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My top 5 ideas for a small intimate wedding

photography of couple at thier small intimate wedding day in wellington

While I do love capturing a big, busy, crazy wedding day, since COVID hit in early 2020, those have been few and far between! Most people are opting for a pared back small intimate wedding day – and to be honest, I can’t get enough of it!

From a photographer’s point of view, it means I can really focus on capturing the special people you’ve chosen to be there – enjoying every moment, celebrating, laughing, all those gorgeous candid shots. With less guests to cover, things have a more relaxed vibe, and there’s more flexibility and time to focus on those intricate details and touches that make your wedding day special too. 

Today, I’m sharing my top small wedding ideas, tips and tricks, to inspire your wedding planning and reassure you that there’s nothing quite like an intimate small wedding day.  

When creating your guest list, don’t be afraid to be ruthless when planning for a small small wedding!
There are no two ways about it. If you want to keep your wedding small, this is the only way it’s going to happen! You have to be okay with the possibility of not having every single person you want there. Sometimes, it’s because of COVID level restrictions. Sometimes it’s because they can’t travel to where your wedding is taking place (and again, thanks COVID!). And sometimes, it might be because you have decided not to invite them because you don’t feel 100% comfortable with having them there on your special day – and that is okay.

As my mum said to me when we were planning our wedding – invite those people that are in your lives now, and that you want to be in your lives going forward. Those that aren’t invited will understand if they genuinely love you, and will realise it’s a tricky decision and it’s not always within your control. As for those who don’t understand – are they really worth wasting the energy stressing over?

Grab that red pen and start using it. Small means different things to different people – personally, from a business point of view, I view anything with 40 or less people as small. Decide on your maximum number and stick to it, but don’t forget to have a “second place” list of those that you would like to have but can’t fit in your first selection. That way if someone can’t make it, you will know straight away who you want to take their place.

Just because it’s a small wedding doesn’t mean the budget has to be.
There is a misconception out there that because you are having a small wedding you have a small budget.  This isn’t necessarily the case, and choosing to have fewer guests often means you can prioritise your budget elsewhere, and splash out on the things that really matter to you!

 I have shot a number of intimate small weddings that had budgets way larger than those with guest lists five times the size, and trust me when I say they were amazing! There is a lot more you can do with a standard budget but a quarter of the guests. Choose unique locations, go for your favourite fancy champagne, serve up a 10 course degustation menu or stay in luxury accommodation. Work out what you want to spend first, then work out your top priorities and work your way down the list. Still keep track of your budget effectively, but know you’ve got a little bit more room to move.

If you would prefer a smaller budget, a smaller intimate wedding can lend itself perfectly too! Less money on guest dinners, drinks and canapes can make a big difference to the budget overall. 

Choose a location that suits the size of your small intimate wedding.
Guest list? Check. Budget? Check. Now it’s time to choose your venue. 

While there are some incredible large venues, with a small guest list it can make the space look empty. If you’re choosing to hold a small intimate wedding, I’d recommend taking a look at some gorgeous, boutique, small venues that are specifically designed for occasions like yours. There are so many stunning restaurants, homesteads and locations that wouldn’t fit a large wedding group, but would be the perfect size for your day!

One of my Wellington favourites is the Carter Observatory in the Wellington Botanic Gardens – imagine having your reception under the stars in their projection room! Or why not book out a beautiful villa in the Wairarapa and make a long weekend of it with ten of your closest people.

Don’t forget you can always livestream your small intimate wedding.
This rollercoaster of a year has brought with it some incredible streaming technology, so now your far-away loved ones can experience the day via livestream! There are a bunch of amazing local companies that can help you with this too, so you don’t have to stress about tech failures or tricky setups. 

I’ve shot a few weddings recently that embraced livestream technology, and it was such a lovely way to include people from afar. Family and friends overseas held viewing parties and got together in small groups, dressing up in their finest clothes for the occasion, and cracking open the bubbly even if it was 5am on the other side of the world! I’ve even seen some of the best speeches of the season told through the screen. If you decide to livestream your event, I’d recommend setting aside some time during the day to talk with those that can’t be there in person – just like you’d talk to them if they were there. 

Just because the wedding is small and intimate, it doesn’t mean the party has to be!
If you’re wanting a small ceremony to make the most of a small venue or to keep things intimate, it doesn’t mean that the reception has to be small as well! You could opt for a ceremony with your ten nearest and dearest, and then invite the rest to join when the band kicks off later in the evening! I’ve photographed a number of weddings like this over the years, and it works fantastically! You get the best of both types of wedding, plenty of time to spend with those closest to you, and then get time to raise the roof with everybody else.

If you love this idea but don’t want to split your day, or can’t invite the crew because of restrictions, you could choose to have a small wedding day but host a party the next week, month or year. It also makes a pretty sweet way to celebrate your one year wedding anniversary!

Ryan and Renee hosted a beautiful small intimate wedding day at Foxglove, a gorgeous and classic Wellington wedding venue. These two opted for having just their immediate family for the ceremony and dinner, and then opened up the doors for the rest of their friends and family to join them for cake, speeches and dancing. Scroll on to check out some photos – I’m pretty sure it’ll convince you that a small ceremony is the way to go!

Don’t forget you can find out more about my wedding photography here, see what I have been up to on my Facebook feed here.