June 17, 2022


What is an Intimate Wedding? A Simple Guide to Planning One

what is an intimate wedding

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what is an intimate wedding

We’re in 2022 and there are now TONS of different types of weddings & elopements out there for couples to choose from. Gone are the days of opting only for a huge wedding or running off to elope in Vegas in secret – the wedding industry has completely evolved and grown into a welcoming industry that encourages you to do whatever the heck you want to do. I personally believe this is such an amazing thing that couples should take advantage of, which is why I wanted to take the time today to answer a question that I get from many couples nowadays (especially since the beginning of the pandemic): “what is an intimate wedding?

In this blog post I’ll be answering that very question along with some other FAQ’s, and I’ll be walking you through the 5 basic steps to planning an intimate wedding. You’ll also hear the reasons why I think couples should consider having an intimate wedding, and at the end, I’ll have some more resources + real-life wedding inspo for you to check out.

Enjoy this simple guide to having an intimate wedding to celebrate your love – happy planning!

what is an intimate wedding

FAQ’s About Intimate Weddings

Let’s start this thing off with some frequently asked questions that I get from couples, and that I see many couples asking online. The first step to planning one is simply understanding what the heck an intimate wedding even is!

What is an intimate wedding?

You might be confused about all the terms surrounding weddings & labeling/categorizing them: intimate wedding, microwedding, tiny wedding, elopement. . . what does it all mean?!

There are no concrete answers because really, they can be whatever you want. But if you’re a fan of labels and numbers, I’ll do my best –

what is an intimate wedding

Intimate weddings typically involve around 50-75 guests, although just because you have 49 or 76 guests doesn’t mean you can’t categorize it as such. Intimate weddings are basically a middle ground between elopements/tiny weddings with 1-40 guests & large, traditional weddings with 100+ guests. 

Sometimes they lean more toward old-fashioned weddings in that they include some traditional elements, and sometimes they lean more toward elopements with less “rules” and expectations. Oftentimes intimate weddings are focused around the experience of both the couple and their guests, whereas elopements are now more heavily focused on the couple themselves.

Do intimate weddings have receptions?

They 100% can! Intimate weddings could be just a ceremony with the couple & their guests, or they could be a ceremony followed by an evening reception. It’s totally up to the couple.

Are intimate weddings the same as elopements?

Not necessarily! Like I mentioned above, elopements are typically more focused around the couple than they are the guests, whereas intimate weddings are often focused around providing an amazing experience to both the couple & their guests. Intimate weddings tend to also have more guests than elopements!

How do you start planning an intimate wedding?

That’s a great question and where most couples run into trouble right away: how do we even start planning?! Skip ahead to this section to get right to my 5 basic steps to planning an intimate wedding 😉

what is an intimate wedding

Reasons to Have an Intimate Wedding

You get to spend more time with your favorite people

The more intimate your wedding, the more time you’ll have with each guest. Intimate weddings are intentionally designed to celebrate with only the people you love the most, whether that be family or friends or co-workers or a whole dang mix of ‘em all. 

Having a huge wedding with 100+ guests makes it harder for you as the couple to have intentional time with everybody who attends, because you really just can’t make it around to all 100 people in the time you have! 

Inviting less people means you only have the people there who you want there the most, and that you’ll actually have time to connect with them + be present with them.

It’s more intentional

Intimate weddings are much easier to craft intentionally than big weddings, because big weddings often come with the expectation of following certain traditions, including certain elements in your ceremony & reception, etc. You’ll hopefully feel less pressure on you to follow what society tells you to do and instead focus on the traditions that actually matter to you, or simply throwing out the old-fashioned traditions (byeeee) and inviting in new ones!

Less costs associated with your guests

Fewer guests = less food/chairs/tables/favors = less $$. Simple as that!

You can get married on public lands that have limited guest capacity

If you want to get married in a national or state park, you usually can’t do so if you have over a certain number of people (this number is often around 25, 50, or 75 depending on the location). If you have an intimate wedding, you can find an outdoor location on public lands that fits your guest count, which you usually can’t do with a large wedding! Meaning you can still exchange your vows in front of those stunning mountain views, surrounded by your loved ones like you’ve always dreamed of.

You can still get married at a venue 

Or you can totally disregard the above point and get married at a regular venue! Just because you’re not having a large wedding with tons of people doesn’t mean you can’t still tie the knot at a large venue – you can still book a venue with plenty of space and amazing amenities, and many venues even offer specific intimate wedding packages to best fit the needs of you + your guests.

5 Basic Steps to Planning an Intimate Wedding

Now that you’re familiar with what an intimate wedding is and why you should even have one, it’s time to go through the 5 basics steps to planning one! Wedding planning gets suuuper overwhelming (trust me, I was recently a bride myself!), so I’ve narrowed it down to the 5 simple steps you can start with once you know you want an intimate wedding celebration.

1. Pick your location

The number one first thing to do is pick your location! You want to make sure you reserve your venue far in advance so that you can get your dream location, whether that be a specific spot in a national park you have to apply for ASAP, a venue you’ve always wanted that books out super quickly, or an Airbnb that requires reservations 6+ months in advance. 

You can start this step by brainstorming the type of location you want to get married at:

  • Where do you feel the most at peace? (e.g. in the mountains, in a boujee spa, etc.)
  • Are there any locations meaningful to your relationship? (e.g. where you got engaged, where you’re both from, etc.)
  • What type of weather do you want? (e.g. you despise being cold, you can’t stand being sweaty, etc.) 

