Everything You Need to Know
While intimate weddings may seem like a new development, elopements and small intimate weddings have always been part of the cultural landscape. From eloping in Europe to having a small, family-focused wedding in a private home, the intimate wedding has a long and romantic history in nearly every part of the world.
Choosing a micro wedding comes with some important advantages:
- Lower costs: The average costs for a traditional wedding in 2020 were more than $20,000. By contrast, the cost of an intimate wedding is usually less than half that amount. Your mini wedding can be as lavish or as minimalistic as your budget allows. Since you are planning for fewer guests, you may find that you can afford much more luxurious venues, catering or dining options, and attire.
- Increased closeness with friends and family: One major advantage of limiting your guest list is having the ability to spend time with those who matter most to you. Larger weddings can make it difficult to connect with close friends and family members (After all, it’s hard to have a substantial chat with 200+ people in one night!). Going small in the number of people you invite will often allow you to spend more of your time with your guests and can turn intimate weddings into bonding opportunities for you and your loved ones.
- Destination weddings are more practical: It’s no surprise that destination weddings can be expensive for you and for your guests. But opting for an intimate wedding or an elopement can often help you to manage the costs of travel for yourself, your partner, and your invited guests. This can make your dream of an exotic wedding in a distant location a more practical option.
- Added control over details: With larger weddings, it can become difficult to manage all the small details that go into making your ceremony and reception truly special. But planning a small wedding can often allow you and your partner to take a hands-on approach to every aspect of your event and the intimate wedding ideas that come with the planning process. By scaling down your guest list, you can also expand the possibilities available with your current budget too.
Our directory of intimate weddings will help inspire those interested in a mini wedding. And below, we’ll cover all the basics, including the reasons for considering this type of wedding and how limiting the number of guests can help you go bigger in other ways. This guide will also provide advice on how to plan an intimate wedding that will create lasting memories for you, your partner, and the people who matter most to you.
What is an intimate wedding?
The average wedding size in 2019 was 131 guests. Over the past couple of years, however, restrictions on public gatherings have limited the number of guests at pandemic weddings. And though the average guest count is expected to return to pre-pandemic numbers, this era has paved the way for micro weddings and putting a greater focus on family and close friends.
But what exactly is considered a small wedding? Intimate weddings usually include between 20 and 50 guests. Elopement weddings, by contrast, generally involve only the happy couple and two witnesses (one of whom is likely the wedding officiant). These intimate weddings for two are romantic and whimsical—and affordable to boot.
There are many reasons to consider a mini wedding rather than a large-scale event. Here are some of the most compelling reasons (plus a few small wedding ideas) to consider this type of wedding for your once-in-a-lifetime event.
What are the benefits of having an intimate wedding?
Your Budget Goes Further at a Micro Wedding
Elopement weddings are frequently associated with star-crossed lovers who are escaping from restrictive parents or unfortunate circumstances. Today, however, it is far more likely that eloping couples are looking to avoid the structure of formal weddings and all the expenses that go with them. Intimate weddings give you and your partner the opportunity to create the most incredible wedding memories, without worrying about cost or logistics of a larger affair.
“Intimate” doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a party, though. A micro wedding is a recommended compromise for those considering an elopement versus a more traditional wedding with an extensive guest list. These intimate weddings allow you to keep a small-but-mighty guest list, comprising your closest friends and family. With mini weddings, you can have this cozy, loving event and still fill up a dance floor.
The average cost of wedding catering in the United States ranges between $27 per plate for buffets and $40 per plated meal. This does not include tips for the caterer, which usually amounts to 20 percent of the overall cost of the catering. Factoring in the cost of catering is an important consideration when answering the question, "How much does a small wedding cost?"
Elopements and small intimate weddings can take much of the financial stress out of the equation for you, your partner, and your respective families. Small wedding venues for 20 guests typically cost much less to rent than larger venues. Additionally, you may be able to reduce or eliminate the cost of printed wedding invitations by limiting your guest list to those you know well and see regularly.
