How to plan a small wedding

NIAMH WHITE

Wedding Coordinator, Horetown House

Photo: Lee Robinson Wexford Photos

Size Matters

One of the most important things about your wedding is that it works for you. Choose the guests you really want to have around you and let this guide you towards the size of your guest list. Its not always possible for couples to have a small or a large wedding depending on the size of their family and circle of friends and this really should be your first consideration. We often meet couples who get very nervous when we ask “how many guests will you have?” There is no such thing as “too small” from our perspective but what size works for you? We love creating beautiful spaces for ceremonies and intimate meals and with smaller numbers the options are endless.

“there is no such thing as too small”

so what’s different about a small wedding?

 

Do you want a regular wedding, but with smaller numbers? Or are you trying to avoid a wedding and you are limiting your numbers to make it feel totally different.   It’s totally your call on which elements and popular wedding traditions you keep, but it is different when you keep the numbers small. We have broken it down into the main elements to give you our tips.

 

a small ceremony

With your ceremony the options are incredibly versatile. We have had couples marry in front of the fireplace with just their witnesses and others have had blessings under the cherry blossoms.  Your celebrant will guide your ceremony set up and this will usually include seats for the couple and a table for the signing of the register. Beyond this you can create a layout for your guests to reflect your style. The most popular setup is for rows of benches and this will still work for a small wedding. You could also consider putting your ceremony space in the center and have your guests sit around in a circle or go super relaxed and don’t have chairs or formal seating at all.

top tip for small wedding:

Make it personal, if you have tiny numbers you can involve everyone by adding poems, readings or music and making sure that every one feels involved. For slightly bigger groups, ring warming ceremonies are amazing and totally emotional and bring the whole group together.

“make it personal…bring the whole group together”

small wedding reception:

When it comes to traditional drinks receptions the big focus of the first hour or so is photography and then couples try to spend as much of the remaining time with their guests. With a small wedding the group photos won’t take as long as it is easier to coordinate so you could use this time for portraits if you are into your photography and this could be amazing. If you’re not into photography then this gives you lots more time at your drinks reception.  It is worth considering how well your small group know each other and if there are individuals or small groups who could be a little bit lost or feel a little outside the main family huddle. If this is the case, spend the first 20 or 30 mins of the drinks reception with your guests to make sure everyone mixes well before heading off for photos.

top tips for small Drinks receptions:

Top Tip for small weddings: Have some very simple party games or ice breakers for guests during the drinks reception. A special drinks bar will help to create a focal point and make sure guests are kept busy, or if you are feeling more adventurous you could create personalised crosswords or games with clues and facts about the guests to create a buzz around the Prosecco bar!

a small dinner

Creating a warm atmosphere around a dinner table is usually pretty straightforward and as long as you are sharing great food, add a few glasses of wine and chat with your guests you can’t go to far wrong here. The main challenge for most couples when it comes to a small wedding is the top table. With 150 guests, very few people are offended when they don’t make the top table. However, when you are looking at a list of only 45 this can be a bit trickier. If your wedding party is small enough to all sit at one table this is easily solved and there is no top table. If you would like some kind of top but aren’t sure where to draw the line you could consider a T shape table which means everyone is together for a few special guests sit left and right of the couple.

top tip for small wedding:

While we wouldn’t encourage designating individual seats for large weddings, when everyone is sitting at one table this is a must. Guests will be slow to seat themselves in case they place themselves “too close” or “too far” from the couple, so save them the anxiety and go for place names.

“With 150 guests, very few people are offended when they don’t make the top table”

Photo: Lee Robinson Wexford Photos

This is our Garden Room which is normally a space big enough to host 200+ guests.  In order to host small weddings we can add an internal wall to reduce the size of the space and make it perfect for small weddings of 40 to 80 guests.

 

“will there be any craic?”

small Dancing

This is where couples often have the most anxiety about small weddings. Will there be any atmosphere? Will anyone dance? Will there be any craic?

Being totally honest this varies from wedding to wedding. Some groups, if you put on a decent playlist and have a few drinks the party will last for days. For the most part it takes a bit of planning and some strategic choices but it can be amazing. The first thing is space. Too much space kills the buzz. You need to make sure your dancing space is ever so slightly “too small” for your crowd.   No one wants to dance in a large, open, well lit area! (Think end of the night in the club when the lights come on!!!) If you are in a large area for dinner we would suggest moving to a smaller space for your music, and dim those lights!

In terms of the after dinner party you need to think about your crowd. If no one is into dancing but tend to sit around the edges and get stuck into a good chat, don’t expect them to transform into dancing queens on the night of your wedding. Go with the crowd, book a singer with a guitar or a trad session and have a great night of stories with great music and candlelit drinks. If you have a crowd who normally dance, book someone who plays smaller gigs, in pubs or for events where they are used to getting the crowd going and really get the night off to a flying start.

top tip for small wedding:

It’s so much easier to encourage a great atmosphere if you have matched the entertainment to the people, so don’t try to launch a rave with your Mam and Dad and 2 close friends

“don’t try to launch a rave with your Mam and Dad and two close friends”

Keep it simple

  • Plan for real life- don’t try to make it fit a wedding template.  If you have a quiet crowd then plan a laid back wedding that everyone will enjoy, and if you have lively bunch who will party hard given the right encouragement then go for it.
  • Choose the space that fits for each part of your day, and don’t be afraid to get everybody up and move them to new spaces, it doesn’t take long and everyone mixes.
  • Remember, you are the common link between a few carefully chosen guests, make sure to introduce them to their fellow guests before you head off for photos.
  • Make sure to talk to your vendors about their thoughts and advice for small weddings and let them guide you to the best plan to make your event magical.

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