The Ultimate Guide to Small Weddings
Weddings can be both incredible and – let’s say intricate (since the word complicated sounds too negative) experiences. There is quite a bit of planning involved in a wedding and plenty of decisions to be made (besides choosing your dream wedding dress). You and your partner will have to sit down and chat about your preferences and which elements resemble your ideal wedding. We don’t merely mean the décor and table seating arrangements; we’re talking about the size of your wedding. Choosing what your wedding will look like includes selecting the magnitude of your big day; therefore, it’s essential to understand that larger ceremonies, for instance, can differ from smaller ones in several ways, presenting many different options for the two of you. Don’t worry, though, because we’re not here to freak you out; we’re here to walk you through everything you’ll need to know. By the end of this read, you should feel one step closer to deciding whether a micro wedding is right for you and understanding how small you should go, in addition to having every little detail to create a small wedding perfection.
Defining Small Weddings
For whatever reason you choose, you and your partner may find yourselves planning for or deciding whether to hold a smaller wedding. You may be contemplating if either the ceremony or the reception should be intimate or if every part associated should be kept to a minimum. The first thing to know is that there are different ways to cut down your wedding festivities. Instead of a larger celebration, you can try a micro wedding, minimony, sequel wedding, or even eloping.
The Micro Wedding
Planning a micro wedding is an excellent choice for downsizing your special day, especially if your heart was set on having one that was large and traditional. Resembling a hybrid between your initial hopes and dreams and a not so spontaneous elopement, micro weddings are probably your best solution. Though it is micro, this occasion should host up to 50 guests and allow you to have a macro experience with everything your larger wedding would have included.
Small in size but filled with love, the minimony is a moment of commitment between you and your partner that invites a few of your loved ones to celebrate your union with you. In keeping things small, the minimony typically only has up to 10 guests, so it is the best option for keeping costs low and making space for more creative exploration. Many couples find themselves using their shorter guest list and extra funds as an opportunity to upgrade the overall experience, including location, menu, and even seating. Some even choose to have a very intimate minimony and follow up with a larger sequel wedding down the road.
The Sequel Wedding
With two separate definitions, the sequel wedding is either known as a follow up to your initial – smaller – legal ceremony or as numerous versions of your wedding (perhaps with different guest lists, to include various religious traditions, or just celebrate bigger at a later date). In any scenario, you are hosting more than one wedding celebration; because of this, your wedding won’t be any cheaper. If anything, it may cost more in the end.
In the past, those who found themselves eloping did so with a manner of secrecy and with haste; today, you may find yourselves planning your elopement, possibly even bringing a friend or two along. Eloping is typically a wedding ceremony that only includes you, your partner, and the officiant. What’s great about eloping is that there’s nothing to hold you back; plan it your way, and have no one interfere with your vision. If you choose to elope, you have the freedom to make it personal, creative, and as adventurous as you’d like.
Planning Your Small Wedding
Yes, planning a small wedding is entirely different from planning a larger bash for those of you wondering. There are various decisions to be made, details to consider, and most importantly, smaller numbers that will play a role in how your wedding turns out.
Many say that planning a smaller wedding will be less stressful than planning a grander celebration, though somewhat true, these reduced celebrations still hold their own type of stressors. You can easily combat any wedding planning stress by making a deliberate decision as to why you’ve chosen to host a small wedding. Having a chat with your partner and figuring out why you’ve made this choice will help you continue to make sound and united decisions throughout the entire process. Consider the following for figuring out what part of a small wedding is appealing to you and your partner. Small weddings provide:
- A more meaningful and intimate affair
- A lower and more affordable budget
- A more personalized and customizable experience
- A more relaxed and comfortable environment
- Less stress and a more controlled process
Choose Your Guestlist
The most vital and challenging portion of planning a small wedding is selecting who makes your guest list. The number one suggestion to keep in mind and ease this decision process is to be selective. We get it, though, finalizing this list is no easy feat; we recommend starting with your ABCs. Create an A-list of the absolutely necessary guests, a B-list with those you’re willing to consider, and a C-list with those who are not fundamental in the grander scheme of your wedding day. (Don’t worry, no one needs to know these lists exist; be as honest as possible – we promise it’ll help in the end.) You should also keep your venue in mind as some locations may have guest capacity limits; this could even be a blessing in disguise because it will force your numbers down, with technically no one to blame but the venue itself. (Yay!) Another suggestion is to stick to your numbers and be strict with plus ones. Your best friend that made it to the A-list might have a new companion that landed on the C-list (or no list at all); at the end of the day, it’s your wedding. You shouldn’t feel pressured to invite anyone you don’t want in attendance (especially if you already had to deny other loved ones).