So, how much does a small wedding cost? The answer is really up to you and your partner. Discussing your priorities when planning the budget for your wedding can help you learn more about each other and can ensure that your small wedding creates a lasting impact for those who attend and for the happy couple.
Intimate Weddings Make Far-Away Destinations More Feasible
If you are planning a destination wedding, smaller is often better in terms of guest count and travel costs. By limiting your guest list to a select few, you can often take advantage of lower rates associated with small wedding venues for 20 guests or fewer. Some venues may offer discounts for small weddings or elopements too. It may be worth checking with your venue to determine what is considered a small wedding for these purposes.
Depending on your budget and the location you choose, you may be able to reserve a block of rooms or even an entire boutique hotel for your guests. This can afford you some additional privacy for your intimate wedding. And by keeping your ceremony and reception well below the average wedding size, you can enjoy the wedding of your dreams at a fraction of the cost of a traditional destination wedding.
Intimate Wedding Venues Mean You Have the Place to Yourself
Whether you are looking into vineyard wedding venues or staying close to home for your mini wedding, you can often find boutique hotels near your intimate wedding venue. Small intimate wedding venues can help you to avoid crowds and focus on your partner and your guests.
If you are planning to elope, intimate weddings for two are often far cheaper than even the smallest micro wedding. This could allow you and your partner to indulge in a luxury hotel suite for your wedding night or a honeymoon trip to an exotic locale. If you wanted a slightly larger event, some of the more unconventional small wedding venues for 20 guests or fewer may include the following options:
- Private residences: In some cases, you may be able to rent a residence for the weekend that will serve as the backdrop for your small wedding and reception. This can also allow you and your guests to mingle in a quiet and private environment before, during and after the wedding ceremony. You could also ask a loved one if you could host your event at their home for an even more special intimate wedding venue.
- Restaurants: Some restaurants can serve as small intimate wedding venues. If you and your partner have a favorite restaurant, you can contact them to ask if they offer this service and to determine availability for the timeframe you are considering.
- Entertainment venues: Small concert venues, amusement parks, and nature trails may be available for small intimate weddings and receptions. While it may not be practical to rent the entire venue, it’s possible that you can choose a particular spot to rent for your ceremony.
- Riverboats: One of the most unique small wedding venues for 20 guests or fewer, scheduling your mini wedding on a riverboat can create a memorable experience for you and the few people on your guest list.
- Museums: A favored spot for boho weddings, some smaller museums provide micro wedding packages that can allow you to enjoy a stunning venue for your ceremony.
The options for small wedding venues for 20 guests are near-limitless. By exploring all your options and coming up with your own intimate wedding ideas for small intimate weddings, you can create a memorable event for a much smaller investment than what would usually be required for a traditional wedding. With an abbreviated guest list, you also have the luxury of feeling more creative with a variety of intimate wedding ideas.
Micro Weddings Can Shorten Your Timeline
Because of the smaller number of guests, planning for your mini wedding can often be completed in weeks rather than months. Your small wedding ideas can go from inspiration to reality without some of the delays that usually accompany traditional weddings, such as finding an available date for your chosen venue (depending on your desired destination, of course) and waiting for responses to wedding invitations. Make sure to keep in mind that if you’re planning a destination wedding, you do need significant lead time for your guests to plan their domestic or international travel.
Choosing a mini wedding rather than a large-scale event can allow you to have a shorter engagement period and may shorten your wait for an available venue. Micro wedding venues are more likely to be available on short notice. Even if you do have to wait a month or two, your intimate wedding venue will usually be available long before larger wedding venues have a free date to schedule your wedding.
By working with a qualified wedding planner for your mini wedding, you can often find the perfect small intimate wedding venues and micro wedding packages. Your wedding planner can help to keep your costs low while ensuring the most memorable event for you, your partner, and your guests. Plus, your planning expert can typically provide you with ideas for an intimate wedding and can streamline the small wedding planning process for you and your partner.
