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How to Plan a Small, Intimate Wedding

Franky Shanahan

Big Isn’t Always Better

There are lots of reasons you might be considering a small, intimate wedding. It could be budget, time, or the limitations of your preferred venue.

Whatever your motivation, small weddings can be just as wonderful as those with a lengthy guest list. You’ll be able to spend more one-on-one, quality time with your guests and the money you save by inviting less people can be invested in other things. Here’s some advice to help you plan your small, intimate wedding…

The Rectory Hotel, Malmesbury

Guest List

The only way to plan an intimate wedding is to keep your guest list as small as possible. It sounds simple but cutting it down can be quite a challenge. Try to establish some boundaries. For example, you could decide to only invite immediate family or people you’ve spoken to directly in the last three months.

If you’re still torn, ask yourself a few key questions. Would you take this person out for a meal costing several hundred-pounds? Would you invite them into your home for an intimate dinner or as a weekend house guest? It’s important to consider how close you are if you want to feel truly comfortable with the people around you on your wedding day.

Bride and bridesmaids on landing at Berwick Lodge, Bristol
Berwick Lodge, Bristol

Once you’ve settled on a small guest list, there’s always a possibility people will feel left out or hurt when they discover they haven’t made the cut. Jo Maggs from Berwick Lodge offers the following advice:

‘If you know people will be disappointed not to be invited, make sure you contact them personally before the invites go out. Explain that you’d have loved to have them at your wedding, but you’ve decided on a smaller, more intimate celebration. You could also tell them that you’d love to meet up post-wedding for a more personal get-together.’

Although it’s important to consider other people’s feelings, you shouldn’t feel guilty about planning the wedding you really want.

The Priests House, North Yorkshire 16th century wedding venue
The Priests House, North Yorkshire


When it comes to choosing a wedding venue, a small guest list gives you plenty of freedom. Restaurants, hotels, galleries, and other non-traditional venues are often perfectly suited to intimate celebrations.

Historic buildings and stately homes are usually filled with unexpected spaces that are also ideal. Don’t be afraid to ask about areas others might overlook, like an old library or converted stable.

Best man attends to groom, Hope Street Hotel Liverpool
Hope Street Hotel, Merseyside. Photo by Lisa Howard Photography

If you do fall in love with a larger space, there are lots of ways to make it feel cosy and inviting. Get creative with table layouts and seating, add a lounge area, or mix up how you use the venue in general. An area that’s usually reserved for ceremonies might be perfect for an intimate wedding breakfast instead.

Wherever you end up, exclusive use is a must. You and your guests should feel like you have the place to yourselves.

bride and groom sunlit balcony hope street hotel
Hope Street Hotel, Merseyside


Fewer guests doesn’t necessarily mean less planning. Every wedding, no matter the size, will need things like food, drink, décor and entertainment. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t rule out hiring a wedding planner just because your guest list is small.

When you’re deciding on details, establish what’s important to you as a couple and skip things that don’t make the list. Remember, some wedding traditions won’t work as well with a smaller crowd.

floral centrepieces wedding the rectory hotel
The Rectory Hotel, Malmesbury

With fewer guests, your budget should go a little further, so you may be able to spend the spare cash on a few key details to really enhance the occasion. Live music (such as a spring quartet) or an extravagant meal are good places to start.

Fewer tables and a smaller space means you can go all out with décor and design. Bespoke, personalised touches are much more achievable in small numbers and will create a memorable experience for your guests. In amongst all the details, don’t forget the basics. Make sure people have plenty of room, easy access to things like water and wine, and doublecheck your centrepieces don’t block anyone’s view.


If your guest list is small, there may be other people outside your inner-circle who’d want to know you’ve tied the knot. Consider sending out an announcement after the fact, filling everyone in on your good news.


How to Plan a Small, Intimate Wedding


Tags: Intimate wedding, Wedding planning,