The Benefits of Planning for a Small Wedding

June 19, 2020

Call it an elopement, micro wedding, or minimony, but planning for a small wedding has some wonderful benefits. There is no doubt that these current times are challenging for all of us. However, there are some great choices available, even though they might not be ideal at first glance. Micro weddings have been slowly gaining momentum over the past few years for a myriad of reasons. One of the most obvious benefits comes down to cost.

It’s no surprise that thousands of betrothed couples are altering their summer wedding plans. Instead of postponing their original celebration to another date far into the future, many are willing to forgo their larger guest lists to enjoy their original summer or early fall wedding date. Let’s take a look at which option best fits you and your partner. You might just be pleasantly surprised when you discover the wedding you really always wanted is within your reach.

Small Weddings : Elopements

There are some key differences between each of these alternatives. Though the term can catch a few raised eyebrows from others, an elopement is typically a secretive and sudden gathering. Can we say a surprise trip to Vegas? However, elopements are a little more common place for today’s Brides and Grooms. Elopement offer another way to have a beautiful wedding that isn’t traditional. Typically, elopements involve traveling from wherever the couple reside for another destination in order to have a wedding ceremony. There is no need for guests if you prefer not; only a single witness is required. . Some couples choose this route because they cannot afford a traditional wedding. Another common impetus is because either one or both families do not support the union.

An elopement can help relieve much of the financial burden applied to family members, and even the couple themselves. Traditionally, elopements involve less than 15 people, including the Bride and Groom. Colloquially, we know elopements from the “surprise” trip to Vegas that many couples take. In fact, Las Vegas averages 100,000 weddings a year, so this trend is definitely alive and well.

Something Minted Photography

Mini Ceremonies or Minimonies

A minimony is another wedding option that allows couples to celebrate with a few guests. This event involves an officiant (in-person or virtual depending on the area), a small group of loved ones, and a handful of vendors. The mini ceremony is an abbreviated sequence of events that includes some sort of a commitment or actual wedding ceremony, followed by light refreshments, potentially a first dance, and/or even a small cake cutting and champagne toast.

A minimony can also be the prequel to the wedding celebration that will be planned for a future date, and enjoyed by a larger group of guests. This event has gained tremendous popularity with the Coronavirus pandemic, even though these small ceremonies must also adhere to social distancing guidelines. An intimate ceremony can be a great option for couples that want to celebrate now and later.

Shelly Anderson Photography

Sequel Weddings

Sequel weddings build upon minimonies, and elopements. They are the second part of the wedding equation and include the reception. Depending on the couple, some will have an additional ceremony for close friends and family to witness. Others will use this time strictly as the reception with dancing, food, and drinks. This “sequel” wedding is scheduled far enough in advance, so as to stave off any social distancing guidelines. This option could be perfect for you if you’d prefer to celebrate with all of your original guests. Many couples love this idea because they get two days to celebrate instead of the traditional one.

Desert Born Studios

Micro Weddings

Micro weddings, by definition are exactly that: a small wedding, consisting of anywhere from 15-50 guests. This type of celebration is available for those that don’t want to wait and have a ceremony now, and a reception later.

Shelly Anderson Photography

What’s your Number?

Let’s face it, weddings are expensive. According to the Knot, the average cost of a wedding is currently $33,000. In San Diego, weddings normally cost $37,000-$40,000. That’s a significant sum of money, and one that many couples would rather use as a downpayment on a home. As a result, couples struggle to find a balance between celebrating their way without amassing too much debt. Enter the micro wedding!

Let’s break this down: a wedding of 125 people in San Diego runs $37,000 (including the engagement ring). Usually half of the remaining budget ($31,100) is spent on the venue (9.2%) and catering (38.5%) Therefore, the largest part of the overall wedding cost (catering) can be easily modified by altering the number of guests. Using $31,100 ($37,000 minus engagement ring) as an average cost for 125 people, catering would run around 40%, so $12,440. This is roughly $100 per person for food and beverage. But what if you decreased the guest count to 50?

Table that illustrates the relationship between number guest counts and total cost.

The asterisks (*) show the categories that will probably decrease with a smaller guest count. This is important to note because the table only shows the savings for catering. Couples now have the choice of spending less in these designated areas or splurging on what they really want. Oftentimes, couples save a portion of these funds while the remaining amount is used for upgrades. 

Planning for a Small Wedding

Since catering makes up the single largest portion of your budget, planning for a smaller wedding can save a considerable amount. Even if all the vendors remained at the original cost, there would still be a significant amount of savings. And in many situations, these savings are conservative. Think about it, do you need a cake that feeds 125 when you only have 50 guests? Do you need 63 invitations (on average 2 people per invitation) when you’ll only use closer to 25? It’s highly unlikely. It’s at this point that couples get really excited. Instead of stressing out that they’ve spent too much, they’re able to be on the opposite side of the equation. They get to enjoy the extra breathing room and either upgrade certain aspects, or save it. Planning for a micro wedding, or any small wedding can help make your dollar go further.

