9 Small-Wedding Ideas for a Perfectly Intimate Celebration

Updated 06/20/19

Jess Levin Conroy began her career at Burch Creative Capital, where she helped manage investments and brand development for a portfolio that included C. Wonder and Tory Burch LLC. After earning her MBA at NYU’s Stern School of Business, Jess saw an opportunity in the wedding space to help empower the businesses at the top end of the market. She founded Carats & Cake in 2013 in New York City. To date, the company works with over 25,000 businesses across the U.S. and has become the go-to resource for couples looking for the best the wedding industry has to offer.

Typically, when you think of the ultimate wedding, soaring guest counts, full weekend agendas, and over-the-top elements come to mind. Whether it’s for a full weekend in Aspen or somewhere more tropical, generally the thought process is bigger is better. While it can be fun to invite every single person you know, there is something to be said for hosting an intimate affair. Small weddings are the perfect opportunity to make your guests feel extra special (while also reclaiming time to truly experience your own big event), and the smaller headcount provides the opportunity to do things that you couldn’t at a larger scale, from unique entertaining ideas to more customized dining options.

For those of you thinking that a small wedding, whether that means inviting 100 or 10 people, might be the way to go, we reached out to some of the wedding industry’s best to get the inside scoop on throwing the ultimate intimate wedding. Ahead, scroll down to learn about their 9 best small wedding ideas for throwing the perfect intimate wedding, plus 21 additional ideas from us.

Make It a Destination

Destination Wedding
Jose Villa

“When hosting a boutique wedding, couples have more agility to go somewhere exciting to make memories, be it the Napa wine country or somewhere beachy.” — Stephanie Cole and Sarah Drake, founders, Cole Drake Events

Make Welcome Gifts More Personal

Wedding Favors
Liz Banfield

“Make your guests feel special. Possibly drop off brunch boxes the night of the wedding for the next morning, or leave special messages in their guest rooms each evening with small gifts of what’s to come all the way until they depart.” — Renny Pedersen, owner and wedding director, Bliss Weddings & Events

Get Creative With Your Ceremony

Small Wedding Ceremony
Jose Villa

“With a smaller guest count, clients can throw out traditional ceremony norms! The trend now for smaller weddings is to create an intimate ceremony in the round so everyone can get a bird’s-eye view.” — Danielle Elder, owner and principal planner, Classic Events

Make Your Entertainment Over the Top

Small Wedding Entertainment
Jose Villa

“If you want more of a party atmosphere rather than simply a dinner reception, go over the top with the entertainment to keep your guests’ attention. This can be a dance performance, a photo booth, or even a themed entertainer like a murder mystery game.” — Wendy Kay, owner and creative director, Birds of a Feather Events

Ditch the Microphone

Small Wedding
O’Malley Photographers

“Consider forgoing a microphone during the ceremony if your officiant is happy to project into the crowd. Sometimes the lack of a microphone can lend to the intimate atmosphere.” — Alex Chalk, senior planner, Taylor’d Events Group

Splurge on Lush Place Settings

Wedding Table Place Settings
Michele Beckwith

“When you only have a small group to entertain, you can treat them to the most beautiful china, special surprises at their seats, and monogrammed linens.” — Chelsey Morrison, owner and principal designer, Gather Together

Plan Events Around the Wedding

Small Wedding Ideas
Jimmy Ryan Photography

“Whether you whisk guests off to Tuscany and rent a villa with a private chef for everyone to enjoy or head to Provence where you plan wine and cheese tastings to experience the culture, think about more than just the wedding itself. A small guest count gives you the opportunity to create events surrounding the main affair to entertain and spend intimate time with your friends and family.” — Cristina Verger, founder, Cristina Verger Event Planning & Production

Indulge in the Cuisine

Wedding Cake
Eric Kelley

“If you’re a foodie, splurge on a five-course gourmet meal, complete with tableside preparations or carvings.” — Courtney Wolf, wedding planner, Invision Events

Small-Wedding Ideas
Meg Smith Photography

“If you can, host everyone at one big table for your dinner. It makes the event feel like a truly intimate gathering rather than a ‘wedding banquet.’” — Jenna Lam, founder and creative director, Jenna Lam Events

And now, to keep the wedding inspiration going, here are 21 more creative ways to make your small wedding extra special:

  • Choose a local, yet unexpected wedding venue, like a museum, a brewery, or secret garden
  • Squeeze everyone into a group photo—impossible to manage with a much larger group
  • Have an at-home wedding for an ultra cozy affair
  • Get married during off-peak times, such as during the week, when vendors are likely more available and affordable
  • Mix up your seating plans (how about a semi-circle formation instead of traditional rows?) so everyone gets the best seat in the house
  • Host an afterparty at your favorite dive bar
  • Tie the knot at City Hall and throw a blowout reception
  • Forgo the caterer and hire your favorite food truck (or two!)
  • For super small, casual weddings: Have a potluck and ask guests to bring their favorite family recipes
  • Elope!
  • Go nuts with décor personalization: Think everything from welcome notes, place cards, to gift bags and centerpieces
  • Forget the traditional reception and throw a casual party at a bar or restaurant
  • Make it more personal and ask for wedding help in place of wedding gift; your social circle probably has a sharp photographer, talented musician, crafty decorator to lean on
  • Peruse your local university's music department; there are bound to be some students who could be available for your wedding's musical accompaniment
  • Opt for a small bridal party
  • Offer a pre-ceremony cocktail and mocktail and serve a signature drink to kick things off
  • Stock your own bar (though check with your venue first) for a customized experience
  • At the reception, pass the mic around and make it an "open mic night" for guests to say a few impromptu words
  • Get interactive and bust out the lawn and board games, and "build-your-own" sweet treat station
  • Set up a lounge area or fire pit for everyone to gather around
  • For fun, poll the crowd during the reception for first anniversary ideas to tips for blissful married life

Add These to Your Wedding Registry

Linen Double Hemstitch Napkin
Williams Sonoma Linen Double Hemstitch Napkin $40 $6
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Dualit New Generation Classic 2-Slice Toaster
Williams Sonoma Dualit New Generation Classic 2-Slice Toaster $300 $240
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AERIN Scalloped Rim Salad Plates
Williams Sonoma Aerin Scalloped Rim Salad Plates $52 $13
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Mortar & Pestle
Emile Henry Mortar & Pestle $40
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KitchenAid Pro Line Series Blender
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