What is an Intimate Wedding? – and How to Plan One


December 6, 2021

Have you decided that throwing a big party isn’t your thing, but aren’t quite sure if an elopement is right either? 

Can’t imagine your day without your loved ones around you?

Feeling stuck in that “in between” spot – you don’t want a huge wedding, but don’t want a tiny elopement either. Luckily, I’ve got a solution (drumroll please)… the intimate wedding!

As more and more couples realize that the traditional way of getting married isn’t their cup of tea, intimate weddings (also called micro weddings) have become more and more popular in the past few years.

But, what is an intimate wedding? This guide will answer that question, compare intimate weddings to elopements, and give you some tips for planning your own small ceremony! 

Pin this photo to help you in planning an intimate wedding!

What is an Intimate Wedding?

Intimate weddings fall somewhere between elopements and traditional weddings. They’re small, much smaller than a traditional party, with anywhere from 10 – 30 guests. The purpose of an intimate wedding is to keep your day about you, while being able to celebrate with the people you love most!

Elopement vs. Intimate Wedding

For couples deciding between an elopement and an intimate wedding, it can definitely help to get a clearer picture of what those words actually mean, and the difference between the two!

Guest Count

One of the main differences is the guest count! Elopements are smaller, with 0-10 guests, while intimate weddings can have up to 30. An intimate wedding is more about spending time with your loved ones – by keeping it small, you prioritize the guests you do have, while making sure your day doesn’t become a sea of plus ones and distant relatives.

Wedding Venue

Another big difference between elopements and intimate weddings is where you get married! Traditional weddings almost always take place in a big venue, but elopements and intimate weddings give you more flexibility. 

An elopement, because it’s smaller, has less restrictions on where you can get married – many parks will allow couples to tie the knot anywhere (hiking trails, overlooks, beaches, and so on). With an intimate wedding, you are a little more limited, because most parks will have restrictions on the number of people you can have at your ceremony. But, many national parks have areas designed for intimate weddings – like amphitheaters and campgrounds that can accommodate more people! 

So while an intimate wedding might be more limited with venue options than an elopement, you still have some freedom and can choose elopement locations like parks, beaches, and nature trails, or have a backyard wedding!

Structure and Focus of the Day

One of the most important things to consider when you decide between a traditional wedding, an elopement, and an intimate wedding is how you want your day to feel. I’m all about being intentional with how you get married, and embracing what truly feels right to you.

With an elopement, the focus is entirely on the couple, and what you want to do – there’s more flexibility and freedom, because you aren’t worrying about all your guests. An intimate wedding will naturally have more structure, because the focus is on spending time with the people you love most

How to Plan an Intimate Wedding

Now that we’ve answered the question of “what is an intimate wedding,” once you decide that this way of tying the knot is right for you, here are some tips for how to plan yours!

Narrow Down the Guest List

I recommend making your guest list pretty early on in the planning process – this will help you plan the rest of your intimate wedding, as you’ll have an idea of who will be there, what you can do, and where you can host your wedding day!

When it comes to the guest list, the biggest piece of advice I have for planning your intimate wedding is to remember that this is your day. There can be a lot of pressure when it comes to wedding invites (which is one of the reasons a lot of couples choose to have an intimate wedding instead), but no one should be entitled to a spot on your guest list. Think about the people you truly want around you on the best day of your life – who will make the experience even better? Who has supported you and your relationship?

Choose Your Intimate Wedding Venue

The reason I recommend doing your guest list before you choose a venue, is because there might be restrictions on how many people you can have, so while you search for the perfect spot to tie the knot, it’s important to look at the maximum capacity!

There are tons of spots where you can host your small wedding, but here are a few ideas of places to consider:

  • National and state parks (amphitheaters, campgrounds, and picnic areas tend to have higher capacities
  • Beaches
  • Resorts or bed & breakfasts
  • Local parks and trails
  • Airbnbs
  • Backyards (yours, a family member’s, or a friend’s – a backyard wedding can be a really cozy way to celebrate!)

The Best of Both Worlds

If you’re torn between an elopement and an intimate wedding, what if I told you that you could do both?! A lot of couples feel that they want to celebrate with their family and friends, while also craving the privacy and total intimacy that a “just us” experience would provide.

You can turn your intimate wedding into a two day event! Spend one day with your loved ones – a ceremony and celebration after, then spend the second day having an adventure, just the two of you. This way, you can still hike, kayak, rock climb, or whatever you want to do together, without having to give up celebrating with friends and family. 

You can also do this with one day – reserve the morning for friends and family, and the evening for the two of you (or vice versa). For some ideas of things to do when you make your intimate wedding a two day event, check out this guide!

Make the Big Decisions First

When you’re planning an intimate wedding, it can feel overwhelming – there’s definitely a lot to think about! I recommend keeping it simple by taking it step by step. This entire process is part of your wedding day – so planning, dreaming, and brainstorming should be fun, not stressful! Try to enjoy it, slow down, and embrace this exciting time you’re in.

Making the big decisions first will help a ton – things like guest list, wedding date, and location will help you figure out the smaller decisions, like what to do on your day, where to stay, and what kind of cake to get!

Hire an Intimate Wedding Photographer

Not to toot my own horn, but hiring a photographer for your intimate wedding will be one of the best decisions you make! And not just because they’ll be the ones to capture your memories and document your day.

As an intimate wedding photographer, I help my couples with every part of the day – I get to know you, and help you plan a day that’s entirely personalized and customized to the two of you. I believe in doing everything with intention, so every decision we make together will be about making sure that your day is exactly what you’re dreaming of!

Contact me to learn how I can help you plan your intimate wedding!

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Mary Andrikus is a Kentucky & destination wedding, elopement & family photographer. Mary strives to create photography experience that you can relax into.

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