When you think of a big, bustling, and creative city like Los Angeles, you probably don’t think of a small wedding. This style of celebration is becoming more and more popular as couples are embracing their relationships over a Pinterest-perfect event.
Hey friends! I’m Sarah, an intimate wedding planner and designer. I LOVE celebrating the relationships that make us who we are! That’s why my focus is on small weddings – it provides a chance for you to dive deep into your relationships.
A small or intimate wedding is like a home away from home, a mini-vacation with your favorite people! It brings all the creature comforts of your life that you live by and keeps them tangible right in front of you without any of the unnecessary frills or fluff. These are typically the weddings that have people talking for years to come. About how small and comfortable it was. About how they really felt like they were part of something super meaningful that day watching two beloved people become married.
Although we don’t know the exact when for the return of public gatherings, including weddings, we do know that we should all start to consider a few new things for the future of weddings:
1) The size of our events
2) The length of our event
That’s why I created a guide specifically for couples who are looking at postponing their original celebration and downsizing to a small intimate gathering for their wedding. You can sign up here to receive the FREE guide!
Although many people will define it differently, usually an intimate wedding has a small guest list of under 100 people. It is a day that is meant to be shared on a smaller scale than many wedding celebrations today. A small wedding can be a helpful tactic employed to keep your wedding under budget. It can also be used to allocate your budget to other aspects of the day to create a luxury wedding. Simply put, it means that the guest list is intentionally populated with those who are closest to the happy couple.
These small weddings often forego the bigger shows of grandeur in favor of a celebration that focuses on relationships. You will often find these common themes at intimate weddings:
To get started planning the perfect intimate wedding for you, check out this blog post that covers this list in detail!
The most prevalent challenges are twofold: people and logistics.
You may experience that your friends or family members do not understand your desire to have a small gathering to celebrate this life event. You may feel pressure to invite your cousin’s boyfriend and all 4 of his children. Truly, this is your day! It is absolutely appropriate and okay to communicate that you would be most comfortably yourself in an environment of those who know you and who you know the best. Some individuals may not ever understand this due to personality differences, and that is okay too.
Logistically you may run into a few challenges when it comes to venues and vendors, especially catering. There are two types of venues that couples find in their planning search – Bring-Your-Own-Vendor venues and All-inclusive venues.
With a BYOV venue, you have a lot more flexibility to bring in vendors that fit your vision and budget. Sometimes this does up end up costing more due to the individual charges/fees incurred per vendor. An all-inclusive venue will create the least amount of vendors as many things are provided in-house (rentals, staffing, catering, etc). It’s always crucial to be aware if these venues have a guest minimum or a catering price minimum you must meet.
As a couple take the time to have these big money conversations prior to going on venue tours. Then you will know where you stand on the subject and can come prepared with questions for the venue about their policies.
Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know when it comes to wedding planning, and that’s okay! Wedding vendors are here to help, and so are past brides. The things you might forget about when wedding planning is being shared by real brides over on the blog.
You may also find that as you start to have conversations about having a small wedding your thoughts immediately think of all the money you will save! And true, the easiest way to save money on a wedding is to decrease the guest count – but there are still some crucial elements you will need to be prepared to invest in for the comfort of yourself and your guests. I truly believe you can have a wedding on any budget, but small weddings in particular usually suffer from mismanaged budget priorities. So dive into how to budget for your small wedding and learn all about the top categories I suggest you plan for based on a 3-tier budget system!
Anyone can have a small wedding in Los Angeles! These weddings are typically great for introverts, or people who get uncomfortable with large groups of people watching them or expecting things from them. Anyone who wants to have deep conversations with each guest should spend some time thinking about the intentionality of their guest list. And if you are looking to break the mold of the traditional wedding, a small, intimate wedding does just that!
La Rousse Photography
No, you technically don’t need a wedding planner. But think about throwing a party at home, maybe a birthday party or holiday gathering. How much time do you spend planning the design and decor? How many stores do you visit trying to gather all of the necessary supplies and materials? How much time do you spend cleaning your home on the day of? What part of the event do you actually get to enjoy if you are hosting and trying to entertain your guests?
