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How to Have A Small Wedding: Ideas for the Perfect Intimate Wedding

While some couples dream of a huge, blowout wedding, others feel stressed at the idea of planning such a large event. For some brides and grooms, a small, intimate wedding is the perfect way to say “I do.” For those couples, there are plenty of small wedding ideas to create your perfect day!

If you’re wondering how to have a small wedding, there are plenty of intimate wedding ideas to consider and small wedding venues you can check out. Planning a small wedding can be just as much work as a large one – it’s up to you how much time, money, and effort you put into your big day. 

Use our small wedding ideas and tips on how to plan a small wedding to create your dream wedding with only your closest loved ones in attendance!

The average wedding has roughly 100 or more guests in attendance, so a wedding with a guest list under 50 people is generally considered a small wedding. 

Your small wedding can have anywhere from 50-60 guests, or you could go for a truly tiny wedding of only 20, or even an private wedding ceremony with only a few witnesses. Our small wedding ideas work for a range of guest list sizes!

The size of your small wedding is entirely up to you – just keep in mind that cutting a guest list can be difficult. A guest list of 50 can quickly grow to 60 or 70 with plus ones or added guests due to social pressures.

Read on for small wedding planning tips to ensure that you keep your special day as intimate as you intend. 

Use these small, unique wedding ideas to plan the perfect intimate nuptials. Small weddings don’t have to dull the shine of your ceremony, so use our favorite small wedding ideas create a gorgeous special day regardless of your guest count or venue size!

Small Backyard Wedding Reception

backyard wedding

If you’re keeping your wedding small, your backyard may be the perfect small wedding venue. Backyard weddings have become common in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, as the outdoors is safer for public health and social distancing measures. 

Plan an intimate backyard wedding on a warm fall or summer night. Use our backyard wedding ideas to transform your yard into a dream wedding venue! You could even have a food truck pull up to the backyard for a unique catering experience, set up lawn games for an interactive event, or gather around a fire pit later in the evening. 

Get Married at a Family Home 

get married at a family home

An at-home wedding is one of our favorite and most affordable small wedding ideas. If you want to get married at home but keep your wedding indoors due to weather or personal preference, consider getting married at a family home! The home could be the happy couples, one of their parents, or the home of another generous family member or family friends’ who is willing to host. 

Estate weddings are increasingly popular, and if you’re keeping the guest list small then a decent sized home should have plenty of room for your wedding celebration. You’ll also save money on a wedding venue by getting married at home!

If you love this idea but you don’t have a home that works, consider renting an AirBnb. You can find AirBnb rentals in various styles to fit all of your small wedding ideas!

Small Brunch Wedding

small brunch wedding

If you’re planning a small, unique wedding, a brunch wedding might be the perfect choice for you! Rather than host a nighttime wedding with dinner served, get married in the morning and host brunch instead. Everyone loves brunch food, and this creative wedding idea will set your big day apart from other weddings! 

Host brunch at home or at a restaurant. Small weddings offer more options in terms of food service style, so you can create a brunch wedding that is uniquely yours.

Small Chapel Wedding

small chapel wedding

A classic small wedding idea is a chapel wedding! Chapels typically aren’t as large as churches and other places of worship, and they’re often non-denominational if you aren’t planning on a religious marriage ceremony. 

A small chapel wedding holds a certain charm, and you don’t have to elope to Vegas either; there are plenty of chapels across the US, so you can find a lovely chapel to host your tiny wedding.

That being said, there are also plenty of great elopement ideas for your special day!

Small Destination Wedding

small destination wedding

Destination weddings can get expensive, especially if you plan to fly out and host hundreds of wedding guests. If you want to keep your wedding small, however, a location wedding is a great way to do so.

You can use the destination as an excuse for keeping your guest list short, and you can enjoy an entire weekend or longer at your destination with only your closest friends and family members there to celebrate. Most destination weddings are also small weddings.

A small destination wedding is extremely intimate and memorable; you can host the trip of a lifetime while also getting married to the love of your life. 

Small Restaurant Weddings

wedding at restaurant

One of the benefits of a small wedding is that you have more options available in terms of venues. You can get creative with small wedding ideas with so many venues to choose from. If you and your partner have a favorite restaurant close to your hearts,  you could host your wedding there!

Many restaurants offer private events, and depending on the size of your guest list you could rent a private dining area or rent out the whole restaurant for a day.

Holding your wedding celebration at your favorite restaurant means that you’ve already got your caterers locked down, and the decor may be mostly done for you as well. 

Get Married at City Hall 

Get Married at City Hall

If you’re not interested in the stress of wedding planning, there’s nothing wrong with getting married at your local City Hall! Getting married at City Hall by a Justice of the Peace is an affordable option for those looking to get legally married without all the fan fare.

The other benefit to a City Hall wedding is that you can celebrate after in whatever way you want! You could jet right off on your honeymoon, hold a dinner with your closest loved ones, or celebrate with a larger reception at another time!

Many couples who want to be married now and celebrate later will have the wedding performed by a Justice of the Peace and then hold a larger reception at a later date, once they have the finances, time, or size allowances due to COVID-19. 

