Congratulations on your engagement! You have been overwhelmed with the amount of decisions you need to make to plan your big day. Where do you start? What is the best way to make sure everything goes smoothly and that all of your guests are comfortable?
A wedding day is one of the most important days in a couple’s life. It can be an emotional rollercoaster as everyone tries to make it perfect, from picking out the dress, cake, venue and more. If you want a small intimate wedding with just close friends and family, then this article will give you some helpful tips on how to plan your special day!
When it comes to planning a wedding, there are many decisions to make before the big day. One of these is whether you want an intimate and small wedding or a large event with hundreds of guests.
If you’re in the process of planning your wedding, it can be both exciting and challenging. First, of course, you want to make sure that every detail is perfect for your big day, but there are so many options out there! Second, planning a small intimate wedding might seem like a daunting task, but with these tips and tricks, it’ll be easier than ever before.
Planning an intimate wedding can be a difficult task. First, you want to make sure you have enough time, money and resources. Luckily for you, we put together the ultimate guide with all of our best tips on how to plan your small intimate wedding!
You may think that it’s not worth the effort to plan such a small event, but don’t underestimate what your friends and family will appreciate! You’ll have more time for yourself on your wedding day, which is something not many people can say they got to experience.
It also doesn’t mean you need less planning or budgeting; in fact, focusing on smaller details could make all of the difference for you. It’s about adding personal touches and making sure it feels like yours instead of generic. The best part? Less stress!
Learn about everything from budgeting and designing your perfect day to finding vendors that fit your needs. We’ve got you covered with this comprehensive list of must-have’s to plan the perfect small intimate wedding.
How To Plan A Small Intimate Wedding
That’s not to say that small weddings are cheaper. Although they may be kinder to your wedding budget, if you are planning a luxe wedding, it simply means that you have more budget per head, which allows you to go all-out with your celebrations.
If you’re one of the many couples looking to plan a small wedding, here are a few key points for your wedding planning:
1. Why Have A Small Wedding?
Before you even get to ‘I do’, understand what appeals to you in an intimate wedding. Is it the privacy and exclusivity it offers?
Maybe it’s the preference of a more meaningful wedding that can be personalised? Or perhaps it has to do with your wedding budget, or because you want to marry abroad?
- Reduces your overall wedding cost and budget
- A more perusal and intimate feel
- Fewer guests mean you have more food and drink
- Fewer guests mean you can spend more time with the ones that are there
- Fewer people, less stress, can enjoy every moment
- More relaxed
Once you have established your motivation, prioritise this as your inspiration for the big day.
2. Keep The Guest List Short
We can help with an idea: decide if you could bear to lavish on a particular guest. Are they the kind of people you’d love to have intimate dinners with?
On the flip side, Jove Meyer of Jove Meyer Events says you should look through your contact. And invite-only people you’ve spoken to in the past three months because we only talk to people who’re important to us.
3. The Guest List
Possibly the most important part of wedding planning is who to invite. With an intimate wedding, this means your nearest and dearest, which in some ways may be easier to decide.
As a couple, agree on a number that you feel comfortable with and work towards this. Typically, a small wedding lends itself to about 50 people – that’s 25 people on each side.
Think about whether you want to include ‘plus one’s’ or just individuals, and whether this extends to your close work colleagues or none at all. Again, consistency on both sides will prevent arguments!
Finally, give some thought as to how you will manage friends and family not invited. One of the challenges of a small wedding is how to manage other’s expectations.
4. Plan Your Wedding Budget
When it comes to your wedding budget, figure out how much you have to spend in total and where will these funds come from (savings, family, etc.). Once you understand your finances, you can work within its constraints.
Couple this with your guest’s list, and you should be able to know the cost per head. Again, this will come in useful when thinking about wedding venues.
5. Stick To Your Budget
With all your small wedding ideas assembled, stick to your budget like glue. A lot of detailing goes into planning a wedding. So you must be very sure about the things you need. Indisputable essentials include food, booze, photography, and music.
