Whether you’ve always dreamt of celebrating your nuptials with a small, cozy gathering of loved ones or were forced to revise your guest size due to the impact of COVID-19, there’s no question: smaller weddings are becoming more and more popular. And with a smaller count comes a larger opportunity to “wine and dine” your nearest and dearest; which is why we’re here (along with some industry experts) to give you some ideas on how to elevate your intimate wedding for a smaller guest count.
BIGGER ISN'T ALWAYS BETTER
It can be heartbreaking to downsize your wedding, whether it be due to events out of your control or overall budget concerns. But shifting your focus, re-envisioning your day, and adjusting your plan (and budget) are all that it takes to create an elevated, Pinterest-perfect occasion that guests will remember forever. After all, there are many joys and advantages to hosting an event with a smaller guest count – one being that your big day budget can be stretched much further.
LESS IS MORE
Think about this: a smaller wedding involves less people, less invitations, less table settings, less food/alcohol, less waste… you get the gist. By cutting your guest count, you’ve increased the financial freedom to share the love in all areas of your budget to make each element of your wedding that much more special.
Now you have the ability to indulge in plated dinners over a buffet, specialty cocktails over a cash bar, and decadent desserts over a small cake. Less guests mean more funds to work with, so now is your opportunity to splurge wisely. There are four common areas that you can hone-in on when looking to elevate your intimate wedding day experience, both for yourself and your guests.
1. DESIGN & DÉCOR
The first and maybe the most obvious place to start is with the design and decorations of your event. It’s time to pull out that Pinterest board to find those envy-worthy photos that you pinned early in planning. What in those pictures made your heart swoon? Was it a flower wall ceremony backdrop or a jaw-dropping cake design that you found yourself enamored with? With a smaller guest count, you can now focus on these elements with more capability of bringing them to life on your wedding day.
From colorfully bold to timelessly beautiful, flowers make a statement and define the look of your wedding. And by incorporating floral in so many ways, from your bouquet, to the ceremony arch, to the reception centerpieces, it is an easy design area to add more “wow” factor. You can choose to add large statement blooms to your arrangements to really give them a punch of color and style. Or you can take your previous floral plans and elevate them by increasing their size and number of blooms.
Our friend and floral designer Sarah, from Bergamot & Ivy shares her advice, “One of the great challenges of a large wedding is trying to stretch your budget to cover everything while still creating a beautiful event. When you have more to work with, you can add personal touches through floral. That may mean a sprig of fragrant rosemary tucked into the napkin at each place setting or lush garden-inspired centerpieces that you have always dreamed of!” From large arrangements to small personal touches like Sarah mentioned, floral is an easy go-to for visual upgrades to a wedding.
The other design component of a wedding is the rentals. From furniture settings to linens, charger plates to glassware, there are so many options available for you to choose from that being able to splurge in this area feels more like a shopping-spree than a daunting wedding task. And now that you don’t have to worry about creating the look for 300 guests, you won’t be hindered by limited quantities of items that you really love. Dell Ann, the owner of Supply Event Rentals & Design shares her recent experience, “With smaller wedding sizes, we are seeing specialty chairs implemented into design along with upgrades to chargers, napkins, flatware and glassware. Smaller guest counts are the perfect setting to elevate your intimate wedding and implement lounges, unique seating options, and floor plans that larger guest counts will not permit. Think texture and layers in all aspects of the design.”
2. FOOD & BEVERAGE
Having the ability to splurge on the culinary experience at your wedding is a foodie’s dream. To start, you can completely eliminate the need for a buffet (and the long line that comes with it) because with a smaller group of guests, a plated dinner immediately makes more sense. You and your guests can now be served by experienced staff, not only your dinner, but your drinks as well. That’s right, the bar line is now gone too – cheers to that!
Not only can you elevate your intimate wedding with the food service at your event, but also the meal itself. Now that you’ve ditched the large guest count and the buffet line, the sky’s the limit on what you can serve at your reception, as well as the number of options. With a large guest count, you typically pick one entree for all of the guests to receive, but with a more intimate wedding you are able to provide your guests a choice of which meal they would like to pick for themselves. From steak to sea bass, and side options galore, you can cut loose with your caterer for some culinary fun to serve up at your wedding.
Don’t leave behind the beverages; with a smaller guest count you can splurge on hiring an entertaining mixologist or arrange for an on-site vintage beverage truck, such as Fizzolino, for some truly unique experiences.
3. MEMORABLE GUEST EXPERIENCES
Your wedding day will undoubtedly be memorable to you, but there are also ways that you can create lasting memories for your guests as well. The tried-and-true photo booth is always a good place to start, but kick it up a notch by adding video or an awe-inspiring backdrop. Neon signs are the hottest trend right now for photo backdrops – pair it with a boxwood wall or flower wall and you’ll have an instant hit. Or check out Icon Event Group’s 360-degree video booth that will capture the fun in live action. Over photo booths? What about a late-night cotton candy vendor, such as Cottontale KC, spinning live at your event? That is sure to bring out the kid in everyone!
For a more classy keepsake, Cindy Scott Artistry can do a live painting of your event — right while it is going on — that guests can observe and watch develop throughout the evening. And the best part there is that you can take it home and hang it as a memento of your wedding day. When hosting a more intimate wedding, there are endless opportunities to incorporate a memorable experience for your guest, and it doesn’t have to put your budget in a pinch to do so!
4. GUEST RECOGNITION
Now that you don’t have the pressure to invite distant relatives or acquaintances, it’s time to make sure that those that are in attendance are really shown the love! Not only will you be able to spend more time visiting with each of your guests, you have the time to make a genuine effort to add personal touches that will show them that you were thinking of them on your day.
Before the wedding day, you can write thank you notes to all of your loved ones to hand out first thing in the morning. Share your love and appreciation for them, along with thanking them for being a part of your day.
For some ideas on how to recognize your guests, we reached out to Megan Ibarra, owner of Little Yellow Leaf. She’s a local designer that commonly works on custom pieces for weddings. “I think it’s important for couples to remember that their love and union is an occasion to celebrate, however that may look and fit in their story! They could create a keepsake invitation for a private ceremony and intimate dinner, or personalized thank you notes for guests at each place setting. Or they could create monogrammed linen napkins, place cards, and menu cards with their new shared initials. Now is the time for couples to really think through and execute small details for their loved ones.”
Now get out there and elevate your intimate wedding!