Before we get stuck into the benefits of having an intimate wedding, let’s discuss what they are. An intimate wedding may have been something you’ve heard of in magazines, or on instagram, so let me briefly explain what it is, and how it differs from other styles of weddings and elopements.
An intimate wedding is, broadly speaking, just a mini wedding. It’s actually pretty simple. There aren’t any hard and fast rules. But to give you an idea, an intimate wedding usually has between 10-50 guests. Intimate weddings tend to be more informal, and are often at private residences or out in public spaces like beaches, mountains etc. This isn’t a rule, but is common.
In contrast with a traditional wedding, they are therefore smaller in scale, lower in cost, easier and faster to plan, and often less ‘traditional’. However, people tend to get elopement and intimate wedding mixed up, as they aren’t a million miles apart. An elopement is usually less than 10 guests, and almost always does away with all forms of wedding tradition. Intimate weddings can technically be a fully traditional wedding, but on a smaller scale, or they can also resemble an elopement, but on a larger scale. They are very flexible in how they can appear. If this still isn’t clear, click here for a better and more thorough description of the differences between elopements and intimate weddings.
One of the primary reasons for having an intimate wedding is cost, intimacy and flexibility. With a smaller wedding you have more freedom in terms of venues, dates available, vendors artistic freedoms, plus you get to ensure you spend a good amount of time with all your guests making it more memorable for you, and them. If this all sounds perfect, then let’s do this. Let’s break down the benefits of having an intimate wedding, some of the pitfalls to avoid, and some of the things you won’t want to miss.
01 | Price
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In Australia, the average traditional wedding will cost you $36,000. Let that sink in a second, it’s a lot of bloody money. This is probably the first thought someone has once they get engaged. With an average wedding having 97 guests, and an average per head of $150, that means on average, your cost (just for guests & food) goes down from $14,550 to $7,500 or less. That’s a big saving, just on guestlist alone. What could you do with that? I’l let your imagination go wild.
The way most of my clients think about this is, ‘what do I prioritise’? For a lot of them, it’s style and aesthetics, as well as the capturing of this by the photography & film team. So they would rather cull their guest list down, getting rid of those ‘acquaintances’ they don’t really mind not being there in order to facilitate the funds to pay for the things they care about most. What do you prioritise? What means the most to you about your day? Well by having a smaller wedding, you will have more funds to put towards what matters most.
02 | Intimacy
intimate by definition are more intimate in nature. One of the most common concerns for my couples is ‘being the centre of attention’ or ‘being on show’ too hundreds of people, including people they aren’t super close too. Intimate weddings create a scenario in which this never occurs. It’s you, your partner, and only a small group of your closest friends & family. The day is more about your connection, your relationship, so you’ll celebrate this in a personal, intimate way.
The intimacy goes beyond just the attention you get at the ceremony too. Because you have less guests, there is more flexibility for you two to slip off every now and then and spend time alone, without neglecting your guests Trust me, time together is a rare commodity on a wedding day, but with an intimate wedding, you’ll get plenty of it, plus, more time wityh each of your guests. If time together, and time with friends and family is important to you, then you’re onto a winner!
03 | Less drama
We’ve all attended weddings before, and let’s be honest…there is usually some kind of drama at most of them. It’s usually a drunk guest or family member, or some kind of domestic. This doesn’t always happen (not at my weddings thankfully), but it does happen, which is not something you want on the biggest day of your life.
Generally speaking, less guests, less drama. Makes sense right? Well, intimate weddings have far fewer guests, meaning drama inevitably skips the event all together. Unlike traditional weddings where you often have invited guests ‘plus 1’, many times whom you don’t know personally, at intimate weddings you know everyone…intimately. Unless your partner, or your parents want to kick off, you’re pretty good to just enjoy the day for what it is, the best day of your life.
04 | Less stress
I hit up over 250 past brides and grooms, and asked what was the biggest regret about their wedding day, and the answers were pretty damn similar…they stressed too much, usually over stupid, small things. Stressing over things like whether to invite partners, seating charts and guests that don’t get along perhaps…let’s cut it all down. Intimate weddings do away with most of that stress because you know everyone. You aren’t inviting people ‘because you think you have to’, you’re inviting them because you love them, which makes everything else easier.
