How to Have a Small Wedding: 5 Creative and Practical Tips

May 5, 2023

A lot of wedding advice on the internet isn’t all that helpful when you’re figuring out how to have a small wedding. One of the perks of a more intimate celebration is that you can really tailor it to your personality and focus on having the experience that you want. In other words, a smaller guest count gives you a chance to simplify your life a bit and go all out on the things that count. These are five of my favorite ideas for having a small wedding that feels true to you.

Wedding guests watch a wedding ceremony at Royal Boucherie, a small wedding venue in Philadelphia.

5 Tips on How to Have a Small Wedding

1. Reduce vendors with an inclusive venue.

Try to find a venue that’s all-inclusive, or as close to it as possible. For a wedding venue, that means that, at minimum, they provide tables, chairs, plates, flatware, and in-house catering. This type of venue eliminates the need for separate rental companies and caterers. 

Two long tables are set for a wedding reception at a rooftop wedding venue in Philadelphia.

All of this makes restaurants great solutions when you’re deciding how to have a small wedding. Closing a restaurant for the night can get expensive, so explore options for private rooms in addition to buy-out packages. 

A tray of seafood sits on a cocktail hour buffet as an idea for how to have a small wedding.

A few restaurants where I’ve photographed small Philadelphia weddings and rehearsal dinner include:

Sun shines on glassware and casts shadows.

Another perk of a restaurant wedding is that they have a predetermined aesthetic. You don’t have to design your event from scratch. You can just build off what’s already there with some florals.

Wedding guests eat dinner in a tent lined with lights.

2. Look for a venue with lodging available.

Finding a wedding venue with lodging is another great way to build convenience into your small wedding experience. You get to be around your family and friends for more of the wedding weekend. Bed and breakfasts and boutique hotels often can accommodate smaller weddings and give a more unique experience than big hotels. The Deacon is an example of a Philadelphia wedding venue that combines a modern event space with cool accommodations.

Sunlight shines on an armchair in the sitting room of a small wedding venue.
A groom straightens his tie in a mirror.

Another advantage of staying at your venue is that you don’t spend as much time running between places the day of your wedding. That means you have more time for portraits, personal moments with your wedding guests, or whatever else you want to prioritize. If you’re researching how to have a small wedding, my guess is that you want to cut out what doesn’t feel true to you anyway.

Two groomsmen tie a necktie in a getting ready suite and talk about how to have a small wedding
A makeup artist applies bridal make up in a Philadelphia hotel room.

3. Treat your vendors like guests, too.

With a smaller guest list, you can treat your vendors like guests too. Just like anyone traveling in from out of town (or even across town) for your wedding, they’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness. You can ask if they need transportation to or from the airport. If they’re not working your rehearsal dinner, invite them to join the meal. Making their stay as easy as possible will mean a lot since they’re likely traveling with extra gear and clothing. It will also help your day go more smoothly. Most importantly, welcoming vendors in this way adds to the intimacy and uniqueness of your day.

Wedding guests gather for a backyard wedding in Philadelphia.
Guests sit in multi-colored chairs to watch a wedding at Irwin's.

4. Skip traditions that don’t work for you, and embrace the ones that do.

When you’re deciding how to have a small wedding, design an experience that reflects your personality. Ideally, a smaller guest list means there are fewer expectations around what you “have” to do. You can embrace traditions you love and skip the ones that don’t work for you. Here are a few traditions that I’ve seen incorporated into otherwise nontraditional weddings.

  • Religious traditions like the ketubah, chuppah, and hora
  • Cake cutting with a small cake instead of a big, multi-tiered one
  • A small ceremony following family traditions at home followed by a bigger reception at a favorite bar
A family member points at a ketubah sitting on a table at a small wedding
Wedding guests raise a bride and groom in chairs to dance the horah.

The point is that this is your wedding day. You get to decide what works for you and what doesn’t. It all adds to the one-of-a-kind experience you’re creating.

A bride points to small cutting cakes as an idea for how to have a small wedding.
A bride and groom kiss at a wedding cake cutting.

5. Let your wedding photographer get creative.

Finally, a more intimate wedding and relaxed timeline means your wedding photographer can get creative! Even candid photos take time to do well. Your images will be so much more meaningful if you’re not rushing rapidfire through a portraits list. I specialize in film photography and Super 8 movies, and that definitely requires a different level of intentionality. Having extra time always helps.

A bride and groom pose for creative wedding portraits in the BOK building.
A bride and groom pose on a dock at a lake house wedding.
A Philadelphia bride and groom pose for wedding portraits on a corner.
A gilded mirror reflects a bride straightening a groom's tie and talking about how to have a small wedding.

Were these tips on how to have a small wedding helpful? Check out 11 Creative Small Wedding Ideas for more on florals, decor, and ways to give your guests an unforgettable experience.