Plan Your Budget
When it comes to your budget, you’ll want to ask yourselves four simple questions:
- How much money do you have?
- How much are you willing to spend?
- Where is this money coming from/who is paying?
- Is there a way to gather more money and increase your budget?
Based on your ‘why’ from above, if a more affordable event was your reason for a small wedding, then you’ll want to pay close attention to your budget. Just like your guest list, you should do your best to stick to this budget and consider this ideal number in each of your upcoming decisions.
Select Your Venue
If it hasn’t dawned on you yet, just how much freedom a small wedding provides you with, let it be evident when it comes to choosing a venue. The venue should be a direct representation of your wedding’s vision, but first, you’ll want to consider whether your vision means staying local or taking events on the road; does the squad need to look into booking flights?
Once you’ve found a few key venue options, start inquiring about whether they have small wedding packages available. Keep in mind the costs and your headcount throughout this process to ensure guests fit comfortably in your selected space and that you stay within budget.
Recognize whether this venue is logistically sound. Are there accommodations nearby for you and your guests to stay? Do they have availability for your wedding date? Is transportation for everyone accessible, or will quests be responsible for their own rides?
Find the Perfect Wedding Dress
Some may say you don’t need to buy a dress for your smaller-in-size union, but a wedding is a wedding, and every bride deserves to feel special on their big day, so why not? We’ve seen many small wedding ceremonies, and some have been accompanied by bold, glamorous dresses and others with more simplified, elegant looks. It’s up to you what you want to wear, as long as you feel special at the end of the day. Depending on your wedding setup, you may even consider two wedding looks, differing your ceremony outfit from what you wear during the reception (you shouldn’t feel limited just because it’s a small wedding).
You can scour the internet to get wedding dress inspirations and even take a moment to explore the looks that celebrities have donned at their small wedding ceremonies. Since our goal is to help you plan this shindig, we looked through our gowns and found some of the perfect dresses for any bride hosting a small wedding. Visit our dress finder and dive into the following looks:
- 121104 Thalia
- 121113 Camellia
- 121118 Bethany
- 121110 Alice
- LA9131 Justina
- LA9132 Suree
- LA20128 Bee
- LA20132 Leilani
- LA21102 Naomi
- LP2110 Dallas
- LP2112 Flora
- LP2113 Mettisse
- LP2118 Zelda
Discuss Your Details
What’s everyone’s favorite part of a wedding? The décor and the details, of course! Your wedding vision truly comes together when you’re able to put the pieces into place, and your theme is present throughout the event. Since you’re hosting a small wedding, there’s no pressure to go above and beyond with the details. You have the freedom to keep things super simple and small, and it will appear perfectly natural in a small wedding setting. That being said, if your ‘why’ from above is related to your wedding’s look, and its ability to be completely personalized and customizable, this is where your extra budget can come in handy for sprucing up the experience. Feel free to go all out and consider enhancing any of the following areas.
Create the ultimate wedding experience by upgrading your décor; you can opt for additional decor, more prominent pieces, or just better-quality items that are sure to elevate your wedding vision. You can use décor to enhance table settings, entryways, walkways, and even the space above your head.
