily newspaper in Northeast Louisiana. After spending more than a decade in Austin, Texas, she recently moved to Our Town. Monica’s passion for journalism extends to documentary short filmmaking and photography. She is the founder of Vox Pop Marketing, an online marketing and web design firm that helps small businesses develop an authentic, magnetic message and online presence.


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