Consider Unique Venues

small wedding

A smaller wedding means that you have more options venue-wise. Smaller groups can fit into more diverse venues, so get creative! You don’t have to exchange vows at a traditional venue, so consider any space that you enjoy and that can fit your guest list! 

Apply any or all of our small wedding ideas to a unique venue and your guests are sure to remember your big day!

Family Style Dinner 

Family Style Dinner

Wherever you host your small wedding, a shorter guest list makes it possible to hold a family style dinner! Whether you all share one large meal or you get individual dishes, consider bringing out a long table where everyone can sit together.

If you love the family angle, consider using family recipes and comfort food as one of your food options. Encourage dinner conversation with games, or statement pieces on the table that tell your love story. For example, if you met at a coffee shop or even a dive bar, you could create table centerpieces that reference your first meeting.

This creates a lovely, communal atmosphere, and keeps your whole wedding seated together! We love intimate, small wedding ideas that make your special day feel like a reunion for your closest loved ones.

For a slightly larger guest list, a U-shaped table set up is another way to seat everyone together while saving on space. You could even add board games to tables to encourage guests to play as the night goes on!

Go for a Low Key Wedding

casual wedding

Lavish weddings can get expensive, from gourmet catering to elaborate floral displays and ornate wedding venues. If an extravagant wedding sounds too stuffy for your tastes, opt for a casual small wedding!

Serve up comfort foods or finger foods like pizza, sandwiches, or even barbecue favorites like burgers, hot dogs, and ribs. While you can keep a wedding of any size casual, it can be even easier to host a small, simple wedding without all the fanfare.

Let guests dress casually, and go for a short, casual wedding dress rather than a floor length gown, and make your wedding as casual as you want so that you can enjoy yourself and save money! 

Cut the Wedding Party

Cut the Wedding Party

One of the most popular small wedding ideas is to go without a wedding party. If your guest list is small enough, then all of your guests are VIPs. Bridesmaids and groomsmen can add expenses to a wedding, so going without an official bridal party and grooms party can also help you cut down your wedding budget.

While your potential bridal party members and groomsmen may feel disappointed, they can still be included in helping with your special day. Ask them to help with set up, or with DIY items like place cards, wedding favors, or another task!

Add Personalized Touches 

place card

With a shorter guest list, you can get more personal. Create wedding favors with a personal touch for everyone, more unique and personalized place cards at tables, and more. You can personalize everything from invitations to seating displays, desserts, and more. Your guests won’t forget the attention to detail! 

Splurge on Special Details 

sushi boats

A small sized wedding helps you save money in various ways, so you may have some extra spending money. Allocate your budget where it matters most, and don’t be afraid to splurge on something you love for your wedding day. While a tiny wedding may seem less extravagant, our favorite small wedding ideas involve splurging on your favorite details!

If you’re all about flowers, splurge on elaborate, gorgeous floral arrangements. For foodie couples, splurge on an amazing meal for your wedding reception – why not serve sushi boats if you only have 25 guests to feed?

Or, hire a food truck to come by for late night snacks after dinner. Food trucks are a popular wedding trend, but they’re often expensive if you’re feeding a big crowd. With fewer guests to feed, your food truck wedding can come to life! 

If you and your future spouse love ice cream, you could even have an ice cream truck come for a special snack!

An elaborate wedding cake is another cost that some brides cut, but with a smaller guest list you can splurge on a gorgeous wedding cake! The wedding cake can be smaller as well, since there are fewer mouths to feed.

You could also go all out on a live band for entertainment, a photo booth, wedding favors that guests will truly appreciate, or anything else that matters to you. Another idea is to substitute wedding favors for a larger welcome basket with extra thank you gifts for guests! 

Create a Lounge Area

lounge area

Whatever venue you choose, consider adding a more casual lounge area for guests to kick back and mingle around.

Setting up comfy couches, big arm chairs, and floor pillows and blankets can add a cozy touch to your wedding day. Guests can sprawl out comfortably, and this makes for a great photo op area. 

Open Mic

wedding speech

At larger, traditional weddings, only a few choice guests like the best man and maid of honor give wedding speeches. At a smaller gathering, however, you may consider opening up the microphone to anyone who wants to make a toast. 

Keep in mind that you are opening yourself up to trouble here if you think any of your guests will say something inappropriate or unflattering. If you’re truly comfortable with all the guests at your intimate wedding, however, consider letting anyone give a toast so that you can hear from all of your nearest and dearest. 

Invite More Guests Virtually

virtual wedding guests

If your wedding is small due to COVID-19, you can always invite other guests to join virtually. This way, you can keep your actual event small and intimate, but include other family members and extraneous guests to watch your nuptials and feel a part of your big day.

Even outside of COVID restrictions, inviting guests virtually is one of the best small wedding ideas for those planning on a tight budget! You can keep your guest list (and budget) small, but still make your guests feel included online. Send wedding favors to really make virtual guests feel special!

To livestream your wedding day, consider using social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram Live, or use tele-conferencing software like Zoom. Make sure the camera is focused on the bride and groom!

