Tiny, micro, ultra-small — however you choose to label them, you can’t deny that downsized weddings are yet another practice that’s become a major part of our “new normal.” But while their popularity experienced an explosion due to the restrictions and safety issues of the pandemic, the trend began well before COVID-19, and it seems it’s only going to grow even after life returns to a less unusual state. That’s thanks to the many benefits these micro events offer — they can be cheaper, more intimate, and overall less stressful. Yet while planning an ultra-small wedding is a different beast than its larger counterparts, it’s important to remember that they still can require a lot of thought, time, and money to organize — so you might not want to go into it assuming it will be a total breeze.
Of course, your day can be as produced as much or as little as you want; the effort that goes into it is completely up to each individual couple. But regardless of your style, planning a wedding during a pandemic means that there’s an extra layer of thought that needs to go into your day — and that starts with deciding where to have it and how many people to invite. To be clear, as of April 2021, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) still recommends avoiding large events and gatherings when possible, although it does not offer specific numbers to differentiate a small event from a large one. Safety laws and regulations can vary by state, county, and city, so you’ll need to take those into account for the location of your wedding and reception as well as your guest number, and stay abreast of them because they may change based on the number of COVID cases in that area. The CDC also refers to its Events and Gatherings Readiness and Planning Tool for large event planners, operators, and administrators “to determine their level of readiness to implement mitigation and safety measures.”
Those government rules (in addition to you and your guests’ comfort levels) may also affect how you set up your wedding and what you do at it, which is why Annie Lee, Principal Planner at Daughter of Design and founder of Plannie.com, says that clear and consistent communication from the outset (i.e. well before the big day) is another thing you’ll need to consider in your planning. No matter what you need (or choose) to do at the event, Lee explains that keeping your guests’ “COVID-19 socializing comfort level in mind as a top priority” is one of the most important guidelines itself. “This can play out in different ways like skipping cocktail hour, onsite rapid antigen testing, etc., but the main goal is to let guests know you are aware of their concerns and doing your best to keep the event safe.”
Once you have those details squared away, though, the rest is totally up to you. But whether you want to keep things simple or throw a bash no one will ever forget, it’s always nice to have a little guidance to help you get started. Ahead, the expert tips you need to plan the tiny wedding of your dreams.
Planning A Small Wedding: Keep A Tightly Edited Guest List
You might expect narrowing down your guest list to the bare minimum would be difficult, but Lee says that it can actually be a much easier process than choosing 200 people. Her strategy for keeping it small? Avoiding those “bundles” of friend groups — i.e. the college friends, the coworkers, etc., since it’s nearly impossible to just invite one person from them without offending another. Instead, examine who absolutely must be there — and leave everyone else off.
Planning A Small Wedding: Get Non-Attendees Involved
That doesn’t mean the rest of the people you love can’t be a part of the day, though. Lee notes that Zoom or FaceTime attendance is an obvious option — but that she especially loves when couples hire a videographer so that they can share a beautifully edited recap with guests. “A professionally edited video with the right soundtrack can really capture the mood and tell the story of the day in a way that video conferencing can't quite capture the romance!”
Planning A Small Wedding: Be Creative With The Venue
As celebrity wedding and event producer Stefanie Cove explains, you can actually get much more creative with your venue for a small wedding. “It opens up a world of possibilities when you don't have to find a venue to accommodate hundreds of people.” That, in turn, can allow you to make the day feel more unique to you as a couple, she continues, since you’re more able to choose a space that’s personal and reflects who you are. “We've planned intimate weddings at really special homes we've found online, beautiful ruins on islands, different art museums, beautiful gardens, etc.” In other words, don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
Planning A Small Wedding: Have Fun With The Details
Another benefit of small weddings, explains Cove, is that there’s often room to spend money on the minute details since you need less of everything. She’s seen couples go for customized wedding gifts, and her favorite — specialty textiles such as custom linens or embroidered napkins. “It adds such a level of elegance and decadence,” she says. And, if the guest list is really light? “With smaller weddings, I've also seen couples splurge on very special (and expensive) wines and champagnes, which is certainly something most guests appreciate.”
Planning A Small Wedding: Avoid Overproducing
According to Lee, one of the main challenges of a tiny wedding is trying not to “overproduce” it like it’s a large event. “For example, with a group of 20 it may be odd to have all the family members walk in the ceremony processional as you would for a larger wedding,” she shares. “Twenty guests minus the 15 family members leaves five people seated when the ceremony starts and more people are ‘in the show’ than viewing it.” Therefore, sit down beforehand and consider some of the traditional production elements of a large wedding; then, tailor them based on how big or small yours will actually be. Perhaps that means including a maid of honor and best man and skipping bridesmaids and groomsmen. Or perhaps you just want the ring bearer or the family dog strolling down the aisle with you. Do whatever works best for you and your vision.
Planning A Small Wedding: Don’t Skip The Planner
It certainly seems like it would be easy to plan a beautiful event with only a few people. However, if you want the level of design and service of a larger wedding, says Cove, a planner is still necessary. “The number of details are the same no matter how many guests attend,” she explains. “And above all, I think the bride deserves to make the most fun decisions and not have to deal with the nitty gritty!”
Plus, as Cove reiterates, just because your wedding is small doesn’t mean it will require less effort. “All weddings and events, no matter the size, are a lot of work!” Having that professional help will serve to keep you organized, on track, and less overwhelmed — so you can truly enjoy the celebration.