It’s not quite eloping and it’s not a full-scale production. A micro wedding falls somewhere in between.
The wedding-trend prognosticators credit the phenomenon to who else but the millennials, who love minimalism, cherish the environment and tend to spend their money cautiously. The age range of the millennial generation is now 20-35, which means they were grade schoolers, college students or in the process of launching careers during the Great Recession. They remain keenly aware of the havoc it caused. Many are saddled with hefty debt from college loans.
According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding peaked in 2016 at right around $35,000 and has been declining for the last four years. In turn, the average guest list has decreased from 153 (2007) to 136 (2018). In Martha Stewart’s estimation, “The millennials are looking for cost-effective measures” in planning their weddings.
The industry is taking notice, beginning with the centerpiece of a wedding, the bridal gown. Anthropologie’s BHLDN division includes City Hall and Beach & Destination collections that range in price from under $200 to $1,200 (or more). Venues – ranging from hotels to quaint bed & breakfast inns – are offering wedding packages with microists in mind.
While the millennials have attached themselves to the micro-wedding phenomenon, one of Lancaster’s grand dames of weddings, Vivian Abel, who operates Pheasant Run Farm Bed & Breakfast with her husband, Bob, and daughter, Deanne, traces the preference for smaller weddings back to 9/11. “I’ve never read anything that substantiates that, but when we opened in 2002, there seemed to be a ‘back to nature’ philosophy that was affecting everything – including weddings,” she notes. “I think that gave rise to the popularity of outdoor ceremonies and barn weddings. When we opened, the only other barn venue was Rock Ford. Now, there are more barn venues in Lancaster County than I can count, and they range from small to large and primitive to elaborate.”
Speaking of 9/11, deployments also helped to spark an increase in small, intimate weddings that were sometimes arranged in a matter of months (or less). Another factor affecting the size of weddings is the fact that modern-day families tend to be smaller and are often far flung.
Terry Kreider of Landis Valley says the farm museum became aware of the phenomenon “more than a year ago. We kept noticing it pop up on sites such as Wedding Wire.” Landis Valley reacted proactively by making two smaller sites available. She finds that micro weddings tend to be lower-key affairs that are more centered on celebrating friends, family and food rather than dancing the night away. She points to second-time-around and same-sex weddings as especially fitting that criteria. “Then again, there are young couples who just want to celebrate with their closest friends,” she says.
Gina D’Ambrosio of Moonstone Manor in Elizabethtown echoes those sentiments, saying fans of micro weddings are putting their personal stamps on their big days. “They seem to limit many wedding traditions such as dancing, being announced in, having a big wedding cake, giving out favors, etc.,” she says. “They want a nice gathering of special people with good food, modest bar offerings, something sweet for dessert, and background music to celebrate their marriage. We see many age variations in this, not just second marriages or older couples one might tend to think would go for this type of affair. Many young couples don’t want a lot of ‘fuss.’”
In The Knot’s estimation, a micro wedding entails anywhere from five to 50 guests. Others offer a more precise 20 as the magic number. However, we upped the number to 100 (or less) for our survey of what Lancaster has to offer micro-minded couples. In doing online research, many micro-wedded couples encouraged others to think outside the box in planning their own weddings. In other words, all you can do is ask if you’d like to be married at your favorite restaurant, winery, brewery, distillery, art gallery, bowling alley, public garden, etc. Don’t discount your own backyard either.
Another theme was also evident. Yes, you may be paring down the guest list to your nearest and dearest, but that doesn’t mean scaling back your style. In fact, you could up the ante and splurge on a gown, treat your guests to a once-in-a-lifetime dinner, pour the best wine, decorate to your heart’s content or take the entire group to the beach for a destination wedding. In Martha Stewart’s opinion, weddings have become “more personalized than ever before.”
The Willow Street-area venue was a hit from the moment it opened its doors. The Abels restored the centuries-old barn and converted it into a bed & breakfast and an events venue that could comfortably accommodate 100 (or less) guests on the lower level, where the view includes Viv’s gorgeous gardens and the surrounding woodland. Their outdoor ceremony areas feature a water garden or a huge maple tree that has earned the name “the wedding tree” due to the fact that two trees grew into one.
In working with couples over the years, Viv has taken notice that of late, “they seem to be marrying later, they are paying for the wedding themselves, and they’re thinking ahead to buying a home, rather than spending a lot on a wedding.”
However, they still want their weddings to be personal experiences. Viv and Deanne have become pros at guiding them in that direction. The first thing on the to-do list is to create a meaningful guest list. “Limit it to family and close friends,” Viv says. That could mean eliminating your best friend from elementary school and your second cousin, neither of whom you’ve seen in years. But, if being surrounded by all your friends and family is important, Viv says to consider having your wedding on a day other than Saturday, which can help to cut costs. Or consider an “off month” such as January, February or early March. “We drastically cut our rental fee during what we call ‘quiet time,’” she says of winter months.
