How to Have a Small and Intimate Wedding
When it comes to wedding celebrations, many couples agree: size matters. Fewer people can mean a more personal celebration. There's more time for the bride and groom to spend with their guests, the group really gets to know one another, and everyone contributes to the event in his or her own way. Intimate celebrations, it seems, have certain advantages.
Below we've outlined some of our favorite tips for planning a small, intimate wedding, from helping you stick to a budget to determining ways to make your ceremony extra special for your guests. But first, we've provided you with some answers to your most frequently asked questions around intimate wedding planning. Find your answers below and start planning your smaller-sized wedding today.
What size is an intimate wedding?
When it comes to small, intimate weddings, the more is not always the merrier. While there is no magic number, many wedding planners agree that a wedding with fewer than 50 guests is considered on the smaller size. Obviously, the fewer the guests, the more intimate your wedding will become. If you prefer to only invite five to 10 guests, it's entirely up to you.
Where can I get a small, intimate wedding?
Hosting an intimate wedding is all about finding the right space. Even with only a handful of guests, you want your wedding to feel full. To achieve this, search for smaller, cozy environments versus large and spacious venues. Maybe you want a small garden affair or a ceremony at your favorite wine bar. If you're only inviting a handful of guests, a destination wedding is always an option, too.
How do you make an intimate wedding special?
A big part of planning a smaller wedding is paying attention to the details. Because you're inviting only your closest friends and family and not attending to the masses, you can spend extra time finding a unique venue, creating elaborate decor and treating your guests to welcome gifts and party favors.
9 Tips for Planning a Small, Intimate Wedding
1. Keep to a Smaller Budget
You might decide that a four-course dinner for 50 is better than cake and punch for 100. Some couples having fewer than 75 guests have cut their guest lists to the bare minimum in order to maximize their budgets. It becomes a choice between cutting corners in order to have 150 guests or cutting the list in half and having everything just the way you envision the day.
2. Be Thoughtful
When you don't have to crank out 350 save-the-dates, wedding invitations and thank-you cards, you can put more time and energy into being truly thoughtful. Maybe you want to design elaborate, over-the-top invitations, or perhaps you would prefer to write hand-written cards inviting each guest to your ceremony. When your guests realize they were the "chosen few," they'll feel extra special and honored to attend your wedding.
3. Treat Your Guests Well
A small intimate wedding gives you the chance to really go all out. Guests can possibly stay at a luxurious inn or your rehearsal dinner can be more elaborate and take place in a wine cellar with a wine-pairing for each course. Keeping things small means that the extra details, like providing limousine service, loaded gift baskets and six-course feasts for your guests, are suddenly more accessible. Think boxes of chocolate instead of a single truffle, the best champagne rather than sparkling wines and luxurious arrangements of roses and rare orchids as far as the eye can see. While your guests certainly don't expect such lavish treatment, your extra thought will go a long way.
4. Pay Attention to the Details
When a couple is planning a small intimate wedding, they may be more inclined not to hire a wedding consultant. But take it from us—smaller is not synonymous with simpler. When the wedding is small, every detail is noticed, so careful attention to detail is called for. There's no hiding behind the crowd at a small celebration—snafus that might have gone unnoticed with 200 people milling around will be painfully obvious with 50 guests and under. Avoid stressing over the little things and hire someone to do it for you for the most hassle-free affair.
5. Make it Entertaining
This might be the best part of having an intimate wedding: With fewer people on the scene, it's easy to get everyone into the act somehow. Depending on how small the event will be, you can have everyone read a line of a prayer or a special reading at the ceremony, have them stand and encircle you as you exchange your vows, seat them at one big table at the wedding reception, or have everyone attend the rehearsal dinner.
6. Limit the Guest List
Have you found yourself agonizing over the guest list thinking, who is so and so? Not wanting to deal with a sea of unfamiliar faces on their wedding day, some couples decide to limit their lists, agreeing that a smaller celebration can create a more intimate atmosphere.
Bonus: There are so many creative options for locations when you're not trying to accommodate hundreds of guests. There are unique restaurants, rustic ranches, cozy cabins, posh private clubs, settings with exquisite views and gardens, natural or fancy.
Now the hard part: Your families may protest when you ask them to cut down portions of their lists to the lean-and-mean few who really matter. And, of course, you and your partner have to be prepared to do the same. This may mean having to explain to friends who expected to be there why they won't receive an invitation. There's no easy way to do this, except to be perfectly honest. Tell your friends that you're keeping the event very small and limiting the list, but be prepared for the occasional hurt feelings.
7. Party On
This is an option for couples who find themselves guilt-ridden at the thought of cutting guests off their list. If an intimate ceremony is most important, you can create a separate, larger guest list for the reception—just inform your guests of the arrangements. If you want the whole event to be intimate, you might choose to have a large, casual party 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—call it a housewarming if you have moved into a new home. And the best part? You won't be expected to serve a six-course meal to all your guests at this kind of celebration.
8. Make It a Full Weekend Celebration
Why celebrate for one day when you can celebrate for days? Hosting an intimate wedding with a handful of guests means you may actually have time--and additional money--to spend on other activities or events throughout the weekend. Host a welcome get together at your favorite brewery, invite everyone for a picnic in your local park the morning after your celebration or plan a group activity or excursions, such as a hike or bike ride. Take advantage of this time to thank each and every one of your guests for coming together to celebrate your marriage.
9. Consider Destination Wedding Location
Use the small number of your nearest and dearest to your advantage: Take over an inn out in the mountains or rent a group of cottages on the beach. Depending on your budget, you could even host an intimate wedding in another country. Did someone say a beach ceremony in Mexico? The fewer guests you invite, the more likely they'll be willing to hop on a plane and attach some vacation days to either end of your wedding celebrations. Stretching the festivities out to three or four days of skiing, brunching and relaxing all adds up to a fabulous destination wedding—and a chance to really bond with your guests.
Not sure where to begin with your wedding planning? Take our Style Quiz and we'll pull together a custom wedding vision and vendors to match, just for you. After that, create a free, personalized wedding website to keep your guests informed (and excited!) about your plans, and a time-saving Guest List Manager to organize your attendees. Even better? You can sync your Guest List Manager and wedding website to update everything at once.