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Planning A Small, Intimate Wedding

The last twelve months have been extremely challenging, especially for weddings.  We’ve had some form of restrictions in place throughout the last year and as a result couples have only been able to hold a small wedding.  And whilst we’re all hopeful the restrictions will be lifted in June, we just don’t know yet if this is definitely going to happen.  We’re all used to things changing quickly now aren’t we!?Planning a Small, Intimate Wedding

Because of this many couples are planning a small, intimate wedding as they just want to be married and be able to start their new lives as a married couple.  They’re then planning a bigger celebration at a later date when restrictions have been able to be eased.

Even before Covid turned our world upside down, the popularity of small weddings was rising and I think that’s going to continue for a while now.

Small weddings are just as beautiful and often more emotional than a big day as you’re surrounded by your nearest and dearest.  So let’s have a look at what is involved in planning a small wedding.  There’s still a lot to consider and you might want to change some of your original plans and ideas.


The Legalities

Let’s start with this as you will still need to go through the legal process of giving notice of marriage if you’re having a civil ceremony.  This  must be done at least 28 days before your wedding in the register office nearest to your home.

You will also need to ensure that you can book a registrar to perform your ceremony, whether that be at a register office or a licensed venue.  Check the website for your local register office for details on their booking process.  Many offices are experiencing delays right now so don’t assume you will be able to get the date you want.  Make sure you do this as early as possible to avoid disappointment later on.

You can see more info on the legal process for civil and church weddings here.


Your Venue

You need to think carefully about your choice of venue for this type of wedding.  Your venue is always important but if there’s going to be less than 30 guests at your wedding, then you probably don’t want to choose a venue with huge rooms.

Somewhere with a series of smaller room which will be more intimate is best.  You don’t want your guests to look lost in the room and for it to be a big empty echoey space.

Ask potential venues about minimum numbers that you need to book for.  And ask them about their experience of hosting small weddings and any tips of how previous couples have made use of the space.

If you already had a larger venue booked, then talk to them about they can adapt the space to accommodate a smaller number of guests.  Maybe they can close off part of a room or use screens to create more intimate spaces.

A table setting for an intimate wedding



Your Guest List

This is potentially going to be a tricky one for you so take plenty of time to think this through.  Make sure you’re clear on the current restrictions too.  Right now, it’s 15 people which includes children and the two of you.  But any freelance suppliers such as your photographer and any venue staff are not included in your numbers.  This is obviously subject to change so make sure you check the latest regs here.

Start with those closest to you who are absolute must haves and then work out from there.  You’ll probably need to exclude people who you don’t see very often.  But really think about your day and who you want to spend it with.  With a small wedding, you’re going to have the luxury of having more time to spend with each guest so make sure they are people you love the most and really want to share your day with.

People will understand that your guest list has had to be restricted.  But be honest and up front about your situation, especially if you’re having to ‘uninvite’ people from your original wedding.  I also think it’s better to tell people individually of your decisions, don’t send a blanket email or group text.


Using Your Budget Wisely

If you’re planning to have a big celebration as well at a later date, maybe when restrictions are able to be eased, then you need to approach your budget differently.

So if you’re planning 2 events, then you need to split your budget across them and decide how much you want to spend on each one.  If your big celebration will have all elements of a wedding, except the legal ceremony, then you’re going to need to save a healthy chunk of your overall budget for it.

However, if you’ve decided to go with the small wedding and leave it at that, then you need to think about how much of your original wedding budget you’re happy to spend on a smaller day.  If you go with the original or a similar amount, you can probably afford a few luxuries that a bigger guest list wouldn’t allow.  For example, you might be able to serve champagne to your guests instead of prosecco.  You might also consider including plenty of personalised details for your guests like individual menus, place cards and unique favours.


Bride & Groom at an Intimate table setting


Your Décor

A smaller wedding lends itself really well to more opulent décor.  If you only have a small number of tables to decorate, then go for the wow factor.  It’s also worth considering any décor you would like for your ceremony room. Candles always intimacy and for a bigger wow factor, consider a hanging installation of florals over your tables

Maybe you could provide a buttonhole or corsage for all your guests rather than just your bridal party.  Could you hire in beautiful table linens, crockery and glassware?

Planning an Intimate Wedding



Food & Drink

Having less guests to feed may mean that you can afford to up the ante on your catering choices.  Maybe you can now afford to give your guests a choice of meal and you can choose the more expensive options.

Do you want to make everyone’s drinks included for the day?  Maybe you could ask your bar team to create a couple of personalised cocktails to be served to your guests.

I hope this has helped to get you off to a good start with planning your small wedding.  Remember why you are doing this – it’s all about starting your new life together as soon as possible and sharing the day with your nearest and dearest.  If you’re not quite ready to ditch the big wedding party, you can still do this later. Doing this on your 1st anniversary is a lovely touch and will give you the best of both worlds.

If you need some help to guide you through the changes to your original plans and ensure you have the best day ever, then get in touch and let’s chat.  There’s lots of ways I can help you from an hour’s focused support right through to full wedding planning.


(*originally published in September 2020 and updated in April 2021)

Louise Wearmouth, Founder of Your Fabulous Wedding