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How to Plan a Small Wedding

Small weddings can be the perfect way to have a meaningful and loving celebration with your partner. Small weddings can make sense for newlyweds who want to spend their budget on the home or couples who are not sure if they want children one day.

If you plan, you will avoid some of the major pitfalls of planning a wedding in general.

A small wedding is the perfect way to celebrate your love with friends and family. Planning a smaller ceremony can bring many advantages, including reduced stress levels, a more intimate setting, and an affordable price tag.

Even if you’re not planning an expensive, lavish event, there are many decisions to make: location, food and drink selections, entertainment options etc., but one thing that should be at the top of your list when planning your small wedding is how to keep it affordable without sacrificing quality.

With these tips from someone who has planned her own small wedding (a very successful one!), you can plan your perfect day without breaking the bank!

You’ve been planning your wedding for what feels like forever, and you’re finally ready to tie the knot. You love your partner more than anything in this world, but you know that not everyone is happy about it.

It doesn’t matter how much time goes by or how many people say they don’t care; some people will always have something negative to say about a smaller affair. But we don’t want those opinions to spoil our special day!

If you’re getting married and want to keep it simple, here are some tips for planning your small wedding. Your guests will appreciate the intimate atmosphere, and you’ll have less stress on your plate too!

We suggest using this blog post as a guide for how to plan a small wedding. You’ll find tips on everything from saving money and time down to what flowers look best at smaller events! We hope it helps!

A small wedding can be just as beautiful and special as a large one. It is all about finding the right balance of what matters to you most. There are lots of ways to plan a small wedding with minimal stress, so let’s take a look at some ideas for how to make your day perfect!

What’s considered a small wedding? 

According to Jenn Johnson, CEO of EPIC Presentations, a small wedding consists of 50 people or less. However, she says the fewer people you invite, the more intimate the event can be. You can make it a hyper-personal event by asking 20 to 40 people, or you can have a VIP-only guest list of 10 loved ones.

It’s entirely up to you. Given the limited guest list, small weddings are often hosted at a destination. However, considering the current circumstances, most intimate celebrations are local.

Where can I host a small wedding?

Hosting an intimate wedding is all about finding the right space. Even with only a handful of guests, you want your wedding venue to feel full. To achieve this, seek out small and cozy environments versus large, spacious venues.

Head over to The Knot to see venues in your area and filter your options based on guest capacity. Then, in just seconds, you’ll be able to review all of the nearby stunning spots that will bring your small wedding vision to life.

Maybe you want a small garden affair or a ceremony at your favourite wine bar. A destination wedding is an option for when guests feel more comfortable travelling too.

Why Choose a Small Wedding?

Not everyone wants the big, white wedding or has the option to have one. Instead, smaller weddings are growing in popularity as people choose to surround themselves with just their closest loved ones.

With a more intimate guest list, you can focus on creating a personal and unforgettable experience for you and your guests.

Typically a very small wedding of fewer than 20 guests is called a micro wedding, while a small wedding is considered as having between 30 and 60 guests. However, it’s really up to each couple what they consider “small”.

You’ll find that adopting even a few of these small wedding ideas will create an unforgettable atmosphere.

From ways to make a large venue seem cosier to family-style meals, creative seating, handwritten notes for each guest and intimate after-party ideas, your day will be just as joyful, romantic and fun.

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If you’re still deciding whether to have a small wedding, there’s plenty of reasons they’re amazing:

  • The overall cost of your wedding is likely to be cheaper
  • You can spend more money on your biggest priorities
  • You can spend more individual time with loved ones
  • You can create a more intimate and personal day
  • Fewer guests mean less stress and a more relaxed atmosphere
  • What’s important to remember is that the size of your guest list doesn’t mean anything else needs to be small: go big on the dress, flowers, cake, invites, dinner and venue if you want!

Here are a few tips on starting planning your small wedding and then our favourite small wedding ideas.

How to Have a Small Wedding

Planning a small wedding may seem straightforward, but it can be not easy to pull off logistically. To help make the process easier, we rounded up tips for how to have a small wedding.

1. Be Selective About Your Guest List

This one seems obvious, but it can be challenging in practice. First, remember that there are certain people you don’t have to invite to your wedding. Next, reference local and national guidelines around social gatherings so that you have a clear understanding of what’s allowed.

You may want to celebrate with 50 people, but some venues may only allow 20 to 30 people, so keep that in mind as you create your guest list.

While it can be difficult to tell someone they won’t be invited to your wedding, it’s best to be honest. You can always find other ways to include other people in your celebration too.

2. Choose a Venue With a Strict Guest Capacity

If you’re feeling guilty about limiting the number of guests yourselves, choosing a venue that has a strict capacity can take the pressure off of you. Plus, it’ll give you an incentive to continue to whittle down your guest list.

3. Skip the Wedding Party

While having a wedding party is a long-standing tradition, you don’t have to have one—especially if you’re trying to keep the guest list small. “Allow yourself to [forego] a wedding party,” Johnson says.

“Include only your closest family and your tight group of besties [on the guest list].” Then, instead of a wedding party, focus on curating a list of the most important people in your life.