There are many different opportunities to use signage in your wedding, and you can personalize them by having them handcrafted and personalized. Hire someone or DIY some hand-painted, hand-drawn, or carved signs with your names. Consider using these techniques for welcome signs, table place cards/escort cards, directional signs, menus, various ceremony signs, table description signs, food labels, and the wedding timeline sign. You can also incorporate cute and funny signs throughout the wedding with hashtags or quotes relevant to the theme or the couple.
- Seating and Lounging Areas
It may seem like an odd thought, but the ability to use comfortable or elegant seating is one significant aspect of hosting a small wedding. Seating is often an overlooked detail, but if you recognize how much time is spent sitting or how much guests will want to sit after dancing up a storm, then you’ll realize how comfortable seating is such an integral part of a small wedding. Suppose you’re looking to enjoy a very intimate environment; you and your hubby can also consider designing a lounging area specifically just for the two of you, where you can escape to and enjoy this beautiful moment together.
Transportation is a detail that will be considered differently depending on the size of your small wedding. If you’re eloping, the options are endless; you and your partner even have the opportunity to travel to your wedding venue in a hot air balloon if you wanted. With a slightly larger size, say, 20 people, a hot air balloon may not be viable. However, you can still plan to have the whole crew stick together on a party bus, for example. For transportation, decide whether you want everyone to stick together or if you’ll have everyone organize their ride, and don’t be afraid to get fancy and explore your options.
- Food and Drink
The food served will always differ from wedding to wedding, but now you will have a little more wiggle room to class things up with your extra funds. If you prefer more refined foods, you may have created space in your budget for it and be able to host the five-course meal of your dreams, possibly with a private chef? Or you could keep things simple; mini versions of classic meals are always appreciated, along with desserts and snacks. Miniature and handheld foods are especially great options if you want your guests to be up, mingling and dancing throughout the night. If you’re going to make an impression or have a specific cuisine in mind, consider booking a food truck; make it the evening’s main course, or have it as the perfect way to end the night.
- DIY Stations
Create DIY stations where guests can construct their own – insert food/beverage here. ‘Make your own’ carts are a cute personal touch for any wedding; guests can create personalized tacos, pizzas, salads, trail mix bags, fruit salads, margaritas, sangrias, and many other unique options.
- Gifts and Favors
If you decide to include gifts for your guests, they can come in the form of favors towards the end of the event, thanking them for their attendance, or in the beginning as a welcome package. Welcome packages are best for:
- Showing appreciation for out-of-town guests
- Showing appreciation for those who traveled long distances
- Presenting a glimpse of the upcoming festivities for the day/weekend
- Demonstrating the wedding theme clearly in the form of gifts
- Providing essentials for a destination wedding
- Giving guests an introduction to the bride and groom as a married couple
- Acting as a double for décor until you hand them out
Whereas if you choose to, you can offer simpler one-item favors, even splurging and giving guests more extravagant gifts such as jewelry. For a more affordable alternative, hand out personalized items unique to you and your partner, or have guests’ names engraved on a traditional wedding favor such as candles or servings of popcorn.
Don’t forget your sweet, perhaps slightly punny note, thanking guests for attending and being a part of your special day – always a winner in our books.
- Guest Involved Activities
Since you have a smaller group, an excellent addition to create a holistic small wedding experience would be to have your guests participate in some aspect of your wedding. Whether it’s the traditional rice (or another item) toss during your grand exit or having them recite lines during your ceremony, there are many ways to make your loved ones feel special and included on your wedding day. You can also consider having elements of the wedding dedicated to guest participation, such as photo booths or a guest sign-in book.
Pick Your Entertainment
Choosing to forego a more extensive guest list doesn’t mean your wedding will be boring; in fact, entertainment is another area where you can customize your experience to exactly how you see fit. You can easily downsize any type of entertainment that may be more closely associated with larger weddings to fit your smaller occasion. For example, perhaps you were hoping for a spectacular firework display during your first dance; instead, you can opt for pyrotechnics (much safer and can be used indoor fireworks).
