Many couples have been searching for creative small wedding ideas in light of the recent social distancing rules in 2020.
While an intimate wedding may not have been your original plan, they do have many advantages beyond having a smaller budget:
- You’ll get all the fanfare of the big day, but with much less time spent planning it
- Fewer guests means more one-on-one time with each of them to have real conversation and make memories, not just small talk
- With a much smaller guest list, you’ll have a larger budget for premium menus, specialty cocktails, dreamy flower arrangements, and bouquets
- Small weddings can often take advantage of unique venue options that cannot accommodate large guest lists of 100+
“Consider areas that are often overlooked, like the library of a large historic estate.”Francie Dorman of 42 North, Brides.com
The Guest List
Paring down your guest list is always the hardest part of planning a small wedding. Keep it to close friends and family, you can always choose to have a large reception with everyone at a later date when the current attendance rules are relaxed.
Here are a few other options we’ve seen done well for the guests who cannot attend:
- Send out a wedding announcement with a keepsake photo
- Deliver small gifts as the wedding announcement (for example, a bottle of wine with your wedding photo and date)
- Host a drop-in or BBQ so everyone can get a chance to congratulate the newlyweds
- Ask your wedding planner or venue about live streaming options
Once the guest list is finalized, the fun part begins – brainstorming unique ways to create an intimate (socially distanced) ceremony and reception.
35 Small Wedding Ideas
As a long-time venue in London, we’ve seen many stunning small wedding ideas at Elsie Perrin Williams Estate and Grosvenor Lodge.
From gorgeous garden ceremonies to intimate dining hall receptions, couples and planners have left us in awe of their creativity. Here’s a collection of the most unique ideas we’ve seen so far.
Small Wedding Ceremony Ideas
Personalize the ceremony with contributions from the guests
Ask your guests to contribute words of wisdom for the bride and groom to be shared by a loved one or the officiant during the ceremony.
Consider a non-traditional wedding space
When you need room for 150+ people, it narrows down your selection of venues. That’s why a small wedding is your chance to think beyond the traditional hall. Restaurants, historic buildings, parks, and private homes are all options you could explore.
Have a “wedding parade” ceremony celebration
Once you’ve said I do, all of your friends and family will be waiting in a parade of cars for a contact-free congratulations! You can encourage your guests to make signs and add decorations to their cars. Some people also set up a table for guests to grab a thank you gift as they head home.
Use a circle seating pattern
Instead of side-by-side rows of chairs, arrange your guests in a socially-distanced circle around the bride and groom as they say their vows. Not only will everyone be able to sit comfortably, but they’ll have a good view.
Give your guests a “reception-in-a-bag”
You can have as many as 50 guests at your wedding ceremony as of June 2020, but receptions are still a maximum of 10 guests. So when you have to say goodbye to some of your party after you say “I do”, you can send them home with a creative adult gift bag. Think of items like a bottle of wedding wine, two portions of wedding cake, and a small flower arrangement.
Personalized Stationary for Small Weddings
Send handwritten invites to your guests
Consider setting the intimate wedding feel from the start by sending a handwritten invite on beautiful stationary to your guests. You can add a touch of formality with a custom wax seal, too.
Use custom artwork for invitations
Hiring an artist to create custom artwork for your invitations takes it to a new level of personalization. You could have them recreate an illustration of your venue or perhaps an engagement photo of the couple.
Create Ultra-Deluxe Place Cards
Think extravagant place settings that are beyond paper. Oyster shell trimmed with gold? Carved wood slice? Custom mirror with calligraphy? The sky is the limit.
Create Personal Menus
Give each guest a personalized menu at their place setting with their specific meal choices (for example, a vegetarian or vegan menu.)
Use calligraphy for all your print pieces
Calligraphy is very trendy right now and we can see why. It adds a personal, delicate touch to your table setting, menus, welcome signage, and invitations.
Give each guest a personal note
Leave a handwritten note at each place setting addressed to that specific guest. Think of it like a personalized thank-you card.
Small Wedding Menu & Drink Ideas
Upgrade to a seven-course meal
Amuse-bouche, appetizers, aperitif, fresh seafood station – go all-out for yourself and your guests! Make a meal to remember.
Buy milestone bottles of wine
Instead of the mass produced two bottles per table, you can splurge and buy wines that represent different milestone years of your relationship. For example, 2 years dating = two year old wine served with the first course, 4 years ago you met = 4 year old wine served with the main course, and so on.
Champagne toast speeches
Usually just reserved for the head table, now all of your guests can partake in a champagne toast to the bride and groom. This is also a good time to replace speeches with more personal toasts from each guest (or a few chosen attendees.)
Hire a food or drink truck during cocktail hour
You’ll likely have more guests at your ceremony than at your reception due to the current guest list restrictions, but that doesn’t mean you have to send them home with an empty stomach! Let your ceremony guests mingle with drinks and socially-distanced snacks before and after the big moment by hiring a food or drink truck to “attend” your outdoor ceremony.
(Remember, always work with your vendors for specific permissions and restrictions regarding your small wedding ideas.)
