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How to pull off a small, intimate wedding

Whether you have always wanted an intimate wedding or you are being forced to consider changing your plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are lots of things you can do to make your wedding day just as special with fewer guests.

When I say the words "small" or "intimate" in reference to weddings, I am talking about weddings with 50 or less people. In the U.S. in 2019, the average wedding was 131 guests, so weddings with 50 or fewer guests are still not the norm. However, I think we are going to start seeing this trend becoming more and more popular given everything that is happening across the globe with event restrictions.

I'm including a few best practices below and ideas that I have if you are considering planning a smaller wedding. Shoot me a DM or email if there's something you'd like to see added to this list!


Use technology to your advantage

Lady Ilg Photography

You may not have over 10 people there in person, but that doesn’t mean the rest of your friends and family can’t watch! If you have a location where there is good internet connection, consider live streaming over Zoom or Hangouts. Provide a private link folks to log on when the time comes.

Hire a videographer to make a video of the ceremony and host a "viewing party" at a later date with cocktails and appetizers for the guests who couldn't make it. A videographer will make a beautifully produced video of your vows, the entire ceremony, and scenes from the day.

Have loved ones who can’t be there still participate

I attended a friend's wedding a few years back. His grandparents could not make it to the ceremony due to poor health. In order to honor them and have them be a part of the day, the couple pre-recorded the grandparents reading the Blessing of the Hands. During the ceremony, the DJ played the audio over the speakers and we all got to listen to it. You best believe I was a sobbing mess as this is hands down one of the best ceremony pieces I've seen.

Involve everyone in the ceremony

Rudy Ortega Photography

This is a luxury you now have and something that is now an option with less guests! There are lots of ways that you can get all of the guests involved in the ceremony. None of these take up too much time with 50 or fewer guests.

- Ring warming during the ceremony. Place your rings in a small bag or box and pass them around to every guest as music plays. Each guest will quietly warm the rings with prayers, well-wishes and good luck for your marriage.

- Have guests say one word during the ceremony that they hope you carry with you for your marriage

- Ask everyone to give a short 1-2 reading or speech. This would work best if you have 10 or fewer guests but it makes your ceremony very personalized and unique.


Use a restaurant for your reception

When you have a smaller guest count, doors have been opened to different types of venues! Why not consider doing an outdoor ceremony to say I Do and then head to your favorite restaurant for dinner and celebration. Most restaurants have private rooms you can rent, often only for a food and beverage minimum.

Consider new locations that you previously hadn't thought were an option

I've done a few weddings at an AirBnB-style vacation rental and they are my favorite! Guests can stay upstairs and even spend a few days. Make a weekend out of your celebration by scheduling meals for everyone, planning activities (free activities like hiking or walks are great!). Then on your wedding day, you can do everything on site and party the whole day. Just make sure you get approval from owner first.

The De La Castros

Don't be afraid to get creative with your venue ideas. One of my favorite small weddings that I've done was at a Fort Collins coffee shop where the couple first met. We had a waffle food truck, a coffee hour, music playing on vinyl and an earth-friendly wood chip send off. It was magical and so unique!


Splurge for a great photographer

I'm always advocating that my clients spend money on photography, but if you are planning a more intimate wedding, I couldn't recommend it more! You'll obviously appreciate the photos for years to come, but you can also share these with anyone who was not able to attend.

Don’t be scared to stray away from the "traditional" timeline

If you watched or read my previous blog post about how to create a timeline... this is where I'm now saying to throw all of that out the window :) With a smaller wedding, you have so much more flexibility to move everything around. Do the first dance immediately following the ceremony. Remove cocktail hour entirely. Do food service throughout the night instead of a sit-down meal. The options are endless!

Up the ante with top tier food and bar

With less people, you can really up the quality level, even if you are on a budget. Especially if you are

Rudy Ortega Photography

downsizing from a larger number now, this really allows some wiggle room for you to upgrade a lot of your catering and bar packages. Chat with your caterer about fun ideas that they have for both the food that's offered and the way that it's served.

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