6 Tips and Ideas for Your Small Wedding Ceremony

Are you and your fiance planning a small wedding ceremony? Whether you’ve planned a small wedding from the beginning of your engagement or have found yourself changing your plans, there are several things you can consider to make the experience memorable.

Many couples opt for a small wedding for different reasons. Some choose to keep the budget and the guest list to a minimum because of how they’ve prioritized their spending. Others choose to elope. Still others may be faced with circumstances such as illness that prevent them from planning a large gathering.

During this unusual season of collectively facing a pandemic, for example, many engaged couples have been forced to downsize, change, or cancel their wedding plans. For the time being, large gatherings haven’t been allowed. Couples have shifted their plans and adapted to the ever-changing circumstances.

If you and your fiance are considering a small wedding, here are a few tips for creating a day to remember–both for yourselves and your loved ones.

1. Plan a “staycation” wedding.

Let’s say you’d like to plan a destination wedding, but for whatever reason, traveling far away isn’t in the cards. Why not plan a staycation wedding in or near your hometown instead?

Take stock of the local tourism attractions and special-occasion destinations near you, and consider which ones might work well for a small wedding. Do you live near a nature preserve with an outdoor chapel? A historic home that’s open for events? A notable site that means a lot to the two of you?

If you’re planning a small ceremony with few guests, you can maximize your budget by having a nice meal together or even staying in a local hotel or bed-and-breakfast with your guests. Or, if you’re not planning an overnight stay, you could have a small gathering at your new home after the ceremony.

2. Have a backyard ceremony.

A small wedding at home can be a wonderfully intimate experience for you, your friends, and your family. You don’t necessarily have to use your own home–it could be your parents’ home or even your grandparents’ (or your spouse’s). If there’s a location that holds nostalgic and happy memories for you, it’s something to consider.

Backyard ceremonies are very doable when you have a short guest list. They’re easy on the budget, and you can work the schedule around your own timetable, however you need. And if you have elderly or diabled family members who find it hard to get around, it will be easier to help them get comfortable and enjoy making memories with you.

3. Live stream your wedding.

Choosing a small wedding ceremony can be nerve-wracking–especially when you have to break it to friends and family that not everyone is invited to attend in person. Live streaming your small wedding ceremony is a great way to open this memorable experience to friends and family who can’t be there.

You can set up your livestream event on YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram, then invite your loved ones to attend virtually. It’s a good idea to stream over more than one service simultaneously, to avoid technical glitches. Be sure to download the video once you’ve posted it–that way, you can keep it for yourself and send it to family and friends later.

4. Have a friends-only event.

If there’s a specific limit on the number of guests who can attend, consider inviting only your closest friends to a small event. This option isn’t right for everyone, but in some cases it may be easier to narrow your list.

Perhaps your family members live out of town or out of state and can’t make it to your ceremony. Maybe you both have large families, and it would be difficult to choose some members over others. Or perhaps you have a stronger relationship with some of your friends, for whatever reason.

Rather than picking and choosing which family members to invite, you can loop them in via live stream, Zoom, or Skype if you wish.

5. Elope for epic destination photography.

If the idea of a small wedding with limited guests puts too much pressure on you and your spouse, consider eloping together. Depending on your budget, your destination, and your vision for this adventure, you might consider bringing your wedding photographer on the trip to capture some once-in-a-lifetime wedding portraits for you two.

6. Hold your reception at home.

Small weddings make for a lot of flexibility when it comes to choosing how you want to organize the day. Once you’ve had your ceremony–wherever that may be–why not enjoy a reception at your new home?

Having your reception at home could be a great way to welcome guests for the first time as a married couple. Serve any meal you like, whether you choose to bring in a caterer, have a meal delivered, or cook for your guests yourselves. (Psst…don’t forget the cake!)

Share your ideas!

Did you have a small wedding ceremony, or are you planning one? What tips do you have to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!