On the other hand, you are lucky to be hosting a small wedding because that opens up the door to so many more entertainment options that larger weddings may not pull off as successfully. With less of a crowd and more funds in your pocket, you can opt for a silent disco party; equip all of your guests with those oh so fashionable headphones, and jam out until the sun comes up if you want. (No one’s going to hear a peep – besides everyone’s’ off-key singing, that is.) If that’s not entirely your style, though, a scenic sleigh ride or hayride (depending on the destination and season) may be a cute addition to entertain guests or the perfect transportation for your small group to get from one venue to the next. A much cheaper option for everyone to embrace the small wedding vibes would be to start a bonfire and roast some marshmallows for smores or recreate your college days with some upscaled beer pong (maybe using prosecco instead of beer). As you see, small wedding entertainment holds a reputation for being completely customizable and extremely diverse, ranging from music to games and activities, to possibly even an adventure – if your guests are up for it.
Discuss the Logistics
When all of the pretty items are taken care of, it’s time for you and your partner to sit down and take care of the logistics. There are parts of a wedding that need to be coordinated to make sure it’s legal and runs smoothly.
- The Officiant
Ask yourself, who should you have presiding over your wedding ceremony? If it’s a minimony, maybe you ask a friend or family member that is also a guest to get ordained and conduct the ceremony; this is an excellent option if you’re looking to make sure attendance numbers stay low. You can find the appropriate marriage officiant for those choosing a traditional route for religious reasons (whether it be a priest, rabbi, or imam, to name a few). If you’re looking for a non-religious officiant to conduct a civil wedding, you can opt for a judge, justice of the peace, or magistrate. Each option listed above is equally recognized as a legal method for marrying.
- The License and Certificate
To make your marriage official, you’ll want to ensure you check with the rules in your city, as there are different steps in legalizing marriages all across the world. In most places, you will need to get a marriage license (basically asking for permission to be wed) and a marriage certificate, which then validates your union. The marriage license needs to be at your wedding; it is the piece of paper that allows the ceremony to take place, so you mustn’t forget this form! After the ceremony takes place, your officiant will submit your marriage license, and shortly after, you should receive your marriage certificate. Just like that, you’re officially married.
- The Photographer
How do you plan to document this momentous occasion? You may be considering taking photos on your smartphones, but we want you to understand that small weddings create quality memories, and therefore, they should be paired with quality photography. Just because you have fewer guests does not mean your big day is less important than the next. With the extra budget, perhaps you choose to splurge on a photographer; you even may find that they act as a stress reliever by taking yet another task off of your plate.
- The Coordinator
Another stress-relieving piece of your wedding equation is hiring a planner of some sort, someone to help you sort through all of the nitty-gritty details and help make sure your wedding goes as planned. (For everyone’s ‘big day’ – even the small ones – something is bound to go wrong, but a planner can aid in making this less likely to happen.) There are three types of wedding help: a wedding planner, wedding designer, and a day of coordinator. For a small wedding, your best option is a day-of coordinator. A day of coordinator requires you to do most of the heavy lifting, but they are much cheaper than a wedding planner. When it comes down to it, they make a tremendous difference in finalizing details and pulling off your ideal wedding experience.
Making Your Small Wedding Especially Yours
Now, you’re planning the day you’ve been waiting for, and you may realize that there’s a lot involved. Lucky for you, with a smaller wedding, not all of these elements are as important as you think (and your guests won’t even notice they’re missing). So, to keep your budget as low as possible and your mind focussed on what you want to prioritize, we thought we’d help you decipher which wedding elements are more so vital than those that are not as necessary.
The Absolute Musts
Very simply, there are core elements that are needed to make a wedding a wedding; big or small, these are elements you must plan for on your big day:
- A ceremony where you commit vows to one another
At the core of a wedding, you are there to vow the rest of your lives to one another. Whether it be by saying “I do,” offering vows, or performing a different cultural tradition, your wedding needs to have an officiant and a declaration of commitment.
