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20+ Small Wedding Ideas [Updated for 2024]

Bigger isn’t always better, and a lot of couples have realized planning a big, traditional wedding is something not worth the hassle and stress. Small weddings are trending not only because they are easier on the couple’s mental health and wallet but also because they’re more intimate. Instead of jumping from table to table trying to say hi to every guest, couples are opting for a smaller crowd to get more quality time with their guests and each other as newlyweds. Some couples are even thinking about planning a more intimate event by planning a micro wedding or eloping instead! Thinking about planning a small wedding this year? Check out these small wedding ideas to get started.

Ready to start planning your small wedding? Start with finding a place to elope or explore our elopement directory to team up with the best vendors who specialize in small, intimate weddings. 

Small Wedding Ideas You Can Steal

Opt For a Destination Wedding Location

The best thing about keeping your wedding guest list small? Being able to plan a destination wedding with your closest family and friends! This is something we are very familiar with at Wandering Weddings. We have seen couples plan elopements, micro weddings, and even small weddings at some of the coolest locations around the world.

Not sure where exactly to plan your small wedding? Check out our top places to elope to get a better idea of some of the most popular wedding locations to visit, perfect for adventurous couples.

Look Into All-Inclusive Small Wedding Packages

If you’re going the destination wedding route, then look into all-inclusive wedding packages! A lot of wedding destinations, especially tropical ones, will offer an all-inclusive package for couples to help them save time, money, and stress. However, a pro tip we have for all-inclusive packages is to bring your own photographer and videographer to get the best quality pictures and video.

Another idea, especially if you’re planning a small adventure wedding, is to talk to your vendors about the packages they offer! A lot of times, these vendors will include all-inclusive planning in their packages too.

Check out our elopement packages to get an idea!

Plan a Backyard Wedding

A small wedding typically fits comfortably in a backyard, making a backyard wedding an affordable and DIY option for couples looking to save during their special day. Having a small backyard wedding is also a great idea for couples who don’t want to be restricted by time limits from traditional wedding venues. To make the most of your intimate setting, consider exploring various wedding photography poses that can highlight the unique charm of a backyard celebration. If you also want to be in the comfort of your own home or a family/friend’s home, this is a great idea.

Check out these 21 small backyard wedding ideas!

Celebrate at Your Favorite Restaurant

Since you’re not going to have 100+ guests attending your wedding, you can consider choosing a nontraditional venue space, like your favorite restaurant. You can pick a spot you both eat at regularly or a nice restaurant near an area where you both are adventuring earlier in the day. We have had couples plan at a fancy 5 Michelin star restaurant and then couples who keep things simple and eat at In and Out (pictured above).

Get Married at an Airbnb or Rental Property

If you and your family have virtually a non-existent backyard, then it may be time to check out rental properties in the area you want to get married. A lot of times, these properties will need a heads-up if you’re planning a small wedding. They may even include some extra fees. It’s important to be fully transparent with the property owners to avoid any extra fees or problems during your big day.

Read what you need to know when planning an Airbnb wedding venue.

Incorporate a Unique Activity on Your Wedding Day

Are you both adventurous and looking for a fun activity to incorporate during your day? Think about incorporating something you both love. This can be a brunch before your wedding day or even visiting the zoo if you both love animals like the couple pictured above. The sky is the limit and with a small guest list, you can opt for activities that would otherwise be impossible or way too costly with a larger group of people.

Opt for a Unique Ceremony Location

Another awesome feature that comes with planning a small wedding is being able to have your ceremony at more unique and intimate locations, like in a national park. These locations usually can’t be accessed when you have a big wedding guest list. So as you explore different wedding venues, ask about any ceremony options that can accommodate a small wedding party. You will be surprised at some of the cool locations available.

Plan a Small Beach Wedding

Not sure where to plan your wedding? A small beach wedding is perfect for couples who love the water and who don’t want to worry about decorations. A lot of beach locations are also more affordable! Just make sure to verify if a permit is required. Another great idea is to rent a property that has a beach view in the background to get the best of both worlds (beach wedding and backyard wedding).

