You may have heard the term ‘intimate wedding’ being tossed around lately. Especially when you take into consideration needing to reduce guest counts to comply with government restrictions around weddings!
According to The Knot 2019 Real Weddings Study, the average wedding guest count was 131. But there’s no doubt that the wedding game is evolving… and now more so than ever.
While many couples are still opting for a big celebration with a long guest list, it’s not for everyone. Plenty of couples (like me and Nikhil!) were already adapting the idea of the traditional wedding to better suit their wants and needs (like getting to spend more time with each guest and having a nicer wedding for a smaller budget), and now, it’s also a matter of adhering to new event regulations and staying safe.
More and more couples are taking the elopement or courthouse wedding route—but what about a middle-ground option? A compromise for couples who aren’t interested in a big shebang, but who still want to spend a special day celebrating their love with their closest family and friends?
That, my friends, is where intimate weddings come in!
Intimate weddings have many similarities to a ‘regular’ size wedding, but on a smaller scale.
The main difference is that these smaller weddings have intimate guest lists of less than 50 people, and more commonly around 20 people or less. Unlike elopements, intimate weddings still involve a handful of your nearest and dearest people, and other typical wedding elements like a venue, photographer, cake, decor, dinner, dancing… that is, if you so choose! You also have the chance to incorporate more unique activities.
Having a small guest list makes a BIG difference. It affects almost every decision in your wedding planning process.
Here are some of the main benefits of having a intimate wedding:
Big weddings ain’t cheap! Having a smaller guest list gives you more freedom to spend your budget how you’d like. So many people don’t realize that most of your wedding budget goes towards wining and dining your guests, and furnishing your guest tables. Think about it: 10 less people = 1 less table, 1 less floral arrangement/tablecloth, 10 less meals, 50-70 less drinks, 10 less chairs, etc. (See more about starting wedding planning off right HERE!)
Some couples use intimate weddings as an opportunity to REALLY ball out and make their dream wedding a reality. With a smaller guest list, you’re able to spend more money per guest, which means that delicious caterer, nicer florals, your dream photographer or a beautiful destination wedding becomes a more viable option.
On the flip side, because intimate weddings are typically more affordable, they are also perfect for couples with a smaller wedding budget, or who would rather save some of that moolah to put towards their honeymoon or another financial goal.
Intimate weddings allow you to think outside the box a little! Because you have to host, feed, and entertain less people, you can get more creative with your venue and vendor options. Many venues are now offering more intimate wedding packages, too!
Intimate wedding venue options that could never work for a larger event are suddenly on the table. Hire your favorite food truck instead of a full-blown catering service. Have the local bakery make you a really special, personalized cake (or a dessert that’s totally your own). Get creative with your party favors. The options are endless!
Planning a big wedding is a lot of work, and the larger your guest list, the more complicated the logistics. It can be overwhelming, and sometimes even starts to feel like you’re doing it more for other people than yourself.
Planning a more intimate wedding is typically less stressful. You can forget about the crazy high expectations, and focus on the things that YOU want on your wedding day.
Imagine inviting the handful of people who matter to you the most, and actually spending quality time with each one of them. Being able to focus on your nearest and dearest, and, of course, the love of your life as you enter this new phase together!
Your wedding day tends to pass in a flash. An intimate wedding slows things down a little and allows you to really be present and soak up every minute!
If having a small wedding was your first instinct, I say go for it! If it isn’t your first choice but is something you’re considering due to the current state of the world, remember that there are plenty of benefits to intimate weddings, and so many ways to make the day special without sacrificing what’s important to you.
“We decided to have an intimate wedding because we wanted to celebrate our love with those who know us best and love us the hardest. A small wedding was perfect for who we are as a couple and we wouldn’t change anything about our day! The biggest plus to having an intimate wedding is getting to spend quality time with your spouse after the ceremony and during the reception. All the bridal columns/advise tell you to make sure you include time for you and your new spouse to eat dinner alone or have a private last dance because you’ll be so busy talking with/entertaining others during the reception. With an intimate wedding with your closest family and friends, you don’t have to build in time for those private moments because they are automatically included. One of my favorite memories from my wedding would be the conversations I was able to have. Not having to worry about making my way through tons of people allowed me to spend quality time with each and every one of our guests! Additionally, the pressure of everything needing to be perfect wasn’t there. I wasn’t worried about what anyone thought about my decor, the food, the music or any other details I had planned for our day. I believe that pressure was absent because our guest list was limited to our immediate family and very best friends, all whom I knew were just happy to be apart of our special day! Because of the intimacy, I feel that our day was incredibly special and meaningful. I believe it was more emotional for us than it would have been with a large wedding because each person who was with us on our day knew our love story and who we are as a couple. We have no regrets, but something we had to deal with was extended family and friends who were unfortunately not invited and upset. It’s hard to know you possibly hurt others’ feelings. However, to others it’s just another wedding. To you and your fiance, this is YOUR big day – the day you both have imagined for a long time. Chances are people will move on and get over not being invited. You can then relive your wedding by showing off your investment in photos and I bet you’ll still get the “oohs” and “ahhs!”” – Victoria + Tyler, November 2019
“From the start, we wanted our special day to be about us and a celebration of our love and commitment to each other, which is why we decided to have a smaller, more intimate wedding. I wouldn’t trade the day for the world – having an intimate wedding allowed us to stay true to ourselves and be fully present in the moment. It was so special to know that we were surrounded by love as we poured our hearts out when we recited our vows and made this commitment of forever. At the end of the day, we were able to celebrate one of the most important days of our lives with the people that mattered most to us. It truly felt like we started the first day of the rest of our lives in love, support and celebration.It was hard at times because family members made us feel guilty for not inviting extended family because they had set expectations of what our wedding should be. But we decided early on that we were doing it our way, on our terms. My advice for couples would be to plan the wedding they want to have because this day is about both of you and no one else.” – Ale + Noah, September 2018
“We chose to have an intimate wedding because we went back on forth on whether or not to elope or have the traditional big wedding. The more and more that we thought about it we said why not have the best of both worlds. We wanted it to just be family and have that special moment for just us, but we also wanted to be able to celebrate with all of our friends and extended family. I am so happy that we had an intimate ceremony now looking back that part of the entire wedding experience was the best day ever. Everything about our ceremony was so perfect. It meant more to just include our immediate family. I love that we all got to share that experience together. Matt and I still got ready with our best friends and introduced our “best friends” versus introducing our bridal parties. Another positive about it being just us is that we didn’t have the pressure of selecting which friends we wanted in our wedding. It is such a hard decision and so hard when you want to include all the people that make you happy. The wedding was more emotional than I thought it would be. I was SO ready to get married to Matt and see him at the altar but once I got there I was flooded with a wave of emotions. I was so surprised that I was so overwhelmed. It was the happiest moment to share with our parents and Matt’s grandparents. I loved that our dinner after was just who was there rather than having a rehearsal dinner or having a large amount of guests to entertain. It was just so family-orientated that meant so much to the both of us. We got to share stories and laugh and cry together.” – Skyeler + Matt, March 2019
If you do decide to have an intimate wedding, let me tell you, you’re going to want a photographer there who is confident with capturing all the intimate moments that the day will bring! If you’re looking for a wedding photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area or Austin, Texas, let’s chat!
Check out more of our wedding advice here!