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.”
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has also forced many couples to shift their big wedding to a smaller one.
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 friends and family members in attendance!
What is Considered a Small Wedding?
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.
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 big day as intimate as you intend.
17 Small, Intimate Wedding Ideas
Use these small, unique wedding ideas to plan the perfect intimate nuptials.
Small Backyard Wedding Reception
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!
Get Married at a Family Home
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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 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 big day. 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!
Small Brunch Wedding
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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
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.
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 destination 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.
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
One of the benefits of a small wedding is that you have more options available in terms of venues. 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
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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 get married now and celebrate later will get married 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
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 get married at a traditional venue, so consider any space that you enjoy and that can fit your guest list!
Family Style Dinner
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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. This creates a lovely, communal atmosphere, and keeps your whole wedding seated together!
For a slightly larger guest list, a U-shaped table set up is another way to seat everyone together while saving on space.
Go for a Low Key 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
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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 wedding party can also help you cut down your wedding budget.
Add Personalized Touches
With a shorter guest list, you can get more personal. Create personalized wedding favors 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
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.
If you’re all about flowers, splurge on elaborate, gorgeous floral arrangements. For foodie couples, splurge on an amazing meal – 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.
You could also go all out on live music, wedding favors that guests will truly appreciate, or anything else that matters to you.
Create a 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.
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 loved ones.
Invite More Guests Virtually
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 guests to watch your nuptials and feel a part of your big day.
Make it a Whole Weekend
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.
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 a Small Wedding
- 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.
- Easier to DIY: It’s easier to create DIY invitations, decorations, 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.
Cons of a Small Wedding
- 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
Use these tips to keep your wedding small, and to make your small wedding a dream come true!
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.
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 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
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 small guest list, you can likely find unusual or nontraditional venue options.
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
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 big 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 short guest list, you can even host an after party at your favorite bar or restaurant, or back at home.
Plan a beautiful, intimate wedding with our small wedding ideas and planning tips. Whether you’re holding a small wedding by choice or due to the pandemic, you can make your tiny wedding everything you’ve ever dreamt of.
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