From there, create a list of potential locations including a range of options for you to go off of. Start contacting these venues, researching location regulations & requirements, and finding out about availability for your planned date/month/season. 

Get familiar with what the process would be to book each one (timeframe, applications, permits, costs), and once you’ve laid out all your options, narrow it down to your top 2-3 to get serious about. 

Eventually, you’ll get to a point where you know which one you want or you’ll find out which one is perfect for what you’re looking for – then you can get it booked and make it official!

2. Secure your vendors

Next, you’ll need to secure your vendors. These are the people that are going to help your dream day really come to life through decorations, your itinerary, and really just their knowledge + professional experience. You want to find vendors whose work you love, and who you vibe with in general – especially when it comes to the vendors that you’ll spend the most time with like your planner, photographer, & videographer! 

Vendors you won’t want to forget for your intimate wedding:

  • Photographer (bonus points if they can help you find a lot of these other vendors ;))
  • Planner and/or coordinator
  • Videographer
  • Hair stylist
  • Makeup artist
  • Florist
  • Rental provider
  • Baker

Ways to find vendors:

  • Ask your married friends
  • Ask your photographer, venue, planner, and/or coordinator for referrals
  • Google Search
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Local magazines/publications
  • Online databases such as Wandering Weddings, The Knot, etc.

3. Create your guest list

Now it’s time to create your guest list, which is a really important part of planning an intimate wedding. Chances are, if you’re having an intimate wedding, you place a lot of value on the people in your lives & the relationships you have with them, and you want that to be a meaningful part of your wedding day.

When you’re coming up with your guest list, go through each person and ask yourselves these questions:

  • Why am I inviting this person? (Is it because I truly want them there, or is it because I feel like I “should/have to?”)
  • Is this person a meaningful part of my/my partner’s life/our relationship?
  • Will this person be fully supportive of our marriage?
  • Is there any potential that this person could cause me/my partner stress on our wedding day?

Come up with a big guest list, and make cuts as necessary when you ask these questions. I promise your family & friends who you don’t invite will be understanding, because they should want you to have the day of your dreams no matter what or who is present!

4. Plan fun + intentional activities

Activities are a huge part of making your wedding day your own, and making it authentic to the two of you + your love. They’re a way for you to enjoy your celebration to the max, and spend the most intentional, quality time with your loved ones who have traveled to be with you.

Here are a few fun, unique ideas you could incorporate into your wedding day, depending on what’s important to you + what you value:

  • Go kayaking in the morning with your partner
  • Go on a sunrise hike and exchange vows in private
  • Have a coffee date together before getting ready
  • Make breakfast together
  • Snuggle in bed with your favorite books + your pups before the day begins
  • Take a swim in the nearby lake at sunset with your guests
  • Go horseback riding through the forest to your ceremony location
  • Invite your guests to a welcome dinner once everybody has arrived the day before your wedding
  • Rent out a room in a local brewery/restaurant for you + your guests to enjoy a delicious meal
  • Hire a late-night food truck to bring your fave late-night snacks (we’re talkin’ hot dogs, burgers, grilled cheese, fries, nachos, you name it – the options are all out there)
  • Start the day off with a private helicopter ride over the national park you’re visiting
  • Stay at a glamping location with your BFF’s for your wedding weekend (such as Under Canvas)
  • Do a day-after adventure session to explore a new location in private
  • Have brunch the day after your wedding with yummy food, mimosas, and all of your guests

5. Plan for the last-minute details in advance

And finally, plan for all the last-minute details in advance that you know you might forget about when the day arrives! 

Here are a few things couples often forget to take care of that end up causing stress in the weeks/days leading up to the wedding:

  • Get the permits you need
  • Pack a first-aid kit if you’re going on a hike
  • Bring your details to be photographed (e.g. vow books, invites, rings, jewelry, flowers, any other special momentos)
  • Put together an emergency wedding kit including items such as:
    • Bobbi pins
    • Hair bands
    • Safety pins
    • Tide pen
    • Scissors
    • Extra makeup
    • Tampons
    • Tissues
    • Pens to sign your marriage license
  • Get tips ready for your vendors
  • Get your marriage license + know where to mail it after your wedding
  • Send addresses/location information to your guests

Alternatives to Typical Wedding Day Traditions/Elements

Let’s wrap this up with a few alternative options you can consider for your intimate wedding day if you’re not into some of the typical elements of a traditional wedding day.

Alternatives to typical vendors:

  • DJ → a friend with a rockin’ Spotify playlist ready to shuffle
  • Caterer food truck, cookout, private chef, charcuterie board, picnic
  • Emcee a friend with a great public-speaking voice
  • Decorator → family members who are down to help out beforehand

Alternatives to old-fashioned traditions:

  • First look at the aisle → first look before the ceremony
  • Huge guest list of everybody you know → intimate guest list with only your most special, supportive people
  • Wedding favors that nobody needs → an intentional experience for your guests that they’ll really enjoy
  • Wedding games that your guests have to watch → fun games/activities for everyone to participate in
  • Brief cocktail hour where you run around & give hugs → extended multi-hour cocktail celebration + intentional time with every guest

Wedding/Elopement Resources + Inspiration

Looking for more wedding and elopement resources + real-life inspiration? Check out a few of my favorite recent blog posts below that I know you’ll love!

8 Best Cabins in the Upper Peninsula for an Airbnb Elopement

Stunning Southern Oregon Coast Elopement

Camp Wedding Ideas for the Outdoorsy Type | Northwoods Wedding at Discovery Lake

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