Bride groom and bridal party walking through field

20 Tips to Create an Intimate Wedding

Apr 29, 2019
By Wedding Spot

Lots of people want to create that intimate atmosphere during their wedding day, but this can seem difficult to achieve - especially when managing your wedding guest list. Even if your guest count is in the hundreds, there are many simple ways to give yourself an intimate wedding. Here are 20 of our favorite methods. 

Discover tips to create an intimate wedding you’ll love:

1. Pick a cozy venue.

When most people hear “big wedding,” they immediately think of a ballroom wedding -- which isn’t always the most intimate setting in the world. But just because you have a high guest count doesn’t mean you’re doomed to have an impersonal wedding venue. Even if you need a large seating capacity for the party, break up your event into different, smaller rooms to amp up the intimacy and use tools like Wedding Spot to find the perfect venue. 

You should also pay special attention to the colors of the venue itself. “Dusty and velvety gray colors, warm wood tones and a splash of eucalyptus green make for a truly evergreen color palette and [a] naked cake is the icing on top!” says one of the expert wedding planners at Ruffled Blog.

So think small, not big, and add colors to your wedding palette that make you feel right at home. 

2. Dim the lights.

Playing with the lighting at your event space will help create a more intimate setting no matter what kind of venue you chose. Dim lighting warmed up with the flicker of candles will create a sense of timeless romance in any space. Pair this with soft fabrics and textures to tie together the whole look.

Emily at Intimate Weddings says that “Lanterns, string lights and candles turn a drab space into a cozy, warm environment.” 

So skip the overhead lights, hang up some lighting pieces you probably already own, and fill surfaces with yellow-flame battery candles of varying sizes. 

3. Skip the mirrors.

While mirrors are beautiful additions to any space, they tend to make the room look bigger rather than smaller. If you are looking to deemphasize the size of your venue and create a cozy atmosphere, then you should skip the mirrors in your decorating plans.

You can make the venue feel even cozier through table decor. “Design your tablescapes so they’re overflowing with fun details, but not so high that you can’t carry on a conversation with the person across from you,” says an event design expert at Burnetts Boards

No matter what kind of space you’re working with, sticking to decor elements that bring walls and surfaces in more (like extra draped fabrics, tall pillar candles, and low hanging chandeliers)  will help achieve that intimate atmosphere. 

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4. Personalize your wedding decor.

Decor helps create the atmosphere of your big day. Using decorations that reflect who you are and your tastes as a couple will add a personal touch to your nuptials. This can be done in a variety of ways, including setting out family photos everywhere, incorporating your favorite shows or books into different aspects of the decor, or creating a signature cocktail. These little details can help ensure that your event is unique to you.

Lauren at Every Last Detail notes that you can pretty much personalize anything - even condiments! “Of course when I say personalized, I also mean “branded”, aka matching your wedding invitation and paper products!”

So if you want your wedding to feel truly personalized, just think of all the quirky, interesting, or unique things you and your partner love, then use them as inspiration for your decor. 

5. Have a single layer cake.

Simple yet luxurious, single layer cakes go better with the scale of your celebration. And there are still endless possibilities for flavor, decoration, and icing. Plus, you’re less likely to get stuck with pounds of leftover cake after the big day. 

Giselle at Intimate Weddings says that single layer cakes are “eye-catching and also a way to cut down on your budget!” 

Incorporate elements of your wedding decor (like flowers, beading, or colors) into your cake to make it follow the theme. And if you make it tall enough, you won’t even feel like you’re missing out on the other layers! 

6. Host a backyard reception.

Not only will you save on wedding event venue costs, but a backyard reception is also fully customizable to suit whatever vision you may have. Play up that “at home” vibe but keep things classy with your choice in fabrics (velvet, suede, and leather are always on-trend) and decor (lanterns, chunky blankets, and even living room furniture placed outside work well). 

Just keep in mind that a backyard reception will have a completely different wedding timeline than a traditional one. “Because guests won’t be traveling between events, you want to ensure there is no downtime. You might consider doing all your photos before the ceremony so you can go straight to cocktails with everyone else,” says Juliette at Junebug Weddings

Also, because you’re saving so much on your reception venue, you might want to consider investing in a professional wedding planner to give you a fresh perspective on the outdoor space. 

7. See the stars.

Open-air terraces, rooftops, glass gazebos, and open fields are all spectacular places to host your wedding. While we did say that intimate weddings are best served in cozy spaces, couples lucky enough to have access to spots with a clear view of the night sky can take advantage of this, especially during the summer months. Not only is it incredibly romantic, it adds a touch of magic to your event. 