Financial stress is a big one too. Once the buzz and high wore off after your engagement, you probably began looking into planning a wedding and quickly realised…it’s damn expensive! Even outside of a wedding, financial stress can place pressure on a relationship. Given the relative cost of planning an intimate wedding, this definitely helps dramatically lower that stress, which let’s state the obvious…is fucking beautiful!
05 | Easier to plan
The average traditional wedding requires somewhere between 10 and 20 vendors to pull off. This includes all the way from your photographer and celebrant, venue coordinator and seating chart designer. The average intimate wedding usually does away with some of these less vital vendors, and also requires less input from other vendors like furniture hire, catering, florals etc. What does this mean? Fewer vendors and fewer requirements, less planning and less budgeting to make payments.
Intimate weddings are also usually midweek, meaning availability is much easier to secure with vendors. Because of this, you can usually plan your wedding in 6-9 months (or even plan in 45 days, see how here), which in part eliminates the uncertainty about the future (political restrictions, financial abilities etc). Traditional weddings are often planned on 12-18 months (sometimes more), meaning the future uncertainty can cause great deals of stress in terms of planning (and budgeting). You can avoid all that.
06 | Location, location, location…
I want to say up front, that intimate weddings can be at traditional venues too. They can be in backyards or in caves in Iceland. They don’t have to be in spectacular, jaw dropping locations. In saying that, a lot of intimate weddings are at some pretty epic spots, or gorgeous private properties. Unlike traditional weddings which are often limited to ‘wedding venues’ and their minimum guest numbers, intimate weddings don’t suffer from as many limitations. Any place you love and connect with, could be your location!
But how do you pick the perfect location, given the infinite number of ones to choose from? Well, first thing to do is sit down with your partner, and work out what ‘vibe’ you want. Do you want something epic and adventurous? Do you want something laid back and easy? Second thing to think is, what kind of location is ‘you’? Are you a water couple? Do you live for mountain hikes? What about your guests, can they get to the location easily? Mobility issues for older guests? Let this guide you. If all else fails, your photographer can recommend so many amazing spots to have your wedding!
07 | Photography
When it comes to intimate weddings, by definition they’re usually more laid back and free flowing. That suits me personally really well, and means we should get along like a house on fire (super important). Because of this, there tends to be less anxiety and nerves on your behalf, which means the photos are far more natural and you have more fun with it. This makes the entire experience so much easier, and always leads to better photos.
At intimate weddings, there is usually less strict timelines, because the venues (often private residences, AirBNB’s or public settings) are more informal. we can take our time, have fun, experiment. We can explore a bit, find the perfect spot, and really not rush things. We’ll crack a few beers, take our time, have some food…it even allows for some alone time for you to enjoy! We stop when you say so, even if the suns gone down! There’s just more free flowing feel about your portraits ith less traditional weddings, and that’s definitely a good thing.
08 | Let it be an adventure
Keeping your wedding smaller and more intimate can be an easy way to push the fun aspect of marriage. Don’t get me wrong, traditional weddings can be loads of fun, but if we look at what we discussed above, it’s easy to see that larger weddings can often be more stressful, and timelines too strict to facilitate free-flowing fun in many cases. If you’re still not sure why, just look at all these photos…fun!
So get out, pick a cool location somewhere, and trek there with your partner and do it! Make a weekend of it, get in the 4WD, jump on a plane, travel to a remote area, camp the weekend away with your friends and family. How amazing would that be, particularly if that is the kind of thing that sums up your relationship? Weddingss should be fun, whatever that means to you…so enjoy it!
09 | Experiences over things
It comes as no surprise that this generation is shifting away from owning things, and towards ‘experiencing things’. That is to say, they value doing epic stuff more than owning epic stuff. Weddings back in the day used to be all about how many guests you had, how expensive your dress was, and the venue you chose. Whilst they are no longer like this, there is a tendency at traditional, larger weddings to have things reminiscent of the past, whereas the more modern, intimate weddings tend to totally do away with those traditional touches.
