As a bride-to-be myself, I can personally attest to the stress of planning a wedding. Somewhere in the months of planning minute details and choosing between “blush pink” or “rosy pink” you start to lose the forest through the trees. This was suppose to be about celebrating and supporting the love and commitment between the bride & groom, right? When did it become about finding matching groomsmen suits and choosing between 17 different types of potato side dishes?
I think every bride has that ever-increasing itch to toss caution to the wind and get hitched during a mountaintop elopement (or maybe that was just me). And for some couples, that type of wedding is magic. It’s secluded and romantic and epic (and I really really want to photograph it, so hey let’s be in touch). But for others, like myself, I couldn’t bare the idea of my mom not helping me into my gown, or my dad not walking me down the aisle, which brings me to a happy middle-ground and my all-time favorite wedding trend: intimate weddings.
These smaller weddings are usually around 50 guests or fewer of the bride & groom’s closest friends and family who have been big players in the couple’s individual lives, and often their communal love story. An intimate wedding is just that, intimate, but it also has so many other perks.
1) Less stress
Wedding planning is way more fun on Pinterest than it is in real life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for planning a good party, but I much preferred trying on dresses over blocking hotel rooms for wedding guests. Intimate weddings are big enough that you still get to do the fun stuff: picking out floral arrangements, cake tasting, and invitation shopping. But you’re spared from the headaches of a large scale event, including the many many many logistics of a big wedding day. Not only does a smaller wedding ensure a smoother planning process, but the relaxed vibe also carries over into the wedding day itself. Instead of running around to greet long lost cousins and old college friends, you can be fully present and engaged in your day.
2) Location, Location, Location
I expected venue hunting to be my favorite task until I ran into the reality of capacity limits. Turns out 200 people didn’t easily fit (or legally fit) in the adorable greenhouse down the street. Or the cool historic center downtown. Or the cozy brick-exposed loft. I did not expect capacity to be the dictator of my venue choice, but it was quickly unavoidable. One of my favorite features of intimate weddings are their unique and personal locations. Want to get married in your grandma’s backyard? Go for it. Want to say your vows at the base of a waterfall in a standing ceremony? Do it. How about gaining another stamp in your passport and making it a destination wedding in the lavender fields of France? Dream big. Your wedding day is a celebration of you and your fiancés love, nourished by the support of those closest to you. If your dad’s third cousin twice-removed is taking up a spot on your guest list and keeping you from the location of your dreams- I’m gonna be the first to say it. Send him some photos and invite him over for a BBQ this summer. I heard this once and it’s become one of my favorites: “If they don’t know your middle name and your birthday, maybe they don’t need to be invited.”
3) More Flexible (and often more affordable) Finances
One of the biggest benefits of an intimate wedding is the cost. 150 less meals to pay for means a lot more money in your wallet, or alternatively, a lot more money to allocate in different ways. If you still have the same budget, you can now splurge for that photographer you really wanted or that food truck you thought would be cool. It may be a smaller affair, but you wouldn’t have to sacrifice as many desires in order to balance the budget. All of a sudden that custom wedding gown is within your reach.
4) You’ll Have Better Photos
Okay, you knew this was coming. But as a wedding photographer, I can confidently say that I didn’t get into this business to herd crowds for family portraits or help keep the wedding party on their timeline. I started photographing weddings because I believe in marriage and I love honoring its sanctity by capturing the raw, vulnerable exchanges between a bride and groom. I relish in being a part of such a special day, of being welcomed into strangers’ lives and homes, and of seeing the purest side of humanity in doting mothers-of-the-bride, teary-eyed maids of honor, and proud, wise grandfathers. These are the moments I want to document. The people who love you most, who are beaming with joy at the love you’ve found. These are the photos that sit upon mantles and live on for generations.
5) The Ambiance
So I’ve kind of already touched on this, but it deserves its own paragraph. A wedding is about the commitment that you’re making to each other, not about the dance party that follows (even though I’m always down for that too). An intimate wedding keeps the focus on your new marriage, and creates a cozy atmosphere where the air is thick with love and joy. Formalities and pleasantries are tossed aside in favor of good conversation, a warm environment, and sweet speeches. Your guests will remember the day for years to come, and not just for the delicious cake, but because of the way you invited them into your love story. And in turn, you’ll remember more too. Instead of a blur of names and faces, you’ll recount the expression on your sister’s face and the moment you looked around to see your favorite people sharing a meal around one table. It will be communal, inviting, and familial- appropriate for the celebration of a new family.
I don’t write all of this to bash big weddings. Heck, my big family ensured a traditionally sized wedding for myself. And it will be fun and beautiful and oh so special to us. But I write this for those brides and grooms who are on the edge. Who have found themselves entertaining the idea of doing something different. Who are overwhelmed and fed up with the hundreds of decisions to be made and acquaintances to be invited. Your wedding is special because of the vows you are sharing, not for the food or the DJ or the guest count. It may sound counterintuitive as a wedding photographer, but I think we could all stand to push back against the wedding industry and reclaim the real beauty of a wedding day. Celebrate your love and the people who have cheered you on by hosting a personal and intimate wedding.
And then hire me to photograph it. I promise I’ll be shedding tears right alongside you.