Make it a Whole Weekend 

beach wedding

With a smaller guest list, you can include everyone in events like the rehearsal dinner or even an after wedding day brunch. Whether you have a destination wedding or keep it local, consider inviting your guests to a full weekend’s worth of events. 

Intimate Ceremony, Large Reception

If you love the idea of a small wedding ceremony but a large reception, you can have it both ways! Plenty of couples opt for an intimate ceremony with only their nearest and dearest, and then celebrate at a big reception.

Make sure that it is clear to guests that they are only invited to the reception and not the ceremony if you take this route. Give your ceremony an intimate feel with only family present, or just a few close friends to hear your vows.

Pros and Cons of a Small Wedding

For some couples, opting for a small wedding is an easy choice. For others, however, it can be difficult to decide what size their wedding should be. There are benefits and disadvantages to hosting a small wedding; we’ll break them down to help you decide how large your big day should be. 

Pros of Small Weddings

  • Less Expensive: With fewer guests to seat and feed, smaller weddings are generally less expensive. You can use that extra money in your budget to put towards your honeymoon, to ball out on an elaborate menu, or to save for your future together.
  • Only Close Guests: Smaller weddings are more intimate, so you can enjoy face time with all of your guests rather than rushing around to thank distant second cousins for attending. Improve the guest experience by keeping it small!
  • Easier to DIY: It’s easier to create DIY invitations, decorations, wedding favors, and more when there are fewer guests to account for.  
  • More Venue Options: Cutting down your guest list means that there are more potential venues for you to get married at.
  • Save for the Honeymoon: Smaller weddings are cheaper, so you can put some of that money towards your dream honeymoon! Weddings are all about the bride and groom, so don’t forget to give yourselves a nice honeymoon after the wedding day.

Cons of Small Weddings

  • Difficult guest list cuts: While you may look forward to cutting your annoying coworker or your difficult aunt, some cuts will be difficult. You may not realize just how many people you actually want there on your wedding day!
  • Some people will be offended: Just as cutting the guest list is hard for you, some guests will take it hard to learn that they are not invited to your wedding. Anticipate some hurt feelings if friends and family were expecting an invite and they don’t get one. 
  • Fewer gifts: Wedding gifts can essentially help pay back some of the expenses from your wedding. With fewer guests, you won’t get as many gifts.  
  • Who pays? Often, the parents of the bride and even the groom help pay for the wedding. If your parents don’t get to invite their guests, however, they may be less willing to chip in. 

How to Plan a Small Wedding 

small wedding

Use these tips to keep your wedding small, and to make your small wedding a dream come true! Your small wedding ideas can all come true with proper planning. 

Consider Your Budget

When planning any wedding, we advise figuring out your budget first. Your budget will define many of your wedding planning choices, so it’s good to know how much you can spend on each item. Use wedding budgeting tips to create a budget that works for your finances. 

One benefit of a small wedding is that it’s usually easier to plan, so you can probably cut a wedding planner from your budget.

Create Your Guest List 

“Small wedding” means different things to different people. You and your partner should first sit down and figure out roughly what number of people you want to invite. From there, start planning a guest list based on that number. 

You may find that once you start actually figuring out what guests to invite, it’s harder than you expected to stick to your chosen number of guests. Inviting one friend may make you feel obligated to invite another from the same circle, and so on. 

If you really want your guest list capped at a certain number, be strict with yourself about who you really want in attendance at your wedding.

Be Strict About Plus Ones

Plus ones can make your small guest list spiral out of control fast. Be strict about who gets a plus one and who doesn’t. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if someone is single or in a new enough relationship that you haven’t met their significant other, you don’t necessarily owe them a plus one. 

If a guest is married or has been in a serious relationship for a long time with someone you know, you should give them the courtesy of a plus one. 

Choose Your Venue

wedding venue

If you have a dream venue already chosen, this might be your first step. In that case, you should create your guest list based on the number of guests allowed by your venue.

For those who create their guest list first and then choose a venue, research venues in your area that can fit your number of guests. Get creative: with a smaller guest list, you can likely find unusual or nontraditional venue options.

Book Vendors 

Figure out what vendors you need to book and do so accordingly. With a smaller wedding, you may be able to cut some unnecessary vendors, and therefore, costs. 

Smaller weddings make it easier to DIY decorations, drinks, flowers, and even food. If you’re looking to save some money, consider researching DIY wedding projects so that you can cut out some vendors and save some money. 

Add Small Touches 

wedding bonfire

Like we said, a small wedding is a great chance to add lots of unique details and personal touches. Figure out what’s important to you and what you want your wedding day to look like. From there, you can plan out every minute detail to make your day special. 

Ask for Help

While planning a small wedding is easier than planning a huge, extravagant event, it’s still no small feat. Ask for help from your wedding party if you have bridesmaids and groomsmen, or from other family and close friends. If you’re DIYing a lot of your wedding, get help to make it a fun and collaborative project.

Don’t Forget an After Party

If you want the fun to continue after the wedding reception, consider planning an after party! With a small group, you can even host an after party at your favorite bar or restaurant, or back at home. 

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