  • Emily Martin says:

    My husband and I just had a small wedding (about 35 people there) two weeks ago due to Corona restrictions. We had it in my brother’s back yard. My family made the food ourselves. We still had our cake and our flowers delivered. And we had our photographer and videographer do much more video than originally planned to capture all the memories.
    We have a date set in the fall that we’re going to have a big reception and reinvite all the guests we had to uninvite to the wedding day. We’ll watch the video of the wedding together and have a meal together then.
    I honestly think having a small wedding made our day so much more special and relaxing. It was in a place to know, love and are comfortable and we had our very closest friends and family there.
    Don’t let the Rona ruin your day…it can still be beautiful!

  • Les & Leslie,

    Thanks for these 6 Tips and Ideas for Your Small Wedding Ceremony, perfect timing. I have been on one of my most thrilling, exciting, funny, tragic, rewarding SYMBIS journeys ever in my two decades as a facillatator with Jeff & Denise from Ventura CA. We would never have met had I not been deployed by Mission Church in Ventura to come alongside of Denises’s Nana while she was recently hospitalized in February. Sadly her Nana did not recover (thus the tragic), but she did have an awesome encounter with the Lord during her hospitalization & was ushered into heaven without fear, even expressing a sense of thankfulness for her life VERY WELL LIVED! I learned that Jeff & Denise needed a SYMBIS facilitator to review their results, that grew into our walk together through what has been 10 beautiful Monday nights on ZOOM, working out of the His & Her SYMBIS WorkBooks for their Pre-Marital sessions. Our first Monday session was in their Ventura condo at the beginning of the COVID crises, I stood in the kitchen while they stayed on the couch in the next room… social distancing. Our second session moved to ZOOM every Monday night at 6:00 PM as the restrictions increased. Their wedding will be in Denise’s childhood backyard on Sunday May 24th, we’ll have a relaxed rehearsal on Saturday morning the 23rd. She has reduced the guest list & we are taking very serious measures to meet small gathering guidelines & distancing, providing gloves & masks for every guest. Regarding the backyard reception guest’s & family will each serve themselves, one family at a time, but they will still be together, just six feet apart. We are so grateful for these.

    The SYMBIS COVID sessions every Wednesday have been a breath of fresh air during this unprecenendted season of major destination wedding cancelations & last minute adjustments. As hard as it has been this crises has made us even more thankful for what we have, more mindful of family & community! “Nana, This Wedding Is Dedicated To You”

    Heaps Of Thanks
    Pastor rik’ in Ventura

  • J R says:

    In the vast majority of cases, eloping is a terrible idea. I’m surprised to find it suggested in an article on a pre-marriage counselling site without some sort of caveat. That’s the sort of advice a counsellor could responsibly give knowing all the circumstances (ie. an abusive family), but not one that in my opinion should be in a document as a general suggestion. Eloping can create real relational strains in families that last for YEARS. When you ignore the people who have invested in you for your whole life and make a life-changing decision without even taking the time to let them know, you are generally communicating your immaturity, self-centredness, and lack of real love for those you say matter to you. Go away on your own to get married if you must – but tell your parents and other important people in your life first (which by definition is then NOT eloping). And suggesting bringing the photographer (and no one who actually matters) along with you is just so typical of the sort of thing the Instagram generation might do. Did the Parrott’s actually write this?

    I also think the “friends-only” wedding should have a caveat. I’d remind people that friends come and go — only family is forever. In twenty years you may hardly even know any of the friends who attend your wedding anymore. If your family is really terrible, or absolutely can’t make it – well, you do what you can. But to purposely only invite friends and exclude your parents, siblings, etc, seems like another terrible idea.

    Lest I seem to be a troll, I should mention that I rarely comment on articles, and I think the other 4 ideas are perfectly good. 🙂

  • David Jones says:

    In current pandemic corona situation, your all ideas are helpful. I hope people will plan their wedding as per your suggestions. Thanks and keep posting!!!

  • I liked it when you mentioned having a staycation wedding celebration with important people in your life by staying at a nice place for a few days and it can be such a memorable event in your life. My girlfriend and I are thinking to get married in a few months and we are planning to host a small and intimate wedding for our close friends and family members only. I think it would be great if I have a wedding ceremony in a nice chapel that is located near a hotel where I can have a staycation with my guests.

  • Zadok says:

    Great tips! Loads of good points to consider for making the wedding ceremony memorable!! Keep sharing more of this kind of stuff!!

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