Several times a year, event and wedding coordinator Gretchen Culver would organize beautiful unions between two people.
"With Rocket Science, my main planning and design company, I had a few weddings still left for 2020 and some corporate events," Culver said. "As the pandemic started to snowball, it really became clear that we weren't going to be able to do the weddings this year. So we moved all those to 2021."
With more time on her hands, Culver said she started focusing on her other company called Minne Weddings. She said she originally started it after noticing that her regular clients' wedding sizes were getting smaller.
"It wasn't directly born from COVID, but basically it was," Culver said with a laugh. She said she launched MinneWeddings.com in mid-April. "Now I've been able to put a lot of time and energy into Minne Weddings and put dates on the calendar and figure out what's going to be able to happen this year as much as we can."
The concept is small, short and simple. The couple chooses a date and a venue. Right now, five dates and venues are available, mostly in the Minneapolis area.
"It gives you a ceremony, it gives you a short reception, cake and champagne," she said. "You can add light appetizers if you want, a couple session with a photographer, videographer--everything you need for a wedding. For pictures and memories, to celebrate with your nearest and dearest and you're onto whatever else you want to do."
She said since the whole thing from start to finish only takes 90 minutes, couples can decide what they do with the rest of their day. Whether that's going on their big honeymoon, or just going back home and chilling in sweatpants.
The additional attraction to Minne Weddings is that all this costs less than $5,000 depending on the venue. Culver said the reason she is able to keep the cost down so low is that she books multiple weddings a day at the same venue. The couples that are getting wed that day are technically splitting the decor and venue costs. The couples will wed during their time slot to make sure no one else is present during their time.
"It's more than eloping, more than going to the courthouse but less than the big party," she said. "If you want to have a big party later, there's nothing stopping you. What we're seeing right now with COVID, more couples just want to get married now so they can go on with their lives."
Culver said this way, couples can move on and start other chapters of their lives like filing joint tax returns or making a big purchase together as a couple.
Plus, she said a small wedding is the best way to avoid inviting all the people couples didn't really feel too excited about seeing.
"The pandemic has given people permission to do it," she said. "They are now saying I can do what I want now. The big wedding is off the table. This is really giving me the opportunity to say what I want, do what I want in this new environment."
Culver said her first Minne Wedding is happening on the 9th of August. She said she and her team are closely monitoring the state's guidelines daily to see if there are any changes they can make to the number of guests.
She said she is also making sure party and food preparations will strictly follow CDC's best practices and guidelines.
Culver added that she and her company are looking for ways to give back to the community through Minne Weddings.
"We are currently looking for deserving couples to receive a free Minne Wedding in August and/or September. People can nominate others or themselves. I really want to help couples impacted by COVID and all our essential workers."
If you know someone who is looking to get married and you think they deserve a free Minne Wedding, you can nominate them here.
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There is also a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.