The Abels are looking forward to hosting a very special wedding at Pheasant Run. Their granddaughter, Olivia, will be getting married in June, and her reception will be held at the farm. For details, visit pheasantrunfarmbb.com.
Cameron Estate Inn.
This beautiful and historic property in Mount Joy offers micro (up to 20 guests) and mini-micro (up to six guests) weddings that entail a ceremony, flowers, a cocktail hour, a 5-course dinner, a cake and overnight accommodations for the couple. The inn arranges everything, thus eliminating the need to work with individual vendors. There’s an elopement package, as well. For details, visit cameronestateinn.com.
The Inn at Leola Village.
Stephanie Lambert, the inn’s director of special events, shares that “we first started seeing the micro-wedding trend about six years ago.” Learning that couples were growing frustrated by the fact that venues were geared to larger weddings, the inn’s owners sought to provide a remedy for the situation. “Our solution was to build a second venue that would be perfectly sized to meet their vision,” she explains. The resulting Bella Giardino is beautifully appointed with sparkling chandeliers and large windows and accommodates up to 100 guests. The Piccolo Patio can accommodate 20-40 guests, while the Dietro area is ideal for 10-40 guests. There’s even a package called My Tiny Little Wedding. Did we mention there’s a spa on-site, as well as a top-rated restaurant? For details, visit theinnatleolavillage.com.
Barns are also becoming aware of the smaller wedding trend. While Allory and Jessica Melhorn typically host between 125 and 275 guests at their Melhorn Manor property in Mount Joy, they also welcome smaller weddings. Thanks to decorative draperies and custom-built portable barn walls, the four buildings on the property can be transformed into intimate spaces. “We have held weddings and other events for 100 guests or less,” they shared via email. “We have noticed a trend for 50-100 guests. We’ve also noticed that budget usually plays a large role in smaller weddings.” Because the four spaces are climate-controlled, weddings can be held at Melhorn year-round. For details, visit melhornmanor.com.
The Willows at Historic Strasburg.
Stephanie Kirkessner, who, with her husband, Steve, and business partner, David Haines, operates the Fireside Tavern and the events venue, The Willows at Historic Strasburg, has also noticed the shift to smaller weddings. “We’ve done quite a few in the last couple of years with guest lists in the 75 to 110 range,” she notes. The venue easily adapts to such events, with the outdoor courtyard perfect for a ceremony and cocktail hour. The ballroom can be subdivided to create a more intimate setting for dinner and dancing. For details, visit willowshistoricstrasburg.com.
If you haven’t heard, the Lampeter Cafe has new owners – Ryan and Janae Dagen, who own Strasburg’s Speckled Hen Coffee + Kitchen. The two plan to continue operating The Livery, which Janae describes as “a space you must see to appreciate,” as a venue for small weddings, showers, reunions and other events. “No detail was overlooked in the design and build out of this newly constructed post-and-beam remake of one of the original buildings on the property,” she notes. The venue seats up to 80, and new is the fact that it’s BYOB. Packages are available. For details, visit lampetercafe.com.
The scenery is unsurpassed and includes the Susquehanna River and Veteran’s Memorial Bridge. It also serves as Columbia’s gateway to the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail. The venue features a roomy indoor area and a spacious covered deck. Hope Byers, who manages Columbia Crossing, which is part of the Susquehanna National Heritage Area, reports that guest capacity for weddings is capped at 100. Typically, ceremonies are conducted on the deck and dinner is served indoors. Then, it’s back to the deck for dancing. One of Hope’s favorite weddings thus far joined a couple who had their first date on the trail. “We were delighted to have their ceremony in a place that connected back to their beginning,” she shares. Packages are available. For details, visit susquehannaheritage.org.
Railroad House Inn.
Upriver you’ll find the Railroad House, which has long hosted outdoor weddings in its gardens. Co-owner Joey Bowden reports that the Railroad House is taking another step by renovating a barn on the property to create a wedding/event space that will accommodate up to 80 guests. He also reports that the prospect of such a venue has gotten “great response from couples looking to do quality on a smaller scale. We’ve hosted weddings that have been as small as 50 guests and since we’re seeing more interest in the 80-100 guest range, we’re excited to move on the project,” he explains. But, he and business partner Freddy States are not stopping there. By 2021, they hope to utilize the train depot for larger events. “We’ll be able to cover the gamut – from small, intimate weddings to 200-person extravaganzas!” For details, visit railroadhouseinn.com.
