*The internet definition of Micro wedding:
“A micro wedding is an intimate affair, typically with no more than 50 guests. They still feature time-honoured traditions that make a wedding but on a much smaller scale.” – Brides.com
My partner and I dated for 5 years and 5 months before we got married in November 2021. We had a micro wedding, with 48 guests attending our ceremony. Count us in, and that was a clean 50. Yup, Micro wedding.
We planned and chose to have a small, private and intimate ceremony, with our close friends and family only. We both had people whom we wished could have joined us, but could not due to the travel restrictions to Tonga at that time.
A small wedding allowed us to mingle and talk with ALL our guests, take photos with ALL our guests, and it was a relaxed vibe because there were no strangers there. As an anxious introvert, I loved it.
Tonga currently has restrictions on events and gatherings, so I predict that the upcoming trend will be small weddings as opposed to the grand scale traditional Tongan weddings. As such, this would probably be helpful to couples planning a small wedding. At least, I hope it would be helpful. Here we go.
Tip #1 - Set your budget
Have you heard of the Rule of 6P? It's "Perfect Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance".
Of any project, the planning stage is the most important part, and to carry out the plan successfully, you also need a budget. To get a wedding done, you need money. And the bigger the wedding, the more money you need. We don’t believe in taking out a massive loan to host a gigantic event to impress people we don’t even know or like. So, from personal experience (and a pinch of common sense), don’t do it.
We agreed to save up $10,000 (Tongan Pa’anga) each for the wedding + honeymoon expenses (i.e. our total budget for everything was $20,000)
We did not have any financial help from our family (some people feel entitled to an opinion if they pitch in at the start, hence why we both didn’t want our family’s money at all during the planning stage).
Friends and family gave us monetary gifts/ sila at our reception. We didn't ask for it, but we really appreciated that kind gesture. Those silas went towards our honeymoon fund and our joint savings account after the wedding lol.
Tip #2 - Agree on the style and theme
During our planning stage, I created a Pinterest board for inspiration. I added my partner, sister and best friend, Sisi, to the board, and they gave me feedback on what looked good/ what didn't. It doesn't have to be Pinterest, but it helps to visualise what you want so you can clearly work on how to make it happen.
Make sure the style/theme/colours are things you BOTH agree on. Contrary to popular belief that a wedding is all about what the bride wants, it’s a special day for BOTH the bride and groom. Hence, make sure it will be something memorable and special for you BOTH.
Ensure that it's something reasonable and manageable for the budget you've agreed on.
Our wedding was scheduled for November, so we agreed on a simple summer beach wedding with tropical flowers
We didn’t want balloons, fake flowers, chiffon fabric draping, shiny sequins, koloa faka-Tonga etc. for our décor because it's bad for the environment (especially balloons) and bad for our wallets (especially Koloa faka-Tonga lol.)
We picked the Tongan summer for our wedding time because there are a lot of exquisite and fragrant local flowers available during that season for the decor, bouquet, kahoa kakala (Heilala, mohokoi, maile, siale, Pua, Faa etc.)
Tip #3 - Don't feel guilty about cutting down your guest list
So once you've established your budget and style/theme, figure out how many guests you'll be inviting.
We know that Traditional Tongan weddings are MACRO weddings. It is a massive and elaborate affair, and over 100 people would show up for the festivities.
Every uninvited Tom, Dick and Harry from your great-great grandparent’s side of the family would show up, the co-workers you only say good morning to show up, your neighbour’s cousin’s wife’s third cousin shows up and often, the bride and groom might not know who 80% of their guests are. 🙄🙄
Though I do appreciate the culture, the hospitality and the maafana spirit, it was not it for us. My introverted spirit will malfunction all throughout the festivities. 🙅♀️🙅
We agreed on 50 people, and the poster on the side really helped us decide and cut down to who we really wanted there with us.
Remember, it's your day, so you decide who gets to come and who doesn't. Of course, some people may get offended that they weren't invited, but at the end of the day, it's ABOUT YOU & YOUR PARTNER and WHAT YOU BOTH WANT.
Don't feel guilty about keeping your guest list small, or cutting down your guest list. If there are people who make you feel guilty about it, cut them off from your life too. 😂
Once we got our guest list in order, we designed the invitation card online using Canva.
We sent out an E-invite for all our friends and most of our family, but we printed out a hard-copy invite for our older guests (grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, faifekau etc.). Sending out E-invites saved us time and money, so I'd recommend you consider this too.
Tip #4 - Ask around about the venue
Once we agreed on a budget, style and guest list, we looked around for a venue appropriate for our beach wedding. We were contacting venues around June-July for our November wedding. (By Palangi standards, that’s probably late, but our chosen venue told us that usually, people contact them only 2 weeks ahead of a wedding. We were MONTHS ahead, and that was a SURPRISE to them!)
Hihifo beaches are beautiful, and our top picks were originally at the Hihifo beach resorts. However,
Option 1 (Vakaloa) had a minimum of 70 guests (We both didn’t want to add another 20 guests)
Option 2 (Ha'atafu Beach resort) had a maximum of 45 guests (I was willing to cut off more people from the guest list, but Nela wasn’t keen 😂)
Option 3 (Heilala Holiday) had a beautiful beach, but it was too expensive (i.e., it was 75% of our total wedding budget! We wouldn't be able to go on a nice honeymoon if we chose this option 😂)
*After the tsunami in January 2022, sadly, none of these Hihifo beaches are in existence.
We ended up choosing Katea Retreat as our venue. Katea is a fairly new establishment located in Nakolo, but the owners (Sheila & Sami, pictured below), were super supportive of how we wanted our day to be and went over and beyond our expectations!
Key questions to ask when looking for your venue should include:
The number of guests it can accommodate
Cost of food per head
Availability for your chosen date
Whether decorations are part of the package
Whether BYO alcohol is permitted
Whether there is a Security team (to bounce out uninvited guests lol)
Sheila and Sami were really flexible and fabulous to work with, and Katea was right within our budget. I would highly recommend Katea if you're planning your wedding in Tonga!
Tip #5 - Too many cooks spoil the soup (keep things on a need-to-know basis)
Our wedding plans were very low key, and we only told our close friends and immediate family. We didn't bother with an engagement post or party, and we didn't do a traditional fakalelea and any other "We're getting married!" announcement.
It was so low key that when we sent out our official wedding invitations a week before our wedding, some guests thought we were quickly having a shotgun marriage because I was pregnant. Mei uninvite aipe e au e kakai koia 🤣🤣
It was great having a small circle, so you can manage, control and decide how you want things, instead of having decisions made for you like most traditional Tonga weddings. However, there were still many tasks to do, but it was great we had a few people we trusted to help organise our wedding. For instance, I delegated my sister the tasks of:
booking hair & make-up
ordering & picking up the cake
arranging the matching outfit for our family (mum, brother and herself)
printing draft invitation card
ushering in guests before the ceremony
& other pu'i as needed lol
If you want to keep your wedding a Micro-wedding, CONFIDENTIALITY is a must! Only tell people you trust and people you know who don't have a big mouth lol.
Remember: At the end of the day, it's your special day and it's about what you & your partner want!
I'll probably do Part 2 and go into details about our vendors & costs in Tonga. Are you interested in how we didn't have any uninvited guests at our wedding? lol.
Maybe I'll share more about the "untraditional" parts of our wedding too.
Anyway, assuming you read this as someone who is thinking of weddings (lol) good luck with your wedding plans!
Until next time. 'Ofa atu.