6 Reasons to plan a small wedding or elopement

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Many couples are embracing small weddings and elopements. The simplicity of these gatherings is celebrating with friends in a relaxed setting while being less stressful and less expensive.

What is a small, intimate wedding?
An intimate wedding is one where there are 75 or fewer guests. An evening with 50 of your closest friends and family is perfect for celebrating.

What is a modern day elopement?
Unlike the courthouse weddings of a generation ago, many couples are having elopement style weddings. These weddings are typically only a few hours and include a ceremony and dinner with just closest family or friends.

Tips for an intimate wedding:

  • You can get your Pinterest dreams. Having a smaller event means that you can incorporate some of those larger or more expensive design ideas. Instead of needing 20 tables, you only need 6 or 8. It is much easier to create your dream wedding when you aren’t obsessing over details for 125 guests.

  • Your guests get to know each other. When there are only 35 people for dinner, it is much easier for everyone to chat and meet each other. Everyone can be involved whether it is a group reading at the ceremony or group karaoke at the reception.

  • It is easier on your budget. Instead of throwing a large party for 150, an intimate, down to earth gathering can save you money. (Every guest you add to the list costs you more). An afternoon elopement with a casual dinner won’t require dipping into your retirement savings. Or you can create a lavish party for your 35 closest and best.

  • Less Stress. It is so much easier to manage the guest list when it only includes 40 people. Smaller affairs mean fewer details, but still high on style.

  • Skip the Fluff. With weddings, it is so easy to get caught up into needless things and details. When your wedding is smaller, you can skip the fluff that doesn’t add any value to your wedding. Instead you can do things that wouldn’t work at larger affairs.

  • Customize everything. It is much easier to have custom place cards, a personalized menu, or one of a kind decor when you only need it for a small number of guests. Instead of traditional invitation, you can create a handwritten note to each guest inviting them to your day.

Connect with me to talk about your small, intimate wedding.

Kickstart your Wedding Planning like a Pro

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You're Engaged?  Congrats!

Now let's get started planning your wedding.  These 9 steps will get you started like a pro. 

Step 1: Crunch Those Numbers

Before signing any contracts or hiring any vendors, your first step is to know your numbers.  

Guest Count - You need to have a good idea of your guest count in order to make early decisions.   Break your potential guest lists into groups to help you decide who you will invite and who you think will attend.  Every guest who attends adds to the final budget. The best way to keep the budget low is to keep the guest count small. 

Budget -  This one is a tough one!  You want to balance all those beautiful images you see on Pinterest with your need to pay your electric bill.   A quick estimate to get you started is that every guest will cost you $150 - $350 each.   You need to decide who will pay for what and what aspects are most important to you.  Don't forget to include service fees, taxes and tips into your final budget.  

Every couple is unique and how they choose to spend their money varies according to their wedding vision.   Some couple choose to spend more in one category while saving money in another.  Ask yourself if the things you are wanting to buy will add memories or value.  If it doesn't, then it is just ..... stuff.  The most important things are your wedding don't cost money....laughter, joy, hugs and the smiles of friends and family.

Step 2: Hire a Planner

If you are thinking about hiring a planner, now is the step to do it.  It is much easier for a planner to help you find the right venue and choose the best vendors before any contracts have been signed.  A good planner will recommend vendors that match your style and budget.  They can advise you on where to spend money and where to save money as well as ways to maximize your budget.  

Step 3: Choose some Dates

Create a list of your ideal dates.  Narrow it down to season and your favorite 2 or 3 dates.  Don't forget to look at national holidays, important family dates and events, and large local events going on the at the same time. 

Step 4: Think about your Wedding Style

When talking about your wedding vision, it helps to mention your wedding style.  What is style?  Style is the overall look and feel that guides the design.  It makes the day feel coherent.

So you do you determine your wedding style.  Think about what kind of party you want to have and the photos that most appeal to you.  Some common styles are: 

  • Romantic/ Muted

  • Fun/ Party

  • Modern/Minimal

  • Retro/ Vintage

  • Old Fashioned/ Homespun

  • Glamorous/ Elegant

  • Artisan/Boho

  • Asian/ Zen

  • Rustic/ Casual

  • Floral/ Garden

  • Outdoor/ Natural

Step 5: Look at Venues

Think about the style of wedding you want and make a list of venues that fit.  (Read more about wedding styles) Knowing your budget, guest count, and possible dates, you can narrow down your potential list.  Each venue has their own requirements for catering, rentals, lighting, bartending, etc.  

