As a result of everything that’s been going on in the world right now, many couples are reconsidering their plans, and opting to have a small wedding or elopement instead of a big celebration. There are also those of you who have always known you wanted to have a more intimate wedding, and this is for you too! I wanted to put together some helpful and positive advice for hosting a meaningful and chic celebration for your nearest and dearest – as ever, it’s all about quality, not quantity ♡
If you’re looking to have a chic and intimate celebration, my advice would be to make the most of the reduced guest list by thinking of ways to look after your loved ones in the way that feels most personal to you. It’s all about meaningful luxury – what will make you feel like you love where the money is going, while also being most memorable to your guests? Small weddings are a wonderful opportunity to make your guests feel extra loved and appreciated, while also making time for YOU to truly experience the celebrations.
Small celebrations mean being able to create moments for memory-making with every single guest, and also investing a proportionately larger portion of your budget per person – which, if done in an intentional way, can be a recipe for a truly unforgettable day. Here are some ideas for hosting a chic, private gathering with your nearest and dearest:
- If you’re in the process of researching venues for your intimate celebration, broaden your search away from hotels and over to restaurants, hotel suites, galleries, gardens, wine bars, and even nightclubs. Many of these will be able to offer you really unique private spaces, with great indoor and outdoor options, as well as gourmet food and curated decor that won’t need much embellishment. If you’re open to hosting your intimate wedding on a weekday and out of peak season (i.e. not in summer) you’ll have an even broader choice of venues. Think about whether you have any favourite spots that you can share with your guests. Another option for small weddings is to use your own family homes or hire a private home – both of which give you great flexibility.
- With a small guest list, you’ll have more agility to have a destination wedding, so definitely don’t rule that out! If there is somewhere you’ve always dreamed of seeing, or a favourite spot on the map that you know makes you happy, why not take your closest loved ones there to celebrate with you? Travel plans will be easier to coordinate when you don’t have many people joining you, and you’ll be able to genuinely enjoy being with your guests with all the excitement of an awesome holiday.
- Choosing a venue with enough accommodation for all your guests to stay together is easier when your guest list is smaller, and is a wonderful way to ensure the experience is extra magical. There is just something about the complicity and intimacy of exploring a place together that will make you all feel emotionally closer and more present.
- If you do have a favourite venue and it happens to be a large hotel, ask them whether they have any smaller rooms you could hire privately – or a small wing of the building that could be closed off for you to have a more exclusive experience. Feeling like you have the place to yourself is particularly important for small weddings, and something to keep in mind when you’re narrowing down your venue choice: make sure to ask them whether any other guests or events will be sharing the same spaces or areas. Boutique hotels are great for this more personal experience: my go-to places to discover new venues for small weddings are Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Mr and Mrs Smith, Suitcase Magazine, Great Small Hotels, and Conde Nast Traveller. Think outside the box about where you host each part of the celebration, and consider whether you can use any overlooked spaces or areas that the venue wouldn’t normally be able to use for larger groups.
- If you’re using a wedding venue space that is quite vast, and need to adapt it for a smaller guest list, you can add flair by using more considered design elements. Ideas for this could be: opting for dim and cosy lighting, using creative seating and table layouts, using part of the room as a sofa and armchair lounge, hiring in a gorgeous bar, and adding interactive food and drink stations. For your ceremony, why not seat everyone in a circle around you, so everyone has the best seat in the house? When it comes to the design of your intimate wedding, do consider all the elements that will create the ambience: tables, lights, plants, fabrics, music, scented candles, and much more. Your tables should have enough detail to tell your story, but enough breathing room that guests feel comfortable and cosy: give them plenty of elbow room, easy access to drink, and clear eye-level height to hold conversations. Low and lush flowers and candles are a great way to make tables feel luxurious and snug, as are textured and coloured linens. If you want to add to that wow-factor, ask your florist for some artful hanging installations, blurring that line between flowers and art. Dining on a long banquet table or a U-shape is a fantastic option for small weddings because this set up is more informal and inclusive, and also has a more modern and contemporary look than using multiple round tables.
- As there aren’t many guests, it is generally easier to introduce details like family heirlooms and hand-finished touches – like embroidered napkins, handwritten menus, personalised notes, or etched metal. Small weddings allow you to go hyper-custom in a way that would usually be financially prohibitive for larger parties – so make the most of it! For example, working with a stationer to create a completely bespoke invitation suite is a really impactful way to intrigue and excite your guests for what’s to come. You could have something made into a box, or go for handwritten calligraphy on something other than paper (the sky is the limit!). This theme of personalisation can continue then with a custom welcome box for each guest waiting for them in their bedroom – which is particularly touching for destination weddings, or celebrations where some guests have travelled quite far. You could also write personalised thank you notes for each guest, which is something truly special that only a small guest list could realistically allow for.
- Although you may feel that your small wedding isn’t on the same scale as a larger event, do make sure the flow and timeline of the day is still crisp and clear to everyone on the team – make sure not to neglect any of the details, and, if you can, hire a planner or on-the-day coordinator to help you host a truly seamless experience for everyone. A good timeline helps tell your story, and excellent service is even more important when the guest list is small.
- When it comes to allocating your budget, prioritise those elements that will make your guests feel truly looked after – and upgrade as much of the experience as your budget allows. Curating a menu of fine food and wine pairings, or personalised dessert selections for example, is something every guest will be able to truly enjoy and remember. Live music also makes a world of a difference, but make sure you hire a small group of musicians so you can avoid the performance feeling overpowering. Think about every part of the guest journey, and how you can enrich the experience: what can you do to make your guests feel as comfortable and welcome as possible? What unexpected surprises can you delight them with? What elements can you make unique to each guest? I would also encourage you not to worry about entertaining your guests with add-ons, unless it’s something you’re excited about; you’ll be spending much more one-on-one time with you guests, and they’ll be much more captivated by spending time together than taking photos in a photobooth for example.
- With a small wedding, working with experienced photographers and videographers is even more important – they need to know how to blend in, how to be unobtrusive, and how to become a part of the day that your guests remember fondly. Every single staff member is all the more noticeable when there aren’t many guests, and your photographer needs to be able to integrate seamlessly into that atmosphere of familiarity, intimacy, and joy. Hire a trusted professional who will capture the moments you’ll treasure most, in the most natural and genuine way.
- As you research the area that you’ve chosen to host your celebration in, find out whether there are any exciting activities you could offer your guests before and after the wedding day. A small guest count gives you the opportunity to spend intimate time with your friends and family over the course of multiple days. One way that I’ve seen couples continue the celebrations is by hosting a chic little afterparty at their favourite bar after the wedding day is “officially” over.
I hope this has all been inspiring for you! If you would like any support planning your intimate wedding or elopement, I would love to hear from you – you can reach me through my contact page or directly on my email address at email@example.com.
All photos in this blog post were taken by the very lovely Lydia Harper