Customize More for Your Guests at an Intimate Wedding
Spending less on a lavish and elaborate ceremony and reception can allow you to give your guests additional amenities as part of your intimate wedding. These may include some or all of the following options:
- Personalized welcome bags
- Custom and curated favors
- Upgraded catering options for fewer guests
While it’s possible to provide these to guests for any style of wedding, more intimate gatherings certainly make the process easier when it comes to adding special touches to the day. Couples who choose intimate weddings might prioritize having significant quality time with their loved ones on their big day. By sharing this special day with the ones who matter most to you and your partner, you can create lasting memories with your family members and friends.
Intimate Weddings Mean You Can Hire the Top Pros
Planning your intimate wedding can be a challenging process, but you don’t need to keep your team of pros small. Selecting the right experts can help couples create the most memorable intimate weddings. For starters, a wedding planner can provide you with guidance on how to plan an intimate wedding from start to finish.
Working with the right vendors can help you find the perfect micro wedding venues and the best intimate wedding ideas to create the right atmosphere for your ceremony and reception. The ideal intimate wedding venue can have a real impact on the experience for everyone at your wedding.
Professional wedding planners and companies are well-versed in the latest trends for intimate weddings, and they can give you a manageable wedding planning checklist and intimate wedding ideas that will make your mini wedding something truly special. If you are wondering how to plan an intimate wedding and all that goes into one, your planner will have the answers you need.
For your intimate wedding, you’ll want a photographer to help capture those unforgettable moments. Couples also might want a videographer there to capture the most beautiful scenes at their intimate weddings. Make sure to check with your venue, and see if they have micro wedding packages that include photography and videography. Checking with micro wedding venues before the big day can provide you with added assistance in managing these sometimes-forgotten elements of your small wedding.
Even for an elopement, couples may need a little extra help in planning intimate weddings for two. Elopement weddings may only require having two witnesses and selecting one of the many small intimate wedding venues. If you are looking for unique intimate wedding ideas for two, however, you may still benefit from professional assistance in the planning process for your upcoming event.
Intimate wedding venues are often great sources for small and intimate wedding ideas. The staff at these micro wedding venues have worked with near-countless couples and can provide you with small wedding ideas that will work for your micro wedding. Select micro wedding packages may include your intimate wedding venue, the services of an onsite coordinator or planner and other vendors related to your micro wedding. Be sure to check with your chosen intimate wedding venues to determine which services are included, and feel free to ask for micro wedding ideas that will work for your ceremony and reception.
If your budget and your intimate wedding venues permit, a live band can add a special touch to your reception. This is one of the most popular small wedding ideas and can make the event feel like a private concert just for you and your family members.
Intimate Weddings Mean You Can Indulge in Fine Dining
The reduced catering costs and smaller average wedding size associated with intimate weddings can make it much more affordable to upgrade your catering options. Fewer guests at your small wedding can allow you to splurge a little on some of the most popular small unique wedding ideas. Some of the most popular catering upgrades for intimate weddings include the following:
- Top shelf bar: Upgrading your bar service to premium products can provide added luxury to your micro wedding reception and can enhance the experience for guests at your small wedding.
- Mini wedding cakes: Rather than purchasing a full-sized wedding cake for mini weddings, it may make sense to request mini wedding cakes that can be shared among guests. In some cases, you can have a variety of flavors of your mini wedding cakes to suit the tastes of your guests. Mini wedding cakes can be decorated and designed in the same way as full-sized cakes, which makes this one of the most charming small unique wedding ideas for your intimate wedding.
- Upgraded meal choices: As you can readily imagine, it is much easier to afford upscale dining for 10 or 20 people at mini weddings, as opposed to hundreds of people at a traditional wedding reception. Catering may not usually be included in your venu’s micro wedding package, so don’t forget to ask about that. From there, you can make your menu as special as possible with the help of your catering expert.
- Heirloom table service: Serving guests with your family's fine china is one of our favorite (and most unique) small wedding ideas for intimate weddings. This can add a personal touch to your mini wedding and can help your guests feel much more at home in your intimate wedding venue.