4. Be Strict About Plus Ones

If every invited guest brings a plus one, your headcount can grow quickly. Before sending out invitations, talk with your partner about your stance on plus ones.

Typically, plus ones are reserved for significant partners (meaning the couple is engaged or married). Establishing this type of guideline is a surefire way to keep your guest list small.

5. Invite Others to Virtually Attend

Another idea is to turn to technology—especially in light of coronavirus. “Have your ceremony on Zoom if you want to include more people or if some family members don’t want to travel and [others] people don’t feel safe attending a social gathering,” Johnson says.

Couples can still implement the idea of a virtual wedding once gatherings become safe again too. Inviting people to dial in virtually is a wonderful solution if you’re trying to keep the headcount down. They still get to watch you exchange vows, and you get to keep your guest list small.

6. Plan Two Events: One Small and One Big

If an intimate ceremony is most important to you, create a separate, larger guest list for the reception—inform your guests of the arrangements.

On the other hand, if you want the whole event to be intimate, you might choose to have a large, casual reception a month or so after your wedding.

Of course, this means paying for another event, but it can be fun to have a bigger crowd gathered in a more relaxed setting. And the best part is you won’t be expected to serve a six-course meal to all your guests at this kind of celebration.

Small Wedding Ideas

There are so many perks to having a small wedding. Not only does having a fewer number of guests cut down on wedding costs, but it also allows you and your guests to have more intimate social interactions.

Having a small wedding allows you to get creative with themes and seating charts, allowing you to leave a more personal touch that truly reflects you and your love. As a result, you’ll be able to create a relaxing and enjoyable environment for everyone.

Once you find the idea that works for you, you’ll be itching to start planning and send out some adorable save the dates.

1. Strategically Plan Your Guest List

A small wedding is only so if the guest list is as small as possible. “Look through your text messages and calls, and only invite those you’ve spoken to within the last three months,” says Jove Meyer of Jove Meyer Events. “We speak to those who matter most—it’s that simple.”

If you’re having a hard time narrowing down your guest list, consider if you would take this person out for several hundred-dollar dinners or have them as a guest in your home for the weekend.

“Thinking about how close your relationships are will help ensure you are truly comfortable with those you surround yourselves with on your wedding day,” says Aleah and Nick Valley of Valley & Company Events.

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2. Send Handwritten Invitations

With fewer guests on your list, it’s much easier to send handwritten invitations with beautiful hand-lettering rather than printing hundreds. Or, you might even skip the formal invitations and opt to call each of your guests instead.

3. Send a Wedding Announcement

Of course, everybody will want to know that you’ve tied the knot. So for those who were not included on your small guest list, consider sending a wedding announcement or handwritten note.

“Make a list of those who will want to know the big news, and send out a wedding announcement after the fact,” suggests Luke Wilson of Luke Wilson Events.

4. Consider a Restaurant Venue

Fewer people on the guest list means the world is your oyster when it comes to choosing a nontraditional venue, and a restaurant may be the perfect fit. “They’re unique spaces that have everything you need in one place,” Meyer says.

Consider a spot that you and your partner love to frequent. Just be sure you love everything about it, from the style and the menu to the existing décor, as restaurants often have restrictions on decorations.

5. Use a Family Home

Consider using the backyard of your family house for an intimate venue. “Family homes can pose many challenges for events with a large guest list but work well with a smaller group,” Wilson says. “I love the sentiment of having an intimate affair in a place that is meaningful to the couple.”

6. Choose an Airbnb

Choosing an Airbnb venue may be the perfect fit for your needs. Tiffany Rivera of Simply Breathe Events suggests looking into beautiful private homes (that aren’t your own), which give you the flexibility to move between spaces and make your wedding day really cost-efficient.

Be sure to check with the host of your preferred Airbnb before booking. Some properties do not allow gatherings such as weddings.

7. Find a Small Space in a Large Venue

Traditional venues are full of unexpected spaces that are perfect for smaller celebrations. “Consider areas that are often overlooked, like the library of a large historic estate,” says Francie Dorman of 42 North. Courtyards, theatres, or smaller galleries are also great options.

8. Get Creative With Seating Arrangements

If you’re planning a smaller wedding in a large venue, it may be time to get creative with ceremony and reception seating arrangements.

“Making a large space feel intimate can be so fun, as you have the opportunity to get really creative with seating and table layouts, as well as adding things like a lounge or creative bars and food stations,” Meyer says.

“Consider an extra-large round table for 20 to fill more space, or mix up how the venue is usually used by having the ceremony where others might have dinner and vice versa.”

9. Gift a Welcome Box

Whether you’re hosting a destination wedding, a weekend-long celebration, or an intimate evening party, a welcome box is such a personalized touch to put together for your small guest list. Incorporate items that you and your partner love or bring in influences from your wedding’s locale.

10. Make a Day-Of Timeline

No matter the size, having a timeline for your wedding is something you won’t want to forget. “So much thought goes into the details of a wedding, whether large or small, and a good timeline provides a framework that helps tell your story,” says Nick and Aleah Valley.

