- Jen Glantz is an entrepreneur and founder of the company Bridesmaid for Hire.
- After years as a professional bridesmaid, she planned her own dream wedding during the pandemic.
- Glantz cut her budget to $1,000, invited 10 friends, and streamed the ceremony on Zoom for family.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Six years ago, I started a unique and odd business in the wedding industry called Bridesmaid for Hire, where strangers hire me to be their bridesmaid. I found myself working anywhere between one to three weddings a weekend, and six years later, I can exhaustedly say that I’ve worked over 125 weddings.
At every single wedding, I took notes on what I liked as well as what I didn’t. As that list grew long over the years, I realized there were only a handful of must-haves for me (good music, good food, and a venue that was comfortable for my guests).
When I got engaged in 2019, wedding planning felt easy since I knew what I wanted. I planned a 170-person wedding that was supposed to happen in October 2020 in Florida. One week after we sent our save-the-dates, the pandemic hit and very soon after, we sent out wedding cancelation cards.
We went from having a plan to having zero idea of how we’d plan any kind of wedding during a pandemic.
Last month, as the fifth anniversary of our first date approached, we made the last-minute decision to elope and finally get married.
Here’s how we pulled off our mini-wedding in less than a week and with a budget of only $1,000.
We let go of the original plan
After we made the decision to tie the knot on March 19, 2021, we realized that we’d have to accept that this marriage moment would look absolutely nothing like the wedding we’d originally planned.
Our pandemic-canceled October wedding had 170 guests, a funky DJ, and live performers to entertain guests during the cocktail hour. This new wedding wasn’t going to look anything like that.
There would be a tiny guest list, no sit-down dinner, and no time for a cocktail hour. Even though what we put together wasn’t our plan A or B, it became the best possible plan we could go with during the pandemic.
We decided to do a small and intimate ceremony outside a coffee shop in Manhattan where we’d had our first date. We asked a few friends to be there in person and streamed the ceremony virtually for our immediate family to watch on Zoom.
We had mini-sweet treats (like cupcakes and cookies), and the only entertainment came from the passersby that decided to stop, stare, and unapologetically engage with us during our vows.
If you would have asked me when I got engaged in 2019 if this was the wedding of my dreams, I’d say it sounded more like a nightmare, but in fact, after it happened, it felt perfect and right for us.
We cut the budget and guest list
To pull this wedding off in a pandemic and in just one week, we had to cut out a lot of things.
First, we significantly cut down our budget from being around $30,000 to only $1,000. The pandemic made us shift our financial planning and priorities, and we no longer had the desire or the ability to splurge on a $30,000 wedding.
Instead, we paid for only the essentials and limited our spending to our wedding outfits, a bouquet, refreshments for our guests, and party favors.
We were able to find ways to stretch our cash to make that budget work for us. For example, to help decorate the space and spruce it up, I went to discount craft stores and found a handful of items (candles, table clothes, etc.) all for under $15. At our original wedding, I was planning on spending $2,500 on just decorations, not even including flowers or centerpieces.
We also had to cut the guest list to be safe during the pandemic, and we wanted people there to be able to wear masks and stay socially distant. We went from having a guest list of 170 to having just 10 people there in person and under 20 watching virtually.
While it was tough to make these cuts, we did what was essential so that we could make this happen and get married during the pandemic. We simply explained to people we didn’t invite that we just couldn’t accommodate guests the way we wished we could right now, and that we hope for a bigger celebration all together next year.
We said yes to going virtual
I was on the fence about wanting to have a virtual component to my wedding. I wondered if it would be a worthwhile experience for guests tuning in, and wanted even the video stream to have an intimate look and feel to this marriage moment of ours.
Since our families couldn’t be there in person, we had no choice but to stream our ceremony over Zoom.
While it was a big first, we found a way to make our wedding feel special for the people watching remotely. We asked our virtual guests to share a few words so they would feel included in the ceremony, and we positioned the camera in a way where they could see my partner and I as well as the other guests there in person. It was so seamless, I honestly thought it added to the overall experience, rather than something that felt like a major distraction.
Finally, I let go of what I couldn’t control
A big rule that often gets forgotten at most weddings is that you can’t stress about things you can’t control. I had to remind myself of this constantly on my own wedding day.
We were getting married outside, with no indoor backup plan because of the pandemic, so if the weather was a disaster, the wedding was going to have to go either way.
It said rain and snow in the forecast, so the days leading up to the wedding, I prepared for the worst and ordered a heavy white coat and a few extra umbrellas. Thankfully, we ended up getting just cold weather and sun, but I was still prepared for the worst.
I also felt bad that my own family couldn’t be there in person, but since it wasn’t possible for them to travel to the wedding, I had to let go of being upset about it. My partner and I had made the decision to get married on our anniversary in New York, and that decision meant we had to release previous expectations of what we wanted.
Getting married in a pandemic means there’s always going to be a list of things that don’t go how you planned or that pop up unexpectedly. It’s best to try to lean into those things and let go of what you simply can’t control, predict, or fix.