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How To Plan An Intimate Wedding

June 11, 2022

So you and your partner agree that a big traditional wedding is not for you. Perhaps the big traditional party was never your dream. Or maybe circumstances have changed and you’ve decided to scale things back. Maybe you thought about an elopement, but you are not 100% convinced that a “just us” experience is what you want either. You just can’t imagine getting married without your family and friends! You fit somewhere in the middle… you definitely don’t want a big wedding, but an elopement isn’t sounding right either. It sounds like what you’ve been looking for is how to plan an intimate wedding!

What is an intimate wedding?

Micro wedding, small wedding, intimate wedding, tiny wedding, minimony…. There are lots of trendy buzz words used to describe a scaled back wedding day. No matter what you call it, the premise is the same… an intimate celebration with a paired down guest list and a more personal setting.

The traditional marriage format is evolving, thanks in large part to the global pandemic that has been shaking up social norms for the last few years. In recent decades, the success of a wedding day has been directly correlated to it’s price tag, but bigger does not mean better. A smaller wedding with fewer expectations will allow youย to be more flexible and creative. You’re free to shake things upโ€”for example, you won’t feel pressured to include wedding traditions that don’t resonate with you!

Double exposure of couple keeping warm under a blanket among the cliffs of the Bruce Peninsula Ontario in Winter

Is it the same as an elopement?

The line between elopements and intimate weddings is blurry. It’s not black and white, but rather a transition of grey. Both are all about tossing out the rulebook and instead crafting your own perfect experience. Micro weddings can be incredible, authentic celebrations that share the same things I love about elopements – it’s all about you two and what YOU want! It’s about pairing it down to the most important parts of a wedding day, celebrating your love and having the experience you want.ย 

So is it like planning an elopement? Or more like planning a big wedding? Technically, it’s both! The internet is full of opinions on what group size constitutes an intimate wedding, but all agree, the most common denominator is a paired down guest list.

Should You Invite Guests?

“Do we want our day to be just for ourselves or do we want to celebrate with guests?” It’s a question that sparks a lot of debate and conversation among couples who want a more intimate wedding experience. Striking the balance between wanting something personal, private, or exciting, and sharing in that joy with your loved ones is not always an easy task. Trust me, you are not alone!

Once you’ve made the decision to plan an intimate wedding with a few guests, one of the hardest parts is choosing who will be on that smaller guest list. Here are some of my best tips to help you out!

Start Listing Your Nearest and Dearest.

It’s time to sit down with your partner and really think about your guest list. Discuss how each of you feels about potential attendees… are you both close with them? Are they supportive of you? Will inviting them create tension amongst yourselves or other potential guests? Can you envision your wedding day without them? Do you feel obligated to invite them, or are you enthusiastic about having them present? Have you spent time with them in the last year? Last 5 years?

Set Boundaries and Expectations.

Set boundaries in advance and don’t be afraid to enforce them. Don’t invite someone if you don’t want to! It can be a difficult road to walk when you are sticking to your principals. But no one has the right to be at your wedding except for you. It may sound harsh, but it’s the absolute truth. It’s a joy and a privilege to be included in someone’s wedding day, not a right. Look at your list of guests and make sure it fits with your visions, your priorities, and your principals.

Hailey McBride Photography how to plan an intimate wedding

Let The Big Decisions Guide The Small Things.

Once the big decisions have been made, like your date, the location, and the experiences you’re hoping to have on your wedding day, they will help guide you towards figuring out the rest. So if you’re having a tough time with the guest list, this is definitely a great planning hack. Once you have a better idea of What, Where, When and Why, the Who will be a lot easier to figure out. A lot of times, making your other big scale decisions will give you a better idea of how many guests you can have.

It will be up to the two of you to decide for yourselves which choices are the “big” ones. Figuring out together what is most important will help you dedicate more resources to those things, and avoid giving too much power or emotional labour to the small stuff that’s not so important. You don’t have to limit yourselves to the traditional wedding narrative either. You can have a multi-day celebration that allows you to celebrate with guests, have time for a more personal “just us” experience, or combine your wedding and honeymoon in one! Or have an intimate wedding with your chosen few and a bigger party later for extended guests with less expense, formality, or pressure than a regular reception.

There is no right or wrong way to plan an intimate wedding. There are no strict rules to follow. No “supposed to’s” or “have to’s”. Plan an experience that aligns with your wants, and include your guests in the ways that bring you the most joy.

Choosing Vendors

If you’re looking to have a more intimate wedding, there are a few things you can do to make sure your day is perfect. First, reach out to vendors that specialize in intimate weddings. They will be able to help you with everything from scaling down your guest list to finding the perfect venue. They will have lots of experience with the exact kind of vibes you’re going for, can guide you to options within your budget, and usually have a list of other vendors they work with who also specialize in smaller events.

Second, don’t be afraid to get creative with your vendors. You’re not having a traditional wedding, so you can incorporate beautiful, unique additions and activities to your wedding day! Ditching a huge guest list might open up your budget for fireworks. Getting married in a backyard might be a perfect opportunity to have live musicians instead of a dj that makes less sense.

Make it Personal.

Next, start thinking about how you can make your wedding day more personal. This may mean incorporating elements that are important to you and your partner, or simply making sure that the day reflects your relationship.

One way to make your intimate wedding more personal is to choose a venue that has meaning to you. This could be the place where you had your first date, where you got engaged, or a place that is significant tor you both. If you’re not able to have your ceremony at this location, consider having your reception there instead.

Another way to make your intimate wedding more personal is by incorporating elements that reflect your relationship and personalities. This could be anything from having your favorite food and drink available, to playing music that is special to you, to choosing a theme or color scheme that is significant to you both.

Finally, don’t forget to include your guests in the planning process! This is your intimate wedding, but that doesn’t mean your guests can’t be involved! This is an especially good way to include friends and family members who aren’t on the guest list feel included. Ask them to write letters you can read on your wedding day, or to jot down some marriage advice you can open and read on your honeymoon.

Hailey McBride Photography how to plan an intimate wedding

Planning an intimate wedding doesn’t have to be difficult. By following these simple tips, you can plan a day that is perfect for you and your partner. An intimate wedding is the perfect opportunity to focus on what matters most – each other.

And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun! Get in touch if you want help with your intimate wedding plans here.

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I'm Hailey, the nature lovin', semi-nomadic capturer of your uniquely perfect moments! If you're here, you must be one half of a BAD ASS couple looking for some inspiration planning your own nuptials. Check out the resources below to get more tips, planning resources, and real wedding inspo for your own wedding or elopement!

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