11. Hire a Day-Of Coordinator

Wedding planners or day-of coordinators aren’t just for large weddings. “It’s also a great idea to hire a wedding planner, even if it’s only for day-of coordination,” Rivera says. “You’ll want someone there to facilitate the flow of the day so you can enjoy it instead of worrying about whether alcohol is running low.”

12. Be Thoughtful With Activities

As you determine the details and activities, decide what is important to you and your partner and skip the things that don’t matter. “Many couples opt to forgo some of the traditional dancing at a small wedding,” says Nick and Aleah Valley. “Know your crowd and replace it with an activity everyone will enjoy, or keep it in the timeline if your loved ones love to dance.”

13. Hire a Live Band

If you do love dancing, you may want to splurge for a live band, but be sure to keep the band’s size in mind. “If your band has an equal number of players to your final guest count, it will feel overpowering. So instead, hire a smaller group of musicians so you can have the formality of special dances without a crowd on stage,” Wilson advises.

14. Invest in Your Photographer

A fantastic photographer is a great investment, no matter how many guests will be in attendance, but a smaller guest list may mean more opportunities to capture intimate moments.

“With fewer people at the table, your guests will really relax, creating an intimate atmosphere,” Dorman explains. “Hire a trusted photographer who will capture the laughter, the tears, and the clinking glasses, since those are the moments you’ll treasure most.”

15. Elevate Your Escort Display

Creating an elaborate escort display is such a fun way to include guests in your big day. “Go hyper-custom,” says Meyer. Opt for an escort display with handwritten touches or even items that double as a favour.

16. Detail the Space

A smaller wedding means that you can go all-in on the details. “You can make each item detailed,” Meyer says. “Remember to design the space, not just the tables—consider lights, plants, fabrics, and anything else that will create an ambience.”

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17. Create a Lounge Area

Think about ways to keep your guests interacting with one another. “Guests will be sitting to catch up instead of cutting a rug, so create a lounge area where everyone can relax after dinner,” Wilson says. This is a great space to host a cocktail hour as well.

18. Splurge on Dinner

If you’re not feeding a huge crowd, you have more room for a detailed menu. Whether you wish for a seven-course meal with expert wine pairings, an elaborate buffet, or an on-site fun food truck, the options are infinite with a smaller wedding. “With a small group, you can really personalize every detail of the menu,” says Meyer.

19. Opt for a Long Estate Table

A long reception table can be such a fun way to make everyone feel included. Also, if you have a smaller group, it’s easier to say goodbye to traditional round tables spread throughout the room. “This will make everyone feel like family,” says Wilson.

20. Consider a U-Shaped Table Set-Up

Depending on your space, setting up a U-shaped table may be the best way to facilitate dinner conversation. This is a great way to work within a space while still making guests feel connected.

21. Play With Place Settings

Design a really beautiful place setting for each guest if you’re hosting a seated dinner. This is such a great opportunity to go all out with a stunning set-up.

But you’ll want to be sure they have the basics, too. “Make sure your guests have enough elbow room at their place settings and easy access to the essentials (water, wine, and flatware),” says Nick and Aleah Valley.

22. Personalize Place Cards

Place cards offer so much opportunity for customization, and with a smaller guest list, there are fewer to make or buy. So instead, opt for a personalized touch with hand-calligraphed place cards for each guest. Make them even more special by writing on something that ties into the theme of your wedding.

23. Go Bold With Plenty of Florals

You may find that you have more room in your floral budget than you thought. So why not go all out on the tables? Nick and Aleah Valley suggest covering the table in an abundance of low, ultra-lush flowers and candles for a vibrant display.

24. Utilize Table Linens

Don’t be afraid to go all-out with a stunning tablescape. Adding elements such as bold table linen can give tables a more anchored, intimate feel.

25. Consider Hanging Arrangements

A smaller wedding may mean more opportunities for guests to chat and connect, and you’ll want to leave room on the table for conversation. Also, of 42 North, Britt Cole suggests lifting the flowers and installing an overhead arrangement of florals, moss, and soft lighting. This can also help a larger room feel more intimate.

26. Use Handwritten Menus

If you’re hoping to add a special handwritten touch to your tablescape for dinner, doing menus on your own is a beautiful idea. But, of course, with fewer guests, there won’t be as many to write.

27. Add Hand-Painted Touches

Who says you can’t add hand-painted touches just because? Little embellishments like hand-painted macarons will make each and every guest feel so special.

28. Plan a Smaller Cake

With fewer guests, you’ll need less cake. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have the dessert of your dreams. Chat with your baker about sticking with the tiered approach if that’s what you love. Your baker may accommodate smaller cake rounds while keeping the same traditional wedding cake look intact.

29. Incorporate Family Heirlooms

Adding in small, memorable touches is much simpler in a more intimate space with fewer guests. Consider incorporating family heirlooms such as vintage china or silver to make the day that much more special.

30. Add Super-Personalized Details

If fewer guests mean freeing up more of your budget for additional details, then why not go all out? Including items like a custom cocktail napkin is a cute way to showcase what you and your partner love as a couple.

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