Let me outline, there is nothing wrong with ‘things’, or wanting a $20k dress…weddings are such a personal thing, so make sure they aline with your values. But, if the thought of hiking up a mountain from sunrise to sunset to get married at the peak, or a chill wedding in your backyard with just your closest friends and family sounds more exciting and fun to you than having a traditional wedding venue host your ceremony in front of over 100 people, then I think you can safely say you value experiences and the journey over the ‘things’.
10 | Genuine, authentic, honest
Everyone has a set of values they live by, right? This is what I mean when I say you need to ensure your wedding plans aline with yours. If you value ‘things’ and ‘perfection’ and ‘tradition’, that’s ok. That’s who you are, your wedding must reflect that! There is no right or wrong, only what is right for you. Being genuine and honest about your values is crucial. This is the day you become a family, the day you pledge your lives together…don’t start it off by being dishonest about who you both are.
Another major area of interest for a lot of people considering having an intimate wedding is authenticity. That is, being authentic to the ideals of marriage. Again, this ties in with your values, but for a lot of people, marriage is about 2 people coming together, all things aside. The authenticity of smaller weddings being less about the spectacle, less about other people, and less about ‘tradition’ alines with these values, and if that’s something thats important to you, give it some thought.
The 5 best tips for planning an intimate wedding
Keep it Small
“The best decision we made was to keep it small. We had originally planned a big wedding, but once the stress of planning that started to mount, we decided to keep it small, neat and tidy as possible. We had our closest family and friends only in attendance. Looking back on it, we wouldn’t change a thing!”
Make a Weekend of it
“Originally we were going to get married at a local venue (we had 180 people). We then found a venue we absolutely loved on AirBNB but realise we could only have maybe 30-40 people. We couldn’t get past it, booked it in, invited only our closest friends and family, who arrived the night before (pre wedding evening drinks), and stayed for a post wedding day hangover brekky…it was so cool spending 3 days with them!
Invest in what is important to you
“One of the reasons we had a small wedding was we didn’t have the money to pay for 100+ guests. However, we were very set on what we wanted to spend our cash on. We knew we wanted amazing photography and an amazing venue (we got a private stay in Byron which cost a fair bit but was totally worth it), so we chose to spend our money on those things, no regrets!”
Choose guests wisely
It would be all well and good if we were going to invite everyone we knew, right? But given we cut our initial guest list (135 people) down to 40, we had to be very particular. We chose to only invite people who actively participated in our life, so no colleagues, friends of friends or partners. We felt a bit guilty at the time, but come the wedding day, best decision we ever made! Our guests agreed!”
Don’t worry about the future
“Originally when we got engaged in 2018, because our friends were all overseas, we had planned on a long engagement. I think the original plan was to get married in 2021. However once we started planning, we realised it was going to be super stressful trying to plan for 3 years in the future. We spoke about it and decided to get married ASAP, and organise a big piss up with our mates when we visited them in the UK! Best decision we made. We got married about 7 months later. Our parents, siblings, and our absolute best friends attended (about 25 people all up)…we never did have the piss up though, so we play the waiting game for now”
An intimate wedding, is basically a mini wedding. It has between 10-50 guests usually. There are no hard and fast rules, so if you have 55 guests, or 8 guests, you can still call it an intimate wedding. Traditionally they are much smaller, and less traditional.
They are far easier to plan, and far cheaper, often by tens of thousands of dollars. They are also far more intimate, giving you more time with your guests, and more time with your partner!
Again, there are no hard and fast rules. The only thing I would recommend is, invite only people who you have a legitimate close relationship with. This doesn’t include ‘work mates’ and certainly does not include friends or family members partners, unless you and your partner are also close with them. You basically want to have a very close relationship with all your guests.
Generally speaking an elopement is far more informal. Traditionally speaking they are 2 people, running off to get married. These days, elopements usually allow for up to 10 guests. So invite your parents, and maybe a friend or two, or siblings. They are almost always held outside of traditional venues, and never follow a wedding template or timeline. Intimate weddings are closer related in look and design to a traditional wedding.