How to plan the perfect intimate wedding for a small number of guests
Celebrating on a smaller scale is not a new idea by any standards. It’s long been a tradition and preference – even for celebrities, who choose to share their special day with only a select few. Jay-Z and Beyoncé invited a mere 40 guests to their 2008 wedding, while Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis married in a private ceremony in 2015.
Small weddings can be just as moving and are often much more affordable – especially if you consider that the average UK wedding now costs £16,005, compared to £15,171 in 2019. But don’t be fooled: even planning a small wedding is no easy feat – whether you’re inviting 30 guests or 300. To help you, we’ve distilled five expert tips for a classic ’boutique’ wedding.
How to plan a small wedding
1. DO spend time on your guest list
A small wedding is only small if the number of guests are, but keeping numbers down when writing your invite lists can be hard. Thinking about the people you stay in contact with the most is an easy place to start. If you haven’t caught up with them in over a year and they aren’t a close family member, then they probably shouldn’t be on the list.
“It’s important to share your day with those who mean the most to you as this will make your special day even more memorable – don’t stress over inviting your Great Aunt’s daughter who you have never met,” says Luxury Events Planner Hannah Evitts.
Another way of whittling down your numbers is to think about whether you’d be willing to spend several hundreds of pounds on a meal with them outside of this event (but of course don’t tell people this).
2. DO think about the finer things
One of the best things about keeping things small scale is that there’s more opportunity when it comes to making choices. Personalised table settings with monochrome napkins or exclusive tableware will make things extra special on the big day. “It’s the intricate touches that will really excite your guests and will ensure they’ll remember your special day for years to come,” says Jess Martin, wedding planning expert at wedding and party supplies company Ginger Ray.
“When it comes to table decor, hanging glass tealight holders make an ideal centrepiece. Add a snippet of Gypsophila to make an adorable finishing touch to the setting, and as the daylight fades, the lit candles create a dreamy, cosy atmosphere to an intimate wedding.” It’s also worth thinking about incorporating family heirlooms into the day such as fine china and silverware or pick a place out of the ordinary to get hitched.
3. DON’T feel as if you have to stay local
While travelling abroad may still be out of the question for many, it is no longer necessary to stay local for your big day. Restrictions allow for a more interesting wedding destination or venue in the UK, should you and your guests be willing to travel. That being said, if you and your guests are happy to take the necessary precautions to travel to certain countries, weddings don’t even need to be restricted to the UK anymore.
4. DON’T forget the live band
A small wedding will still benefit from a live band so don’t forget the party music on your special day. Evitts believes this is where you should really invest: “Having a live band or musicians create an energy and atmosphere like no other whether it’s for your ceremony, wedding breakfast or the cocktail reception, tailoring each performance throughout the day,” she says.
Also, leave room for song suggestions from the audience if you want to keep people out of their seats. Depending on just how small scale you’re opting for your wedding, remember to take into account the number of musicians in your chosen band as having more players than guests could become awkward.
5. DO splurge on food
This is where most people optimise on a smaller scale wedding with a smaller number of guests. You have fewer mouths to feed so why not make the meal extra special by going all out. You can either go for the finest food and wine your budget allows or simply add in more courses and wine pairings. You can also customise each meal to the person eating it if the numbers are small enough (and you have the time to plan for it) – something more extravagant weddings don’t always allow for.
“It doesn’t need to be the main event,” says Evitt. “However you do need to ensure the food is to an excellent standard. Regardless of where you get married or how big or small your wedding may be. My advice would be to always have a tasting of both the food and beverages beforehand so you know exactly the quality and what will be served on your day.”
6. DO be creative
Handwritten menus and invitations, handmade gifts, macaroons with small notes on them. These are all elements of your wedding planning that are trickier if the number of guests is too high. But, if you do it right, it can be really charming – although it’s always worth having a Plan B in case it all goes wrong. If you’re worried about getting creative, a small (and not so taxing) gesture can also go a long way such as a simple welcome basket, a selection of gifts either for them to use during the event or to take with them when they leave which can include fruit, chocolate or even wine.
“This is where you can support small businesses in adding those personable touches. Consider bespoke made wedding favours for your guests to display at each table setting,” says Evitts. “It always seems a great idea to be crafty yourself, however unless you are super organised and have a flare for crafts I would say leave it to the professionals.”
What are your tips and tricks for planning a small, intimate wedding? Tell us in the comments below