One of Lancaster’s newest barn venues, Bluestone is located in Refton. The farmhouse on the property dates to 1770, while the barn dates to 1822. When owner Erin Armstrong Vinelli became engaged to Chad Vinelli in 2007, she was determined to have her wedding on the farm. Ten years later, with the barn deteriorating, the Vinellis looked at it as an opportunity to restore it and open it to the public as an events venue. The results are stunning. While most weddings entail 120-260 guests, Erin reports that smaller weddings with less than 100 guests have been held on the farm. For details, visit bluestoneestate.com.
If you’re looking for warehouse chic, Perfect Settings in Columbia is it! The Locust Street venue specializes in small events that top out at 110 for plated meals. “Smaller weddings are much more intimate,” owner Daisy Pagan theorizes. She loves the fact that the newlyweds can take the opportunity to spend quality time with their guests. She also has taken notice that smaller affairs allow couples to share their style and personalities through the details that define a wedding. “Couples can really immerse themselves in making a high-end Pinterest idea come to life,” she says. For details, visit perfectsettings.com.
How fun would it be to treat your guests to a getaway wedding in one of America’s “Coolest Small Towns”? You could turn your big day into a weekend affair and utilize the services of The Sutter, where weddings can range in size from 30-150 guests. “We get many in the 70-100 range,” reports Jeff Mark, the property’s events manager. Guests can take advantage of accommodations in the RockBlock Penthouse, dine in the newly refurbished restaurant and sample brews in the Bulls Head Public House. The roving party can check out the new food hall at The Wilbur, toast the couple at Stoll and Wolfe Distillery and the list goes on. For details, visit generalsutterinn.com.
Bear Mill Estate.
If you’re looking for a venue that offers natural beauty and sophistication, Kerry Kegerise’s beautifully restored and appointed Bear Mill in Denver offers amenities such as a cozy tavern, a formal dining area, a veranda over the millrace, a glass elevator, gardens, a pond and a tree-lined backyard that twinkles with lights. “I’d estimate that 80% of our weddings are in the 70-100 guest range,” he says. For details, visit bearmillestate.com.
The Montgomery House.
This 208-year-old Federal-style mansion was once home to attorney William Montgomery, eventually becoming the property of Watt & Shand and Bon-Ton. When the Lancaster County Convention Center and the Marriott on Penn Square were being developed, the decision was made to restore and incorporate several historic sites on South Queen Street into the design, including The Montgomery House. Regarded as one of Lancaster’s finest examples of Federal-style architecture, The Montgomery House is now an events venue that specializes in micro weddings. Fifty guests can be accommodated for seated ceremonies and reception dinners. The culinary team can prepare a meal that equates to a gourmet delight. Again, you can make a weekend of it and explore all that the city has to offer. For details, visit themontgomeryhouse.com.
Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum.
Landis Valley features three venues, all of which can accommodate micro weddings. The smallest is the Historic Hotel, which is perfect for 50 guests or less. Many couples elect to be married on the front porch and then have dinner inside. The Fire Hall is geared to 100 guests or less. “Everyone loves the Yellow Barn, so regardless of the size of the wedding, it’s always been a favorite with couples who get married at Landis Valley,” says Terry Kreider. Wedding season at Landis Valley is April-December. For details, visit landisvalleymuseum.org.
Rock Ford Plantation.
Built in 1794, the property was home to Revolutionary War general and statesman Edward Hand. Beautifully restored, it’s long hosted weddings in the barn that features handcrafted, colonial-style lanterns, hand-hewn beams, interior stone walls and an 18th-century-style bar. Couples often utilize the front porch of the house and picket fence-enclosed front yard for ceremonies and the barn (capacity is 110 or less) for seated dinners. The scenery includes gardens, woodland and the nearby Conestoga River. For details, visit rockfordplantation.org.
Mount Hope Winery.
The estate recently unveiled a barn that is available for weddings (up to 150 guests). The mansion is also available, with capacity placed at 100 or less. But, if fun is on your agenda, how about a Renaissance-themed wedding in the Feasting Glen? The King & Queen package is designed for 25 (minimum) guests and includes all sorts of amenities for your big day. Such weddings are held Saturdays and Sundays, August through October. For details, visit mounthopewinery.com.
This co-working facility in Manheim also boasts several event spaces. The look is sleek and modern, boasting concrete floors, white walls and a plethora of black-framed windows. It embodies minimalism. One space is perfect for 20-30 guests, plus it has an adjoining patio. For details, visit supplymanheim.com.
The Farm at Eagles Ridge.
