Wedding Planner

What Is an Intimate Wedding?

The number of "intimate" weddings is on the rise as couples seek to maximize their budgets without minimizing their experiences.

While small in size, intimate weddings need not be short on extravagance, personalization or unique character. Fewer guests often mean more resources than today's to-be-weds are using to make their weddings something special. Could an intimate wedding be suitable for your clients? Check out our ultimate list of Wedding Planners in Melbourne to help you organise a stress-free wedding.

What Is an Intimate Wedding?

Is it a big elopement or a small wedding? Well, it's both!

Google "intimate wedding", and you'll see different results, with all other "limits" on group size and conflicting information. We've heard plenty of people refer to 80-person events as "intimate" weddings, and that's not exactly what we do here. It depends on what you consider a "big" wedding, but an intimate wedding is essentially just a wedding with a minimum guest count. At Adventure Instead, we believe marriage celebrations with 10-25 guests to be "intimate."

There is no official number that takes a celebration from being an "elopement" to being a "wedding." However, we think what is more important than the guest count is the intention behind the experience – traditional weddings are often stressful events with less focus on the couple and more emphasis on the party. An intimate wedding can have all the best things about an elopement while still inviting guests – celebrations focused on the couple, their vision for the day, and without the structured traditions associated with big weddings. Of course, an intimate wedding can also feel like a big, traditional wedding with fewer people, but that's not usually what the couples we work with are looking for. Even our teams who bring guests are looking for an authentic, true-to-them marriage experience uniquely personalized to their dreams.

Keep the Guest Count Low.

One of the challenges associated explicitly with intimate weddings is narrowing the guest list down to ensure that the guest numbers stay low. This isn't for everyone, and some couples aren't cut out for saying no, whether it's to their friends and loved ones or their parents. To plan an intimate wedding, ensure that your couples are united in their desire to include fewer than 75 guests altogether.

We're often asked how many people couples should invite to take advantage of the most slots without going over, and it is a difficult question to answer universally. Your team has to know the guests and the likelihood that they will attend.

We can say that for destination weddings, we suggest estimating that 80 per cent of invitees will attend, all things being equal. Be very careful not to allow your clients to over-invite, as the numbers can quickly get out of hand, spoiling the benefits of an intimate wedding.

How Are Budgets Different?

For some couples, budget is the main factor influencing the decision to host an intimate wedding. 

Not all clients realize it, but the most significant expense at most weddings is the food and beverage bill. When you consider that each person could be worth hundreds of dollars, it makes sense that limiting the number dramatically impacts the bottom line.

Your clients will dictate how "extra" funds are used. They might upgrade their ingredients to premium items and feature a more "palette-wowing" menu. Or, they could go over the top with decor and entertainment. The choice is theirs, but with a lower headcount, you have more options available to suggest.

Tips on Planning an Intimate Wedding Weekend.

Some will extend the wedding experience beyond the traditional ceremony and reception. Intimate weddings offer the opportunity for your couple to spend more one-on-one time with each of their guests, so suggest that they host a welcome reception or post-wedding brunch. They could also schedule activities or excursions between events to enjoy the wedding destination and time together as a group.

Intimate weddings can be anything from the ultimate dinner parties to whole weekends full of fun. They allow you to take personalizing your clients' special events to a whole new level.

At least once a week, we hop on the phone with a couple who want to get married, and they're working through the question, "do we want this day to be just us, or do we want guests?" They're trying to find the balance between their vision for an adventurous outdoor wedding and their love of close friends and family. Trust us; you're not alone with this question!

If you've decided to plan an intimate wedding with a few guests, one of the most complex parts can be curating that smaller guest list. To help you out, we've compiled a list of the best tips we've learned over the year, plus great advice from our past couples! Hopefully, this can help you find some clarity as you decide who to invite:

Talk to Your Partner

Sit down with your partner and think about your guest list. Talk through how you feel about potential attendees – are you both close to them, do they support both of you, and invite one person likely to cause tension with someone else?

Set Boundaries & Expectations 

Set boundaries early and don't feel inclined to invite someone if you don't want to. During the planning process, you may find it easier to elope. There are so many ways to celebrate with family and friends later. But, don't let one individual be the reason you decide to scrap the whole list. Know your breaking points for particular decisions, and stick with those boundaries. 

Stick to Your Limit

Maybe your guest list is limited by your location, or perhaps you're keeping it even with your partner & inviting the same number of people. Whatever you used as a limiter, stick to it! Feel free to use this as an excuse, too – like, you can't just add more people if your ceremony location has a 20-person limit. 

Be Honest

If someone asks if they're coming, and you know they aren't making a list, don't be wishy-washy. Just be honest with people in your life, and don't feel the need to extend an apology or invitation based on their reaction. This is YOUR day; you don't owe anyone a seat at the table. 

Listen to the Experts

No one knows better how it feels to be in your position than other couples – Here is some advice from over fifty of our couples on how to tell friends and family that you have an intimate wedding…and they aren't invited.

