Big weddings can be fun, but let’s be honest, the stress is real. The cost, pressures, and expectations can be overwhelming and take away all the fun that should be involved in planning this special day. Small weddings are becoming more and more popular, as couples are deciding to keep their wedding days cozy, personal, and centered on what they love most.

If you’re thinking of saying HECK NO to a traditional wedding and HECK YES to something smaller and more intimate, here are 10 ways to plan a small, simple wedding day and send stress packing!


1. Choose a small venue to limit the number of guests

Traditional weddings come with a lot of pressure to invite EVERYONE you know, distant relatives you’ve never met, or people you’re not really close to. And the more guests you invite, the more people you feel obligated to take time to talk to on your wedding day. In order to avoid this, choose a small wedding venue that is very limited on guest numbers. This gives you a valid reason to only invite the people you really want there!

2. Don’t have a wedding party

While it’s a nice concept to have your closest friends stand at your side on your big day, wedding parties come with a lot of extra cost. Dresses, suits, ties, bouquets, boutonnieres, hair + makeup, just to name a few! Plus the stress of choosing the members, worry of excluding others, dealing with friends who don’t get along. It can quickly get out of hand! Remember, the more people who get involved, the more complicated your wedding can get. The way to avoid this is to just forego a wedding party altogether! My husband and I did this at our wedding, but we still invited our close friends to hang out the morning of and get ready with us. It was wonderful! Not having a wedding party doesn’t mean excluding your friends from your celebration.

3. Have a food truck or finger-food instead of a caterer

One of the BEST decisions my husband and I made for our wedding was keeping our food ridiculously simple: pizza from our favorite delivery place down the street, and donuts from the best local shop. That was it. Not only was it stupid cheap, but it was also so easy for our guests to grab some food and mingle and not worry about taking time for a sit-down dinner. Plus, pizza and donuts are totally us, so even our food choices made our wedding seem more personal and unique to us. Food trucks are also a simpler, cheaper option than caterers (less staff, less prep, less set-up!).

4. Choose a friend to be your officiant

A great way to keep your wedding day intimate and personal is to choose one of your friends to be your officiant. Literally anyone can get ordained online, and what could be better than to have someone you know and love help you get married rather than a stranger?


5. Private ceremony, big reception

Some couples are just not comfortable being in front of people and being the center of attention. So the thought of a wedding ceremony in front of all their guests fills them with dread rather than excitement. And we don’t need any of that! On your wedding day, get ready and head off to a secluded, beautiful place to say your vows with just your officiant and maybe one or two witnesses. Take your time and enjoy the moment rather than worrying about a bunch of eyes staring at you. Then go have fun at your reception with your friends! Or at least, just exchange personal vows to each other completely alone, and then keep your ceremony with your guests short and sweet. Fear not, introverts, the options are out there!!

6. Keep your wedding day all in one location

Something that can easily turn your wedding day into a chaotic nightmare is having multiple locations and venues for getting ready, ceremony, and reception. There’s a lot of traveling back and forth, worrying about traffic and getting there on time, forgetting items at one location and having to go back for it, and just a lot of unneeded stress. Try to book a venue where you get ready, get married, and get to partying all in one place!


7. Spend the day together

Probably my favorite part of my wedding day was the fact that my husband and I were together 90% of the day (we only separated when it was time to get dressed so our first look could still be a surprise!). It was so wonderful getting to hang out together on our wedding day and enjoy the morning instead of being separated. Imagine being with your partner the whole morning of your wedding, having coffee together, writing down your vows, helping each other get ready, exchanging gifts, and just enjoying your wedding day together rather than being separated for most of it. Being together helps keep you both relaxed and calm and rested up for the party!

8. Elope

Ahhhh elopements. The light of my life. Elopements have become increasingly popular in the past few years, and for good reason! They no longer mean running off to Vegas or scandalously getting married in secret. Eloping just means you decide to forego a big traditional wedding, pick a beautiful place you both love, and get married just the two of you. Elopements are such a beautiful way to make your wedding day EXACTLY what you want it to be. No pressure, no expectations, no obligations, no stress. No one to please except the two of you, which is what matters most! And instead of spending a ton of money on buying dinner for 200 people or centerpieces that are just gonna be thrown away, you can invest in a once-in-a-lifetime wedding experience that is more true and authentic to you, and fill your wedding day with what you love. That could be hiking to a waterfall, exploring a beach, or relaxing in a cabin in the woods. So many couples are deciding to skip all the extra stuff that comes with a traditional wedding and craft an intimate, intentional day for just the two of them to focus on each other.


9. Have a Destination Wedding

Getting married outside your home state is a great way to keep your wedding small and intimate. Since most likely only the people who are truly close to you would take the time, money, and effort to attend, you can really limit your guest list and plan an amazing day or weekend experience for both you and your guests to celebrate and connect. You could plan a cozy outdoor dinner, fun activities throughout the day, and a close-knit ceremony in a stunning location. Just you two, your absolute favorite people, and a unique experience everyone will cherish. Doesn’t that sound amazing??

10. Remember that your wedding doesn’t have to fit in a box

Whatever you’re dreaming up for your big day, just remember that regardless what Pinterest says, weddings are not meant to be cookie-cutter. You don’t have to do anything just because it’s tradition or that’s what’s always done. If you want to elope, do it! If you want to plan a big party, do it! If you want a chill backyard reception around a bonfire, do it! If anything throughout the planning process feels uncomfortable or untrue to you and your partner, then just don’t feel pressured to do it. You don’t want to look back on your wedding day with regret. Fill your wedding celebration with new traditions and events that you are so freakin excited about and have the best day of your life!!


Hi, I’m Payton!

I’m a traveling wedding + elopement photographer based in Oklahoma City, documenting weddings in Joshua Tree, Utah, Washington, NYC, and all over the world! I specialize in working with intentional, adventurous couples who are focused on making their wedding day exactly what they want it to be, regardless of tradition. I would love to chat and help you document your one-of-a-kind wedding or elopement, or plan the most epic couples session. Inquire with me today!

  1. Brittney says:

    I love the insight definitely saving to re-read when I start to over think my special day.

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