How to Plan an Intimate Wedding: 13 Tips for Success

Okay, time to re-group! The reality of our new world has set in, but guess what – people are still going to get married and celebrate love together. It just might look a little different than how you originally planned. We are here to tell you that it is OKAY, friends. We love an intimate wedding! And while we’re so bummed for those of you who imagined a larger affair, there is a lot to be said for pairing things down.

In fact…small weddings have already been on the rise in the last few years. You may have heard the term ‘micro wedding’ (which is a trend you can read more about right here). We also checked in with Margaux Fraise who’s been planning large and small weddings at Harmony Creative Studio since 2011. She has some great advice for couples now planning an intimate wedding:

In all my time as a wedding planner, I’ve been preaching the value of smaller weddings. Even pre-coronavirus, these intimate weddings were always meaningful to the couple and appreciated by guests. The trend toward more guest-focused, experiential weddings is a long time coming. If you are in a position where a large event is just not possible, turn your attention to how you are forming a more meaningful connection with the special people who are invited. If you think about it in terms of either saving money or getting everything on your wish list, that will also help make the best of the situation.

Below, we’ve laid out some guidelines to help you plan an intimate wedding — as well as a few reasons why switching gears is actually a good thing for you and your guests.

1. Give Yourself Time to Plan

photo: Paisley Sunshine | dress: Alex Veil Bridal | boutonnieres + hairpieces: Wild Rose & Sparrow

First and foremost, an intimate wedding doesn’t necessarily mean it can be planned in a day. There are still several decisions to be made and to-do’s to check off. If you’re booking a venue, calendars will most likely fill up fast in 2021 with lots of 2020 couples re-booking. Put that at the top of your list then work things out from there.

And if you’re planning to DIY any details (like this groom, who built that rad arch) – start early! Projects tend to take more time and resources than you think so, it’s best to stay ahead to give yourselves some breathing room as the day approaches.

2. Edit Down Your Guest List

Intimate Ireland Garden Weddingphoto: First Loved Photo from this Intimate Irish Wedding

If you were dreaming of a large wedding, here comes the gut-wrenching part. We’d class an intimate wedding at under 75 guests, but there will likely be restrictions in place depending on where you live and your wedding date. The good news is that people aren’t as likely to feel left out under the circumstances, so if you’re worried about hurt feelings, you can rest easy there.

Our best advice when it comes to slimming down your guest list is to keep your inner circle of family and friends involved. Surround yourselves with people who make you feel loved, comfortable, and supported. And once you’ve made your final list, consider the benefits!

As pointed out by Margaux: “The number one thing that affects your overall budget is your guest count. Fewer people means you can spend a little bit more per person and have nicer food, rentals, favors, premium alcohol and possibly more money to spend on other things that might be more important to you, like an awesome photographer or that designer dress you’ve had your heart set on.”

3. Personalize What You Can

fall gift basketphoto: Adriana Klas Photography from this Sun-Kissed Wedding Inspiration

Okay, hardest part over. Now the fun begins! A small wedding means you can put more of your budget and meaning into the details. Consider personalizing a welcome gift and/or favors to make guests feel special. You could even think outside the traditional box, here.

“Things like welcome bags, entertainment, babysitting for the kids, more interactive elements like portrait artists, performers, or live musicians,” are a few ideas suggested by Margaux. “Making your guests feel appreciated and special will go a long way to making your event memorable and unique, rather than large and cookie cutter.”

4. Plan Extra Events

Twin Falls Maui Waterfall Elopementphoto: Daylene W Photography from this Waterfall Elopement

If you really love your people, you’ll be excited to spend time with them! An intimate wedding is an opportunity to plan events pre and post-wedding. Besides the rehearsal dinner, you can consider welcome parties, brunches, spa trips, wine tasting, hikes, games of golf – even a group dip in the ocean! (But please remember to check with local authorities regarding openings, closures, and gatherings if you’re planning around COVID-19 restrictions.)

