Joshua Tree Wedding and Elopement

The Complete Guide to Planning an Intimate Wedding

Small intimate weddings with just the select close loved ones are starting to become the new norm for wedding planning. 

The Complete Guide to Planning an Intimate Wedding

Small intimate weddings with just a select close loved ones are starting to become the new norm for wedding planning.

The idea of couples planning to have an intimate wedding became even more seeked out following the covid lockdown where many couples either had to cancel their weddings or reschedule their weddings to something smaller.

The Complete Guide to Planning an Intimate Wedding​

An intimate wedding is something that many people have come to fall in love with not just because it costs less but also because intimate weddings tend to create a calmer ambiance for a deeper connection between the couple and their guests!

Another primary reason why so many couples are opting for an intimate wedding instead of a large, traditional wedding is because of how less stressful it is on yourself.

Instead of having to stress about centerpieces and color schemes, you could plan a small, intimate wedding; which is the ideal way to ensure that you spend the best day of your life having fun and enjoying yourselves.

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The truth is that not everyone’s cup of tea is to have a large extravagant wedding. 

Having an intimate wedding, on the other hand, is becoming increasingly popular for the people who prefer to surround themselves with only their closest loved ones. 

With a smaller guest list, you can focus on providing a more personalized and memorable experience catered for you and your guests.


For some couples, an elopement may be on their agenda because of the fear of an overwhelmingly large wedding but at the same time, they wish for their families to be there to witness their special day without all the craziness that comes with a large wedding. In this case, an intimate wedding is your best bet!

If you are getting married soon and have been thinking about how to plan the perfect intimate wedding- then read on to find out how!

What is an Intimate Wedding?

An intimate wedding is a small, private ceremony typically involving close family and friends.

These types of weddings are often more personal and intentional than large, formal affairs, and it is just as beautiful and special for the day

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If you’re planning an intimate wedding, here are a few things to keep in mind: 

  1. Plan and discuss the size of your guest list. An intimate wedding usually has 50 guests or fewer, so you’ll need to be selective about who you invite. This is a good opportunity to really focus on quality over quantity, so invite the people who are most important to you and who you know will make the day even more special.
  2. Choose a venue that fits the vibe you’re going for. A small banquet hall, restaurant, or even someone’s home, like a special Airbnb, can be the perfect setting for an intimate wedding. Just make sure the space is comfortable and has enough room for your guests to mingle. 
  3. Don’t cut corners on the details that are meaningful to you. Just because your wedding is intimate doesn’t mean it can’t be as fabulous as larger weddings if that’s what you want. Work with a talented photographer, florist, and caterer to make sure every element of your wedding is perfect for you and the special day.

What is the ideal number of guests for an Intimate Wedding?

While there is no number set in stone for the number of guests you should have at an intimate wedding, an intimate wedding is selectively defined as having 50 or fewer guests. 

Many believe that the fewer people you invite, the more intimate the event can be, but that doesn’t have to be the case for you.

You can make it a highly personalized memorable experience by inviting 20 to 40 people, or you can have a Deluxe guest list of ten loved ones. It’s completely up to you for what you end up going with. 

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Advantages of Planning an Intimate Wedding

There are plenty of advantages that come with planning an intimate wedding. Intimate weddings are ideal for daring, creative concepts that create the perfect setting.

Although you can go as big or as small as you want with an intimate wedding, there’s no reason you can’t have all the amazing details as larger weddings—like stunning flowers—while also splurging on photography or videography or what feels right for you.

An intimate wedding also allows for greater organization, venue options, and more time spent with each guest.

Your guests will also benefit from an Intimate Wedding

With a smaller guest list, you can plan to wed in more intimate settings and devote more time to creating new experiences and memorable moments that you and your guests will remember fondly for the rest of their lives.

Having fewer guests allows you to invest a larger portion of your budget in other areas, such as set-ups, photo/video services, dresses, and guest entertainment. 

You can ‘pamper’ your guests even more by planning some surprises for them (such as a tourist visit, a welcome dinner, a brunch, or a tasting) in the days leading up to or following the wedding. 

You also have a larger variety of location options to think and choose from, which isn’t that easy to do for a traditional wedding.