Step 6: Think about your Bridal Party

Start thinking about who you would like to invite to be a part of your bridal party.  It could be your sister, childhood best friend, or college roommate.  It is fine to be non-traditional and include your friends on either the bride or grooms side. 

Step 7:  Book your Photographer

Booking a photographer is a personal decision.  You want to find the best combination of budget, photography style, and personality.  If you know what photographer you want, book them quickly.  While every bride has a budget, photography is the one area where you should always splurge.  In 20 years, the flowers and cake will be gone, but the photographs will last.

Step 8: Book your Caterer

Along with all of the fun and dancing, comes eating and drinking.  Food can range from full meals to appetizers to light snacks.  Having food that everyone enjoys and remembers is a high priority for many brides.  Depending on the time of day and the style of your wedding, food can be served in different ways.

• Seated - guests remain at the table and food is brought to each guest
• Family style - guests remain at the table and food is brought on large platter which are passed around the table
• Buffet - guests select their food from a selection of food at long tables
• Food station - a twist on buffet with different selections of food strategically placed around the room
• Passed - Waiters offer food on trays to standing guests

Step 9: Stay Sane

The most important key to successful wedding planning is staying sane.   

Take a deep breath and relax.  It is useful to remember this during the entire process. Working on wedding details and logistics can be stressful, and if it isn't, dealing with family usually is. 
• Take time away from wedding planning.  Go away for the weekend or just out to the movies.
• Take a "me" day and get your nails done or a massage.
• Don't add to the stress by adding a lot of stuff because someone else thinks it should be that way.   Your wedding, your way.
• There are always things that go wrong or are outside of your control.  What will be, will be.
• Keep everything in perspective.  No matter what, at the end of the day, you and the person you love will be happily married.

Need more help?  Schedule a time for a phone chat to see if we can help.

8 Wedding Rules: Which to follow & which to break

When planning your wedding, it’s hard to know what etiquette still needs to be followed, and what things you could and even should skip. When you have your mother, grandmother, and friends offering advice from the varying generations, you can’t help but wonder what’s old, tired, tradition; what’s trending; and what’s timeless.

Here are 4 rules you absolutely should break, and 4 you should keep.

Rules you can Break:

  • Putting Registry Information on Invitations.  Don’t put your registry information on the invitation. Just don’t.

Giving a wedding gift is generous, but it’s OPTIONAL. There are more “Dear Abby” columns on this topic than I could ever share.  A wedding guest who may be spending hundreds of dollars just to come to your big day is being told that they SHOULD bring a gift, how much they SHOULD spend, and where they SHOULD buy it from. And Abby always calls it like she sees it. The bride should just be grateful that guests can make it to her big day. And bride, that’s true. Your guests are coming to celebrate the biggest day of your life with you. That’s a huge gift in and of itself.

Do, however, feel free to share that information on your shower invites and on your website. Bridesmaids can also distribute this information via Facebook, word of mouth, or other platforms. Guests who want to bring a gift will willingly seek this out and find the perfect thing for you and your mister.

  • Inviting Everyone You Know

Your parents want you to invite your whole church, every second cousin, and everyone in the neighborhood they have lived in for 20 years.  Your soon to be spouse wants to do an open office invite.  Future mother in law thinks that everyone over 18 should get the “plus one” perk.

Truth is, no.

Between you and the almost-husband, you get to decide who attends the big day. Invite only those who you really want to come. Besides, when your second and third cousins start getting invitations to the long lost family members’ wedding, they might think you are only looking for gifts (refer to rule one).

As far as “plus ones,” go the general rule is that couples who are married, engaged, or living together should get a personal invitation with both parties names on it. After that, you decide what you think is best.  Friends from the office may not get a “plus one” because they will come with a group. An out of town friend may not know anyone other than the bride and groom, so a “plus one” may be the best for them.

  • Bride’s Family Foots the Wedding Bill

So when most modern brides understand the tradition behind this practice, opting out may not seem like such a bad thing.  The tradition of the bride’s family paying for the wedding comes from the old world concept of dowry payments. In other words, the bride’s father essentially paid a man to take his daughter off of his hands.

Yeah. Not cool.

