Small weddings are the best. Here’s why.

March 30, 2017
san francisco redwood trees small wedding photography

You get to cherry pick what traditional elements you want.

Lose the bouquet toss but keep the cake? Or ditch being walked up the aisle but yes to a flowy white dress? With a small wedding you don’t have to stick with the format of the typical wedding. But neither do you have to reinvent the wheel. Pick and choose what you want! Maybe you want the traditional format but with way fewer people.

You surround yourself with people who love you and know you.

Weddings are so personal. They’re about love, vulnerability, promises. They’re about new chapters and old memories with a ton of tears and laughter thrown in. Do you really want to experience all that with your dad’s golf buddy? Some brides are surprised how weird it felt to be the center of attention for hours on end. Keeping it intimate allows for much rawer emotion!

You can customize everything to suit your own tastes.

Wedding vendors usually have a way of working that they’ve refined over the years. It allows them to be most efficient. Sometimes their systems cannot accommodate unusual requests or small orders. Vendors that sit outside the mainstream are used to honoring unique creative visions. The same goes for DIYing your wedding. You can make it totally yours.

You can save money or splurge more on whatever it is you value

One of the myths of intimate weddings is that the term is a byword for ‘budget wedding’. Not so, at all. In fact, what they afford is flexibility. You can choose where to splurge and where to save. You could splurge on an 8-course tasting menu with fine wine pairings. Doable for a small group!

beautifully curated wedding details

Your wedding can be your own creation

You decide what your priorities are! Do you prefer brunch or an elegant cocktail reception? A dessert extravaganza or high tea at the best hotel in town? A luxury tasting menu at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Europe? An outdoor picnic potluck at midnight? A dance party in the woods? The possibilities are endless. Think deeply about what feels like you. When you stumble on it, you’ll know! It’s becoming more of a trend to begin your own traditions that you revisit every anniversary.

You can have your pick of venues, even very unusual ones!

Typical wedding venues exist to accommodate an average-sized group. Often it won’t make financial sense to rent them for a small wedding. That’s when a whole world of non-wedding venue spaces opens up for you! Everything from restaurants to non-profits, backyards to festivals, historical inns to aquariums, forests to museums, beaches to bookshops. Want an underwater ceremony? Go for it! There is no ‘book of intimate venues’. Get married where you like to be.

It is a more authentic reflection of your personalities and values.

When you customize every little thing that is part of your wedding, it’s an intentional choice. You start with zero expectations, and add in whatever you desire. That’s the beauty of intimate weddings – you make the decisions. They are as unique as you are, a creation borne out of your joint values. Check in with each other throughout the planning process and keep asking ‘is this really us?’

Your guests will feel like participants, not spectators.

One of the biggest regrets of those who have big weddings is that they didn’t spend enough time with each guest. With fewer guests you can cherish everyone that made the effort to be there, with no pressure to ‘get to everybody’. Each person will feel truly valued. You can encourage the informal sharing of stories. With a small enough group, you can keep things cozy by sharing one table. Your guests will get to know one another!

wedding guests canoodling on a pink couch

Your guests could provide all the help you need so it stays very intimate.

You can create with your own hands many of the aspects of your wedding if you so desire. You could ask guests to help out and donate their own unique talents instead of a traditional gift. It’s possible to have a wedding so low-key that you choose not to use any outside vendors. While I will be sad, this can be a good solution for those who value true intimacy and do not want any strangers present.

You get to stand up to everyone who opposes it, and feel great about it.

You may come up against some flak from people who are opposed to your getting married without them. But that will only strengthen your resolve to stay true to yourselves. Having a small wedding is a conscious decision. If people can’t support you and give you their blessing, that says more about them than about you. Besides, if almost everyone is equally excluded, what’s the problem here?

You will experience less pressure because there’s less expectation.

Your guests will have been to many typical weddings, maybe even opting for one themselves. The truth is, attending these weddings can be both boring and stressful. Also they so often get compared to one another! Some people subconsciously outdo those in the same friend group. You can let go of that nagging sense of comparison when you ditch the norm and embrace the unexpected.

It doesn’t have to be wedding-y.

Do something truly groundbreaking if that’s you. I’ve heard of couples going on cross-country road-trips visiting friends along the way. Or doing something life-changing for someone else in the form of a charity gift or time donation. Your wedding vision itself might not look anything like a wedding. You might try a pool party with beer & barbecue or a rave in the woods or a guerrilla ceremony in park, or an elopement to your bucket-list destination!

bride celebrating wedding with a pint in oakland bar cato's ale house

Less chance of something going wrong – just roll with it!

More moving parts, more people and a long day can increase the likelihood of mishaps. Intimate weddings are often a lot more relaxed than larger ones. There may be fewer elements involved. They’re about everyone enjoying themselves with intentionality and joy. If something gets skipped out or forgotten, forget about it and move on!

You can savor your day wholly and completely

Your wedding day goes by in a blur. Part of the reason for this is that the schedule is packed full of traditions that make up the entire timeline. It’s easy to see how with the schedule so tightly packed, the day goes by in a whirlwind of photo-op moments. You can bring slowness to proceedings by embracing only the traditions that resonate.

You can be more adventurous.

You can be adventurous as regards what you do and also where you go! Keeping it to close kin only opens up a world of adventure weddings in which you can go off the beaten path. You can literally forge your own path on a mindful group hike. So many of us love being outdoors and experiencing nature, so why stay cooped up in a hotel function room? Is there a cathedral grander than a redwood grove?

Your wedding will be very memorable.

Yours will be the one where everyone hiked for an hour from their campsite at dawn. Or the wedding where they picked pumpkins and took part in an escape room adventure. Or the one where they climbed aboard a hot air balloon at 5am. It will inspire others to plan weddings that are authentic to them in a meaningful way. Your wedding will stand apart from every other wedding, ever.

santa Cruz aptos ca wedding hike

Zoe Larkin is a San Francisco-based wedding photographer & fine art graduate originally from London. She specializes in photographing intimate weddings for joyful, free-thinking couples in the SF Bay Area. Her work has been published on A Practical Wedding, Offbeat Bride, Equally Wed, One Fab Day, Catalyst Wed Co and Rock n’ Roll Bride among others. She adores simplicity, kindness & Earl Grey. Zoe is an equality-minded vendor that celebrates diversity in all its forms. Read more about Zoe here.