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Overwhelmed by the thought of gathering 200 of your вЂњnearest and dearestвЂќ together for your wedding day? Eloping may have crossed your mind, but that's not the only way to avoid the crowd. Instead, have all the fixings of a wedding, but on a much smaller scale. We're talking 10 guests, 20 max (your actual nearest and dearest) and all of the things that will make your wedding feel like, you know, your wedding: invitations, dinner, a white dress, cake, and any other detail 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. We've asked a few of our favorite planners to break down everything you need to know about throwing a small wedding.
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 from Jove Meyer of Jove Meyer Events. вЂњLook through your text messages and calls, and only invite those you've spoken with in the last three months,вЂќ Meyer says. вЂњWe speak to those who matter most-it's that simple.вЂќ
Still having a hard time paring it down? Aleah and Nick Valley of Valley & Company Events recommend asking yourselves two questions: вЂњWould 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.вЂќ
Of course, other people want to know you've tied the knot. вЂњMake a list of those who will want to know the big news, and send out a wedding announcement after the fact,вЂќ suggests Luke Wilson of Luke Wilson Events.
Go for an Alternative VenuePhoto byВ Amber Gress Photography
Fewer people on the guest list means the world is your oyster when it comes to choosing a nontraditional venue.
вЂњOf course, restaurants are at the top of the list. They're unique spaces that have everything you need in one place,вЂќ Meyer says. вЂњJust make sure you love everything (the style, the menu, and the existing dГ©cor) as being able to change it is less likely.вЂќ He also recommends hotel suites-many of which have beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces-as well as galleries, gardens, wine bars, and nightclubs.
вЂњFamily homes can pose many challenges for events with a large guest list, but work well with a smaller group,вЂќ Wilson says. вЂњI love the sentiment of having an intimate affair in a place that is meaningful to the couple.вЂќ
Tiffany Rivera of Simply Breathe Events also suggests looking into beautiful private homes (that aren't your own), which give you the flexibility to move between spaces and make your wedding day really cost-efficient.
Or Rethink Traditional OptionsCourtesy ofВ Charleston Magazine
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.
вЂњThe 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,вЂќ Rivera notes.
This is where design comes in. вЂњMaking 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,вЂќ Meyer says. вЂњConsider 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.вЂќ
When you're looking at venues, keep the size of your celebration in mind. вЂњPrivacy is of the utmost importance, especially with a small guest list,вЂќ Aleah Valley says. вЂњBefore 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.вЂќ
Traditional venues are full of unexpected spaces that are perfect for smaller celebrations. вЂњConsider areas that are often overlooked, like the library of a large historic estate,вЂќ says Francie Dorman of 42 North.
Know What You NeedPhoto byВ Henry + Mac
Every wedding, no matter the size, will need food, a bar, staff, rentals, some dГ©cor, and entertainment, so keep those basics in mind as you're making plans.
вЂњIt's also a great idea to hire a wedding planner, even if it's only for day-of coordination,вЂќ Rivera says. вЂњYou'll want someone there to facilitate the flow of the day so you can enjoy it instead of worrying about whether alcohol is running low.вЂќ
Speaking of flow, having a timeline for your wedding is also something you can't forget. вЂњSo 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,вЂќ Valley says. She also emphasizes the importance of service. вЂњIt's a top priority for any wedding, and with an intimate celebration, the service should be over-the-top excellent.вЂќ
Skip What Isn't ImportantPhoto byВ Red October Photography
As you're determining the details, decide what is important to you and your partner and skip the things that don't matter.
вЂњMany couples opt to forgo some of the traditional dancing at a small wedding,вЂќ Valley says. вЂњKnow your crowd and replace it with an activity everyone will enjoy, or keep it in the timeline if your loved ones love to dance.вЂќ
Of course, if you do love dancing, keep the band's size in mind. вЂњIf 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,вЂќ Wilson advises.
You can easily nix some of the add-ons that couples try to squeeze into their budgets. вЂњThere's no need for a photo booth, printed ceremony programs, or wedding favors,вЂќ says Britt Cole, also of 42 North. вЂњYou will be spending much more one-on-one time with each guest, so some of those extras aren't worth the cost.вЂќ
Heck, you might even skip the formal invitations. вЂњCall each of your guests personally to invite them to your wedding, or send handwritten letters,вЂќ Meyer suggests.
Splurge WiselyPhoto by Valley & Company
Your budget will go further with fewer guests, so use those extra funds to really enhance the evening.
вЂњI would splurge on live music,вЂќ Rivera says. вЂњHire a quartet or pianist to play throughout the night.вЂќ
A fantastic photographer is also a great investment. вЂњWith fewer people at the table, your guests will really relax, creating an intimate atmosphere,вЂќ Dorman explains. вЂњHire a trusted photographer who will capture the laughter, the tears, and the clinking glasses, since those are the moments you'll treasure most.вЂќ
And of course, there's the menu. вЂњUpgrade dinner to an indulgent seven-course meal, complete with expert pairings of fine wines and spirits,вЂќ Valley says. Meyer adds, вЂњWith a small group, you can really personalize every detail of the menu.вЂќ
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 MindPhoto byВ Henry + Mac
Fewer tables and a smaller space means the only limit to your design is your imagination.
вЂњYou can make each item really detailed,вЂќ Meyer says. вЂњRemember to design the space, not just the tables-consider lights, plants, fabrics, and anything else that will create an ambience.вЂќ
If there are small details you'd love to include, an intimate wedding is the perfect chance. вЂњIncorporate family heirlooms like vintage china and silver, or hand-embroidered napkins,вЂќ Cole says.
No matter what you're designing, keep these rules from Valley in mind: вЂњMake 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.вЂќ
Think about ways to keep your guests interacting with one another too. вЂњGuests will be sitting to catch up instead of cutting a rug, so create a lounge area where everyone can relax after dinner,вЂќ Wilson says.
Wedding Designers' Favorite Details for Small WeddingsPhoto byВ Henry + Mac
вЂњGo hyper-custom,вЂќ Meyer says. вЂњSet each place with handwritten menus, create an insane escort card display, or use individual flower petals as place cards.вЂќ
вЂњCover the table in an abundance of low, ultra-lush flowers and candles,вЂќ Valley suggests. вЂњAnd don't forget deluxe linens, which can really anchor a table."
вЂњTop each place setting with a tiny bouquet and a hand-calligraphed place card,вЂќ Nick Valley adds.
вЂњGive your guests a memorable experience with personalized touches that complement the meal, like live music during dinner or personalized notes from the couple at their seat,вЂќ Dorman says.
вЂњLeave room on the table for conversation,вЂќ Cole suggests. вЂњLift the flowers up and install an overhead arrangement of florals, moss, and soft lighting.вЂќ
вЂњInstead of multiple tables, seat everyone at a long estate table or at a U-shaped setup,вЂќ Wilson suggests. вЂњThis will make everyone feel like family.вЂќ