Jamie at suggests using some of these ideas to further incorporate your favorite celestial elements into your wedding: “Adorn your tables in the hues of a hazy summer night with indigo blue linens. Hang string lights from your tent's rafters or venue's ceiling to mimic the constellations. Arrange tables by your guests' zodiac signs, or pen their names on crescent moon-shaped escort cards. You can even try a dreamy, star-adorned wedding dress on for size.” 

Obviously there’s a lot you can do with if you choose this element for your wedding. Or, if you’d like to keep things simple, some wood-burning fire pits and monogrammed flannel blankets to snuggle up with should do the trick as you and your wedding guests dance and stargaze the night away. 

8. Throw a dinner party.

If your wedding guest list is less than 30 people, why not invite everyone for a wedding dinner party rather than a full-blown reception? When you apply all the tricks in this article, you can easily turn a dining room space in your home or at a local restaurant into a gorgeous, semi-formal get together. 

Real life bride Caroline on their choice for a dinner party: “Chris and I love going to restaurants and the whole fine dining experience, so we wanted to be able to incorporate that on our wedding day. When we decided to minimize the guest list, a dinner party reception seemed like the perfect fit for us.” 

With 31 guests and budget of around $12,000, Caroline and Chris’s wedding serves as a great example. Take a page from their book and include details like a unique guest signature piece (they chose the frame of a photo they love) and plenty of handmade goodies (Caroline created Christmas ornament favors worthy of Nordstrom at a fraction of the price). 

9. Customize place settings

There are lots of ways to make individual’s feel special for taking the time to join in your big day. First, start with their name. Place cards, mini wooden initials, or even a labeled polaroid photo of the guest can instantly give the event a more intimate atmosphere. Next, artfully place their wedding favor on or near their plate. After that, you can choose to mix and match different place setting elements (like single stem roses and mini sunflowers in baby mason jars) and put your friend or family members’ favorite at their chairs. 

“For events with seated meals, the table can be one of the most important décor aspects,” says the team at the Event Manager Blog. “It needs to be functional, in keeping with the themes and look great.” Once you’ve hit all 3 of those checkboxes, you’re pretty much good to go! 

Keep in mind that you don’t have to go overboard with your budget for this area. Small things like names written on tags attached to colorful ribbons or even a print out of a photo of that person with you or your future spouse can make a thoughtful impact. 

10. Include reception activities.

One of the most important parts of keeping a wedding intimate and not awkward is to facilitate bonding among your guests. They all love you so there’s a good chance they’ll all like each other as well! But even if they know one another, you don’t want people just waiting around while you do your photos or wardrobe changes. So make sure to provide at least one standing activity and two different seated options for things to do when there’s down time. 

If a dance floor isn’t an option, the experts at the Black Tux say to include “something unique that most people find fun (or at least funny) and would secretly like to try, but wouldn’t necessarily pay for themselves.” 

Some activities you can include are: palm readings, a DIY bar of some kind (where guests can compare and sample each other’s creations), or even tabletop games. 

Explore more ideas you can use to create an intimate atmosphere:

11. Choose complementary themes.

Rustic and homey vibes tend to involve lots of cozy elements anyways. 

12. Use plush seating.

Giant pillows, ottomans, and even overstuffed armchairs are a good choice. 

13. Keep centerpieces practical.

A cluster of mini succulent pots, elegantly wrapped candies, or other wedding favors can serve double duty and make each element of your decor feel magical. 

14. Serve a buffet.

You’ll save on the extra wait staff while also giving your guests another chance to mix and mingle before they take their seats. 

15. Incorporate a lounge.

A kickback area around a fireplace, snack table, or by the bar makes socializing feel more natural in small group settings. 

16. Choose tables wisely.

You either use multiple small round ones if more than 30 guests. Or if you have more people than that, try a banquet table to give the reception more of a communal fee. 

17. Offer family-style food.

Sides like salads, carbs and condiments can all be passed around and make everyone feel like your two groups are truly becoming one. 

18. Use candles.

This is an obvious one but real or battery-powered ones really do create a lovely mood. 

19. Hang fabrics.

Wrap around columns, hand from beams, or add to chandeliers. Luxe fabrics bring the ceiling closer and, at the same time, bring a cocoon feel to the venue. 

20. Select minimalist florals.

Petite and delicate bouquets or even single stem beauties add a pop of elegance without overwhelming the room. 

Ready for even more small wedding inspiration?

Steal from these unique rehearsal dinner ideas as well as some other ways to save money on your big day

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Wedding Spot

The Wedding Spot blog is designed to help couples navigate every step of the wedding planning journey. From before the engagement to after you say “I do,” our goal is to give you the tips, ideas, and inspiration to prepare for your big day — and all that comes with it.