The best thing about having a small wedding is that you can really treat your guests. We’re not just talking in terms of making the wedding budget go further, although that does play a part – we mean those small wedding ideas that make each person feel really special.
Writing an individual thank-you note to put on each place setting, for example, is a marathon for a guest list of 100+, but perfectly achievable for 10-20.
What’s more, having fewer guests gives you the chance to get creative with your wedding venue. You can prioritise finding a space you love over finding a space large enough to fit everyone, whether you’re looking at small wedding venues or private rooms within larger venues.
If you’ve decided that you want the size of your wedding to be more on the petite side, these are our favourite ideas for making your day unique and memorable.
1. Don’t rule anything out
You don’t have to look exclusively at venues that are small. Check out the venues on Hitched, as many bigger places, including barns and castles, also offer private spaces for more intimate affairs.
2. Look at private houses and cottages
That being said, having a small wedding also opens up the possibility of hiring a more bijou private house for your venue. There are some amazing properties around the country that are mainly available to hire for house parties but will also consider wedding receptions – and some are even licensed for civil ceremonies. Find the right-size house and all your guests will be able to stay over for a whole weekend of fun.
Grade I-listed manor house Treowen, set in the glorious Monmouthshire countryside, has 12 bedrooms and five reception rooms.
Assynt House, Scottish Highlands
With seven bedrooms and a private chef, Assynt House is an ideal place for intimate, bespoke weddings.
READ MORE: 29 fabulous wedding venues in Scotland
Champernhayes is a collection of luxe self-catering cottages in a picturesque village.
Sugnall Hall, Staffordshire
Sugnall Hall sleeps 28 and has four acres of grounds. There are also some delightful properties on Unique Homestays.
3. Consider a hotel suite
Hotel suites are another great idea for small weddings, especially if you want to give your guests a bit of luxury. You’ll have your own private space, where you can end the night as newlyweds, and there’ll be on-site accommodation for your loved ones in the rest of the hotel.
Royal Suite at The Savoy, London
The Savoy, for example, offers several opulent hotel suites that would make for a magnificent setting for an intimate wedding.
READ MORE: Fabulous small wedding venues in London
4. Go gourmet with a pub or restaurant
Pubs and restaurants also work well for small weddings. The advantage of having your reception somewhere you’ve eaten before is that you know the food will be fabulous. What’s more, it’s a lovely touch if you can hire somewhere that means something to you as a couple: your favourite restaurant, for example, or the place where you had your first date. You may not have enough people on your guest list for exclusive use, but most places will have private dining rooms.
A private dining room at Fazenda, Manchester
READ MORE: 23 charming pub wedding venues
5. Think luxe for your design
You can choose a more luxurious stationery design if you don’t have as many to order and post. Consider styles that incorporate techniques such as foiling, engraving (when the letters are raised) and laser cutting.
River Cottage stationery collection by Cutture
6. Have a unique style
You could also go bespoke. Illustrated wedding invitations are beautiful and personal, whether you have an illustration of the two of you or of your wedding venue.
READ MORE: Everything you need to include on your wedding stationery
7. Include chic finishing touches
Budget allowing, look at beautiful extras to elevate your stationery even further, such as wax seals, pretty envelope linings and vellum wraps.
8. Consider calligraphy
Hiring a calligrapher to address the invitations and envelopes is another lovely finishing touch. Alternatively, with so few to write, you could always learn how to do it yourselves!
READ MORE: How to send your wedding invitations
9. Be generous with your menus
With fewer people at your wedding, you should be able to have one menu per person, rather than one-two per table.
Personalised wedding menus by LeighLouiseCreative at Etsy
10. Make your guests feel loved
As mentioned above, it would be a truly thoughtful touch to write a personal note to each guest and leave it at their place setting.
Spaniels correspondence cards by Smythson
As favours are a per-head cost, you can upgrade to something more luxe than at a larger wedding, to delight your guests.
11. Consider foodie favours
Miniature bottles of gourmet spirits always go down a treat, as do artisan chocolate wedding favours and mini boxes of macarons.
12. Luxe candles are always welcome
Give us a mini Diptyque Baies candle as a wedding favour and we would love you for ever.
