How to Plan a Small Wedding

I LOVE intimate weddings, and lucky for me, the popularity of intimate weddings have been on the rise for years now becoming more and more popular for couples across the US. There are SO many reasons why you might want to host a small wedding for your day, from the ease of planning to budget, to really just wanting to spend time with each of your guests. If you haven't been to a small wedding or if you just aren't quite sure where to start in planning, this blog is for you ! Let's go over what you need to know about planning a small wedding.

Newlyweds and wedding party stand together in front off massive rock wall

What is Considered a Small Wedding

With the popularity of smaller weddings on the rise, I thought we would start with identifying exactly what a small wedding is. According to Brides.com a small wedding is a wedding with less than 50 guests. Not to be confused with an elopement, a wedding with less than 10 people, and an intimate wedding with 50 to 75 guests.


Why You Might opt for a Small Wedding

There are SO many reasons that make smaller weddings a great option for a lot of couples. Smaller weddings in most cases mean that there will be less planning and more flexibility in your day. With fewer guests and more intimate wedding venues.


A smaller wedding means less planning and stress leading up to your wedding day. There are fewer moving parts and variables to keep track of meaning you get to spend more time with each of your guests and loved ones during your wedding. It also gives you a ton more flexibility when you’re finding a venue since more locations will be able to accommodate your guest list. While a small wedding may not be for everyone it is a great option that can be a great fit for a lot of couples.


Create a Vision

It’s important when in the early stages of planning your small wedding that you and your lover are on the same page. Sit down with your partner and begin putting together a vision for what you want your day to be like. Who do you want present? What are your must-haves in terms of vendors? Where would you like to get married? What kind of experience would you like to have on your wedding day? Once you have a rough plan for your day, it'll be time to start talking about it with friends and family.

Photo of two brides backs laughing during their wedding reception

How to Prep Your Family

When you start to plan out your small wedding it’s important that you start letting your friends and family in on your plans early on. This goes for both those that are and are not attending. Approach your planning with a vision, figure out who you both must have at your wedding, and start to plan around that. Once you’re sure about your invite list and the size you’re going for, start to discuss your plans with all of your people.


This can look like a lot of different things depending on your family and circle of friends. A good rule of thumb though is the earlier you talk about it the better. If your family talks about weddings openly you can even start to get the idea in their head before you’re engaged. Casually mention that you plan to have a smaller wedding while daydreaming about the day with your family. If your people need a more direct approach, invite friends and family over for dinner to discuss your plans. News like this spreads like wildfire in most families so be prepared for that as well !


Set a Budget

Believe it or not, just because a wedding is on the smaller side, doesn’t mean that the wedding will be less expensive ! Though they can be less expensive, smaller weddings really offer you flexibility when it comes to planning. Rather than spending that money on guests, you can opt instead for an activity, your dream venue, or that wedding vendor you’ve always wanted.


In general, smaller wedding budgets will primarily be spent on a photographer, venue and your meal. With having a smaller vendor team you will have a lot of flexibility in how your budget is distributed amongst vendors. The flexibility in the budget is one of the best parts of planning a small wedding. Book your dream photographer, head to your favorite restaurant instead of a formal venue, or if you're not feeling centerpieces, rely on your venue décor instead.


Choose a Venue

Depending on your planning process and what your timeline looks like this may happen before you start to tell your family about your small wedding plans. Choosing a venue can actually be a great way to break the news of a small wedding to your family as a lot of venues have a guest limit. Typically smaller venues give your wedding a more unique feel to the day and the celebration as a whole which is another reason why their popularity is on the rise.


Talk with your lover about your vision for what the wedding looks like. What are your plans for the ceremony and reception? Will everyone be there for the ceremony or only a few? Do you want each part of the wedding day at the same location? Make sure that you’re both on the same page and find a venue that fits your guest list and the vision you’re dreaming of.

Book Your Vendors

The next step in planning out your small wedding is to find vendors. When looking for vendors you'll want to find vendors that fit the vision you two have put together. Soon after you book your venue, you will want to begin looking at wedding photographers. Searching Instagram for hashtags like #milwaukeeweddingphotographer or #wisconsinwedding will point you in the right direction for finding your photographer. Or if you're here for me you can just head on over to my contact page !


Another great way to find wedding photographers is to look up your wedding venue on Instagram or Google and look for photos of the location you like. Once you find one, follow the link to see who took the photo you found. For more info on how to choose the right photographer for you check out my blog post here. Next on your priority list should be your food. This can vary depending on your venue’s food policy, so be sure that your venue allows outside food if that’s what you’re looking for !


For the rest of your vendors, it depends on what you envision for your small wedding. Think about the decorations you want, if you want a videographer and if you want a DJ or live band. Before you book your vendors though, make sure to check in with your venue for any rules or guidelines they might have in terms of events.


Make Your Guest List

Initially, it can be a little intimidating having to work around a smaller guest list. I promise you'll be able to see, that it's worth it when you get to your day. As you make your list, start with the must-haves, AKA the people you're closest to. Once you have those people listed, gradually start adding other people that you would like to have there with you. Continue to do this until you reach your guest cap.


After you've created your list, if there are people in your life who are feeling excluded, offer a thoughtful explanation for why you've opted for a smaller wedding day. Remember, there’s also nothing stopping you from getting together with any friends you don’t invite at a later date to celebrate your marriage on your own terms.


Plan Your Day

When it comes to planning a smaller wedding, the smaller guest list gives you a lot of flexibility with what you can do throughout your day. One of the best perks of having a smaller guest list is the opportunity to spend a little bit of time with each guest you have in attendance. On top of that, it becomes easier to schedule in time for just the two of you. I HIGHLY recommend doing this as it will help you to soak in your day and stop to really appreciate all of the people who are a part of it. Between the alone time and time with your guests, your day will have a great intimate feel. If you need help planning everything else that goes into your day, check out this blog post on creating an intimate wedding day timeline here !

Photo of a bride and her father after walking up the aisle of their wedding ceremony under a wooden gazebo in a field

Planning your small wedding is by no means a small task, but with these tips in mind, you should be able to plan the wedding of your dreams. Remember to work through all the planning with your lover and make sure you’re both on the same page so that you both end up with a day you love and can look back on forever !

2.png