How to Have a Small and Intimate Wedding

Want to keep your guest list on the smaller size? Read our tips to having an intimate event right here.
All-white table at intimate beach wedding reception
Photo by Chris Joriann Photography

When it comes 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.

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.

Treat Your Guests Well

A small 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.

Pay Attention to the Details

When a couple is planning a small 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.

Make it Entertaining

This might be the best part of having a smaller 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.

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.

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.

Destination Weddings

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. 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.

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