Did you know that every year, the number of elopements and intimate weddings is increasing? Although the data for 2020 hasn’t been released yet because the year is still going, I’m sure we’ll see record numbers this year. Why? Two reasons… 1 – COVID and 2 – people are becoming more conscious during wedding planning.

It’s no secret COVID has forced many couples to rethink their wedding plans. Couples who can’t imagine having to downsize their wedding have rescheduled to 2021 or there are many couples who have decided to downsize and make their once huge wedding into a smaller, intimate affair. Some even just flat out eloped.

The couple you’ll see pictured throughout this blog – Amy and Brendan – originally had an epic, couple hundred guest count wedding planned in Florida this year. However, their plans quickly got flipped upside down. Instead of holding off on solidifying their love, they continued with their wedding, but in a more intimate manner on the beach in Hilton Head, SC. At the end of the day, they couldn’t be happier with the outcome and the intimacy of the whole affair. They didn’t have to spend hours entertaining guests or saying hi to those hundreds of people. Instead, they enjoyed their love and wedding day with those that were dearest to them. Those that had made the largest impact on their life.

Prior to COVID-19, I was known for photographing all sorts of weddings, including elopements and intimate weddings. I thoroughly enjoy them and the intimacy. And at this time, the couples I had that opted for this kind of ceremony did so for a few reasons which tie to “people are becoming more conscious about their wedding planning” above. The cost was a large factor, but so were the couples wanting to get married in a more remote location or those that only wanted to celebrate with their immediate family/friends. Not everyone dreams of a big fat Greek wedding!

So, if you are like Amy and Brendan and are having to adapt/pivot your wedding plans or if you naturally want to go the more intimate route, here are a few tips to help you plan your (smaller) wedding day:

Pick a Number and STICK TO IT!

If you’re going small, but not total elopement style where it’s just you and your fiance, you’ll have to determine the guest list at some point. To tackle this task, you should pick a number as a couple and stick to it. Are you only comfortable having 25 people at your wedding? Okay, 25 it is! Do you want to cap it at 10? 10 it is then! Once you have the number decided, it’ll then be easier to decide who makes the cut and who doesn’t. Just make sure you stick to this number. You can go from intimate to not-so-intimate by adding just a few names.

Find the Right Amount of Space

One of the key elements when planning an intimate wedding is the space. If you’re having 10 people, you don’t need to pay to rent out a traditional wedding venue fit for 100 plus. Instead, set your eyes on smaller venues or remote, adventurous locations. Destination elopements are my favorite as a photographer or beach weddings like Amy and Brendan’s. Airbnb backyard weddings are a big hit now – why not try your luck looking for a cool backyard with a view? You can also typically save money this way by picking a venue that better fits your guest list. If you choose a venue that seats 150, you’re going to be paying like you have 150 attending.

Don’t Forget About Personality

Just because you’re having a more intimate affair, doesn’t mean your decor or experience should lack. I encourage you to still infuse your personality in whatever decor you do have or the experience overall. Part of this is making sure the venue is reflective of who you are as a couple – this is a sure fire way to make sure your personalities show through. You can also do this by arranging the after-ceremony celebration accordingly. If you and your wife/husband enjoy craft brews, why not have a recap/your reception at your favorite brewery afterwards? BE YOU!

Make Your Own Rules

The best part about eloping or having a smaller wedding is that you get to make your own rules. You can plan to your terms and decide to not partake in traditional wedding things, such as having an enormous, unnecessary cake. I say take advantage of this and go all out with your rules and personality!

Determine Your Wedding Budget

No matter how small or large your wedding is, you still need to stick to a budget. Once you decide on your elopement/intimate wedding, you then have to decide what you’re willing to spend. Lucky for you, smaller weddings naturally cost less so if you’re being budget-conscious and want to be on the lower end, you’re already on the right track.

And there you go – my intimate wedding planning tips based on years of experience in Hilton Head, SC as a traditional wedding AND intimate wedding photographer. Take it from Amy and Brendan. They were thrown an unfortunate loop and did a great job pivoting away from their original plans while still ending up with a gorgeous affair. I’d even venture to say this intimate version of their wedding ended up even better than what their huge Florida wedding would have been.

With their small guest count they were able to get a prime spot right on the beach by using a friend’s house, enjoy quality time with their guests which upped the guest experience, and ensure quality across the table as they didn’t have to skimp on anything cost-wise. Special shout-out to the rest of the wedding vendor/planning team who helped make it a success: Fusion PhotographyGeist & Co, Serg Group and Signature Catering HHI. Together, we were able to tell their love story of their small wedding from start to finish without leaving any details out.

Have I mentioned I love intimate weddings? If you’re planning yours and need a helping hand or are ready to talk about your photography needs, let’s talk! Click the button below and let’s chat!