What To Consider For An Intimate Wedding

Whether you’ve always wanted a small and intimate affair or, as a result of Covid-19, have no other choice, there are plenty of advantages to having a small wedding. From more time spent with your guests, to allowing you to spend more on the food and drink, the biggest names in the industry offer their advice on how to make the day extra special…

“Begin with a list of your immediate family to ensure you include everyone who is nearest and dearest to you. This will be your starter list, and numbers can grow from there. When it comes to friends, you need to include those closest to you… the ones you consider family. Plus ones are a no-no for an intimate wedding, unless you’ve known the pair as a couple for a long time. If you’ve never met their significant other, they shouldn’t be on the list.” – Bruce Russell, MD of wedding and events company Bruce Russell 

 

“Having fewer numbers gives you an opportunity to celebrate with your favourite people and it’s also an excuse not to invite anyone who might be there purely to appease your parents. If you're having a non-religious ceremony, assume your guest list will automatically include your witnesses, immediate family (parents/siblings who may also have partners) and leave room around the table for close friends.” – Chenai Bukutu, founder & principal planner of wedding and events company, By Chenai

“Now that you have more budget and fewer people, think about some special ways to invite your guests. Create more elaborate invitations, or even bespoke options for each person. Make everyone feel special, and think about the small details, all of which will be much easier to co-ordinate. For name places, you could write a personal note for each of your loved ones to let them know how much it means to you that they came.” – Jeni Amey, wedding planner at Vanilla Rose Weddings

“I love personalised save the dates – we recently sent every guest a small dinner bell with the note saying ‘It’s Time’. The idea came from the wall of service bells at the venue, which was once a stately home. You could also think of having a courier hand-deliver your invitations with a special in-person message for each guest. Work with layers and be creative. Boxes which guests unwrap, then open by pulling a ribbon, which leads to another layer behind something else… receiving it can be an entire experience in itself.” – Bruce

“If you decide to go ahead with a smaller wedding, it's important to choose a size-appropriate space. Consider private homes, garden settings or restaurants that may be offering availability for smaller celebrations.” – Jeni

“Museums and art galleries are often used for large events, but why not book one for an intimate celebration? Imagine a table for 40 in the Hintze Hall of the Natural History Museum, for example, or a celebration in one of the opulent galleries of The Wallace Collection. Think about hiring a private villa on Ibiza, a castle in Ireland, or a holiday home on the Devon coast. Personalising private venues can make them feel like you are entertaining in your own home. If a venue feels too large, go for a long dining table, and make it the focal point. Then think about the lighting, which is key to make the room feel magical. With intimate weddings, the possibilities are endless.” – Bruce

 

“Scaling back a wedding opens up the possibilities for different types of venue and more locations. Destination weddings may become more attractive as again, costs are no longer prohibitive because of numbers. Similarly, options such as a wedding at home, glamping, boat hire, boutique hotel spaces and other non-traditional venues can all complement a smaller event.” – Chenai

“Remember, a celebrant can perform a ceremony anywhere, at any time, so if your dream is to get married at sunrise on a cliff top, you can. A lot of couples are nervous about standing up and saying their vows – with an intimate ceremony this is less of an issue as each smiling face you see will be familiar. 

“With fewer guests there are lots of lovely things you can add to your ceremony. One example is a ring warming. The couple place their rings into a small pouch or box, which is then passed from person to person. Each guest holds the rings and makes a wish or blessing for the couple. Once ‘warmed’ and returned to the couple, they represent the combination of strength and belonging to their family and friends.

“Being restricted or choosing to have fewer guests there in person doesn’t mean no one else can enjoy the celebrations. Lockdown inspired many couples to have online ceremonies with friends and family logging on to witness virtual vows. A small ceremony can be intimate, but it certainly doesn’t have to be boring. Book a celebrant and they can work with you to create an order of service that includes all these extras, so you don’t have to stress about it.” – Jennifer Claire Constant, Founder The Celebrant Directory

“Even though it might be a small wedding, stick with assigned seating to avoid any awkwardness. It’s not normally suggested to split couples up, however in an intimate setting, and as long as they know everybody around the table, this could be an exception. Pre-assigned seats are give the caterer a better idea of where any guests with dietary requirements are.” – Bruce

 

“With an intimate wedding you can play around with seating to add to the guest experience – ensuring everyone gets to know each other better. Seating people in the round at the ceremony means everyone gets a great view of the vows, as does opting for alternating pews and chairs, or even lounge furniture over traditional ceremony seating.” – Chenai

“If you decide to have a smaller celebration, the original budget might go a lot further. Think about which elements are the most important to you and invest in those additional details or luxury items. Fewer quantities will mean those special touches may now be achievable.” – Jeni 

 