Features of an Intimate Wedding

The fact that you are planning a small, intimate wedding does not mean that the wedding would lack a format and setting if you wish. While an intimate wedding requires less ambiguous preparations, you can still structure a timeline to have the desired format.

Intimate weddings don’t require a certain format and settings and with the number of guests reduced more guest-centered details could take place at the wedding. 

Instead of a formal reception with speeches, it could become more relaxed in the easy ambiance like “dinner with best friends”.

With the ongoing popularity of destination weddings, planning an intimate wedding becomes a lot more manageable and less stressful, as travel details for a small group of attendees to the destination of your best day ever!

Is an Intimate Wedding for Me?

It’s alright to be confused on how to know what’s right for your envisioned wedding; to help you decide if an intimate wedding is right for you, check some thoughts:


  • You’re excited to spend quality time with your closest loved ones. 
  • You’re fine with not having the entire traditional rituals that don’t mean much to you.
  • You find large weddings overwhelming.
  • You hope to limit your carbon footprint by using fewer resources for the wedding


If you nodded your head in agreement, then an intimate wedding is definitely for you!

Steps on How To Plan an Intimate Wedding:

Planning an intimate wedding may appear simple, but it can be difficult to pull off logistically. 

To make things easier, we’ve compiled a list of tips for planning a small wedding so you don’t have to stress.

Steps on Planning an Intimate Wedding

Start planning on time

To begin with, a wedding being intimate does not imply that it can be planned easily. There are still many tough decisions to make, and tasks to complete. 

If you’re looking to book a venue, start thinking about your venue first and put that at the top of your priority list and work your way down from there.

Start early if you’re planning to DIY any details because projects usually take longer and require more resources than you anticipate, and you don’t want to cause any delays or mishaps.

It’s best to plan ahead to give yourself some breathing room as the deadline approaches so you don’t overwhelm and overwork yourself in the end..

Narrow down your guest list 

Having to narrow down your guest list for your intimate wedding may be one of the trickiest and hardest parts of the entire wedding planning process. 

While it may be the hardest, it is also the most important because you want to ensure that only the people you as a couple mutually want to share in your experience are the people in attendance. 

To narrow down your guest list, you and your spouse-to-be can create the invite list together, and be as discerning as possible with who makes the cut. 

It’s your day and there’s no shame in eliminating someone from the list!


If your guest list is pushing to 50, you can reconsider allowing plus ones. 

Many of your attendees are likely to know one another anyways so, you’re unlikely to face much backlash for your selection. 

Even if you do, keep in mind that it is your wedding. You have every right to refuse someone you scarcely know who arrives on Cousin or Aunty’s arm. 


Depending on where you’re getting married, there may be restrictions. The good news is that under these circumstances, people are less likely to feel left out, so if you’re worried about damaged feelings, you can relax. 

Don’t feel inclined to invite anyone that you do not want to invite.


When it comes to whittling down your guest list, our greatest advice is to keep your inner circle of family and friends involved. 

Assemble a group of people that make you feel loved, at ease, and supported. These people will make the day an unforgettable moment. 

Pick the right location for your wedding 

The abundance of available venues is a significant benefit of planning an intimate wedding. 

While large weddings are limited to event spaces that can accommodate a large group; Small, intimate weddings give room for creativity so you have the freedom to pump your creative juices up and go all out!. 

Whatever choice you make in picking the right location for your wedding, ensure that it is an intimate place free from the hustle and bustle of the city; this will allow you to connect deeper with your guests and have the intimate, secluded vibe you’re going for.

Here are a couple of ideas you can keep in mind of:

Intimate Wedding Venue Ideas

Choose one big venue over two wedding locations

Traditionally, most couples have two venues for their weddings; one where the tying of the knot is done (usually a church or outdoor venue) and the second where the reception takes place. 

When you pick one big indoor or outdoor venue where you want to host your wedding, it creates a time gap between your wedding and reception. You can make the ceremony location more secluded while leaving the reception area open to nature. Don’t buy too much decor because you’ll be moving it to the reception. A villa, hotel, park, or garden would be ideal.

With this, You will save money on logistics, transportation, and venue.

You save money when guests do not have to travel from the ceremony to the reception, so definitely keep that in mind if you’re looking to save more for less costs!


