Can your small wedding still be special? If you’ve been considering an intimate wedding, you are not alone. Many couples with 2020 and 2021 weddings have had to limit their headcounts to safeguard the health and safety of their guests. But while the coronavirus pandemic has made small weddings the new norm, they have been a growing trend for a while. In recent years, we’ve seen couples shorten their guest lists to prioritize spending time with their nearest and dearest loved ones.
“In years past, a guest list of anywhere from 50-70 people was considered relatively small compared to the standard 100-150 people that you’d usually see,” explains Kylie Carlson, owner of The Wedding Academy. “However, in light of COVID, small weddings are now approximately 10-30 people to comply with social distancing guidelines.”
Yet, it’s a common misconception that small weddings are usually cheaper and more casual. In fact, many micro-weddings can cost the same as their larger counterparts; however, the budget is allocated more to the individual guest experience so everyone in attendance feels like a part of the big day. Instead of budgeting for hundreds of guests, couples can focus on add-ons and enhancements that will make their day uniquely their own.
We spoke to wedding professionals who have experience with small weddings and they shared these special touches to consider for your own micro-wedding.
An inclusive ceremony
“One of my favorite wedding moments was a 10-person wedding where the couple included every single person in attendance as a part of the ceremony in different ways,” shares Shannon Tarrant, co-founder of WeddingVenueMap.com. “The guests became the officiant, played the music for them to come down the aisle, shared a reading, sang a special song, blessed the rings, and more. Each person was an integral part of the ceremony celebration.”
Margaux Fraise, owner of Harmony Creative Studio, adds: “You can also set up the chairs and viewings in a special way. We have had past small ceremonies where all the guests stood because there were few enough to do so without blocking anyone’s view. It felt like the guests were a part of it, as opposed to spectators.”
“Upgrade your dinner to a wine and multi-course meal, like eight courses with wine pairings,” encourages JoAnn Gregoli, owner of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli. “We have used a sommelier to explain each wine as it is presented to the dinner guests. I’ve found that, with a small wedding, you can make it a true dining experience.”
“The customization and attention to detail given for each guest is one of my favorite details from the small weddings I’ve been part of,” enthuses Kristin Wilson, owner and CEO of Our DJ Rocks. “When you have a smaller wedding, you can put more time and effort into making a custom name plate for their seat and I’ve even seen a custom centerpiece with photos of the couple and their guests at that table!”
Ashley Merisier, founder and creative director of A. Merisier Coordination and Design shares: “Some of my favorite details of small weddings are the custom touches like personalized glass or acrylic place cards and entertainment add-ons like fine whiskey/scotch tastings or hiring a mixologist during cocktail hour.”
“One of our couples wrote personalized notes to each guest about their favourite thing about them,” reveals Jennifer Borgh, owner and destination wedding planner at Borghinvilla Wedding Venue. “The guests felt very touched and told us how special it was.”
Eddie Zaratsian, owner of Eddie Zaratsian Lifestyle & Design, says: “I absolutely love the idea of a hanging floral installation over a large banquet table for the reception portion of the wedding. Since you won’t necessarily need multiple tables with a smaller gathering, long tables are a wonderful touch to spend time with all of your guests in one area. These installations look best with imperfect structure — i.e. pampas grasses, bird of paradise flowers, overflowing greenery, and lush blooms. It’s the perfect Instagram backdrop and an incredible conversation piece.”
“A detail I love at small weddings is playing with varied décor and centerpieces,” shares Jamie Chang, owner and destination wedding planner at Mango Muse Events. “Because you don’t have as many tables, each arrangement or centerpiece can be different. They’re harmonious together, but each table gets to enjoy something a little different. It creates interest and, when guests mingle, they get to see and enjoy the other creations as well.”
Owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, Kevin Dennis, says: “Oftentimes, we’re seeing couples that have greatly downsized from their original guest list, therefore their venue space suddenly seems large and overwhelming. To enhance the space and make it a bit more intimate, we suggest uplighting in warm tones — even candles of all shapes and sizes to cast a warm glow. The venue will feel much cozier and you’ll achieve that romantic vibe you’re searching for.”
Make it a family affair
“If you are going to do a sit-down dinner, set your table with items sourced from relatives,” encourages Gretchen Culver, owner of Rocket Science Events. “Use grandma’s china, Aunt Sue’s glassware, your mother-in-law’s flatware. Platters for food service, cloth napkins, tablecloths, cake service, salt and pepper shakers…everyone has something they can contribute! Make sure to print on the back of your menu where all the items came from and thank everyone for loaning them to you. The look will be eclectic, lovely, and completely one-of-a-kind.”
It’s safe to say that many couples like you are discovering the true beauty of small, intimate weddings with their loved ones. Micro-weddings turn the focus inwards to celebrate the bonds between a couple and their guests, creating cherished memories for all. When it comes to planning small weddings, a little bit of intention and creativity can go a long way into designing the celebration of your dreams.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.
We've partnered with OFD Consulting to bring you this great advice from their collective of wedding professionals.