Keep Your Wedding Party Small or Ditch It Entirely

having a small wedding party or none at all during your wedding

Photo by Elopements by Erin

Have you ever been to a big traditional wedding where the couple has over 10 people walk down the aisle? The idea of a wedding party accompanying you during your wedding day is a very traditional one. It also encompasses a lot of planning and stress for the couple keeping track of extra people and what they’re wearing.

If you want a simple, small wedding, then a great idea is to keep your wedding party small or ditch it entirely. If you still love the idea of having a maid of honor/ best man, then do it, but only do it if you feel connected to the idea!

Splurge on a Small Wedding Cake

One of our favorite small wedding ideas is incorporating a small wedding cake during your celebration. Have you ever been to a big wedding where the cake is less than desirable because it’s so big? Splurge on buying a small wedding cake from your favorite bakery to give your taste buds a treat.

Have a Signature Cocktail Experience

Signature cocktails anyone? Yes, please! A small wedding idea you can incorporate is an interactive cocktail moment where your guests can learn how to make your favorite cocktail on your wedding day. You can have all the ingredients laid out, or you can have a bartender walk guests through how to make one!

Have a Standing Wedding Ceremony

deciding to have a standing wedding ceremony

Photography by Catchfly Photography

Weddings usually entail a bunch of details that can easily add up in price, including chairs at the ceremony, where your guests will sit just for the ceremony and then never use again. Since you’re having a small wedding, you can easily opt for a standing wedding. If you feel uncomfortable with this idea for some of your guests, then you can include a couple of chairs for your older guests or guests who need accessibility.

Set Up a Family Style Reception

Small weddings also give you the option to have a small family-style reception. This can include anything from arranging a long table to hosting a potluck dinner filled with foods your guests helped make for your special day. Wedding receptions don’t need to come with a hefty price tag, and a family-style reception allows you to keep things as simple or as fancy as you want. Thinking about splurging on a chef for you and your guests? A small wedding allows you to easily do that without the stress of breaking the bank!

Plan an Intimate Boat Dinner

Having a smaller group of people allows you to splurge on fun experiences like a private boat ride dinner where they catch and cook your lobster meal right then and there (pictured above). Private boat rides are a great way to incorporate a fun ceremony and a fun reception in one.

Plan a Weekday, Sunrise, or Sunset Ceremony

When you plan a traditional wedding, you have to, unfortunately, plan around other people’s schedules. This is why the weekends are by far the most popular times to get married. With small weddings, however, couples can plan a weekday, sunrise, or even sunset ceremony without the stress of having people give them a hard time. Sunrise and sunset ceremonies are also great to beat the heat, beat the crowds, and get the most epic photos from your photographer!

Splurge On Wedding Details You Love

Splurge on wedding decorations during your ceremony

Planning & Design by Ember & Stone Events | Photography by Kassie Gunn Photography

Weddings are expensive! It’s no surprise that so many couples are deciding to elope or plan a small wedding. The average cost of a wedding is over $30,000, and that continues to rise each year. The cost to elope or plan a small wedding can be as low as $5,000! The money you save on your wedding ceremony and reception can easily give you room to spend money on details you love such as personalized vow books, unique wedding arch, or that wedding accessory you’ve been eyeing.

Invite Guests Virtually For The Ceremony

Just because you have a small wedding, does not mean you have to leave people out of your ceremony. Within the last couple of years, virtual weddings have become more popular and acceptable for couples to plan. This is your reminder that it’s 100% ok to invite your immediate family and friends to the actual ceremony and send e-invites for other relatives and friends to celebrate with you virtually!

Make or Buy a Small Wedding Bouquet

One of the biggest expenses during weddings is the flowers! Believe it or not, prices really add up, especially if you’re having a bridal party. Bridal bouquets alone can range from $250 to over $350. If you’re having a small wedding, then an idea can be to actually make your own bouquet to save some money or talk to a florist about making a small bouquet instead of a big one.

