Micro-weddings: Aussie entrepreneur Carly Brown on the future of marriage ceremonies

Updated: Dec 20, 2020

We chatted with Carly about her business, the future of weddings, and the meaning of 'micro-weddings'.

When did Just Married Weddings come about?

Just Married Weddings started in Sydney in 2016 and has steadily grown to now offer ceremonies in around 40 locations, including all the capital cities.

I had been working as a celebrant for a few years, and have a legal background, and always wanted to run my own business, but it had to be something joyful and sustainable. Micro-weddings was my perfect niche, and it turned out to be a bigger market than I had anticipated.

What is the main purpose of the business? And what are some of the benefits of micro-weddings?

JMW’s purpose is to provide couples with the option of a simple, affordable, intimate and romantic wedding ceremony in a beautiful outdoor location.

Micro-weddings and elopements are perfect for couples who want their day to be about them,not about putting on a big show for their friends. They are incredibly romantic and also relaxed, beautiful and memorable. Compared to more traditional ‘big’ weddings they are extremely affordable and have almost zero impact on the environment.

JMW is for the romantics, the environmentalists, the minimalists, the sensible and the savers.

What are some of the biggest challenges of owning your own business?

As a business owner there are always new ideas, new things to try and more options for expanding, so the work can be never-ending. This is ironic because I originally opened my own business so I would have more of a work-life balance. Most of the time though, I make it work.

Also global pandemics can be challenging, but that’s not unique to business owners.

Is there a story behind the name of Just Married Weddings?

Just Married Weddings is for couples who JUST want to get married. They don’t want limousines, doves, fireworks and bridal entourages. They JUST want to start their married life together, and we make that happen.

Additionally, Just Married is for couples who are thinking “our wedding is just about us” – putting the US in jUSt married.

Our catch phrase is “Just US. Just LOVE. Just Married”.

I came up with the name by reaching out to lots of couples who were in the right age bracket and recently engaged/married, as they are the kinds of people who were in the right headspace to understand my target market. Just Married Weddings was a suggestion of my best friend's younger sister, whose wedding I had just recently performed, and it worked for me right away.

What is something you've learned about the wedding industry during Covid–19?

Covid has highlighted what we value most as a community, and wedding ceremonies have been up there! Of course it’s not an essential industry but covid has shown how important many people believe the wedding industry is to our sense of happiness as a community. Whenever new restrictions were imposed or adjusted by the government, weddings were almost always specifically mentioned and the regulations clearly explained.

In all but Victoria, wedding ceremonies were always allowed to proceed, subject to tight restrictions on guest numbers, which shows how much we as a society hold this commitment in high regard. For us in Sydney, even when most people weren’t leaving their homes at all our celebrants were going out to perform ceremonies for couples and their two witnesses. It was an incredible time.

People wanting the bigger, more traditional celebrations were of course devastated, and vendors like reception venues and caterers have been hit really hard, but the silver lining is that the romance at the centre of the entire industry endures and is as strong as ever.

I have no doubt the industry will bounce back.

Do you have any personal highlights since the inception of your business?

My personal highlight in the life of JMW so far was the legalisation of same sex marriage. When I first became a celebrant I didn’t think I would see same sex weddings in Australia my lifetime, and then seemingly overnight the momentum built and the legislation passed.

For me, being unable to marry same-sex couples prior to that day has always been a painful aspect of an otherwise joyful job.

During the campaign I remember performing ceremonies on the Northern Beaches of Sydney whilst sky writing planes flew overhead scrawling VOTE NO in the sky. It was a really unpleasant time.

But the day the YES result was announced I shed a tear with the couple I was about to marry, and on the first day SSM was legal Just Married did a big free day of same sex weddings to celebrate – it was so amazing to be part of.

How do you see the future of the wedding industry in Australia (in the next five years)?

For the next 12–24 months I see a continued focus on micro- weddings, as couples are nervous about planning bigger weddings while uncertainty is still in the air. As long as the virus is part of our lives, couples are very cautious about their weddings not causing a cluster, or asking people to travel while things are so tenuous.

Much like this year, I expect many couples in 2021 will want to press on with their ceremonies, even though they will probably forgo having bigger receptions.

While some couples will no doubt return to planning the big white weddings we were once accustomed to, I expect we will see a much larger proportion of couples opting for simple, smaller weddings. Many couples will have seen their friends have amazing, intimate and much more affordable micro-weddings during covid, and will see how amazing that can be. Covid has forced us all to think outside the square and now couples will all have seen there are amazing alternatives to the traditional elements of the wedding that don’t suit everyone.

Additionally, as Gen Ys get married, we will see an increasing number of environmentally conscious couples not wanting their wedding to have any unnecessary environmental impact, and as such more and more people are opting for a very minimalist wedding day.

If Just Married Weddings was a ____ it would be a _____

A flower: A white rose (because our ceremonies are romantic, simple and beautiful)

A TV show: Married at First Sight (Season One) – when it was still pure and innocent (because our couples are daring, brave, hopeless romantics)

An iconic woman: Greta Thunberg (because we are quirky, we are breaking the rules, disrupting the status quo and dedicated to sustainability)

A colour: Rose gold (because our ceremonies are timeless, elegant and romantic)

A dessert: Chocolate ice cream (because our ceremonies are simple, and oh so satisfying)

A song: All You Need is Love by the Beatles, because our couples know this, we know this, and that’s why we are a perfect match.

A cocktail: Sex on the Beach (because our couples are a bit naughty, fun loving and adventurous)