Soaring guest counts, full weekend agendas, and over-the-top elements might come to mind when you think of the ultimate wedding. Whether it’s in Aspen for a full weekend or somewhere more exotic, the thought process is usually: bigger is better. While inviting every single individual you know can be enjoyable, there is something to be said about hosting an intimate affair.
The ideal opportunity to make your guests feel extra special while reclaiming time to really enjoy your own big event is small weddings. In addition, the smaller headcount offers the chance to do stuff that you can’t do on a larger scale, from creative entertainment concepts to more personalized dining choices.
We reached out to some of the best in the wedding industry to get the inside scoop on throwing the ultimate casual wedding for those of you who thought that a small wedding, whether that means inviting 100 or 10 guests, could be the way to go. Here are the 12 small wedding ideas to consider for your big day:
Small Wedding Ideas You Want To Steal
01. Get Creative With Your Venue and Seating Arrangements
Do you like this small wedding idea? For an ultra-cozy affair, choose a nearby yet unexpected wedding venue, such as a museum, brewery, or hidden garden, or have an at-home wedding. A historic library, a converted building (such as a former airplane hangar or warehouse), or a city, state, or national park may be other interesting venues. Just be sure to remember any permits you may need, as well as any regulations that may influence your decor choices (i.e., candles, or anything that requires water flow or electricity).
You may also try the format of seating; imagine, for example, poufs, picnic blankets, alternating benches, and pews, or arrange chairs in a spiral pattern.
02. Personalize Every Element
With decor customization, go nuts: think of everything from welcome notes and place cards, to gift bags and centerpieces. Browse places such as Uncommon Goods, Minted, and Etsy for handmade products such as wood-etched city charts, wine bottle vases, and stationery by independent makers and artists to get started.
Instead of wedding gifts, make things more intimate and ask for wedding help; your social circle probably has a sharp photographer, a passionate baker (hello, homemade wedding cake or cupcake tower!), a talented artist, and a crafty decorator to rely on.
03. Think Outside the Entertainment Box
Peruse the music department of your local university; there are sure to be some students who may be available for musical accompaniment for your wedding. Or keep your ears open for live performers you’ve seen when out at a bar or restaurant and ask for their business card if they’re open to doing weddings.
In addition to musical acts, you may also want to have a tarot card or palm reader to entertain friends, have a suggestion box for date night ideas, or host a silent disco.
04. Create Opportunities to Gather and Socialize
Capture the scene and cram everybody into a picture of a party, which is difficult for a much larger group to tackle. And for fun, survey the crowd for first anniversary ideas and tips for a blissful married life during the reception.
Elsewhere, create a lounge area or fire pit for everyone to gather around during the wedding festivities. Opt for an unconventional “guest book” to sign for visitors, such as asking them to record a message with a tablet or old smartphone; sign a block from a Jenga game; float a few Polaroid cameras for a visual guest book for guests to capture at will or make them sign a giant globe or map.
05. Consider the Afterparty
Have you ever thought of an afterparty? It’s one of fantastic small wedding ideas.
Host an after-party at your local dive bar, or grab your favorite ramen spot, a taco stand, pizza-by-the-slice spot, or burger joint for a late-night snack. Call ahead as a courtesy to let the restaurant know of your imminent arrival, even with a small wedding party; or book a private room to get it set up before your party arrives.
06. Skip the Formal Ceremony
This small wedding idea is interesting, right? Tie the knot at City Hall and instead throw a reception with a blowout. You can also employ a photographer to dress up for City Hall, and use the ceremony’s cost savings to improve the reception’s floral arrangements, entertainment, and food choices.
Know that you will need to make two different appointments, one for the wedding, and another to get your marriage certificate, if you plan to get married at City Hall. During weekday mornings, most courthouse nuptials occur, so this will affect the immediate post-wedding ceremony activities.
Note that even though you intend to broadcast the ceremony, you need a witness physically present; and study the number of people you are permitted to have in advance during the ceremony, as it varies by location of the courtroom.
07. Shoot for Off-Peak Timing
During off-peak hours, such as during the week, if you can, get married when vendors are possibly more open and affordable. The wedding off-season is usually considered to be December through March, according to Wedding Wire. Cost savings can be had during this period on everything from your venue to your top-choice wedding photographer, the live band you have bookmarked, and maybe even lower honeymoon prices.
08. Mellow Out the Reception
This small wedding idea is so great. With a herbal tea cart or counter, or a tray of milk and cookies, or even a pretzel wall, wind things down at the reception. Or, close the evening on an optimistic, reflective note with a group breathing or mindfulness practice or a gratitude sharing circle to top off the evening.
09. Keep a Well-Stocked Bar
What do you think about this small wedding idea? Start things off and deliver a signature, pre-ceremony cocktail. Mobile bars, specialty ices, natural elements such as edible flowers and herbs, and hard seltzers are trending across the country at weddings, WeddingWire notes. Stock your own bar for an additional personalized experience, but check first with your location.
Remember that not everyone believes in alcohol, so it might be a smart idea to sell virgin versions of your signature drinks with non-alcoholic choices, including sodas and flavored sparkling waters.
10. Go for a Super Casual Reception
Forgo the caterer and hire your favorite food truck (or two!); have a potluck and invite guests to bring their favorite family recipes for super small, informal weddings; or forget about the typical reception and throw a casual party at a bar or restaurant.
If you’re having a reception or not, go through the mic and make it an “open mic night” for guests to say a few impromptu words. Bust out the lawn and board games and get interactive.
11. Invest in Your Photographer
Investing in your photographer is one of the smart small wedding ideas. No matter how many guests will be attending, a fantastic photographer is a great investment, but a smaller guest list can mean more chances for intimate moments to be captured. “Your guests would really relax with less people at the table, creating an intimate atmosphere,” Dorman says. “Hire a trusted photographer to catch the laughter, the tears, and the glasses that clink, as those are the moments you’re going to treasure the most.”
12. Make a Day-Of Timeline
When it comes to great small wedding ideas, a day of the timeline is on the first list. Getting a timeline for your wedding is something you would not want to forget, no matter the size. This small wedding idea is from Nick and Aleah Valley. They said so much thought goes into the details of a wedding, whether big or small, and a good timeline provides a framework that helps tell your story.”
Which small wedding ideas do you find most useful? Hopefully, these small wedding ideas will inspire you for your big day. If you have any suggestions or great small wedding ideas, feel free to share them with us.