13. Think about what your guests will want to keep
Succulents are another often-appreciated gift for guests to take home.
READ MORE: Creative ways to use succulents at your wedding
14. Don’t be afraid to try DIY
If you want to go DIY with your wedding favours, having a small wedding is the perfect opportunity – after all, you won’t need to make as many, so you’ll save on money and time, while adding extra personality. Foodie favours are fun: think homemade jam; mini jars of salted caramel sauce; infused olive oil. You can also make soap or scented bath salts relatively easily.
READ MORE: The loveliest charity wedding favours
15. Don’t over-complicate
With a small guest list, you’re unlikely to need much in the way of entertainment, as the focus will be on spending quality time together. If you’re keen to include an extra element to keep guests amused, a magician always works well, or an on-the-day fashion illustrator to create chic portraits of each person.
16. Reboot the traditional wedding speech
Saying that, you could put a twist on the speeches by turning them into a pub quiz themed around your relationship. This is easier than at a larger wedding, as there are fewer people to get distracted.
READ MORE: How to nail a joint wedding speech
17. Don’t rule out live music
Live music will enhance the atmosphere. Just make sure you check with the venue about the acoustics in your chosen space, as you don’t want the music to overwhelm conversation. On a similar note, it’s better to go with something that works in the background, such as a string quartet, pianist or Spanish guitar – a large band will drown out conversation.
READ MORE: The ultimate playlists for your wedding breakfast
18. Plan extras for a wedding weekend
If you’re having people stay over in a private house, you don’t need to schedule every minute of each day – your guests will want some downtime. However, do think about enjoyable activities before and after the wedding itself, particularly if your guests don’t all know each other. These activities could be as simple as a group country walk, lawn games such as croquet, toasting marshmallows the night before the wedding and a hangover brunch. You could also look into hiring mobile beauticians for some at-home pampering or mixologists for a cocktail-making class.
19. Make the place cards extra-special
With a small wedding, you can afford to DIY or buy gorgeous place cards – guests can then take them home as an added favour.
Perspex place cards, Etsy
Star paper place cards, Etsy
20. Create a stunning tablescape
The likelihood is that most of a small wedding will be taken up by the wedding breakfast, as guests laugh, talk and enjoy the feast. With that in mind, make sure the environment they’re in is as beautiful as possible.
Opulent flowers are an easy way to achieve a luxurious look. The key thing is to make sure your guests can still easily see and talk to each other, so consider either lots of low arrangements or a flowing table garland.
Overhead floral arrangements are another lovely way to bring scent and colour to your reception room without impeding conversation.
READ MORE: 19 of the loveliest hanging floral arrangements for your wedding
21. Use crockery and linens to elevate the look
The choice of glassware, crockery, cutlery and table linens can really make a difference to a wedding table. Consider what will go best with your colour scheme and with the look you’re trying to create, whether that’s rustic or glamorous.
Image | Danielle Lucier
22. Think about the chairs
If your guests will be sitting for long periods, it’s worth hiring comfortable chairs for the wedding breakfast. The Louis style of chair is not only comfy but it looks pretty great, too!
23. Consider the lighting
If your wedding reception is taking place in the evening, remember that lighting can make a difference to the mood. Candles are a romantic choice, but also think about how fairy lights, festoon lights, lanterns and other lighting options can help you create the right mood.
Food & drink
24. Look into sharing food
Having a small wedding means you can really go to town on the food and drink. Aside from the ceremony, your wedding breakfast will be at the heart of your day, so treat your guests with the finest food and wine your budget allows.
READ MORE: 14 amazingly unusual wedding food ideas
A traditional sit-down meal would be lovely, but to create a communal feel, you could have family-style dining. This involves either large platters in the centre of the table or bowls to be passed around. It’s like a buffet, but everyone stays at the table.
25. Consider personal dishes & drinks
Introduce a unique, personal element to your wedding food by asking your venue or caterer to include dishes that have special meaning to you. This could be the food you ate on your first date, gourmet versions of your childhood favourite foods, luxed-up versions of the first meals you ever cooked for each other. This is easier to achieve at a smaller wedding than with scaled-up catering.
Make sure your guests know what to expect from your wedding – here’s everything you need to include on your wedding website.