- Renting a restaurant: As we mentioned earlier, many couples choose to host their mini wedding at their favorite restaurant. Making reservations at your go-to dining spot can often take some of the stress out of planning for your intimate wedding and can allow each person on your guest list to order precisely what they want. And if you plan to elope, this option can be one of the most practical intimate wedding ideas for two.
It doesn’t hurt to get your guests involved when it comes to planning your micro wedding. These special guests know you well, and can help think of small wedding ideas for your event. Bringing your loved ones into the mix inevitably makes small intimate weddings all the more memorable.
Micro Wedding Venues Offer Unique Seating Arrangements
Selecting the right intimate wedding venue will have a significant impact on your ceremony and reception. Exploring seating arrangements can help you and your partner to come up with small intimate wedding ideas that could include unique seating options, like sofas, lounge chairs, and many other choices that might be available. Intimate wedding venues may also have suggestions and intimate wedding ideas for your seating for the ceremony, which can be adjusted to suit your needs and the preferences of those who will be attending your intimate wedding.
Mini weddings also offer more flexibility in managing your reception. One of the most popular small wedding ideas for the reception is to create a small and cozy space using tables and décor. By incorporating these intimate wedding ideas into your overall planning, you can create the perfect atmosphere for your ceremony and reception.
Before you make decisions at small intimate wedding venues, check with the onsite team to ensure it’s possible. Some small wedding ideas might not work with particular intimate wedding venues, and you want to confirm that you’re following their policies and guidelines. We recommend checking with your venue’s coordinator to find the right small intimate wedding ideas for the space you have chosen for your reception or ceremony.
If you’re planning an elopement, you and your partner can incorporate your intimate wedding ideas for two into your venue. Depending on the rules established by these intimate wedding venues, you may be able to add your own personal touches and small wedding ideas into the overall look and feel of your ceremony. While seating will usually not be a factor in these types of intimate weddings, it may be worthwhile to take a look at the venue before making a final decision on small intimate wedding venues for your elopement.
You Can Be Fearless With Fashion at Your Intimate Wedding
One of the most innovative small wedding ideas is the notion that you can wear whatever you like to your micro wedding. By limiting the guests only to your close family members and friends, you can choose your attire with your own personal taste (and your intimate wedding venue) in mind. This can make mini weddings even more fun and exciting for you and your guests.
With fewer guests, it’s even more reasonable to have everyone match the aesthetic for intimate weddings with a common theme or inspiration. These small wedding ideas can be based on a color palette you and your partner love or a more general mutual preference. If you are looking for more small intimate wedding ideas, look no further than your and your partner’s style and taste in your everyday fashion and design choices.
It’s Easier to Perfect Your Small Wedding Ideas
Statistics indicate that there were just over two million weddings performed in 2019. At Carats & Cake, we can help you find the best micro wedding ideas to inspire your own celebration, and we can help you to locate intimate wedding venues suitable for intimate weddings for two or micro weddings of 20 people or fewer.
Our directory of photos and videos from real weddings is designed to help engaged couples find micro wedding ideas that suit their needs. Whether you are exploring options for intimate wedding venues or checking out intimate wedding ideas for two, we have all the inspiration you need for intimate weddings (as well as larger-scale wedding events and activities). We can help you find small intimate wedding ideas that will work for the time and location you’re considering for your big day.
Intimate weddings can be as formal or as relaxed as you choose. One of the big advantages of micro weddings is the ability to explore all types of small wedding ideas and intimate wedding venues without worrying about all the coordination involved in a larger event. From small wedding ideas to showcase your ceremony to reception options and vendors in your area, our directories of real weddings and the vendors who made them happen make it easy to bring your small unique wedding ideas to life.
How do you start planning intimate weddings?
Planning your intimate wedding usually begins with coming up with a few ideas that will tie everything you and your partner want together. Micro weddings present special challenges, including finding the perfect intimate wedding venue and integrating your own ideas into the available space.
At Carats & Cake, we can help you find the venue and vendors for the intimate wedding of your dreams. From small intimate wedding venues to small wedding ideas, there’s no shortage of creativity among real weddings featured on our site. Our directory of these real-life weddings can help you find the perfect small unique wedding ideas for you and your partner.