Many wedding ideas start off grand — big guest list, big dress, big budget.
But a number of factors have given rise to a new take on the big day: micro weddings. By keeping it small, couples can include all the important trappings that make for a dream wedding but at a much smaller price tag.
Couples marrying later in life and prioritizing other goals like buying a house, not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic, have prompted many people to rethink the big, traditional wedding. Having a small, intimate wedding instead allows you and your partner to celebrate each other on your terms and on your budget.
Here’s some micro wedding inspiration.
What Is a Micro Wedding?
First thing’s first: What are we talking about when we refer to a ‘micro wedding?’
A micro wedding is generally a wedding with less than 50 guests. Before COVID-19, micro weddings were a way to save on wedding costs by limiting the guest count to family members and a few close friends.
By keeping your guest list small, you cut down on the size wedding venue you need, and by extension, the cost of food, alcohol, table settings, decorations and favors.
But none of that means forgoing what is most important to you. With a small wedding, you simply cut out the fanfare of hosting a large crowd and focus your wedding planning on the details that matter most to you and your partner.
How Much Does a Micro Wedding Cost?
If you think of a micro wedding as a better-than-average party you’re throwing for your closest family and friends, the cost can be quite manageable. Think around $1,500 for some light food, drinks and the couple’s outfits for a party in someone’s home or backyard.
With every detail you add to your micro wedding, you’re adding to the cost. Even a small-scale wedding with catered food, alcohol and flowers at a rented wedding venue can reach $10,000.
But that’s still a fraction of what a larger wedding can cost. It’s not uncommon for couples to spend $30,000.
What to Keep in Mind when Planning a Micro Wedding
When planning a micro wedding, many of the old wedding traditions don’t necessarily apply. With a micro wedding ceremony — a “minimony,” if you will (and we definitely will) — remember that good things come in small packages.
With the Guest List, Think Minimal.
When you’re planning a micro wedding, start with your guest list. You may only want your closest friends and family there for your big day. Or you may even want it to be only the two of you and the officiant.
In some states, you can get hitched without an officiant via a self-uniting marriage.
Whether you have a handful of guests or just the couple at your micro wedding, venues and vendors across the wedding industry have many ways to help you celebrate your big day while saving money.
Get Creative with the Venue.
With a smaller guest list, your venue doesn’t need to be large — or even be a typical wedding venue. Your favorite art gallery might be renting out space, or you might be able to book a private room at your favorite restaurant. If a venue had a minimum guest count prior to 2020, those minimums have likely been reduced or eliminated altogether.
Throw a Destination Wedding.
You may have a bit of pent-up wanderlust, or maybe you’ve dreamed your whole life of a destination wedding.
Destination weddings are usually micro weddings. Because you or your guests will have to pay for extra expenses like hotel rooms and travel costs, the number of people who can attend is naturally smaller than a traditional wedding in your hometown.
Sweat the Details: Micro Wedding Ideas for a Small Guest List
By having a small, intimate wedding, you can think more creatively about the details that will make your affair unique and memorable. Peruse these wedding ideas and customize them to your taste.
Food and drink
- Make it a potluck. No really, you can ask your guests to bring a dish to share to your reception. You’ll find that people will bring recipes that are special to them, adding to the richness and intimacy of your wedding day. To ensure a well-rounded meal, you could provide a main dish like a turkey or ham and let guests fill in the sides.
- Pass on hard liquor. Beer and wine are more affordable than providing a full bar. And the champagne toast? People will raise a glass to you of whatever they’re drinking, so consider skipping the bubbly.
- Serve family style. At a micro wedding, you can have all your guests together instead of at tables spread across a room. Consider offering a family-style meal with everyone seated together, passing the bowls and dishes like an actual family.
- Limit the flowers. Fresh flower arrangements are not cheap. Don’t go into your wedding planning assuming you have to adorn your wedding hall with hundreds of floral displays. In fact, it’s perfectly fine for the only flowers in a wedding to be the bouquet the bride carries.
- Instead of flowers… Consider fresh fruit, greenery, pinecones, candles, ornamental balls or balloons. Buy clear glass vases cheaply at thrift stores. Enlist your most creative friend to assemble table centerpieces. Remember: unique is beautiful!
Here are a few micro wedding favors you might consider for your big day, depending on your budget and theme:
- Flip flops. If you plan on driving to the beach for your destination wedding, flip flops can make a great wedding favor. If guests forget about the sand and wear fancy shoes to your celebration, they’ll appreciate the option to switch to more beach-friendly attire upon arrival. You can ask each guest for their shoe size beforehand so everyone is accurately accounted for.
- Custom luggage tags. This option is a little more expensive, but if you find yourself with extra padding in your wedding budget you may decide they’re worth it. Luggage tags can serve as a long-lasting reminder to your guests of your special day.
- Customizable keepsakes. Beer koozies, tea bags, soaps, bookmarks and magnets are all inexpensive trinkets to offer your guests.
- Nothing at all. Wedding favors are not required, especially at a micro wedding.
Similarly, because micro weddings have smaller guest lists, couples can opt for a non-traditional guest book. Here are some ideas that can be customized to any micro wedding budget:
- Picture frame. When you get your wedding pictures back from the photographer, there’s likely to be one photo that just blows you away. Before the wedding, purchase a frame where you can display that much-anticipated picture. Buy a frame with a removable mat. Then, you can have your guests sign the mat. Their well-wishes can be displayed in your home, framing your favorite wedding photo.
- Ornaments. Have you ever known someone who has a tradition of picking up a Christmas ornament on every vacation? Their tree then reminds them of all the journeys they’ve enjoyed. You can do a similar thing for your wedding day — especially if you have a micro wedding. Instead of a guest book, provide ornaments and paint pens coordinated with your wedding colors. Each guest will sign one. Every year, you can display your wedding-day memories on your tree, remembering those who were there with you.
- Tiles or stepping stones. As you and your new spouse are setting up your home together, you can integrate your wedding day into your design plans. Put out some tiles at your micro wedding in lieu of a guest book. Each guest can sign one, and you can place them in your front entryway or garden.
Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. She blogs at Femme Frugality.