I recently read that smaller weddings were becoming more 'on trend' these days. While I don't truly believe that anyone creates their guest list based on what’s considered 'trendy". I do think that more couples are forgoing the expectations and pressures of wedding culture and focusing on what's most important to them, leading to smaller weddings in some cases. As a card-carrying member of the small wedding club, I wanted to give some first hand perspective of the real truths, both the shiny and the dark ones, about having a small wedding.
My own wedding was an intimate weekend for 45 people at a quaint farm outside of Chicago. From the very start of our planning, we knew a small wedding was the best fit for us. Looking back, I wouldn't change that and I also learned a lot about what having a small wedding really meant:
The Harder Truths:
1) There will be hard cuts from your guest list, and they will be emotionally hard.
This might be the most obvious truth on this list, and also the one that catches you most off guard. When you have a small wedding, there will be many more people who you DON'T get to invite than who you do. You will still see and interact with these people throughout your engagement and many will want to know how your planning is going and hear about your wedding after the fact. For me this was personally the hardest aspect. I felt uncomfortable at best and incredibly guilty at worst when interacting with people who definitely would have been on the guests list if we had invited 100+ people. I know the same was true for our parents as well, which was also hard for me. Knowing that we were making the right decision for us was ultimately what really gave me strength through some of those harder moments.
2) Having a small wedding does not in any way equal having a 'cheap' wedding.
While many of your expenses will be controlled by your guest count, some things will cost the same regardless. It is SO TRUE that your guest count is one of the biggest factors in your overall wedding budget. More guests means that you need more food, alcohol, tables, centerpieces, seats on your shuttles, etc. There is no denying that reducing your guest count is the very best way to help control expenses. However, having a small wedding does not in any way equal having a 'cheap' wedding. Some things will cost the same amount regardless of your guest count. Your wedding dress is the same price no matter how many people see you wear it. Your venue rental will likely be the same flat fee if you invite 50 guests or max out their space. If you're considering a small wedding as a cost-savings measure, know that it's a bit of a trade-off. Your per-person costs will be higher even if your total overall budget is lower. When you choose to have a small wedding, you are really making the decision to invest in those select people who are attending.
The Worthwhile Benefits:
1) The synergy that happens with a small group is magic!
There is a certain kind of magical energy that happens when a group of people come together for the same purpose. With a small wedding, your guests are much more likely to move through the events of your wedding weekend as one group. This can be especially true when you have groups of people from different stages of your life who are all meeting for the first time. They come with a common bond (you) and a shared purpose (celebrating you) and that opens up kinships and friendships that may last long after your wedding day is over.
2) It’s very possible to have (a lot) of face to face time with every one of your guests
Your wedding weekend will go by incredibly fast. With large guests counts it's not always possible or expected that you will get much individual time with your guests. One of the biggest benefits of a small wedding is the ability to spend more time with each person. A few ways we facilitated this at our wedding was by selecting a hotel for the group that had a large communal lobby area, hosting a casual welcome party for all guests the night before our wedding, and hosting an after-party for guests back in that same hotel lobby. We created multiple opportunities to spend time with all of our guests, and at the end of the weekend left feeling like we really got quality time with each of them.
3) An all wedding group photo!
Cheesy? Yes, very much so! But worth it! I did not go into our wedding planning with the express wishes of having a group photo. It honestly never even occurred to me. Our incredible wedding photographer, Maria Harte Photography, made that happen, and it's one of my favorite photos from the night. I love that I can look at this photo and it brings back memories of everyone I got to hug and celebrate with that weekend.
So what do you think? Is having a small wedding the right choice for you? To learn more about how to plan your wedding around what matters most, check out the Wedding Planning Basics Series. Part 1 walks you through all the steps in how to set the values and intentions most important for your wedding day.