This is a lot for two people to do – and hey, we were just thinking about a party, not a big life event like a wedding! If you want to elevate and celebrate your relationships as a whole on your wedding day, hire the wedding designer. Or at least hire a wedding coordinator who will take the logistical burdens off your shoulders several months in advance.
A good wedding coordinator is also something your other vendors want you to hire for your and THEIR peace of mind! Read up on why your wedding photographer wants you to hire a wedding coordinator on the blog.
If you don’t want to hire a DJ, ask yourself this question; “Why?” Is it because you feel like this is a hefty expense you weren’t prepared for? Or simply because you aren’t planning to have dancing at your wedding? If you desire to have a wedding where all your friends and family are out on the dance floor with you, you may need to swap priorities around in your wedding budget to help accommodate a DJ.
You will want someone that can at least run your reception, which is when the guest experience is at a high for impact. A simple wedding ceremony can very easily be done with a built-in sound system at a venue, a live musician, or a friend with an iPod and good speakers. And if you don’t plan to have a dance party at your wedding reception, you can curate a background playlists on Spotify or iTunes to play instead.
The biggest issue to hurdle here is the time of day you will be entertaining your guests. If the event spans over a mealtime, guests will absolutely expect to be fed a full meal. Consider having your wedding ceremony around 10 am and opting for a minimal brunch afterward. Or invite guests to arrive at 2 pm allowing for the event to conclude prior to dinnertime.
If you won’t be serving a full meal for your guests, please make sure you provide this information well in advance. Nothing is worse than showing up for an event to find out there won’t be any food. You can always opt for heavy appetizers during a boozy, socializing cocktail hour to keep guests entertained and satisfied between meals. It’s also important to make sure you provide ample water access for your guests, especially if your wedding will happen outside in the sun.
Some couples really love research, and fully enjoy planning and making decisions for their wedding day – huzzah! For those who have lots of questions, complicated planning logistics, or simply want to enjoy their wedding day like guests but don’t have the budget for a wedding planner – do yourself a favor and hire a wedding coordinator!
A good coordinator should jump in a few months prior to your wedding day to help you juggle logistics, last-minute adjustments, fine-tune vendor management, and assist in optimal timeline production. A wedding coordinator will help run your rehearsal and keep your wedding day as much on schedule as possible. That way you can relax with your new spouse and soak in the time building memories.
Using a venue that can also double as your accommodations for a fun wedding weekend can save you a lot of stress of figuring out transportation and accommodations. Make sure you are honest and upfront with the owners about the type of event you are hosting, and that you read ALL the fine print about rules and cleaning!
This type of venue falls under the BYOV category, so you will have a larger pool of vendors to choose from, but will also want to research hiring staffing for set-up, clean-up, and serving and make room for that in your wedding budget.
Plan for a couple of activities with your friends and family that include them on your special occasion. Host a cocktail hour with a mixologist that teaches you and your guests all about the drinks or learn line dancing from a talented bridesmaid. You can opt for a wedding up in the mountains or at the beach where your guests can enjoy an entire weekend together full of exploration and adventures.
Get your guests out and about with a wedding parade after your ceremony as you walk to a local restaurant for lunch or dinner! Have an open mic for toasts and invite your guests to share an impromptu favorite memory with the happy couple. Even playing the shoe game or giving out a printed set of bride and groom trivia cards can get your guests interacting with one another for making memories.
And don’t forget about your ceremony! This is the reason your friends and family have traveled from near and far to behold – the moment that you do say “I do”! Your ceremony can be filled with so many unique moments, personalized to you and what you value. If you want to learn how to craft your personal wedding ceremony, I’ve shared tons of tips and tricks over on the blog.
If you have decided to have an intimate or small wedding, a petite guest list is probably top of mind! Many venues offer ballrooms with stunning views and room for up to 300 guests. But with a small wedding, you will want to focus on keeping things close and cozy. Choose a venue that your specific guest count would fill and fit comfortably. Dead space in the reception or ceremony location can detract from the natural beauty, the significance of the event, or the design.