Co-owner Betsy Montgomery reports, “We have actually been receiving more requests for intimate gatherings than we have in the past. Fortunately, with our newly renovated spaces, we’re able to offer a variety of options to accommodate smaller guest counts. Most of our couples, whether they’re having large or small weddings, still love the idea of using the outdoor lawn space that overlooks the pond for their ceremonies. In terms of the reception, the upstairs of the Barn can beautifully accommodate weddings of all sizes. Typically, we recommend 60+ guests upstairs and, with a smaller count, we will simply give suggestions on floor plans and décor that would help fill the space.” The property’s new Carriage House offers space “for a small wedding, maybe 50 guests or less, ideally for the ceremony. Otherwise, as guests arrive on-site, we use it as a welcome area where they can enjoy a refreshment prior to the outdoor ceremony.” For details, visit farmateaglesridge.com.
Historic Ephrata Cloister.
This historic (circa 1732) site has always welcomed weddings to utilize the outdoor amphitheater for large (up to 400 guests) ceremonies. Smaller weddings with 125 guests or less can now utilize the Meetinghouse for ceremonies that are held after 6 p.m. While receptions are not permitted on the property, there are several nearby venues that could be utilized. For details, visit ephratacloister.org.
Eicher Arts Center.
One such venue is located just across the Cocalico Creek in Grater Memorial Park. Dating to 1773 and renovated in 1983, the property is home to a rustic, two-story events venue that accommodates up to 110 guests. It was built from wood salvaged from the original structure and the surrounding area. It also features a large outdoor porch and lovely gardens. For details, visit eicherartscenter.com.
Hertzog Homestead Bed & Breakfast.
Also located in the Ephrata area, this ninth-generation farm is now owned by Scott and Kristen Hertzog. The rustic barn, which features original oak flooring, a limestone gable wall and a ceiling accented with tobacco rails and wood shingling that dates to the 1800s, can comfortably seat 40-120 guests. The lawn can be used for outdoor ceremonies. For details, visit hertzoghomestead.com.
Stone Gables Estate.
According to co-owner Tierney Foster-Abel, “We have been party to several smaller wedding requests. Sometimes, it is a military wedding, where one of the parties is being deployed and they need a quicker, cozier venue site. For others, it is price related.” Stone Gables offers various options for a micro wedding, including The Ironstone Ranch Barn, the Mini Barn and the Orchard with the Bell Tower. At The Star Barn Village, possibilities include the Gazebo on Liberty Lake and St. Michaels Vineyard, which offers The Solarium and The Iron Gazebo (50 to 200 guests). Inside The Star Barn, the Limestone Tunnel is ideal for up to 50 guests. The Herr’s Mill Covered Bridge (The Kissing Bridge) is also an option and could comfortably entertain up to 80 guests under its roof. For details, visit stonegablesestate.com.
Owner Gina D’Ambrosio views the smaller-wedding trend as a way for couples “to achieve that more intimate and personal experience. Those trying to achieve the more intimate setting – not necessarily with a ‘budget’ in mind – tend to seek out unique, non-venue-like settings. I’ve heard couples say, when touring Moonstone Manor, ‘It doesn’t feel like a big venue inside the mansion, and I want this feel.’” Moonstone’s gorgeous setting and lush gardens only add to the feeling of being in a very special location. For details, visit moonstonemanor.com.
Heather Oaks, the venue’s details events planner, reports, “We have noticed a lot of inquiries for smaller weddings of 50-80 people in the last two years.” While Brick Gables – a restored barn on the northern edge of Lititz – caters to larger affairs (up to 250), Heather says, “We love to accommodate people no matter what size group they have.” For details, visit brickgables.com.
DoubleTree Resort by Hilton.
The resort, which is located south of the city, features an on-site Victorian-style chapel, which can seat up to 200, was moved and remodeled two years ago to include an outdoor terrace that is perfectly suited for small wedding dinners (up to 30). The terrace off the restaurant can accommodate up to 30 guests as well. “We had two small weddings here in the last two months,” says one of the resort’s wedding coordinators, Hailey Halwany, who explained that one utilized the chapel terrace, while the other used one of the smaller meeting rooms for dinner and dancing. For details, visit doubletree3.hilton.com.
As for bed & breakfast inns, many offer micro-wedding packages. Most take care of the details, allowing you to enjoy some R&R. A sampling …
The Olde Square Inn in Mount Joy offers two micro-inspired packages, the Small Intimate Wedding for 22 guests (indoors) or 35 outdoors, and the Elopement Package that is geared to 10 guests or less. For details, visit oldesquareinn.com.
The Inn & Spa at Intercourse Village has been hosting weddings for years and offers various packages that range from the Simply Timeless, which includes a ceremony in the parlor for up to 10 guests, to the Ultimate Royal Enchantment, which entails a garden wedding for up to 100 guests. For details, visit inn-spa.com.
1777 Americana Inn & Black Forest Brewery in Ephrata, can host small weddings, elopements and vow renewals. For details, visit 1777americanainn.com.
The Historic Smithton Inn, also in Ephrata, offers Wedding for Two and Wedding for a Few (up to 20 guests) packages. For details, visit historicsmithtoninn.com.