These days, especially with couples getting married later in life, a couple may choose to pay for their own celebration. This gives them more control over their day, and can really help filter out unwanted feedback and opinions. It may also free up any financial obligation that parents may feel that they may not be able to meet.

Sometimes both sets of parents want to help, or completely split the cost between them. There are times when the groom’s family picks up the tab.  And yes bride, if mom and dad still want to completely cover your wedding, great! Always remember to be grateful and gracious (refer to rule one again!) and follow the budget they have set for you. Unless you want to contribute to bump that budget up, be thankful for what they offer.   

  • Not seeing the bride before the ceremony.  This rule is strictly superstition.

The folklore dates back to the days of arranged marriages. Families were nervous that if the groom glimpsed the bride’s face, he may decide it better not to marry her. Whoa.

Modern times definitely says different. Courtships, dating, and long engagements to your partner ensure that you both are picking the one you really want.  But like paying for the wedding, this is totally up to you! Maybe you want that first look to happen when you are walking down the aisle, but maybe you want to have a more personal experience before the ceremony commences. It’s going to be no less special no matter how you choose.

As far as practicality goes, getting pictures together before the wedding can save lots of time for relaxing, enjoying, and partying later. When you wait to do pictures until after the vows, you generally have a reception full of guests who really just want to see you, watch your first dance, share a toast, and cut the cake. You’ve paid a lot of money for today and you’ve waited long enough! Get the work out of the way early so you can play!

Rules you should Keep:

  • Thank You Cards

This is one rule to never ever break.  You have about three months to get these ever important cards to your guests.  And for anyone who sends a gift prior to or after the ceremony, you have a two week window to reply with your thanks.

There was a time when it was fashionable to send a wedding photo with your thank you cards, so the time frame was expanded to a year! In the days of digital photos, however, your photog can easily have a batch of pictures for you to choose from within a few weeks to a month, making that 3 month deadline very doable.

And yes...they must be real mailable cards.

And yes...you must write and sign them by hand. Both of you.

Remember, a grateful and gracious couple is what we are aiming for.

  • Greet Each Guest Personally

This will never go out of style.  Your guests have sometimes traveled hours and spent hundreds of dollars to come see you on your wedding day. And they all should get to see you individually, even if just for a few minutes. The idea of a receiving line is dated, but shouldn’t deter you from having one. In 15 -30 minutes, every guest can be greeted, hugged, and thanked with a smile.  Guests also have a sense of obligation to offer kind words and move through the line as not to hold it up, keeping long conversations at bay.

In recent years, the bride and groom would visit each table in the reception, taking an hour or more to visit with guests. Not only does this delay your much needed meal and all of the other reception events to follow, it can encourage talkative guests to keep your attention for longer than you may be able to afford.

  • Dress Code On Invite

No one wants to arrive under-dressed. No one wants to arrive over-dressed. A rumor circulated for a time that it was taboo to inform guests of any dress code on the invitation, but that is not so. You certainly don’t want a handful of guest showing up in casual pants and sundresses when your event is a formal. Or spending a pretty penny for a new gown or suit when casual cocktail attire would have sufficed.

A simple notification on the invitation saves embarrassment (and sometimes money) for your guests. A note of “Black Tie”, “Cocktail”, or “Casual” clears up most questions.

  • Giving Gifts to Wedding Attendants

A bridesmaid or groomsman has been asked by you to attend the wedding, purchase or rent a special outfit, and dedicate time and energy to seeing you have a successful event. The average attendant spends around $500 just to do so!

This is one area where you really shouldn’t skimp in the budget. Get your guys and gals great gifts as thank yous for all of their support during the months leading up to your nuptials. It will speak volumes to them and help insure they will feel appreciated for all they have done.

Overall, the best etiquette is being a grateful and gracious bride that makes the day wonderful with a radiant attitude! Having fun and enjoying every minute of the day is really what you’ve worked so long to enjoy -so just do it- and that will make your friends and family the happiest of all.


The Nashville Wedding Planners Group

I am a big believer that it takes a community of like minded individuals in order to be successful.  As an event planner, I have found that in the Nashville Wedding Planners Group.  This group of amazing women strives to make every member better at what we do. From networking with vendors to continuing education opportunities to sharing resources and ideas,  the main goal is to make Nashville a great place for weddings and events. 

Learn more: