At its core, a wedding is about personal preferences, dreams, family, friends and budgets. But a couple may decide to have a small wedding for any number of reasons. Despite what people may think, budgetary restrictions are not the only motivation for having a small wedding. In many instances, a small wedding is not only suitable, but preferable.
Small weddings are particularly appropriate in the case of a second wedding and/or with an older couple. They also work really well for couples who have very specific ideas about personalizing their weddings in a way or ways in which a large number of guests just won’t work. Some reception and/or ceremony venues will only accommodate a small group.
If a couple has their heart set on a faraway location, where expensive transportation costs are involved, a small wedding may seem more practical. When the prospective bride and groom come from different ethnic, cultural and/or religious backgrounds, melding rituals and customs can be easier with a limited guest list. If it is very important to the couple that they involve everyone attending their wedding, a smaller group is more manageable.
When children — especially from both the bride and groom’s side — are involved, participants may be more at ease with including blended-family rituals if the wedding is kept small. If it is crucial to the couple that they have an opportunity at their wedding to meet and mix with each of their guests, they can do so much more easily with smaller numbers of people attending. Some couples have grandiose elements they want incorporated into their wedding that will only work if the numbers are kept low. Finally, if budget constraints are paramount to a couple, then a small wedding will fit the bill, literally.
When a couple announces plans for a small wedding, they well may get negative feedback. Being prepared is key. It will be easier to reverse people’s criticism and assuage hurt feelings if the couple has discussed their “party line” and in what way they will respond to the unpleasant feedback. People will be more understanding if they “get it.” So, if a couple is comfortable doing so, explanations may be helpful. The people who truly care about a couple should allow any disapproval to pass.
In deciding to do a small wedding, couples need know that it is just as tough to plan a small wedding, maybe even more so than an average-size one. Depending on the particular style of their small wedding, the couple may need many of the elements that are involved in planning a larger wedding, such as attire, a photographer, food, beverages, cake, attendants or witnesses, flowers, music, a venue, and so on.
There are many variations on the concept of a small wedding, of which an intimate wedding is just one. Planning an intimate wedding means inviting only closest family and friends. Such a wedding may take place in any number of locations, the most common being a private home or club. An officiant performs the ceremony and the couples quite often write their own vows and include any number of traditions and/or new rituals. The couple then hosts a small party at a restaurant, private home, or any other setting in which a small group can be “secluded.”
Elopement is the smallest kind of wedding. Couples who chose to elope may or may not follow up with a reception. An elopement is not only for people who want or need to keep their marriage a secret. It is also perfect for people who enjoy spontaneity, or for those looking for an inexpensive or quick way to get married.
Couples who choose to do a small wedding need not give up any of the beauty or the joy of a wedding, if they remember to focus on their guests and on their union as the centerpiece of the event.
The unique nature of a small wedding allows the couple to think out of the box. Here are a few suggestions to get them started.
Small Wedding Suggestions
- Incorporate “new rituals” and design “new traditions” in every aspect of the wedding. Unusual, new and redesigned elements are much easier to incorporate into a small wedding. For example, write your own wedding vows and add “blessings” to members of your families.
- Eliminate the formalities, such as the processional and recessional and instead, take advantage of the size of the group to allow guests to mix informally before the ceremony.
- Have the bride and groom officially start the reception with the clinking glasses and a toast to their guests, in lieu of the MC introduction of the bridal couple.
- When there is no bridal party and, therefore, no attendant flowers (and/or no flower centerpieces), as they enter, give every female guest a small corsage or wristlet.
- When there is no bridal party have all your guests “stand up for you” during the ceremony.
- “Run the room” and ask anyone who has good wishes and/or a toast for the bridal couple to speak.
- Personalize and expand on the wedding program. Include individual messages to several or all the guests and explain the reasoning behind choosing a small wedding, or consider showing a “historical” slide show or video about the couple, including some of the family and/or friends in attendance.
- Re-evaluate the typical wedding venues and choose one that will work for a small group but not for a large one (e.g., a restaurant, estate, museum, art gallery, restaurants, gardens, B & B, etc.)
- Treat your guests as you might not be able to if the numbers were larger, e.g., provide hotel-to-ceremony to reception transportation (shuttle bus, trolley, limo, etc.) reception, have the photographer take photos of each of your guests with the bridal couple. On an even grander scale, couples may consider a Destination or Weekend Wedding, in which everyone travels to a particular destination where the wedding and any or all the before-and-after parties are held and where everyone stays over for a night or more. Some couples opt to extend the wedding festivities by incorporating them into an extended stay, or mini-vacation. Some or all of the guests may choose to stay on with the couple.
- Provide your guests with special services such as spa treatments, historic home or museum tours, personalized part favors, etc.
- Choose music soloists in lieu of groups.
- Expand the theme wedding concept to include not only the couple and attendants (if any), but all the guests as well.
The key again is to remember that small and intimate can be translated and defined in any way which extends the joy and festivities and makes the couple the keystone of the event.