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Tips for Planning an Intimate Wedding

Engaged couples with extended families and a considerable amount of relatives, friends and co-workers will typically want to host a sizeable wedding reception. And why not? A wedding is a one-of-a-kind celebration to be shared with all of your loved ones – but only when it’s realistically doable.

This means that as much as they might like to, some couples with large invitation lists might not be able to afford a wedding reception for hundreds of people. The good news is that small weddings can be extraordinary! A guest list of 100 or less allows the newlyweds to mingle with everyone and at a leisurely pace. The dance floor is less crowded. Typically, intimate weddings lend themselves to a warm and personal sense of informality – and this can be achieved even if you are having a quite formal, black-tie affair.


Tips to Pair Down the Guest List

If you’re a couple within a small, close-knit community of family and friends, creating the guest list and keeping it within a certain range of people will then be a straightforward, effortless undertaking. However, if you each have an extended amount of relatives, friends and colleagues, you may find your initial guest list spiraling out of control. Should this be the case, don’t panic! This initial guest list is just a rough draft. So how to cut it down?

First, come to an agreement together on a specific number of guests. A round number (such as 100) might be a comfortable goal. You will be working on meeting that amount as you trim the initial list.

Then separately, create a list of everyone you and your parents would (ideally) like to invite and tally the totals on each list. Is one of you way off base? Are you both over the agreed upon number? If so, that’s OK. You’re moving forward.

Next, create a master chart or spreadsheet with all of the names allotted a code. For example, BS for bride’s side and GS for groom’s side. Then assign each guest a number from 1-3 based on importance in relation to you. For example, number 1 could equal “must invite.” Number 2 could mean “would like to invite,” and number 3 could signify “to be determined.”

Be sure to go over this master list with your parents. Whether they are funding the wedding (or a portion of it) or not, they will appreciate the opportunity to express their own preferences. 

Then go over the list methodically, until the two of you begin reaching your goal of 100. This might be painful at first, as you likely don’t want to leave anyone out, but you must. People who don’t make the list will ultimately understand and still wish you all the best.


Finding the Right Venue for an Intimate Wedding

Once you have a solid list of invitees, go ahead and make your best guesstimate as to who is likely to attend. You won’t have an exact head count of course until the last of the RSVPs arrive, but you can still venture out to find your dream venue.  

A small wedding offers a good number of options, not the least of which is the traditional catering hall, which can often feature a number of banquet rooms in varying sizes. So if that’s the type of wedding you have dreamed of, look no further than a local catering hall with a solid reputation. This one-stop-shop will typically provide a scheduled, well-rounded affair:  cocktail hour, seated dining, a dance floor with space for a band or DJ, and an experienced staff. Of course, there are many other options to think about:

A private room in a restaurant is a great place for an intimate wedding, as long as you’re willing to veer from the standard wedding reception formula. If you opt for this, select a restaurant that offers your favorite cuisine, exotic or ethnic foods.  And if the establishment is foreign to you, be sure to try it out way before booking it. 

If you live near natural, scenic settings – a beach, a lake, a preserve, the mountains – take advantage of your good fortune and host an outdoor wedding. Nothing creates intimacy and romance better than a gorgeous sunset. Be sure to check about permits and way in advance of the wedding date. (Also, make certain you have another plan in place in case of bad weather).

Consider an off-beat location such as a museum, an art gallery, a private mansion, a small inn or seaside resort. The unusual setting will be a welcome and memorable surprise to guests who are used to attending wedding receptions in traditional halls.


Check out some other ways to veer from convention at a small-scale wedding and create your own special moments!

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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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Exotic Cocktail Recipe Video Link to video gallery. Upgrade your spring sips with this cocktail tutorial. »

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