A Family-Style Dinner Location 

A family dining setting could be a beach, your backyard, or even a garden. You can set up chairs across a long table or do a picnic-style setup with blankets for guests. Arrange chairs or blankets for guests. String lights can be used to add a glitzy ambiance to the venue. Pass the food around so that everyone can eat as much in an all-you-can-eat family-style setting.

This dinner layout promotes mingling and interaction. It also saves money on a variety of foods because everyone eats the same thing.


A Comfortable Lounge for Guests 

Set up a nice lounge for wedding guests. Couches, throw pillows, low dark lighting, beverages, and refreshments are all included.

This arrangement is suitable for both indoor and outdoor weddings. Make a lounging space near the pool, the lawn, or the garden.

The lounge setting gives room for guests who want to get away from the noise to do so. The lounge is an area of relaxation and catch-ups.


Local or National Parks 

There are beautiful spaces at local (state) or national parks that can be used to host an intimate ceremony. 

This provides a location that is accessible, attractive, and well-kept. 

The only disadvantage to holding your wedding at a national or local park is that these locations are rarely private but you can plan ahead by choosing a strategic date when you anticipate there will be lesser crowds at the park. 


Find a Good Officiant for the Big Day

Finding an officiant who resonates with you to officiate your wedding is always a good idea, but it’s especially important for a small wedding because it’s such an intimate affair. 

You can either hire a professional officiant from the area where you’ll marry or ask a loved one with a gift for words to officiate.

Hire a good photographer

Regardless of how low-key you want your wedding to be, it is a momentous occasion that should be documented by a professional photographer! 

Take your time searching for the right fit, looking through online wedding photography portfolios, and calling top candidates to see if your personalities mesh.

Your wedding may only last for a day but the memories will linger for a lifetime so you will need a professional photographer who can capture those special moments beautifully for you. 

You don’t want to look back on your special day with a cringe when you look at your photos, rather it is essential that you remember it with a fulfilling and satisfying feeling.  It’s your special day after all so choose wisely!

Make personalized gifts for your guests

Gift items such as “welcome packages,” “entertainment,” “babysitting for the youngsters,” and more interactive components like portrait artists, entertainers, or live musicians.

Making your attendees feel welcomed, included and special, rather than huge and cookie-cutter, will go a long way toward making your event memorable and distinctive.

Hire a wedding planner & co-ordinator

Many people may agree to the idea that because an intimate wedding is small, you do not need to hire the services of a wedding planner or coordinator but that is totally wrong. 

While an intimate wedding may be small, it would still require a lot of coordination especially if you plan to have a destination wedding! 

A wedding planner already has a lot of experience in sourcing for items, location, and other requirements you will need so you can take the stress off yourself and a wedding coordinator (which is on many occasions the wedding planner) will be on ground on the wedding day to coordinate the affairs of that day. 

While an intimate wedding allows you to spend more time with the people you care about, it shouldn’t be your responsibility to manage them. 

A wedding coordinator is important. They’ll be able to transport guests from one location to another if necessary, and you won’t have to respond to texts with last-minute queries while getting your makeup done.


Plan an after-party

After the party comes the after-party! The after-party could be a silent disco, late-night food, and/or karaoke!!

We love it when couples go out of their way to surprise their guests with a special treat. 

Consider hosting a s’mores bar, bringing in a food truck, ordering pizza, or setting up some games!

Make it personal to you and appealing to your visitors, and then keep the celebration going, it’ll be a night you’ll never forget!

Decide when you'll need to get your marriage license.

There are several hoops and loops to go through in some places before acquiring a marriage license. 

It’s a good idea to research the requirements a few months before your wedding.

This is particularly important if you are planning to get legally married while at a destination wedding in another country!

Ready to start the fun?

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Joshua Tree Wedding Photographer - California Wedding Photographers Gra e dani


Joshua Tree Elopement

Grasi, Dani and Otto – We are a family of wedding photographers, together, full time on the road, capturing love and celebrating the fascinating variety of weddings all around.

Authors of the book collection “Wedding Tour“, we photograph weddings, cherishing the most beautiful love stories and diverse celebrations.

Our deep love for adventure and curiosity brings a sense of wonder in our work; capturing the truest moments, emotions and personalities to give you an experience to remember and make you smile.

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The Complete Guide to Planning an Intimate Wedding​
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