When it comes to what to spend the additional funds on, there are so many options. Add calligraphy to your invitations, invest in a band instead of a DJ, let your florist use more expensive flowers for your design. Maybe offer your guests a mixologist for cocktail hour, or event get the cake design that you really wanted but couldn’t previously afford. The list goes on and on. The design world can really open up to give you a dream wedding that you never could’ve afforded with over double the guests.

All Good Things Photography


Wedding celebrations come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, just as their budgets vary as well. Though some might be more flexible than others, weddings are typically planned with a budget in mind. It’s also no secret that guest count is directly related to the overall cost. While some couples need to host larger affairs simply to encompass all family members, others can enjoy smaller gatherings. It really depends on the couple, and what works for both families.

Of course, this correlation doesn’t mean that smaller weddings are not as enjoyable as larger ones, they’re simply different.

The Benefits of Planning Small

Shelly Anderson Photography

Micro weddings, minimonies, and all the smaller wedding options have some great benefits. For inspiration on how to make your small gathering special, consider looking here. If your group isn’t up for a non-stop dance party, guests can enjoy more time socializing. This allows you to prioritize visiting with your guests. Though a massive guest list can make for a great time it doesn’t allow enough time to visit with everyone, so this is one case in which less is definitely more.

Are you or your partner a bit shy? If so, going small might make you more at ease. Saying vows among your closest friends and family, followed by a dinner reservation at your favorite restaurant might be perfect for those who don’t need all the pomp and circumstance.

Larger groups can be more challenging to coordinate for photographs as well. Trying to get a picture with each of your 300 guests can prove to not only be challenging, but darn near impossible in the time allotted. If pictures are very salient to the couple, consider a micro wedding. With no more than 50 guests, it will be much easier to not only enjoy time with each guest, but also to capture photos with everyone as well.

Desert Born Studios

Let’s be Honest

Gone are the days when a wedding was (largely) paid for by your parents and you were stuck inviting guests and observing traditions that didn’t resonate with you. Big is not always better, and more elaborate celebrations are not always the perfect fit. Many times, the Bride and Groom are footing the majority of the bill, and this is a fundamental difference between weddings of the last few generations and today. If the couple is paying for the wedding, they should have control over who they choose to invite. There are more options available to personalize your wedding than ever before, so take advantage of it. Create the wedding that will make you happy when you pull out the photo album on your 10th anniversary.

Clients look at me as if I’ve grown a third eye when I suggest cutting the guest list. How many people do you need at your wedding? How many do you actually want? Take a step back, and before you answer the question with an emphatic “But I must have these 150 guests at my wedding!”, consider cause and effect.Imagine if having a wedding of 200 severely limits the chance to take a honeymoon in the next five years, think about that. If hosting a large wedding requires you to keep guests busy with external activities for your wedding weekend, (and thus increases your stress and cost), think twice. If having an elaborate wedding significantly limits your home buying options for the new few years, be realistic and honest with yourself. And if doesn’t affect any of these parameters of your life together, go big!

Quantity vs Quality?

It’s no secret that the prettiest wedding inspiration photos we typically find online and in magazines are not your basic, run of the mill, DIY ideas. These weddings, or more often times photo shoots to inspire a wedding require a small village of artisans and crew to execute.

If there was a price tag attached to each wedding bouquet that a Bride swooned over, or handwritten vows in a custom velvet book engraved with your names, you might be blown off your chair when you find out what these items actually cost to reproduce. I’m not saying it’s not worth it, but it functions as a good reminder that weddings are expensive. And when you prefer quality and quantity on a limited budget, something has got to give.

Quality is usually sacrificed for the collective happiness. But planning for a micro wedding, or even minimony offers you the opportunity to prioritize quality over quantity. Intimate gatherings recenter the focus back onto the couple, and this of course, what weddings are all about.

Feel free to pin this article on Pinterest for your inspiration and advice.

  1. Tamiflu says:

    Less stress. While smaller doesn t necessarily mean simpler, coordinating an event for ten people is generally less daunting and anxiety-inducing than coordinating one for 100, especially if those ten people are close friends and family. You ll find that the reduced number of guests will give you more flexibility in the planning process and more time to focus on the details. RSVPs will also be a snap!

  2. […] the process, and help appreciate this special time in your lives. Feel free to check out my other article that dives a bit deeper into planning a small wedding in San […]

  3. […] details. If you’re considering throwing a small, more intimate affair, check out this post for some great reasons why going small doesn’t have to be boring. The Knot also has a […]

  4. […] have or changing occupations and titles are likely within the next year and a half. Check out my article about the monetary benefits of planning for a small wedding if stress is starting to creep […]

  5. […] for more information on how to plan a wedding during Covid-19 and micro weddings can be found here. In this article, you’ll find plenty of advice on how to decide if a micro wedding is even […]

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