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Intimate weddings have become so popular in recent years as more and more couples choose to go down the non-traditional route. A growing number of couples now opt to have a smaller wedding first with close family and friends, and a much bigger celebration later on. But what is an intimate wedding? You’ve probably heard it from a friend or a work colleague recently and wondered what they meant. Is it just a scaled-down version of a regular wedding? Is it similar to an elopement?

Intimate Wedding

An intimate wedding is commonly referred to as a wedding that has a smaller number of attendees than a regular wedding. In some countries like the US, it is also sometimes called a micro wedding. There really isn’t a strict definition and you can define it however you like. But in most cases, size is considered as the main factor for defining an intimate wedding.

In the UK, an average wedding has around 80-150 guests so an intimate wedding is usually one with up to 30 attendees.

Of course, this number is a relative estimate. Numbers could depend on several factors such as different wedding practices, cultures, and norms in various regions and countries around the world. For example, in a region or country where a regular wedding could have around 300-500 attendees, a wedding with 100 attendees could still be considered intimate.

intimate wedding in the UK - bride wearing Marchesa high neck long sleeves a line lace wedding gown and groom wearing long black coat, top hat and pinstripe trousers at the front steps of Hedsor House wedding venue near London. Photo by Cristina Ilao www.cristinailao.com

Intimate Wedding vs Elopement

But what’s the difference between an intimate wedding and an elopement? Those two words are both quite popular buzz words these days. Are those two actually the same? Is there any difference at all?

Elopements and intimate weddings may have some similarities. Intimate weddings include elopements and elopements are understandably intimate. However, the main difference between these two lies in the number of attendees. You may notice that the wedding party size has a big role in defining both terms.

An elopement is one where the only attendees are the couple, the officiant, and very few wedding suppliers – usually just the photographer, hairstylist, and make-up artist. Sometimes, the bride just does her own hair & make-up to keep it even smaller and the whole wedding party is limited to three people – the bride, groom, and officiant.

And before you even ask – No, elopements are not what they used to be. Gone are the days when a couple elopes to hide from their families and fight for their forbidden love. (Of course, you can totally do this if you can imagine yourselves as the modern-day Romeo & Juliet. Don’t let me stop you!) In the modern world, couples choose to elope (or opt for an intimate wedding) to break away from tradition and have a celebration that is more personal to them. Or they probably just don’t fancy having a big wedding – it could be as simple as that 🙂

bride and groom walking away from brinkburn northumberland intimate wedding venue unrestored manor house

Should you go for an intimate wedding?

If you’re one of those who are still on the fence about what kind of wedding to have, you will find this guide really useful. Most couples choose to have a smaller wedding to save on costs. But, there’s more to an intimate wedding than that. Read on to know more about why an intimate wedding might be right for you.

1. Freedom to be creative

Intimate weddings give you a lot of freedom to be creative. Having a smaller wedding party gives you a lot of options especially when it comes to choosing the venue and planning the details.

An intimate wedding is the perfect chance to be more adventurous and break free from tradition.

Let me ask you a question – wasn’t guest capacity one of your considerations when you were searching for wedding venues? Well, now that your guest count is smaller, those smaller venues you previously crossed out of your list can now be put back in. You can even choose alternative wedding venues that you haven’t considered before – think of museums, walled gardens, fields, historic sites, private cubs, a yacht or if you fancy it, a light and airy glass house! You are no longer restricted to the big venues that you chose to accommodate your original guest count. The list is endless (ok ok maybe not, but you know what I mean!).

With a smaller venue to fill, you now have a chance to creatively style your wedding for that personal and more intimate feel. Love lush flower centrepieces but don’t have enough budget to fill 20 guest tables? Fancy having a Michelin-starred wedding meal but don’t want to pay for 150 heads? With around 30 guests, now you have enough funds to splurge on the things that matter more to you. You can focus on quality and think less of quantity.

intimate wedding in the UK set at the English countryside flower farm near Thirsk. Bride is wearing a custom CHerry Wiliams London dress with off shoulder lace design and groom is wearing formal black suit. Photo by Cristina Ilao www.cristinailao.com

2. Cost savings

When it comes to weddings (and many other things), bigger isn’t always better.

An intimate wedding is generally easier on your bank account. Now don’t get me wrong, there are still some expenses that remain the same regardless of the size of your wedding party – the bride’s wedding dress, the groom’s suit, the hair & makeup artist’s fees are just some of those.

A smaller wedding means less food and drinks, fewer guest tables to decorate, fewer props to rent (linens, glassware, flatware, etc), and most importantly, a smaller space to fill. If you’re lucky, an intimate wedding venue would probably charge you less than a bigger venue. The money you saved on food and drinks, décor, and other details can now be put towards your honeymoon fund.

3. Less stress

Wedding planning could be quite a stressful experience especially when you’re dealing with a big wedding party.

From seat plans to diet requirements and guest politics, you could easily feel overwhelmed and just want to give up.

Some parts of wedding planning can drain your energy – Whether it’s a decision between inviting your remote relatives or not OR where to sit Uncle Bob and Aunt Jane (who divorced recently on bad terms) OR who to sit beside cousin Laura (who can’t seem to stop talking about herself). Who knew it could take a lot of time just planning which guests can sit together? Who knew your 150-guest count will include 8 different dietary requirements of 17 different guests? With lesser people on your list, all these issues could easily disappear. Your planning process will be more manageable and stress-free.

bride and groom dancing at bandstand

4. The C-word

Covid-19! Ooops, I said it – the dreaded C-word! Let’s get real. This is one of the most obvious reasons why you should have an intimate wedding right now. Covid-19 is making big celebrations (weddings included) impossible in lots of countries around the world.

An intimate wedding is practically one of the best options if you still plan to get married on the same date you originally chose.

It might not be as grand as what you initially planned. However, it gives you the option to get married and have your closest family and friends celebrate with you. Isn’t that what’s most important?

5. A heartfelt occasion

Imagine this: getting married with only your nearest and dearest family and friends. What could be more perfect than that? Having only the most important people on your wedding day means that you’ll both enjoy your day more. No more worrying about whether you’ve been good hosts to guests you don’t even have a close connection with (ie your mum’s best friend’s second cousin OR your uncle’s second wife’s youngest daughter – just thinking about how you’re connected to each other is stressful enough!)

You get to spend enough time with only the most important people and even more time enjoying the rest of the party.

Planning your dream intimate wedding? You might also like:
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Autumn Wedding Ideas You’ll Want to Try
Wedding Photographer: How to Choose One
Wedding Planning Well-being Tips
More Wedding Planning Tips

I hope you found this useful! Send me an email if you did or comment below if you have any questions. If you’d like to be notified the next time I share wedding planning tips like this, then please join my email list, and let’s stay in touch. Speak soon!

Much love,
Cristina x

London wedding and editorial photographer

Meet cRiSTina

Born and raised in the Philippines, Cristina is an award-winning international wedding photographer currently based in London and Newcastle, UK. She is known for her fine art approach and light and airy photography style.

Throughout her career, Cristina has worked with distinguished television celebrities, leading UK fashion influencers and international brands, cementing her place in the UK and extending her reach to a global client base. Cristina has been featured by Nikon Europe,  Yahoo Style UK, and some of the most notable international wedding and photography magazines.

Her work has taken her to some of the most beautiful places in the world including the USA, France, Malta, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Greece, and the Caribbean just to name a few.

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