Include Family During The Ceremony

Having a small, intimate wedding ceremony allows you to include loved ones without worrying about hurting other family members’ feelings for not including them. Some ideas you can include during your wedding are having a friend or family member officiate your ceremony, say a prayer, or lead a ritual.

Make it a Multi-Day Adventure

Looking for a small wedding idea that can be fun for everyone? Make your wedding a multi-day adventure! This can easily be done by planning a destination wedding or even planning your ceremony one day and your reception the next. You can even plan to do cool activities like surfing, snowboarding, hiking, or even fishing! Who said your wedding had to last only one day?!

How to Plan a Small Wedding

So how do you plan a small wedding? How does a small wedding differ from how to elope? Think about planning a small wedding like planning a micro wedding. Essentially you’re keeping your wedding guest list small (no more than 40 people), and you’re incorporating some traditional wedding features and traditions.

If you’re loving our small wedding ideas, feel free to use this list as a checklist when planning your small wedding together:

  1. Create your ideal wedding vision. Think about what style, theme, and overall vibe you want to incorporate during your big day. Do you imagine something extravagant or simple and laidback?
  2. Set a wedding budget. Determine how much you’re willing to spend on your wedding day. Even if you decide to plan a small wedding, there are ways costs can add up really quickly. Our best advice is to outline your budget into categories and prioritize based on what you value most.
  3. Decide who you’re inviting to your small wedding. Start small and list the immediate family and closest friends you want to invite. Set a maximum number, so you can keep you wedding small and manageable.
  4. Think about where you’re going to have your ceremony and reception (if you’re having a reception). You can keep things as simple or extravagant as you want. You can elope at Yosemite National Park and then later have a family dinner at your Airbnb.
  5. Think about your wedding attire!
  6. Hire awesome wedding vendors you connect with.
  7. Make sure you have the logistics down-packed. Make sure you have your permits, wedding license, and timeline all laid out.
  8. Send your invitations or Invite others virtually
  9. Create a cash fund registry

How Many Guests Are Considered a Small Wedding?

Small weddings are intimate. Think of a small wedding as less than 40 people. If you’re easily feeling overwhelmed with the thought of chatting with the people on your wedding guest list, then consider cutting down your list.

A small wedding guest list should allow you to have meaningful conversations with your guests and partner, without worrying about bouncing from table to table all night long. Another good way to think about what is considered a small wedding is to think about the number of people that can fit comfortably in a backyard.

Types of Small Weddings:

  • Intimate Wedding: Usually between 20-50 guests.
  • Micro Wedding: Typically 10-20 guests.
  • Mini Wedding: Usually includes up to 10 guests.
  • Elopement: Often just the couple, the officiant, and a few witnesses, if any.

How Do I Decide Who to Invite to My Small Wedding?

Now that you know small weddings are about 40 people, how do you decide who to invite? Our best advice is to stick to immediate family and close friends. Invite the people who make you happy and you want to be there on your big day versus who you feel obligated to invite.

If you’re still struggling with your wedding guest list, then consider inviting a bigger group virtually to see your ceremony and keep your wedding list so small that it can be a micro wedding or even elopement!

How Much Does a Small Wedding Cost?

We mentioned this before, but weddings are expensive! While a big wedding can cost around $30,000, small weddings can cost as little as $5,000. It all depends on what ideas you want to include during your small wedding. If you DIY everything, for example, you may be able to really cut down your cost! With that being said, you can also spend way more on a small wedding if you want a luxurious wedding with a small number of people.

Tips to Save Money on a Small Wedding

  • Venue Flexibility: Choose non-traditional venues like a public park, a family member’s backyard, or a rental.
  • Off-Peak Dates: Consider getting married on a weekday or during the off-season to take advantage of lower venue and vendor rates.
  • DIY Elements: Create your own decor, invitations, and even bouquets to save money.
  • Simple Catering: Opt for a less formal meal, like a buffet, BBQ, or food truck, which can be more affordable than a plated dinner.
  • Limit Extras: Focus on what’s most important to you and skip expensive extras like elaborate decor or a large wedding party.

Are you thinking about planning a small wedding? Check out our other resources to help!

Photography by Catchfly Photography

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