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Small Wedding Guide

With a current crisis underway you may feel a tad overwhelmed by the thought of gathering 150 friends and family members together for your wedding day. And I know that right now eloping feels like the only way to avoid the crowd but instead, what if you create your big wedding on a small scale? I am talking small - like 10 guests, at most 20 and all of the things that will make your wedding feel like your wedding: invitations, dinner, a white dress (if that's your thing), cake, and any other details important to you two. Shrinking the event down to a cozy, intimate size guarantees you’ll love where your money goes and have tons of memories with every single guest. But there’s more to it than a 90 percent decrease in your guest list. There are planning changes to make, details to consider, and (hooray!) a proportionally larger budget to work with.

Keep the Guest List Short

A small wedding is only small if the guest list is as small as possible.

Not sure how to cut it down? Use this handy (and ruthless!) trick. Look through your text messages and calls, and only invite those you’ve spoken with in the last three months. We speak to those who matter most—it’s that simple.

Still having a hard time paring it down? Ask yourself this. Would you take this person out for a several hundred-dollar (or several thousand-dollar!) dinner? And would you have this person and their guest into your home for an intimate dinner or as a weekend house guest? Thinking about how close your relationships are will help ensure you are truly comfortable with those you surround yourselves with on your wedding day.

Of course, other people want to know you’ve tied the knot. Make a list of those who will want to know the big news, and send out a wedding announcement after the fact.

Go for an Alternative Venue

Fewer people on the guest list means you have nearly unlimited options when it comes to choosing a nontraditional venue. Of course, restaurants are always near the top of the list. They’re unique spaces that have everything you need in one place. Just make sure you love everything from the style, the menu, and the existing décor as being able to change it is less likely. Other ideas range from hotel suites—many of which have beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces—as well as galleries, gardens, wine bars, and nightclubs.

I love the sentiment of having an intimate affair in a place that is meaningful to the couple. Family homes can pose many challenges for events with a large guest list, but work well with a smaller group. I love the sentiment of having an intimate celebration in a place that is meaningful to the couple. Look into beautiful private homes that aren’t your own (airbnb has options to choose your stay based on being able to have events on site) which give you the flexibility to move between spaces and make your wedding day really cost-efficient.

Rethink Traditional Options

If you’re still in love with the idea of a space that’s more of an expected wedding venue (think a hotel ballroom, gorgeous museum, or the dining room at your country club), flip it on its head. The challenge with a traditional venue is making sure it feels full with a dozen or so guests and not like 100 people didn’t show up.

This is where design comes in to play. 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. 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. With a smaller group, you can think outside the box about where you host each part of the celebration.

When you’re looking at venues, keep the size of your celebration in mind. Privacy is of the utmost importance, especially with a small guest list. Before you book anything, make sure the venue won’t have another wedding piggybacking yours. You really want to feel like you have the place to yourselves.

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 versus it's larger dining room or gardens.

Know What You Need

Every wedding, no matter the size, will need food, a bar, staff, rentals, some décor, and entertainment, so keep those basics in mind as you’re making plans.

In order to make your little wedding feel full sized it helps to keep the flow! Having a timeline for your wedding is something you can’t 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.

Skip What Isn’t Important

As you’re determining the details, 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. 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.

Of course, if you do love dancing, keep the band’s size in mind. If your band has an equal number of players to your final guest count, it will feel really overpowering. Instead, hire a smaller group of musicians so you can have the formality of special dances without a crowd on stage.

You can easily nix some of the add-ons that couples try to squeeze into their budgets. There’s no need for a photo booth, printed ceremony programs, or wedding favors. You will be spending much more one-on-one time with each guest, so some of those extras aren’t worth the cost.”

Heck, you might even skip the formal invitations. Call each of your guests personally to invite them to your wedding, or send handwritten letters.

Pick What's Important

Your budget will go further with fewer guests, so use those extra funds to really enhance the evening. Pick your top three things that are most important to you about your wedding and allocate your funds there.

A fantastic photographer is also a great investment. With fewer people at the table, your guests will really relax, creating an intimate atmosphere. Hire a trusted photographer who will capture the laughter, the tears, and the clinking glasses, since those are the moments you’ll treasure most.

And of course, there’s the menu. Upgrade dinner to an indulgent seven-course meal, complete with expert pairings of fine wines and spirits. With a small group, you can really personalize every detail of the menu.

Most importantly, use any extra money in your budget to enhance the details that matter most to you, creating an immersive experience you and your guests will treasure.

Keep Design in Mind

Fewer tables and a smaller space means the only limit to your design is your imagination. You can make each item really detailed. Remember to design the space, not just the tables—consider lights, plants, fabrics, and anything else that will create an ambience.

If there are small details you’d love to include, an intimate wedding is the perfect chance. Incorporate family heirlooms like vintage china and silver, or hand-embroidered napkins.

No matter what you’re designing, keep these rules in mind: Make sure your guests have enough elbow room at their place settings, easy access to the essentials (water, wine, flatware, and conversation), and the centerpieces don’t prevent them from seeing their dining partners.

Think about ways to keep your guests interacting with one another too. Guests will be sitting to catch up instead of cutting a rug, so create a lounge area where everyone can relax after dinner.

happy planning lovelies,


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