“Having fewer people means you can spend more on the smaller details, such as personalised linen napkins, designing a bespoke scent, having candles as favours, or a taxi service to get your guests safely home at the end of the evening. The smallest of details can really enhance the guest experience. You might even be able to stretch your budget for that famous photographer whose photos you’ve been swooning over.” – Bruce 

 

“With more resources you can really invest in the parts of the wedding that are most important to you as a couple. If you are foodies for example, consider a more elaborate multi-course meal or an indulgent dessert station. You could also tailor-make welcome gifts for each individual guest to a destination wedding.” – Chenai

“With a smaller wedding you have the chance to say a little something special about each guest in your speech – how you met, what they mean to you both or a funny anecdote. Replace the photo booth with a portrait photographer so each guest can take home a professional image of themselves. It might also be possible to work with the caterer to create an à la carte menu to suit all dietary requirements and give guests their own option on the day.” – Bruce

 

“Having fewer people will allow you time to engage in full conversations with each of your guests. Often with larger weddings, couples don’t have much chance to exchange more than a few words as they try to make their way around the room. Having a smaller guest list means you can enjoy your day with every person there.” – Jeni

“A personal message for each guest on the back of their menu can be a great surprise. But it isn’t normally feasible with hundreds of guests. A lovely idea is to have hand-printed table linens designed especially for you, which you can then use at home for years to come. Depending on the season and the setting, you could work with your designer so that any flowers or plants can be replanted in your garden afterwards, too.” – Bruce

 

“Personalisation at every step becomes easier with an intimate wedding. You can actually achieve that tablescape you’ve been dreaming of. You can also splurge on hiring beautiful tableware as you're not constrained in the same way as you would be trying to replicate this for 100 guests.” – Chenai

“Focus your efforts on designing the most magical of tablescapes. The dinner-table experience is key. Then consider lighting, which brings everything to life. Consider creating a statement backdrop for photos… get creative and do something that works with the venue and enhances the setting. Flower walls have their place, but try to think creatively.” – Bruce
 

“Consider where styling and flowers would be the most impactful. For your ceremony that might be just on the aisle and in the bouquet, and for your reception it might be one incredible arrangement in the centre of the table. You don’t need a huge quantity to make an impact in a smaller space.” – Jeni

 

“With fewer guests, you can really indulge your loved ones with a carefully considered menu. Serve your favourite fine wines and luxury champagne that you might ordinarily not have. Your choices are wider as you’re not catering for large numbers.” – Jeni

 

“Consider hiring the chef from your favourite restaurant to cater the meal, or a sommelier to create the perfect wine-pairing experience. Remember to ask your venue or caterer about any minimum spend or guest number requirements. If you don’t reach the number, you’ll have to pay the difference.” – Bruce

“Intimate weddings offer the chance to easily extend the celebrations beyond the wedding day itself, and include other events like a welcome dinner or a brunch the next day. As 'buddymoons' become more popular, it’s easier to plan post wedding trips and activities, too.” – Chenai

 

“With smaller numbers it’s easier to create a weekend celebration for family and friends. This is great both at home, or if you are having a destination wedding. Consider that pre- and post-events can be less formal, so guests can relax and spend time with those they want to catch up with. But be sure to give people specifics – what food will be served, the format, the timings and the dress code. Even in a more relaxed scenario, guests need to know what to expect and what is expected of them.” – Bruce

“There are many elements of a traditional wedding that you can leave out. Having a live band in the evening isn’t a necessity, nor is large-scale production and lighting, for example. Instead, focus on the smaller details, such as a beautiful candlelit tablescape or having an acoustic musician give a special performance.” – Jeni 

 

“As your day will be much more intimate, you may not want to have an official cake cutting, and prefer instead to replace this with a decadent dessert. Bands can feel quite formal, but a live performance is visually entertaining. The DJ ‘live’ concept is really popular – a DJ with a percussionist or combination of instruments or vocals. You may even decide not to have a bridal party, which could save you time agonising over who to choose.” – Bruce

 

“You could look at ditching the traditional wedding format entirely. Change up the timelines of when you do speeches or how and when you serve food. You're not constrained by the format of a bigger event.” – Chenai

“Having an intimate celebration can be something quite special, and it’s wonderful to be able to celebrate with those closest to you. However, it’s important to keep yourselves and your guests safe throughout the day by sticking to government guidelines. Make sure everyone attending feels comfortable.” – Jeni

 

“You have a wonderful opportunity to focus on making your intimate wedding uniquely yours. Wedding planning can be a huge time investment – it's a job in itself and can be stressful if project planning and management is not your forte, particularly when you're planning a wedding with large numbers. The admin that comes with guest management, RSVPs, planning seating, accommodation and transport is all vastly reduced, and in some cases entirely removed.” – Chenai

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