- A venue to perform your ceremony
Whether you choose to elope, have a micro-wedding, or minimony, your wedding needs to have a venue. If you decide to hold sequel weddings, then you may actually have numerous venues. Even a courthouse counts as a venue if that’s where you choose to conduct your marriage.
In other words, a wedding ceremony can be super simple and shouldn’t be over-thought if that’s not your style!
The Experience Makers
There are a few extra items that should be considered to make your wedding unforgettable, at any size, but most importantly for small weddings. These are not ultimate essentials, but they’re definitely elements you should consider to create your perfect wedding experience.
- A Wedding Dress
We discussed this earlier, but no wedding is too small to rock a wedding dress, just to reiterate. If a beautiful gown is what’s going to make your big day extra special for you, then you shouldn’t have to skimp on this element. Be sure to visit our dress finder to discover your perfect Calla Blanche Dress; you deserve it.
- Food and Drink
Now, we placed food and drink into the experience category because every wedding is structured differently. Some weddings don’t include food and beverage, perhaps because it’s not in the budget, or maybe they just decide to spice things up by taking the squad out for a yummy drive-thru meal after their ceremony. While food and drinks are not entirely necessary for a wedding, they’re much appreciated, and your guests will probably notice if you neglect this detail; this goes especially for the food. On the other hand, where drinks are concerned, alcohol is a commonly expected element at a wedding, and while no one says you need to provide guests with an open bar, having a few alcohol options are ideal.
Many memorable moments from the big day can occur once the music starts playing, the vibes are pumping, and you and your guests are having a blast. Depending on your venue choice and the time of day, music may not be as viable an option for your wedding, but if you can, we highly recommend its inclusion. Feel free to consider a solo singer, a live band, a DJ, or even having background music play throughout. All are sure to set the perfect atmosphere for you and your guests to celebrate together.
If you and your partner aren’t quite the dancing type, there are numerous other ways to excite and entertain your guests, and we highly recommend including one or more in your wedding day festivities. Now, entertainment could range from games like ring toss to activities such as a photobooth; or even a magician or comedian can entertain your guests for a short portion of the day. Entertainment is a great way to make sure there are no lulls between the scheduled events and that everyone is enjoying themselves.
- Comfortable Seating or a Lounging Area
For a smaller wedding, you’re probably more capable of providing comfortable seating. There aren’t as many guests to bear in mind as there may be at a larger wedding, and because of this, you can probably put more thought – and cash – into some appropriate seating. Rather than just foldable plastic chairs, maybe you can now splurge on chairs with a bit of plush cushioning. Also, a lovely lounging area for guests to lay back, relax, and just enjoy some conversation with one another is an excellent addition to a small wedding. If not for the guests, then for yourselves, why not create a private getaway for you and your partner to enjoy your own secluded time together.
Things to Forget
All hail the small wedding! If you are one of the people that has chosen to stray from the fluff that is so popular in weddings today, this section is for you. For some, a small wedding is meant to be small and simple; if you wanted, you could do without the following items on your big day.
- Fancy Invitations/Save the Dates
If you didn’t know before, we’ll gladly let you know that stationary invitations are expensive. Some places offer their services for seven dollars per invite – yikes, but we are happy to announce that you can do without these at a small wedding. You’re more than welcome to opt for e-vites or just send texts instead. Keep in mind the size of your guest list and that you’ll want to make sure their responses are easy to keep track of; for instance, think about using emails instead of texts if you have over 20 guests.
- Ceremony Programs
Whether it’s a custom sign or little handouts, we guarantee programs are unnecessary (and your guests won’t really care). Half, if not all of your guests were likely part of your planning committee, so there’s no need to remind them of what they already know. Save your bucks and save the time you would’ve spent designing and fine-tuning the look of all these programs.
