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Maybe you’re on a tight budget, or maybe you’ve always preferred the company of a few over a crowd. Or maybe the COVID-19 pandemic has forced you to have to trim your guestlist down. Whatever your reason for considering a small or mini wedding, it’s no surprise that having a downsized wedding is an option that’s becoming increasingly popular. As these weddings grow in popularity, more and more couples looking to get married are starting to see the benefits of keeping things low-key on the big day.

What is considered a small wedding?

A wedding falls in the small category with a guest list of fifty or less. The general rule is that the fewer people you invite, the more intimate the event will be. This can make the atmosphere of your wedding a lot more personal and relaxed. Fewer guests give you a lot more flexibility with planning too. For example, couples hosting intimate weddings often choose to have them at vacation resorts and destinations because of the added flexibility of having such a small number of people.

So you’ve decided a small wedding may be right for you and yours, what’s next? Typically, the process of planning a smaller wedding doesn’t differ too much from how a “traditional” wedding may be planned. In fact, you may find it all around easier (or at least less expensive)! There’s still a lot of hard work and dedication required to successfully plan one. However, small weddings come with their own unique set of things to consider and keep track of. Here are some of the top tips for planning a wedding that may be small in size, but certainly doesn’t lack charm.

Why use a checklist to plan your small wedding?

There are so many details when planning a wedding, big or small. No matter how organized a couple may be, it can be an incredibly stressful time. When planning for your big day, having a checklist will help you track and prioritize all of the integral parts of your big day.

Although your guest list may go down to a few dozen people, that doesn’t take away the need for food, drinks, music, décor. You see, the list goes on and on no matter how many people you plan to invite. You can start feeling more organized right now with a comprehensive list, like the Dream Wedding Checklist. Here you can see everything you need to do, buy and plan in one simple place. It’s the peace of mind during wedding planning that is truly priceless.

Analyze your guest list

When it comes to budgeting a wedding, it’s a hard truth that more guests mean more money spent. The size of your guest list determines the size of, well, pretty much everything else; from how big you need your venue to be to catering, it all starts with the number of guests you plan to have. Figuring out who you want to be at your wedding is a pretty daunting task already, but it can be more of a challenge when you’re shooting for a smaller number. An easy way to begin is by visualizing who you see celebrating with. Remember, not inviting someone to your wedding doesn’t mean they don’t matter to you. Don’t let emotions get in the way by associating an invitation with a confirmation of love. If you’re feeling uneasy about the amount of people you’re not inviting, you can always reach out to each either with a mailing or a call and let them know you’re getting married and you are thinking of them.

Plan extra events

If having a small reception is the most important aspect of your wedding, then you may want to plan a bigger guest list for a large ceremony. In this case, you’d invite the entire congregation to the ceremony itself but not to the following intimate reception. You just need to make sure that all of your guests have been notified of the arrangement.

You may decide that you want your ceremony to be intimate but then have a large casual event a month later. You’ll have to pay for this separate event, but it will keep your vow ceremony small. It will also allow you more time to enjoy the fun of having a large group of friends and family in a post-wedding, relaxed environment. Just think, if you keep it casual no one will be expecting a four-course meal at the big event!

Many couples opted for this option through the height of the pandemic to ensure they got married while keeping the door open for a future blow-out bash.

Consider a weekday wedding

If the venue you want isn’t available on a Saturday you may want to consider a Friday or Sunday night wedding. Or, you could think about some of the other days of the week. Monday is a good option because it’s right after the weekend, and your guests who are traveling from out of town can travel over the weekend and get settled before the actual wedding takes place on Monday. You may want to even have a little welcome party for them and have some time with them to explore your city or town. Having a weekday wedding should ensure that every one of your favorite vendors will be available. You can still have your dream wedding even if it’s not on a Saturday. Also, popular vendors will have more availability and usually offer discounts for weekday dates.

Splurge on your must-haves.

By having a smaller wedding with fewer guests, you may have the opportunity to splurge on some of your favorite things. With fewer people present you can expand on several items on your list of must-haves. You can go bigger on the flowers and décor. Hire a really great photographer and videographer. You can customize a super exclusive food and drink menu for your guests or offer fun and games that wouldn’t suit a large crowd. When it comes to gift bags and party favors, you can put a bit more care into each and maybe squeeze a little bit more out of your budget to make them really personal.

Skip what doesn’t matter to you.

Wedding invitations can run you more than $400. There are plenty of retail establishments where you can get inexpensive invitations or you could go entirely digital and save the additional time and expense of hand-written envelopes and mailing. 

Ceremony programs are another cost you can cut. Why not place a few handwritten wooden signs or chalkboards at different locations around your venue. It will look unique and your guests won’t miss the programs. 

Guest books can also be expensive. Why not create a large item that you’ve customized and have your guests sign on that anywhere they’d like. We have seen all kinds of fun ideas from surf boards to containers where guests write a personal note for the couple. It will be a fun, unique keepsake that you could eventually frame and hang in your future home. 

