Amy Grace Collins loved her work through Amy Grace Events. She was doing incredible corporate events and weddings for organizations and couples at the most amazing venues in California and Michigan, with the very best in everything—food, flowers, music, photography, videography and more.
But she saw a trend that concerned her with the dream weddings she was helping California brides make a reality: They wanted $60,000 events when they could barely afford $15,000, so they were headed out of Santa Barbara to less expensive destinations. Think “boho brides” in the dessert of Palm Springs. “My background is in finance, so I’m acutely aware that the money goes where the trends are,” she says. “I started looking for an option to keep Santa Barbarians in their local town.”
Part of an international mastermind group of wedding planners, Amy began sharing her thoughts on calls. She learned that a fellow planner in Australia was in the process of implementing pop-up weddings. The concept was that several couples would have their wedding at the same location, on the same day, enjoying the same vendor resources—just in their 3- to 5-hour window and with a small group of friends and family in attendance.
While the concept would take some time to tweak for the American market, Amy knew she was onto something big. “I reached out last summer to all my vendor friends saying, ‘I have this crazy idea…’ We talked about it and I ran every financial number I could,” says Amy. “There are a lot of models out there that undercut the vendors, so they only do the events on off-days. But couples want a Saturday or Sunday wedding for less, so we created these and started working on marketing them in February.”
Then, COVID-19 hit. “I had been watching it because that sort of thing intrigues me,” says this NAWBO-Central Coast California member, who currently resides with her family in Michigan but works in California as well. “There were brides booked for March and April who were stuck in contracts and out $60,000.” Also, the biggest engagement season is between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day and brides usually start reaching out to wedding planners in the spring…and it’s been silence.
Amy’s thoughts immediately turned to the women who are part of MasterBrides—her other business, which is a free, online community for brides to learn about weddings from an industry veteran. She knew these women didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars to lose. Also, would it even possible for them to plan their weddings in the age of Coronavirus with so many unknowns from state to state, especially in California and Michigan that tend to be among the strictest?
Amy began sharing her research and expertise in blogs like How Do I Know If I Should Cancel or Postpone My Wedding? and The Phased Strategy to Open America: What Does This Actually Mean For My Wedding?. By the response she received from the brides, it was clear it was time to pivot and focus on pop-up weddings. Her own industry, on the other hand, wasn’t so thrilled about what she was putting out there, but Amy felt strongly it was the right thing to do.
Today, that honest, timely communication has paid off. Amy is now offering pop-up weddings where she leverages the cost of a $60,000 wedding and distributes it three ways between couples so they can have stunning weddings for a fraction of the price. These are all-inclusive, with 90 percent of the decisions already made. She just helps each couple finalize the personalization aspects to make it their own event.
There are other advantages to this model, too. For one, it’s recommended that the guest list is small with just 40-80 people. In this time of social distancing, that’s the perfect size. Also, it’s environmentally friendly. Whereas before thousands of dollars of everything from flowers to food would go to waste after one big event, now several couples are taking advantage of the same resources.
“I think this will completely shift the mindset of brides,” Amy says. “To see the couples’ expectations from 2002 when I first started to 2020 is mind-blowing—it’s the same amount of money with way different expectations. This is really resetting the industry so that couples are having a wedding within their means.”
Amy is equally excited about another outcome: A focus on the ceremony more so than the party. “I have always been frustrated by the lack of reverence given to the ceremony portion of the wedding,” she explains. “To have people now see the importance of the actual ceremony and license and how it affects so much in their life, from health care to taxes to immigration. It’s so much deeper and I think we, as an industry, will be appreciated in such a different way. I look forward to that.”
Amy’s pop-up weddings are coming to:
Santa Barbara, California: October 3-4
Dexter, Michigan: November 14-15
A recession proof industry? There’s no such thing!
Until COVID-19, wedding planners used to joke their industry was recession-proof. “Wedding planners and vendors have to realize you have to change,” says Amy. “I positioned myself in such a way that I can look at this situation as a positive thing. Brides are resetting their minds and appreciative of the little things. They will be happier in some ways.”
Photo credit: Waller Weddings