5. Wear Whatever You Want

TMZ Reporter Charlie Weds in Nashville
photo: Cody and Allison Photo from this Low-Key Nashville Wedding

Honestly, “do what you want” is forever our mantra, but especially when it comes to small weddings. Wear anything that feels true to you – be it a pantsuit, a ballgown, or both! You could try blush, something embroidered, bold in black…or if you need a dress fast, here’s where you can find one that will ship right away.

6. Splurge on Your Must-Haves

pink garden rose bouquetphoto: Cody and Allison Photo from this Garden Micro Wedding with 30 Guests

When your guest list is smaller, your budget can go further. Chat with your partner to decide where you want to splurge! Go big on flowers, or book your photographer crush! Maybe amp up the cocktails or hire live musicians. Treat yourself – and your guests – to something special.

7. Hire a Wedding Coordinator

photo: Blueberry Rocket Studios

While an intimate wedding means more facetime with people you love, it shouldn’t be your job to wrangle them. If you don’t have a planner (or even if you do), a day-of coordinator is essential. They’ll be able to help move people from place to place if need be, and you won’t have to answer texts with last-minute questions while you’re getting your makeup done.

8. Make it a Meaningful Ceremony

photo: Paisley Sunshine | dress: Alex Veil Bridal | boutonnieres + hairpieces: Wild Rose & Sparrow

This one (like everything else) is totally your call, but a small wedding gives way to lots of meaningful moments. The most of which, your actual ceremony. Think about ways to bring personal touches to your vows, or include guests in the moment. We love this idea from one of our GWS brides:

Our celebrant worked closely with us to craft a deeply personal ceremony that also incorporated our guests in the most amazing ring warming ceremony. Our rings were passed around the ceremony for everyone to place wishes and love upon before we put them on.

9. Skip What Doesn’t Matter to You

photography: Magnolia + Ember

However, a short + sweet ceremony might be more your thing! If you don’t want to include traditions, nix ’em. If you do, keep ’em! An intimate wedding is the perfect opportunity to make things very personal and for you, that could mean changing it all up!

Besides traditions, certain expenses just may not make sense. If you see a big chunk of your budget going somewhere that just isn’t that exciting to you and your partner, take stock and ask yourselves if you really need it or if it’s just something that’s expected of you.

10. Set a Banquet Family-Style Table

Table with Chandeliers in the Italian Countrysidephoto: Jess Withey Photography from this Intimate Tuscan Wedding

Do it for the conversations but also do it for the photos. *DREAM* We won’t lie and say that we don’t stop to ooh and aah with every magical banquet table we come across. And family-style dining just doesn’t make sense for a large gathering. Here’s a place where dreamy design details totally win out for an intimate affair!

11. Make it a Relaxed Atmosphere

Boho New Zealand Weddingphoto: Ash Shcuman from this Boho Glamping Wedding

If you’ve been a guest at a large wedding then you know you’re lucky if you can snag a moment to congratulate the couple. Use the time that you have with a smaller crowd to really connect and spend time with your guests. Organize the day so that there’s breathing room for conversations and meaningful moments. It’s true that the day flies by — and even more so if you’re too busy to take it all in.

12. Plan an After Party

Surf Ranch California Weddingphotography: Singler Photography from this Laid Back Wedding

After the party, it’s the…silent disco, late-night snacks, karaoke!! We LOVE when couples take the time to surprise guests with a little cherry on top of the celebration. If you’ve got some room left in the budget, put it toward a s’mores bar, bring in a food truck, order some pizza, or put out some games! Make it true to you and something your guests will dig — and then keep that party going!

13. Remember What Matters

planning + design: Julia & Evita | photo: Lighthouse Photography

Celebrate your love with your people. Not to get too sappy, but we just love love here and that’s what it’s ALL about in the end. Make the moments count and breathe through it all. A wedding is a celebration of your beautiful relationship. No matter what comes along, you’ll always have each other!

top image: venue: Brik Venue | rentals: Sugar Creek Event Rentals | photography: Elisabeth Anne Photo | florals: Blushington Blooms | videography: Northmark Films | hair + makeup: ASL Styling | dress: Rime Arodaky

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