Here’s How You Can Have a Gorgeous, Low-Stress, Low-Budget Wedding

Mad Dash Pop-Up Weddings clients Will and Kendal at the Leslie-Alford-Mims House, near Holly Springs, N.C. (Photo by Brent Deitrich of Live View Studios)

What if you really (truly) want to be the anti-bridezilla and let someone else take control of your wedding? What if you have the budget for a courthouse wedding but can’t stop staring at your Pinterest page? What if you long to elope, but your family would disown you if you did? There are a handful of wedding planners across the country who believe they have the answer to these and other wedding dilemmas: pop-up weddings.

While there isn’t yet a firm definition of what a pop-up wedding is, the general concept is this: An event planner or venue sets up everything you need for a wedding — an altar, officiant, bouquets, seating, photographer, DJ, food, cake — and the couple gets a low-stress, small wedding at a fraction of the typical cost. It’s classier than eloping to Las Vegas, more festive than city hall, and from what we’ve seen, often pretty enough for the pages of Martha Stewart.

“I was really burned out on doing the Southern-style of wedding, with the girl so young, and it’s her parents’ money, and she throws a fit if the napkins don’t match the linens — I just really felt like the love was lost,” Brooke Everhart, co-founder of Mad Dash Pop-Up Weddings in North Carolina, told Yahoo Style. She and partner Priscilla Erwin had been operating a wedding venue, the Leslie-Alford Mims House. After dealing with back-to-back tough clients, Everhart decided she wanted a way to serve couples who might have more love than money.

Mad Dash Pop-Up Weddings decor. (Photo by Brent Deitrich of Live View Studios)

“We style photo shoots [for publications] in the industry all the time where all these vendors come together and we produce a fake miniwedding, and it’s all of this amazing stuff that kind of just goes to waste,” she said. “I thought, ‘What if there was actually someone there getting married and utilizing all of it?’”

Trish Derry, who runs Pittsburgh event rental company Vintage Alley Rentals, came across an article on Australian pop-up weddings and thought she had the right supplies and skills to form the Pop Up Pittsburgh Wedding Co. this year.

“I think weddings have become more of somebody else’s wedding instead of the couple’s,” Derry said, adding that these small, ready-made events have a way of making the day more about the couple than their family. “There is no planning, so there can’t be any family fights, because there’s really no choices.”

The Pop Up Pittsburgh Wedding Co. wedding at the historic Pump House.(Photo by Lavender Leigh)

Derry books a venue such as the Pump House in nearby Homestead or the Phipps Conservatory for a specific day, hires the vendors, and styles the place beautifully using supplies from her rental company. Then, up to four couples get married there on that day. The aim is to keep the guest list down to 20, but she has slowly allowed that number to grow.

“The first couple that I met with told me they had been together eight years, and she said every time the conversation came up about getting married, she started to cringe and hyperventilate and couldn’t imagine the whole wedding-planning process,” Derry said. “She found me and looked at him and said, 'That’s it. It’s time we get married.’ I could tell it was stress-free for them.”

Mad Dash Pop-Up Weddings uses a similar concept of holding multiple weddings on the same day in its venue, sometimes changing around the furniture configurations for each event, since it offers packages for gatherings ranging from 10 guests up to 50. It’s able to offer these weddings at low prices ($3,000 to $6,000) because the vendors like the idea of not having to deal directly with the clients, and the setup offers an efficient use of time.

Michele Velazquez was running her proposal-planning business, the Heart Bandits, when she came across the pop-up concept and decided to start New York-based Pop the Knot earlier this year. She operates under a different model than the others, planning only one wedding at a time.

“We work with venues to fill in their slow seasons and times where they wouldn’t necessarily have a lot of bookings,” Velazquez said, explaining how she books places like the Bryant Park Hotel for a morning wedding. A venue that normally charges $14,000 can be rented for as low as $2,000 this way. She also arranges for weddings in parks that wouldn’t be as feasible with big weddings. “If you had your first kiss in a gazebo in the park, you can get married there.”

Whatever their method, these planners are adamant about not making couples feel as if they’re on a wedding conveyor belt. They have their choice of music, for instance, and small tweaks to the decor can personalize each ceremony.

“One woman really loved a Parisian feel, so even though I did three weddings that day, when it came to her wedding, I was able to add a few small Parisian touches,” Derry said. “Her bouquet had a black-and-white ribbon coming down.”

Nicole and Joe at the historic Pump House, near Pittsburgh, in their Pop Up Pittsburgh Wedding Co. wedding. (Photo by Lavender Leigh)

Some couples find their ceremony itself is where it’s most important to be unique.

“This is my second marriage, and I have a daughter from my previous husband, so during the ceremony my groom made special stepdad vows for my daughter and got down on one knee to say them to her and put a tiny little ring on her finger too,” Nicole Bagnato told us of her Pop Up Pittsburgh Wedding Co. ceremony. “It was the sweetest moment ever, and [Derry] worked with me to incorporate it in the ceremony.”

Timing is also key to making brides and grooms feel special. Mad Dash leaves an hour or two of cleanup and prep time between each of its events. “We’re not shoving them out the door for the next wedding,” Everhart said. “Most of the time they have dinner reservations somewhere else or they have an afterparty. So they’re excited and ready to get to the next thing.”

This afterparty option is a great way to celebrate with a larger group of family and friends. Bagnato said she went from a wedding of 30 people to a reception of 80 at a nearby restaurant.

If you’ve been dreaming of a very specific wedding since you were a kid, this is not the right wedding plan for you. But some are eager to give up control in exchange for peace of mind.

“I think that there’s something really beautiful in being able to let go and allowing somebody to make your day special,” Kendal Maestri, one of Mad Dash Weddings’ first clients, told Yahoo Style. “It really takes the pressure off the bride, because I think that’s who ends up planning. I wasn’t stressing about it one bit. A week before the wedding, they sent out the itinerary, we reviewed it, it looked great, and it went off with a bang, really.”

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