There is much to be said about gathering only your most cherished people to witness your marriage. And no matter if you’re downsizing or planning small all along, the pandemic has certainly created a new appreciation for how a small gathering can actually be a BIG hit. Maybe you’re planning an intimate wedding because you’re on a budget, or maybe the budget isn’t an issue — you just don’t want a big “to do.” We’ve got small wedding ideas to make it memorable no matter what.
One thing to love about small weddings is that they can be super curated. You’ll have more control from the guest list to the details and decor. If you’re planning a wedding on a budget, we always advise couples to pick their big three items — and make sure capturing the memories is one of them! If you’re not as concerned about budget, dig into the details and really personalize the day.
No matter your reasons for hosting a small wedding, here are totally do-able 16 ideas to help you plan the day:
For a Small Wedding, Go Big With Custom Invitations
Invitations set the vibe for the day to come. Just because you’re going small doesn’t mean they should be boring! For something extra special, we love these custom folded watercolor wedding invitations. Wild Eyes Paper Co. won an Etsy Design Award for their stunning creations and they will absolutely wow your guests.
More into minimal?
The Best Minimal Wedding Invitations to Customize + Buy Online
And don’t miss this one:
These are the Most Beautiful Wedding Invitations You Can Buy Online
Find the a Venue That Suits Smaller Groups
When you place a small guest list in a big space, the effect is noticeable. Your goal is to find a venue that’s suitable for hosting smaller crowds so that you fill a room and maximize the coziness of it all. Some ideas we love are a backyard, museum, library, or historical church. Or opt for a cliffside view, beautiful garden, winery, the beach, or a wooded area — even a private tree-lined road! Find a cozy environment that you can fill up with your people.
Get Out of Town
Make it a local-ish destination wedding! Going small often means there’s more capacity for travel. But you don’t always have to go far in order to capture those destination-wedding vibes.
For the wedding above, the couple found pivoting from a large Palm Springs wedding to a small wedding was a feat — until they found the perfect mountaintop venue in Malibu. “I remember watching their virtual tour and crying in my office at work. I mean, this was my DREAM VENUE,” shared the bride. “You could see the canyon and the ocean from the ceremony site and there was a house where my friends and I could stay for the weekend.”
Invest in Photography + Videography
To be fair, this will always and forever be a tip for big weddings and small. You will never regret the investment you put into hiring the right photographer and/or videographer for your wedding day. All the effort you put into planning deserves to be documented but more than that, it’s the face your partner makes when you walk down the aisle. It’s capturing the dance with a loved one. It’s the moment the best man speech goes terribly wrong in all the right ways — you’ll want to re-live these memories for years to come!
Host a Cocktail Hour
Ease into the celebration with a cocktail hour either pre or post-ceremony! This can be as laid back as grabbing some beers from the liquor store or as detailed as a signature cocktail with all the bells and whistles. Bring in a mobile bar for a truly memorable experience!
Small Wedding Ideas to Get Creative With the Ceremony
The ceremony can actually benefit the most for a small wedding. Design-wise, you can play with the seating options by bringing in fun couches or chairs. Play with the arrangement styles and create interesting vignettes for guests. We’ve got lots of ideas (with pictures!) for ceremony seating right here.
And when it comes to the actual ceremony, why not make it more interactive? Involve guests by involving them in special readings or blessings. You can do a ring warming, where the guests pass the rings in a handkerchief all the way up to you. For more intimate ceremonies, you might invite all your guests to stand around you or include them in lighting candles or sing a song.
Go Super Personal With the Details
Here’s the truth: it’s not money that allows for a more personalized event, it’s time. And with a smaller guest list, you’ve got more time to pay attention to each guest’s experience. This could mean a personal note of thanks at their table, welcome gifts upon arrival, and favors with their names attached.
Have Fun with the Reception Tables
You know those dreamy windy serpentine tables you see on Pinterest (specifically, this one)? You can do that with a smaller guest list! The most beautiful reception tables bring all those magical dinner vibes by leaning into unique details, moody lighting, and plenty of room for connection.
Delicious Food Ideas for Small Weddings
Truly, even your wedding menu can be personalized! Can you re-create your first date meal? Or bring in catering from your favorite local spot? There’s the option to hire a food truck or bring in pizzas or tacos. Alternatively, you could go all out with a private chef or a 3-course meal. This wedding featured southern favorites branded with the couples’ initials!
Create Capture-Worth Moments + Opportunities for Connection
Nothing is off limits when it comes to bringing in the fun! Opt for a lounge where guests can mingle over drinks. Or bring in some lawn games, an interactive guest book, even a trampoline!
Make the Lighting Special for a Small Event
Even if you go minimal on the decor, your lighting can change everything. It sets a mood, creates a vibe, and makes a BIG statement. Think of twinkle lights, candles, lamps, overhead installations, and disco balls to reflect it all.
Open Mic at the Reception
Here’s one that definitely can only work for a small wedding. Opening the mic up for speeches and toasts might not work for a large crowd, but it can have the opposite effect for a small guest list. If you love words of affirmation, stories, blessings, and jokes, giving guests the chance to say a few words could turn out to be one of the most memorable moments of the entire day.
Entertainment For Small Weddings
Silent discos are great for venues where there’s a sound ordinance. Or you could mix it up and bring in a tarot card reader, comedian, or magician to wow guests. Photo booths are always entertaining, big or small. If you want live music, decide to have a featured musician either at the ceremony or a special moment in the reception.
Hire a Fun Getaway Car
Say “so long” in style! Put a little bit of that budget into a photo-worthy getaway car and drive off into the distance!
Host an After Party
It’s true what they say — ain’t no party like an after-party. Go casual and meet your guests at a local bar, restaurant, late-night pizza spot, or karaoke bar! You’ve got a lot to celebrate and all you’re people are in one place…why not keep the party going as long as you can?!