Would you like your friends and family to stay in accommodations nearby to the venue for easy transport? Hotels and AirBnB’s offer this firsthand convenience and most offer smaller spaces to accommodate a small wedding.
Do you want your guests to experience the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean? Would you prefer to be close to a specific tourist attraction or restaurant for an excursion the day after your wedding? This is a perfect time to show your guests the highlights of the city and why you love it so much. Or spend time relaxing on a staycation together!
What is it that makes you so unique? Make a list of all the things you love – colors, activities, seasons, locations! Somewhere in there is the heart of who you are, what you value and that is what I work so hard to bring to life in wedding design. It all starts with your venue and leaning into your couple style so that at your wedding everyone is saying “this wedding is so perfect for them!”
A beautiful vintage mansion in Pasadena that boasts 5 unique spaces including a library, gorgeous foyer, and garden patio. A Full 12-hour rental gives your vendors ample time to create a space that reflects your personal couple style. And allows you to celebrate with your friends and family creating memories to last a lifetime. This Scandinavian Christmas styled wedding inspiration is published over on Every Last Detail to inspire you to bring your dream wedding to life!
Lace and Lapel Photography
This magical oasis located in Laurel Canyon will take you back in time. The stunning and majestic home of Houdini features five acres of lush gardens guests can meander through, landscaped lawn for hosting your reception, plus 3 bedrooms you can rent for your family or bridal party.
Nestled in a quiet neighborhood, the Ruby Street offers gorgeous stained glass windows from its former church house days, a luscious backyard with built-in bar, and modern upbeat decor that will leave you smiling. With tables and chairs included, you can bring in your own caterer, bartenders, and decor to create a truly one of a kind unique wedding celebration.
Laura Ford Photography
Looking for a gorgeous modern blank slate venue to amplify your wedding ambiance in Eagle Rock? The York Manor offers a 10,000 square foot rental property including a private backyard perfect for intimate ceremonies and a dance hall with a raised stage for your favorite band or beautiful “I do’s”. Downstairs is a separate speakeasy also available to rent for your wedding day. Check out more from this fun and whimsical styled shoot at the York Manor over on Hey Wedding Lady!
Simply Adri Photography
Nestled in the Malibu hills, Calamigos Ranch offers 4 different ceremony and reception locations from waterfall ceremony spaces to receptions with almost panoramic views from glass windows! This rustic location creates a beautiful intimate feel in your own private space and amazing service as the cherry on top. To see more of the venue, check out Kindred couple Becky + Chris at their Calamigos Ranch Wedding over on the blog!
Peterson Design & Photography
A boutique hotel that is a three for one package – hotel accommodations, ceremony location, and private reception dining rooms all in one. Celebrate your wedding day in the historic grand lobby or the upstairs lounge, where history meets modern luxury.
La Rousse Photography
This historic landmark in the heart of Los Angeles provides ballrooms, an outdoor garden courtyard, a lounge, and a Broadway-style theatre for your wedding day. The vintage and romantic vibe of this venue creates an old Hollywood glam style all it’s own.
This modern Topanga Canyon home has been renovated into the perfect space for your wedding. An outdoor deck patio with stadium-style seating, a manicured lawn for hosting receptions, and an indoor dance hall for partying are all at your fingertips.
Becca Murray Photography
It will bring with it lots of emotions, lots of desires, and lots of hard conversations. But you won’t be alone. Remember you have someone who loves you so deeply by your side. They love you for WHO you are, not the perfect wedding you are planning! Lean on each other and remember to support the other’s wishes and desires because you are starting to build your marriage before the wedding day even arrives.
Let me tell you, before becoming a Los Angeles wedding planner, I knew I was being drawn to a creative work that emphasized relationships! Becoming engaged, navigating the planning process, and maintaining a healthy marriage go hand-in-hand with all of the other relationships in your life. Marriage is the reason I work in the wedding industry. I don’t do it for that one special wedding day, I do it for every day that follows after I do!
And if you’d like to have someone like me on your vendor team to help you navigate designing a wedding that feels like you and who will keep things in step on the wedding day so you can relax like a guest, check out my small wedding planning services!