Flowers look amazing and add to the theme and beauty of your special day. But floral arrangements can cost a small fortune. Will anyone remember them the next day? You could always purchase flowers from a farmer’s market or a local florist. No one will know where you got the flowers. You could even go with artificial flowers or twigs and natural elements. You don't have to use any flowers. Some stunning centerpieces can be made from old books, containers with floating candles etc. 

Wedding gowns are a big expense you may not need with a smaller wedding. It’s not really how much the dress costs, it’s more about how you look when you’re wearing it. Find a dress that speaks to your personality. Check out your local bridal trunk shows and sample garment sales. Also, look online. There are lots of stunning second hand dresses for sale at a fraction of the original price. You may be surprised what you can find if you do your research. There are plenty of wedding gowns that are far less than $1000. 

The cake is another expensive item. You could always go with a small cake and splurge on a unique custom wedding topper. It’ll look original and you’ll save a bundle. With a smaller crowd, you may have the option to indulge in a champagne and treats cart, or some other memorable touch that would be cost prohibitive with a larger crowd.

Choose an unusual venue

By having a small wedding with fewer people you may want to look at some unique venues to add to the flavor of the day. There are some great smaller spaces that normally wouldn’t be able to support most large wedding ceremonies. Here’s a list of potential ideas to spark your imagination!

  1. Breweries and distilleries
  2. Festival style sites
  3. Greenhouse and glasshouse venues
  4. Historic venues
  5. Museums, libraries, and galleries
  6. Nightclubs and lounges
  7. Yachts and boats
  8. Zoos and aquariums 

It’s essential to look into wedding packages that these types of venues offer. Many host weddings frequently and have a set of vendors they work with. This can make the process easier. However, for more creative spaces, you may be required to supply everything. A park for example seems like a low-cost choice until you factor in the expense of table and chair rentals, linens, etc. Having your checklist on hand can give you an easy way to obtain quotes and gauge whether a location makes sense from a logistical and cost perspective

Incorporate personal touches

Having less guests at a small ceremony will free up funds for you to spend on some things that will make your wedding more unique. You can incorporate more of your personal vision to your special day. Here’s a few ideas that you may want to think about:

  1. Add a monogram to your veil
  2. Create a unique hashtag for all of your guests to use on social media
  3. Custom mixed CDs of the couple’s favorite songs to give as favors
  4. A unique cocktail named after the new couple
  5. Share your love story with custom coloring books for the kids table
  6. Decorate the walk down the aisle with photos of you and your spouse from childhood up until now.
  7. Get customized decals for your wedding shoes printed with your names and the date
  8. Personalize your wedding bands with special words and dates

Plan an after-party

The reception on your special day will fly by. But the celebration doesn’t need to end there. Some of your guests will want to keep the party going, so you may want to think about what happens after the last dance. It’s a great way to prolong the joy of your wedding day and surprise your guests with some unique personal touches.

Style: There are three types of after-parties. The spontaneous go to a local bar, or the separate room in the venue with a bar, or a well organized post reception gathering with or without entertainment. 

Invites: Proper wedding etiquette in mind, everyone should be invited to the post reception gathering. You can simply add a separate card or note in each invitation. This way no one will feel left out but can opt out to decline from keeping the party going. 

Convenience: Plan to have your party at a local bar or restaurant. If you have guests in from out of town, you may want to go with a gathering in the hotel bar, or in a separate private room. As long as the location is close to the reception site and easy to get to, you can go with a local venue nearby. 

Décor: you can get creative here. Choose a venue that’s different than where you had your reception. Something unique will surprise and delight your guests. Maybe Latin-themed, with cool cocktails and cigars. If you had a classic formal wedding, how about hiring a DJ to have the 80s themed vibe for the after-party? The possibilities are endless! 

Feed your guests: By the time the after-party rolls around and people have been drinking and dancing, they may be hungry again. Make sure you choose a place that has some sort of snacks for your guests! Make sure it’s different from the food you served at your reception to give it some variety. This is often a great chance to indulge in guilty pleasures that are less fancy and more delicious. After a full-day of partying, this may be everyone’s favorite moment of the night. 

Wardrobe: This is your chance to wear whatever you want. Allow your guest to let down their hair and relax. Maybe there’s time between the reception and the party for your friends to change into casual clothes to be more comfortable. Jeans and sneakers allowed! Just make sure guests are properly informed so they’ll have their change of clothes ready. 

Costs: This is really up to you and your new spouse. Maybe split the bill with your parents or pay for it by yourself. Many of your guests to the after-party may likely be your younger friends, so they may want to slap down their credit cards to help. But if you are covering the cost of the after-party you may want to cut off the open bar after an hour or two.

Remember what matters most to you

Having a small wedding with a small group of guests translates to you having the time and the funds to do the important things you want to achieve for your special day. You can spend more time with loved ones on a more personal level. With a large wedding, it’s difficult to get around the venue and spend enough time with everyone you want to see. With a small ceremony, this will give you that one on one time that will mean so much to your friends and family. But most of all, regardless of the size of the wedding, make sure you get the things you want to happen to make your day special. You may not need all the massive pageantry that goes with a big wedding, but your event will have all the key elements you need to make it just perfect for you both.

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