Also, have a timeline, Aleah and Nick Valley of Valley & Company events say. It helps you know how much you’ve got planned out and how to prioritise them. In the end, the service should be very exceptional.
6. Hire The Right Space
One of the key considerations of a small wedding is ensuring that the wedding venue complements the size of your party. Too big, and it may look like some people didn’t turn up – too small, and it could look like you’ve skimped on costs.
The key to this is researching venues online and in-person in advance to ensure they work for your party size.
First of all, where will you say your vows? Be it a church, a beach or a registry office, a barn or elsewhere; make sure you choose a suitable venue for the number of guests attending.
When it comes to your wedding reception venue, there’s plenty of creative options for intimate venues. From boats to barns, boutique hotels to private rooms in restaurants.
You are less restricted with smaller groups – the only venue it rules out is large ballrooms and venues accommodating bigger groups. However, most wedding venues have their wedding coordinator, who will advise on making the most of their space, so use them to your advantage.
This is where you’ll be spending the bulk of your day, so make it a priority.
7. Use A Unique Wedding Venue
Or you could use private homes, according to Tiffany Rivera – “Use privately owned homes (not yours), it’s more flexible and less cost-effective.“
Restaurants are also great very small wedding venues. But Jove Meyer insists that you should pick a place that has everything you love. From the menu to music, style, and existing décor. This saves you the cost of redecorating it.
8. The Guest Experience
The guest experience is often richer with smaller parties, as the couple can spend quality time with everyone.
But, because there’s more focus on guests, it means that their experience needs to be high on the agenda too.
Think about how the day will unfold and all the touches that can be added to make it feel exclusive and special that a bigger wedding party might not achieve.
This might be hiring a boat to take guests from the church or registry to the wedding venue, or it could be a private chef and sommelier that offers private tasting as part of the day.
9. Add Personality
One of the many reasons that couples opt for an intimate wedding is to break away from tradition and add some personality to proceedings.
This might be a designer wedding cake, your own gin club bar, or pictures of everyone attending dotted around the venue. It could be as small as your colour scheme, to getting a film made that is shown on the day.
10. Make Your Own Rules
The great advantage of a small wedding is the ability to plan it on your terms. Since you’re keeping the day intimate, this means opting out of ‘unnecessary’ traditions.
It wouldn’t look out of place to have one or no bridesmaids or to forgo a large group of groomsmen. However, the beauty of an intimate wedding means that anything goes.
11. Consider Privacy
If this is the case, think about how your big day can be full of celebration while being appropriately discreet. You may wish to include a social media ban, for instance.
And finally, small wedding parties benefit from whisking guests away abroad or to exclusive venues as part of their big day.
This often means that guests can stay on-site, depending on the wedding venue chosen. This can greatly benefit keeping your big day feeling exciting and special for a lucky elite group of guests.
13. Don’t Overdo Your Wedding Décor
It’s a small space, so you mustn’t overdo décor. Instead, keep it as simple, airy, natural and minimal as you can. “Use more greenery and fewer blooms,” Luke Wilson from Lukesevents suggests. It gives the space life and a bubbly vibe.
Keep the ceiling elegant and formal by using white drapes. Install paper lanterns overhead for an intimate ambience.
“Choose patterned pillows for lounge areas“, adds Maureen Petrosky, an entertaining & lifestyle expert. Use chalkboard signage for the entrance or cocktail bar. Use lots of table lamps and flowers to create an intimate space.
Anything overboard steals the venue’s beauty and makes the space look stuffy.
14. Have A Short Wedding Ceremony
If you want your ceremony to last for 30 minutes tops, speak to your officiant. They will help you decide which activity to scrape off your list.
Ditch the wedding party and walk down the aisle with a couple of friends. Instead, write, write out your own vows as it’s a perfect way to work yourself to the allocated time.
