It's A Nice Day For A Flash Wedding

Jul 6, 2014
Originally published on July 6, 2014 12:50 pm

You've heard of pop-up restaurants, flash mobs and other hipster happenings. Now comes a pair of entrepreneurs in Washington, D.C., offering pop-up weddings for those who want to elope, but do it with flair.

Locations are never booked ahead of time, planning is minimal and fingers are crossed that you and your partner don't get asked to leave before you are pronounced husband and wife, or wife and wife.

PopWed Co., which started last January, procures the wedding license, chooses a creative location, takes the photographs and performs the ceremony.

The unusual venues are what make it fun, PopWed's Maggie Winters tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer. Some couples may not want to throw a big party. "They still want to commemorate the day in a really special way, but dial it back," says Winters, so it's just the two of them focusing on the moment instead of stressing out about a party.

Winters describes herself as the "tiny, technicolor half of PopWed" — a reference to her fuchsia, asymmetrical haircut. She started the company with her boyfriend, Steven Gaudaen, a management student at George Mason University.

Gaudaen is a secular humanist wedding officiant who performs the ceremonies. Winters, a professional photographer, takes the photos.

"We generally chat with [couples] about what they like to do, and how they met, to see where we should marry them," Winters explains. As Washington natives, Winters says they know all the secret, trendy and colorful locations around the city.

They've held ceremonies at a church converted into an art gallery painted with the colors of the rainbow, and inside the pearly marble atrium of the American Art Museum. They also married a couple in one of the Smithsonian museums — the one with the Hall of Bones and an 8-ton African elephant.

"When I was really small, my parents would take me to the Natural History Museum, and I just remember feeling this sense of awe when I looked at that giant elephant," Winters says. "I really wanted to find the right couple to marry [there], and when our bride told us she had just gotten back from a safari in Africa ... it was perfect."

But sometimes half the adventure is when things don't go as planned. 

"They did kick us out two-thirds of the way through," Winters concedes, "so as we were walking out, Steven pronounced them legally married so we could put the Natural History Museum on their wedding certificate."

PopWed Co. isn't "trying to be a budget wedding option" but rather, "an awesome wedding option that happens to be less expensive," Winters says.

Continuing their passion for spontaneity but with plenty of whimsy, high school sweethearts Winters and Gaudaen are planning their own pop-up wedding in the fall.

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You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. You've heard of pop-up restaurants, flash mobs, other instantaneous happenings. Well, what about pop-up weddings? Think of it as eloping with flare. Maggie Winters is a cofounder of Pop! Wed Co. here in D.C., and she's in the studio to tell us how that works. Maggie, welcome.


WERTHEIMER: Now, the first question that occurred to me is that people elope because they don't want to go through all of the ceremonious difficulty, arranging things that happen with weddings. So if you're going to elope, why would you want an elopement planner?

WINTERS: (Laughing) Well, I think a lot of people want the stress-free elopement, but they still want to commemorate the day in a really special way. So they might not want to throw a huge party for 200 people, but they might still want photos and they might want to get married somewhere that feels really special. So you can still have that, like, really awesome wedding experience, but dial it back so it's just the two of you really focusing on your love, instead of focusing on a party.

WERTHEIMER: You did a pop wedding at the Smithsonian, standing in front of a giant elephant. Now, why that site?

WINTERS: Jennifer, our bride from that wedding, had just gotten back from a safari in Africa. So she said that would really mean a lot to them to get married there. So it was perfect.

WERTHEIMER: Now, it didn't totally work out though?

WINTERS: They did kick us out about two thirds of the way through. But...

WERTHEIMER: You mean like the guards at the Smithsonian or somebody?

WINTERS: Yeah, so the guards stand right next to the front of the elephant. So to get the right, like, viewing angle, we kind of had to be about 10 feet away from the guards.

WERTHEIMER: So they knew what do you were doing?

WINTERS: We all talked about it ahead of a time with our couple and said, like, we might get kicked out of this location - would that be OK? And they said yeah, we think it would be fun. So...


WINTERS: ...Steven was just finishing the ceremony and they came over and said oh, you can't do this in here. This is not allowed.

WERTHEIMER: So your partner is...

WINTERS: Steven Guadaen - he is the officiate and he does the legal side of the business. And we were kind of like - we're almost done. But they kicked us out. So as we were walking out, Steven pronounced them legally married so that we could still put the Natural History Museum on their wedding certificate.


WINTERS: And then (laughing) - and then we finished it up outside on the steps.

WERTHEIMER: So despite this kind of difficulty, do you really think there are people who want to do this instead of just kind of, like, showing up at a Justice of the Peace and doing it and going out and getting a burger?

WINTERS: I think there are couples who enjoy both. I think what we offer at Pop! Wed Co. is fun - you never quite know what's going to happen - like, it's always kind of interesting and adventurous. And it's for the kind of couples who like that sort of thing. So I definitely think there are couples who will just go to the Justice of the Peace and that's awesome. And any way you get married is great. We just offer it a very specifically wacky way.

WERTHEIMER: Maggie Winters is co-owner of Pop! Wed Co. Thank you for coming in.

WINTERS: Thanks for having me.


SPIN DOCTORS: (Singing) There she comes on down the aisle. Behind her veil she wears a smile. In her hands the bright bouquet, daddy's here to give the bride away. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.