Monte Durham’s tips for planning the perfect micro-wedding

Monte Durham’s tips for planning the perfect micro-wedding

By Monte Durham

Sometimes it is tough to imagine how life was before the pandemic, masks and quarantining. The pandemic dramatically altered planning for couples who were about to tie the knot. For those planning a wedding and starting a life together, the emphasis has shifted from big, splashy ceremonies and receptions to micro-weddings with an intimate exchange of vows and small receptions.

With the new focus on micro-weddings, even the smallest details of weddings take on enhanced significance.

I have advised many brides in the past, and now my recommendations for the special day have been adjusted for a myriad of aspects. Here are some important points that must be considered as part of your special day. Details matter.

The location

The venue and overall setting establish the tone for the wedding. As far as locations go, Alexandria has everything on offer, from lovely historic churches to gorgeous gardens like those at Carlyle House to hotels, restaurants and even boats on the river. There are scores of romantic choices for the ceremony and the reception.

Select carefully and consider what is most comfortable for your guests if some have mobility issues.

Food and entertainment

The food and entertainment can be local or global in today’s world, even in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions. Entertainment helps establish the mood and enhances the ambiance of the setting. Select a place that can accommodate a string quartet or small band.

Keep in mind many wedding and reception locations limit the selections for the wedding reception cuisine to what they can create in-house.

Having a socially distant reception sit-down dinner? Make the experience more intimate for the guests by leaving a small personal note at their place. Thank the person for sharing your special day and for their love, support and generosity. Perhaps share some details about the wedding. For example, let them know you are carrying your great grandmother’s handkerchief just like your mother and grandmother did at their weddings. Or, let your guests know the music at the reception includes pieces your parents had at their wedding.


In this brave new world of the mask as a must-wear accessory, your eyes, ears, neck and hands are all now the subjects of focus.

Keep in mind you will have on a mask for almost the entire wedding and reception, and so do not hide your face. Everyone wants to see your face. Hair needs to be elegant but not over the top and extremely elaborate. Wear bangs? If you have a short forehead, brush your hair off your forehead so everyone can gaze on your beaming face.

Try different mascaras and eyeliners to make your eyes as gorgeous as they can be at your wedding. Even if you don’t normally wear eyeliner, consider adding blue as your eyeliner to add some energy to your eyes. Eyebrows must be cleaned up and arched before the big day. Do not wait until a few days before you wedding to figure out the make-up.

Wearing a mask accentuates the view of your ears. Pay particular attention to what sort of earrings you wear. The earrings need to work with your overall look and not compete. Simple pearl or diamond studs work well, and with a simple wedding dress, drop pearl earrings work well. Be sure to try your mask on with your earrings before your wedding day to confirm your earrings and mask work together.

The bride’s neckline is another closely watched spot. Wearing a V-neck wedding dress? Wear a drop pendant to compliment the neckline. Scoop neck or strapless? A string of pearls or a special necklace is the right touch.

A new area of focus during these crazy times is the hands. Start preparing your hands for the wedding and reception early. Two to three months ahead of time, begin getting paraffin treatments at least once a month. Get a manicure so your nails are shaped and polished. The polish trend for weddings is to have nude or white tones not pink or the French manicures that were popular not long ago.

The dress and mask

Be certain the dress is what you want and not simply an image from a magazine or TV show that you like. Everyone’s physical composition is different and so the most gorgeous dress on your BFF may not look right on you.

Therefore, when looking and trying on your wedding gown it may help to remember my three Fs.

Fit: Finding the perfect fit is essential for comfort and styling. Are you best suited for a ballgown, mermaid, fit and flare, column dress or A-line?

Fabric: Keep in mind, some fabrics hold up better than others. Be sure to check the wearability and your location when choosing. Is satin mikado crêpe, organza or lace best for the style and location?

Fashion: While wedding gowns are not meant to necessarily make a fashion statement, they do. So, remember, whether your dress is classic, understated, modern or trendy, these gowns will stand the test of time. Looking back on your wedding photos in years to come what will the dress say about your choice and wedding.

During the pandemic, if you need to have your dress hemmed or altered in some way, ask the seamstress to make two masks for you: one to have as a keepsake and one to wear at your wedding and reception. If you have your mask custom made for you, consider having a blue line, the date and your initials embroidered inside. These days, the mask takes the place of the garter.

Guest list

Creating a vastly trimmed down guest list for a micro-wedding is a tough but critical task. You can always have another reception after the pandemic is under control.

In the past few months, many couples have started doing virtual vows or Zoom weddings so grandparents and close friends in far flung places can watch the wedding. This is a stupendous idea unless it distracts from the wedding ceremony to have a camera beaming the ceremony around the globe.


Guests could be coming from anywhere and some may need to self-quarantine. Most out of town guests are likely to drive if they attend. They may not require accommodations if the wedding is a day trip. Convenience and affordability require careful research because there are some outstanding options at unheard of prices.

At the end of the day, it is your wedding. The size or scale of the ceremony and reception isn’t as important as it once was, and you have the rest of your lives together to celebrate your marriage. Big receptions with your closest friends can wait for the post-pandemic world. For now, carpe diem!

The writer is the image consultant for “Say ‘Yes’ to the Dress” and owner of Salon Monte.