Skip every kind of tradition you either don’t understand or have put you to sleep at other weddings. Instead, stick to the exciting ones. Lastly, have a mock wedding practice before the day. This helps you perfect your timing for the actual ceremony.
15. Think Casual Dinner
Do you want to keep your wedding small and simple? What better way than to make your dinner casual!
Choose foods that everyone agrees with and, if possible, keep within the season. Opt for foods like vegetables and couscous salad. Combine lobsters with mashed potatoes or filet Mignon and green beans.
To keep the meal very light, try out a seasonal salad or chicken and waffles. You may also include fried chicken, mac and cheese and biscuits for barbeque lovers.
Finish off with grilled chicken and cherry tomato skewers or Cucumber-rolled fresh greens and peppers. These are great foods and appetisers.
16. Use Dessert Bar
Instead of the traditional wedding cake, delight the guests with a dessert bar. Try out ice cream, especially if you’re having a summer wedding. Allow guests to make up their sundaes; you could also an ice cream or gelato truck to arrive as a treat for guests.
Smores bar is another exciting idea with a display of crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows. You may also opt for the Churro bar, blend the Churro with cinnamon, and you have a winner on your hands.
Provide toppings like chocolate sauce, candy or sprinkles options. Syrup and fruit waffle bars are also great traditional options.
17. Better Minimize Details
A small wedding means small wedding reception ideas. And you can work with detailed yet minimalist wedding trends.
Intimate weddings are the perfect chance to incorporate sentimental items. They range from vintage china to silver and hand-embroidered napkins.
Meyer adds that you should remember to design the space along with the tables. Think about integrating lights, fabrics, plants and anything else that can create an ambience. And according to Valley, “observe the rule of giving elbow room so that guests can access things on the table. Also, make sure centrepieces don’t prevent them from seeing their dining partners.”
18. Create A Lounge Zone
The lounge should be a place for your guests to relax, sip on drinks and catch up. “It should be a mini version of your wedding“, Maureen Petrosky says.
The lounge zone should also be cohesive with your wedding theme. So beauty, lighting, comfort, and intimacy are the focal points when creating a lounge.
Manage expenses by using what the place already has. For example, put in plush couches, chairs, and tables to hold drinks. Don’t use bright lights as they aren’t conducive. Use layered lighting instead. Dim lights overhead and use three-way lamps.
19. Try Creative Décor Ideas
Give guests enough elbow room for conversation. Do this by lifting the flowers to install an overhead arrangement of florals and soft lighting.
Nick Valley adds that you can cover tables in loads of ultra-lush flowers and candles, plus deluxe linens. Then top each place setting with a hand-calligraphed card stuck to a tiny bouquet.
Give your guests a memorable and personalised experience.
20. Entertainment Is Very Important
There are many small wedding venue’s reception ideas for entertaining guests. Music, as well as other activities, could prove a great avenue for guests to enjoy themselves. Start by availing your guests with photo booth props they need to create those Kodak moments.
Another great option is a jazz band. Rivera says she’ll gladly splurge on music, and jazz band is one of the easiest ways to ensure a packed dance floor.
21. Have Dinner The Morning After
Buffet and cocktails work best as it gives room for interaction. According to Carly McGarry, catering manager at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas, buffets are a great choice for a post-wedding dinner. This is because they’re fun and interactive, and they tend to get guests mingling.
“Buffet is also a good way to get people to try a variety of foods and make the meal an unforgettable experience,” Carly adds.
Small Wedding Ideas: Ceremonies, Receptions, Details & Food
1. Reception Ideas & Food
Picnics – On the trail, at your rental, or wherever you’re getting married, a wedding picnic is a fun, low-key way to make sure no one gets hangry! Even at traditional weddings, couples sometimes find themselves too busy socialising to eat.
Plan food into your small wedding timeline and share a meal with your guests without the formality. Picnic benches are great if you’re getting married in a park, but you can also pack along blankets to sit on and remove any stress of seating charts – throw a pillow down by whomever they want!
