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Emily Sullivan

The Ins and Outs of Intimate Weddings

Sometimes smaller is bigger; here, tips on creating the "intimate" wedding.

The number of “intimate” weddings is on the rise as couples seek to maximize their budgets without minimizing their experiences.

While small in size, intimate weddings need not be short on extravagance, personalization or unique character. In fact, fewer guests often mean more resources that today’s to-be-weds are using to make their weddings something special. Could an intimate wedding be right for your clients?

What is an intimate wedding?
Weddings with guest counts between 20 and 75 are generally considered “intimate,” although we’ve had them with as few as six guests. While elopements are intimate affairs as well, we tend to use the term “intimate wedding” to refer to more formalized events with an itinerary and, often, multiple events. Both local and destination weddings can fall into the category.

Keep the guest count low.
One of the challenges specifically associated with intimate weddings is narrowing the guest list down in a way that assures that the guest numbers stay low. This isn’t for everyone, and some couples aren’t cut out for saying no, whether it’s to their own friends and loved ones, or to their parents. In order to plan an intimate wedding, ensure that your couplies are united in their desire to include fewer than 75 guests altogether.

We’re often asked how many people couples should invite to take advantage of the most slots without going over, and it is a difficult question to answer universally. Your couple has to know the guests and the likelihood that they will attend.

We can say that for destination weddings, we suggest estimating that 80 percent of invitees will attend, all things being equal. Be very careful not to allow your clients to over-invite, as the numbers can easily get out of hand, spoiling the benefits of an intimate wedding.

How are budgets different?
For some couples, budget is the main factor influencing the decision to host an intimate wedding. 

Not all clients realize it, but the largest expense at most weddings is the food and beverage bill. When you consider that each person could be worth hundreds of dollars, it makes sense that limiting the number dramatically impacts the bottom line.

Your clients will dictate how “extra” funds are used. They might upgrade their ingredients to premium items and feature a more “palette-wowing” menu. Or, they could go over the top with decor and entertainment. The choice is theirs, but with a lower head count, you have more options available to suggest.

Tips on planning an intimate wedding weekend.
Some will extend the wedding experience beyond the traditional ceremony and reception. Intimate weddings offer the opportunity for your couple to spend more one-on-one time with each of their guests, so suggest that they host a welcome reception or post-wedding brunch. They could also schedule activities or excursions between events to allow more enjoyment of the wedding destination and time together as a group.

Intimate weddings can be anything from the ultimate dinner parties to whole weekends full of fun. They give you an opportunity to take personalizing your clients’ special events to a whole new level.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking bigger is always better--look for opportunities to throw incredible intimate weddings. Designing small weddings allows you to enjoy a different kind of challenge with potential for enormous satisfaction.

Emily Sullivan is the owner of Emily Sullivan Events, a full-service wedding planning company based in New Orleans that serves couples everywhere.

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