I am not a party-person.
I don’t enjoy being the center of attention, and –outside of teaching situations–when people look to me to make decisions, I get sweaty.
That was part of the reason why my husband and I chose to buck tradition and go with a teeny-tiny intimate wedding last fall. The things that were most important to me on my wedding day (aside from being legally married to my husband) was that it would be stress free, low key, and represent us as a couple.
I thought I’d share some of my strategies for wedding planning for those of you who want to stay small.
Ten Steps to Planning the Intimate Wedding of Your Dreams (on a budget):
- Stick to Your Guns and Stay Small. Immediate family (parents, siblings, grandparents) and one or two close friends. At our wedding we had 15 people (including my sister’s three kids). “But Aunt Sally wants to come? Couldn’t you add just two more?” No. “What if we pay for their dinners?” No. It may seem harsh, but most people will understand if you are keeping the guest list small for budget reasons. So stick to your guns and don’t let guilt or pressure force your hand.
- Use a Non-Wedding Venue (that speaks to your love story). We decided to get married on the college campus where we met. We had so many fun happy memories there that we knew it would add to the romance of our Big Day. Plus, the campus in the fall was beautiful so we didn’t have to spend money on décor. We booked an old stone cottage for the ceremony and took pictures around campus. Not only did we save money on ridiculous wedding venue fees, but we were someplace familiar and it helped ease the stress of the day.
- Pay Less For the Dress. I do not look attractive in white. Blush washes me out. From the very start, I knew that I wanted something old-fashioned but not traditional for my wedding dress. I also didn’t want to spend a fortune on a dress just because it said “wedding” on the tag. So I did some research on different designers of evening wear. Then I went to the fancy department store in the mall and tried on many dresses. It took a few hours, but I’d done my research, and I found the dress that made my mom tear up. Then I took it off and left it there. I went home, researched the same dress online and found it in a boutique for $200 less than the department store. I had it shipped to my house and my dress search was over.
- Utilize Talented Friends and Family. My family is very creative. My sister was an aspiring photographer before our wedding. She took pictures on the wedding day and later used them on her photography website. My brother-in-law was also a talented photographer. Between the two of them, they captured the entire day and had the photos to us in a fraction of the time it would have taken a professional wedding photographer. All we had to do was buy them thank you gifts on the honeymoon! My mom is also a fantastic quilter, so she offered to make quilt squares for a signature quilt, rather than having guests sign a book.
- Networking. I used to work at the hotel in town, so I contacted my old GM to get a deal on a block of hotel rooms for my guests. I was lucky because Columbus Day weekend was a busy time in Gettysburg, PA and most hotels were sold out. My husband used to work at the local theatre so we asked to have our names put of the marquee and they pulled some strings! Small towns are great!
- Use Pinterest (in moderation). Since we were traveling 5 hours to reach our wedding destination, I knew not to go too crazy with Pinterest crafts I would then have to transport. I used it mostly for invitation ideas, guest welcome bags, and bouquet inspiration. Also, most Pinterest crafts CAN’T be created using the things you have on hand (unless you are Martha Stewart or my mother). Chances are that you will spend more on your DIY project than you would have if you had just bought it pre-made.
- Flower Arrangements Are Pretty…expensive. We used a lot of the landscaping on campus in photos, and the only flowers we used in the ceremony were two small bouquets (one for me and one for my MOH). We made the bouquets ourselves using pre-cut flowers from the local grocery store, some floral wire, and ribbon. It took a few tries, but they came out great in the end.
- ‘Cuz if your friends don’t dance then…it’s not a big deal. There are some families that dance, and some that don’t. My husband and I created three hours-worth of playlists for the dinner reception. It was nice to have some noise in the background, but no one danced. And at the end of the night, it didn’t really matter. Everyone had a good meal, good conversation, and no one made a fool of themselves. Glad we didn’t spring for a DJ!
- Let Them Eat Cupcakes! I really stressed about the wedding cake. At one point I (insanely) considered baking the cake myself. The major problem was that the cake had to be gluten-free but still taste (and look) good for all of our guests. At the 11th hour, I found a bakery about 40 minutes from our wedding venue that specialized in gluten-free baked goods. I e-mailed the baker/owner and she was so nice and helpful. We ordered two dozen chocolate cupcakes, with two different fillings, and they were perfect! My husband and I even got to “cut the cupcake”, which was fun.
- Skip the Officiant, Use a Judge. My husband and I are not religious, and it felt strange asking a stranger to attend our intimate ceremony and marry us. For various legal reasons, we decided to get married at the local courthouse the day before the wedding, before our families arrived in town. The whole process took 5 minutes, cost $60, and then we got to go and eat breakfast in our favorite diner, just the two of us. We asked a close friend (he introduced us in college) to perform the ceremony in front of our families the next day.
As expected, I got some flack for trying to plan a small wedding—at first. But when I became more confident in my decision to include immediate family only, everyone I talked to secretly admitted that they wished they had gone small, too.
In the end, your wedding should be a reflection of your relationship and the start of your new life together. Don’t let the haters get you down! Small is the way to go.
Tune in for Part 2 of Mrs. To MFA where I discuss my novel revision process and completing my thesis.