Local Restaurants – If you’re eloping or planning a small wedding near a city, see if you can reserve a table or room at a local restaurant!
One of the benefits of a small wedding is that most places can seat a dozen or so people, and you don’t have to cater a meal. Instead, your guests can choose their dinner, and you can enjoy spending more time together without anyone having to step away to prepare food.
2. Small Weddings Open Up Your Options For Outdoor Venues
Planning a small wedding gives you the option to choose an incredibly beautiful non-traditional venue! Unfortunately, unless it’s a field on someone’s private property, we cannot think of a single location outdoors that can support hundreds of wedding guests.
If you want mountain views or desert rock formations in the background of your wedding photos, you’re going to have to plan a small wedding. It’s impossible to get more than a handful of people to the Taft Point overlook in Yosemite National Park or even more than a dozen on the valley floor.
There’s nothing wrong with choosing a more accessible location (like your backyard). Still, the most epic elopement locations you’ve seen pictured on social media can only be accessed responsibly by small groups of people. Planning a small wedding allows you to choose whatever epic location is your dream wedding venue!
Consider Getting Married On A Boat
For an extra nautical experience, pick out to get married on a boat or a small yacht. Your photographer can get some remarkable images of the ceremony with the city’s skyline in the background.
Guests can decide for a dip in the sea all through the reception, and you and your associate can make a great exit on a jet ski.
Get Married In The Woods
String some lights between the trees, set up a few chairs for buddies and households and sprinkle some flower petals down a makeshift aisle. This is a no-hassle way to rejoice a close second with the ones you preserve close.
3. Attire & Details
Dress For The Occasion – You already know a small wedding can be whatever you want it to be! It can be as active, adventurous, and exciting as you want. This means a traditional black suit and white dress might not fit your needs or keep you comfortable in many cases.
You can wear whatever clothing, of any colour and material, and even change outfits if you want! Many couples wear comfortable activewear during hiking elopements and then change into formal wear at the ceremony location. Others hike in dresses, suits, jumpsuits, rompers – this is your opportunity to show your style!
Do you think a small wedding ceremony is right for you? Awesome! You won’t regret choosing to plan an intentional, authentic, true-to-you wedding ceremony!
SMALL WEDDINGS VS. ELOPEMENTS
So, what really is a small wedding, and how is it different from an elopement? The truth is, the difference is mostly in the vernacular. We’ve witnessed small weddings with a handful of guests that felt every bit like an elopement because the couple did exactly what they wanted!
We’ve also photographed small weddings that felt like traditional mini weddings because the couple chose to have the structure and timeline founded on tradition. For example, picture this – a wedding with 25 guests where the couple hired a wedding planner, DJ, caterer and followed all the “firsts” from the kiss to the dance. That’s one way to have a small wedding!
The most common similarity between small weddings and elopements we photograph is the couple’s desire to celebrate outdoors. However, nature is fragile, and we follow Leave No Trace principles whenever applicable.
A 200-person wedding in an alpine field wouldn’t align with our outdoor ethics, but a 10-person wedding party hiking to a viewpoint won’t damage the environment if everyone has an eco-friendly mindset. Protecting the natural spaces we work in is essential, and many eloping couples we work with agree!
There’s also the logistics of getting married outdoors that often shorten the guest list. In addition, many trails or ceremony locations limit the foot traffic allowed there at one time.
This especially applies to national park weddings, ceremonies in fragile wilderness environments, and destination elopements. If you’re an especially outdoorsy couple, you’ll want to ensure your guests are prepared and capable of handling the activities in your chosen environment. Don’t assume anyone trained for elevation – trust us.
If you want to get married outside, a small wedding would be perfect for you! Whether you want only a couple of guests or 25, call it an elopement or a wedding, getting married in nature is an especially intentional and memorable way to get married.