- Guest Book
Although some of you may not agree, guest books aren’t truly needed (at least not the traditional boring ones). Feel free to include a variation of a guest book, but with a fun twist. Try making a custom puzzle with an image of you and your partner where each guest signs the back of a puzzle piece. Alternatively, you can have someone make a video diary where guests record a message for you newlyweds. Having guests involved at a small wedding is never frowned upon, as long as it’s fun and done excitingly.
- Excessive, Exotic, or Out of Season Florals
Again, we’re not here to bash florals; we do love how they brighten up a wedding and pull your décor together; but if you’re looking for something to simplify or avoid altogether, look to your florals. Repeat after us:
“I do not need a flowerpot for every row of guest seating at the ceremony.”
“I do not need flowers from across the world, it’s not worth the extra cost.”
“I do not need Orchids. They are not in season, and that is okay.”
- Specialty Linens
Many couples will spend a good chunk of their budget on table linens – an often overlooked detail. We want you to know the tables where you’ll have guests seated do not need to be all decked out with layers of premium/custom linens. It’s more likely that your guests will not notice the quality or recognize the weeks it took you to pick this specific set of linens.
- First Dance
This one’s more so for the couples who have chosen a small wedding for the sake of keeping things lowkey and personalized. If you’re just not the dancing type, and the last thing you want to do is dance in front of all your favorite people, you shouldn’t have to! Lucky for you, it’s your wedding; you’re more than welcome to skip this tradition if that’d make your big day more comfortable.
- Grand Wedding Cake
Let’s be realistic on this one. You are more than welcome to get that 4-tiered cake you’ve always dreamt of, but when you really think about it, it just doesn’t make sense. Before considering the costs, boil it down to your number of guests, and it’s easier to see how that may be overdoing it. Instead, you can ditch the tiered masterpieces and opt for a single-tier wedding cake that can be made equally as glamorous.
If your concern is your budget, and even after downsizing your wedding, you still want to find more ways to save a few bucks, nix the idea of favors – trust us on this one. Favors are a cute item to gift your guests and look great as part of the table setting, but they are an unnecessary detail. Instead of buying, designing, coordinating, wrapping, and signing your favors, maybe you’ll want to put that extra budget towards something guests might care more about (like food and beverage).
- Plus Ones
We admit this one could get a little awkward, but allowing everyone to bring a plus one defeats the purpose of keeping your wedding intimate. You’re going to have to put your foot down and be a little strict in saying no. Remember part 2 in planning a small wedding from above? You created an A-list to keep your guest list short, and that involves excluding your B-listers – so it should definitely not include any unknown guests.
- Open Bar
Small weddings create the space to host an open bar because it’s less costly, and you’ll probably have a little more cash on hand; while this is true, it doesn’t mean it’s essential. Keeping in mind that this is your wedding, if you and your partner aren’t big on alcoholic beverages, you aren’t required to go above and beyond in generously providing drinks for your guests. On the other hand, if you have no problem with drinking but choose to allocate your money elsewhere, that is perfectly fine too; have your wedding your way!
- Multi-destination Wedding Events
Having a shorter guest list makes transportation from your ceremony to your reception super simple to coordinate, but who says they need to be in separate locations? It is perfectly acceptable to ditch the hassle with a smaller wedding and keep all of your wedding day festivities in one place.
- Peak Wedding Dates
Speaking of hassle, have you seen how quickly services and venues become completely booked up during the wedding season? If there were ever a stressor to avoid when planning your special day, it would be peak wedding season. There is so much freedom in planning a small wedding, which means you can escape the busy season all together when planning your big day.
It’s All Up to You Now
Smaller weddings are lovely experiences, fitting for any pair out there; dress them up or down and make them unique to you as a couple. For whatever reason you choose to tie the knot in a smaller setting, whether it be by eloping or with a micro-wedding, remember why you decided to do so, and through it all, stay consistent with your ‘why’. This special occasion can hold a certain level of stress no matter the size, so lean on your ‘forever person’ and help each other through the process. We wish you the best of luck finding your dream #callablanche wedding dress and tons of support for planning your wedding day.
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