Add food stations or table-side service
Skip the family-style food service and spring for that upgraded elegance and formality. Table side caesar salad to start the meal? A chef-manned carving station? Or end dinner with flaming cocktails? This extra bit of flair will leave your guests saying wow.
Have breakfast for dinner
If you think wedding menus are all the same, have you ever been to a Sunday brunch style wedding? A sunny outdoor ceremony, bottomless mimosas, and a waffle wedding cake to help you celebrate all afternoon. Perfect for a smaller, more casual lunch wedding, but don’t worry – you can always add a bit of extravagance to the menu! Did someone say eggs benedict serving station?
Decor Inspiration for Small Weddings
Use soft lighting to create intimacy
With a small guest list, the bright lights of a big hall can illuminate the empty space and kill the mood. Use an assortment of lighting to create intimate spaces for your guests to relax and dine. Think lamps, fairy lights, Edison lights, lanterns, glowing orbs, tea lights, chandeliers, and tapered candles.
Use lush table garlands
Your dinner guests with be safely spaced out at the table leaving extra room. Don’t leave it looking empty – it’s the perfect opportunity for lush table garlands. Having the garlands trail beyond the table also adds some extravagance to your rustic garden dinner.
Use vintage china and silver
Upgrading your china and silverware is a simple way to add more elegance to your table. Some families have china or silverware that has been in the family for generations, adding a sentimental touch too.
Experiment with creative table layouts
Five sweetheart tables for your 10 guests? One large round table that seats everyone? A large, elegant banquet table weaving through a garden setting? The space is yours to create a unique layout for your guests. Just make sure they can always access food, drink, and conversation.
Try different shapes and sizes of tables
Extra-large tables can add a feeling of grandeur, especially with fewer people all dining together at with magnificent table settings. Round or U-shaped tables are classic wedding-planner choices for creating an intimate “across the table” feel.
Create a lounge space to break up the room or area
Adding a lounge area to your reception space not only gives you another decor focal point, but it also gives your guests a place to relax and socialize after dinner. Smaller weddings allow for more conversation, plus they can relax with a few drinks before they hit the dance floor!
Use deluxe linens and table clothes
Embroidered napkins, beautiful table overlays – no need to scrimp on the linens when they can add a luxurious feel to your table setting. Small wedding ideas are all about attention to detail.
Make a flower arrangement for each table setting
Typically you’d make a centrepiece for every table, but since there may only be one or two you could make a small floral arrangement for each guest. It could be used to hold the place card or menu, a boutonnière or corsage for your guests to wear, or as a thank you gift.
Dine under an overheard floral arrangement
Moss, trailing greens, lush florals, and soft fairy lights can hang overhead as you and your guests make conversation and enjoy dinner. Not only is it trendy, but it also helps to fill the space.
Just remember whatever type of centrepiece you choose, it can’t block guests from seeing one another.
Add a chandelier to your ceremony or reception
Nothing says elegance like a chandelier. Some venues will even offer this as an upgrade, but it makes an excellent focal point and can be adorned with delicate greens and florals for a summer night’s dream feel.
Bring the outdoors inside with greenery
Another idea for filling out the room! Large plants and trees not only help to take up space, but they also create a magical atmosphere.
Use high-top tables to create a dance floor
Dance floors are a challenge under new social distancing rules, but planners and couples and rising to the occasion to be creative. Using high-top tables on your dance floor helps to space people out in clusters from one another, instead of being in one big group. (We see this small wedding idea becoming popular at all weddings.)
Try a multi-room venue
Estates and private homes with multiple rooms are an ideal choice for smaller weddings because the rooms are not as large and easily filled. Also, your guests can move from one room to the other as the wedding progresses. Ceremony in the garden, cocktails in the library, dinner in the dining room, and dancing under the stars on the patio.
“Tiffany Rivera of Simply Breathe Events also suggests looking into beautiful private homes (that aren’t your own), which give you the flexibility to move between spaces and make your wedding day really cost-efficient.”Brides.com
Small Wedding Entertainment
Replace the DJ with a band
Instead of crowd-pleasers and group dance numbers, have a pianist, instrumental trio, or a small band serenade your wedding and set the mood from ceremony to dinner to dancing.
Plan conversation starters and games for after dinner
After dinner, retire to your lounge area and keep the conversation and drinks flowing with some silly wedding games – modified for a small group. Make them more interactive, for example if you want to play the shoe game, have guests write down their guesses as they go and the person who gets the most right wins!
Get creative with special dances
You may not have enough guests to do a “single ladies” dance or others, but you can still have special dances! For example, have each song associated with a memory that all (or most) of your guests will remember:
- Mom and Dad’s wedding song
- Bride and friends favourite singalong song
- Grandma’s favourite song
Ditch the photo booth for more photography
With a limited number of guests, an excellent photographer will have ample opportunity to take photos of you with all of your guests. Many of our smaller weddings take time to tour the grounds together and make use of a wide variety of backdrops.
Personal thank you gift
The small number of guests you have at your wedding will be your closest family and friends that you know so well. Instead picking something small that you can give out to 200 people, you can pick a personal thank-you gift that you know they will love.