Anyone who’s ever hosted a wedding will tell you that in amongst the excitement, the nerves, and the matrimonial bliss, one of the over-riding feelings is that of exhaustion. From licking the envelope on 200 invitations to making small talk with your mother’s yoga teacher’s cousin, there’s no shortage of jobs that need completing when you’re in the wedding party.
And while all the pomp and circumstance is undoubtedly part of what makes your big day much bigger than any other, it can all too easily slip out of hand. After all, would you really count all 200 names on your guest list amongst your “nearest and dearest”? And do you really want to include a vegan option on your menu when the only vegan you know is a second cousin you haven’t seen since you had your braces taken off? If not, then perhaps it’s time to consider the underrated alternative to the extravagant affair: a small family wedding.
There are many reasons to consider scaling back the size of your wedding. One of the most significant is giving yourself and your partner time to mingle properly with all of your guests. Instead of the quick pictures and passing congratulations that become necessary at larger affairs, small family weddings allow you time for real conversations and for memories made as well as photographed. By trimming your guest list, you’ll narrow it down to people you genuinely want to spend time with, and you’ll be able to do just that.
Another advantage of only inviting close friends and family is that you can make the entire event more personal. Instead of sending out standard paper wedding invitations, you can come up with a more imaginative way to invite your guests – whether that’s by sending out little gifts or hosting a launch party. You could also tailor your party favors to individual guests rather than handing out the typical chocolate boxes. These little details are a lovely way to let your guests know how much it means to you that they’ve shared your special day with you.
Of course, some weddings are better suited to intimate affairs than others. If you’re considering a beach wedding, a select guest list is essential. If you consider gathering a large group of people in your local church a challenge, you certainly don’t want to attempt gathering that same group on a beach in Bermuda – or even in the airport lounge. Your guests will not only have to make travel arrangements, but also take a much more significant chunk of time out of their work or day-to-day schedules – which close friends and family are likely to be much more willing to do than passing acquaintances. It’s also important to consider accommodation; if you’ve opted for a destination wedding, the likelihood is that all of your guests will need somewhere to stay, so you’ll need to think about the number of available rooms in the area.
By scaling back your guest list, you can choose to host your wedding wherever you like, without restrictions on venue space. Take full advantage of this fact, whether you’re marrying at home or abroad. One particularly lovely option for summer days is an outdoor wedding. While it’s important to have sheltered space in case of unfortunate weather, marquees and other such provisions will rarely be able to accommodate large groups. If you’re hosting a smaller event, you could have a marquee set up on a beach or even in the gardens of a stately home, allowing your guests to enjoy the scenery.
As well as allowing you flexibility on venue, smaller family weddings offer you many more catering options. At large events, buffet food is often a necessity thanks to speed, volume and the trouble it takes to track down 500 individual dietary requirements. At a smaller family wedding, you can instead opt for a sit-down meal, complete with a gourmet menu. Visit a number of caterers – and consider contacting the kitchens of restaurants you love – and put together a truly delicious wedding menu that you will love and your guests will remember.
In many ways, hosting a smaller family wedding means fewer compromises. Yet on the other hand, it also frees you up to make changes where you need. If, for example, your parents suddenly become unavailable on the planned date of your wedding, you might want to move the day to accommodate them. This will be a much easier task if you have 50 guests to call round than it will with 500.
Ultimately, a wedding should be whatever you want it to be, and for some people, that means a big event. But for many couples, worrying about who to add to the guest list and how to arrange the seating chart simply becomes a distraction from what the event should be about: getting married. If you and your partner fall into the latter category, consider scaling down the size of your wedding. It’ll mean more time, more memories and more cake for everyone involved.