How to Plan a Small Intimate Wedding

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That's not to say that a small wedding is cheaper. Although they may be kinder to your wedding budget, if you are planning a luxe wedding, it simply means that you have more budget per head, which allows you to go all-out with your celebrations. Looking for the Top Wedding Planner in Melbourne? Look no further and check out our ultimate list of Wedding Planners here.

If you're one of the many couples looking to plan a small wedding, here are a few critical points for your wedding planning:

Why Have a Small Wedding?

Before you even get to 'I do', understand what appeals to you in an intimate wedding. Is it the privacy and exclusivity it offers? Maybe it's the preference for a more meaningful wedding that can be personalized? Or perhaps is it to do with your wedding budget, or because you want to marry abroad?

  • Reduces your overall wedding cost and budget
  • A more perusal and intimate feel
  • Fewer guests mean you have more food and drink
  • More occasional guests mean you can spend more time with the ones that are there
  • Fewer people, less stress, can enjoy every moment
  • More relaxed

Once you have established your motivation, prioritize this as your inspiration for the big day.

The Guest List

Possibly the most essential part of wedding planning is who to invite. With an intimate wedding, this means your nearest and dearest, which may be easier to decide in some ways.

As a couple, agree on a number that you feel comfortable with and work towards this. Typically, a small wedding lends itself to about 50 people – that's 25 people on each side. Think about whether you want to include 'plus one's or just individuals, and whether this extends to your close work colleagues or none at all. Consistency on both sides will prevent arguments!

Consider if you want to extend guests to the evening reception, or if you prefer to keep your wedding party small and exclusive, without the distraction of new guests later in the day.

Finally, give some thought as to how you will manage friends and family not invited. One of the challenges of a small wedding is how to manage other's expectations.

Plan Your Wedding Budget

When it comes to your wedding budget, figure out how much you have to spend in total and where will these funds come from (savings, family, etc.). Once you understand your finances, you can work within its constraints.

Couple this with your guest's list, and you should be able to know the cost per head. This will come in useful when thinking about wedding venues.

Hire the Right Space

One of the key considerations of a small wedding is ensuring that the wedding venue complements the size of your party. Too big, and it may look like some people didn't turn up – too small, and it could look like you've skimped on costs.

The key to this is researching venues online and in-person in advance to ensure they work for your party size.

First of all, where will you say your vows? Be it a church, a beach or a registry office, a barn or elsewhere; make sure you choose a suitable venue for the number of guests attending.

When it comes to your wedding reception venue, there's plenty of creative options for intimate venues, from boats to barns, boutique hotels to private rooms in restaurants. This is where you'll be spending the bulk of your day, so make it a priority.

The Guest Experience

The guest experience is often richer with smaller parties, as the couple can spend quality time with everyone.

But, because there's more focus on guests, it means that their experience needs to be high on the agenda too.

Think about how the day will unfold and all the touches added to make it feel exclusive and unique that a giant wedding party might not achieve. This might be hiring a boat to take guests from the church or registry to the wedding venue, or it could be a private chef and sommelier that offers private tasting as part of the day.

Add Personality

One of the many reasons that couples opt for an intimate wedding is breaking away from tradition and adding some personality to proceedings.

With a minor wedding party, you have the opportunity to make the day your own. With less than 50 guests to think about, it's possible to create bespoke touches and within your wedding budget.

This might be a designer wedding cake, your gin club bar, or pictures of everyone attending dotted around the venue. It could be as small as your colour scheme, to getting a film made that is shown on the day.

Make Your Own Rules

The great advantage of a small wedding is the ability to plan it on your terms. Since you're keeping the day intimate, this means opting out of 'unnecessary' traditions. It wouldn't look out of place to have one or no bridesmaids or to forgo a large group of groomsmen. The beauty of an intimate wedding means that anything goes.

Consider Privacy

A significant reason why many couples opt for small wedding parties is because of privacy. Not everyone wants a big wedding and the attention that comes with it. If this is the case, think about how your big day can be full of celebration while being appropriately discreet. You may wish to include a social media ban, for instance.


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And finally, small wedding parties benefit from whisking guests away abroad or to exclusive venues as part of their big day. This often means that guests can stay on-site, depending on the wedding venue chosen. This can be a great benefit in keeping your big day feeling exciting and unique for a lucky elite group of guests.

Tips for Planning an Intimate Wedding

In the case of weddings, bigger is not always better. Doing what is best for you is really what "eloping" is all about, whether you invite guests or not. An intimate wedding can be just as unique and intentional as an elopement – you have to keep the essential things in the forefront as you plan this thing! To help get you started, here are some tips for planning an intimate wedding:

Keep it All in Perspective.

ALL this planning is for one day. Yes, it is a critical day & the one you should be looking forward to immensely, but it's still just one day in a beautiful life. The most important people there are you and your partner, so if you're getting extremely stressed out over a guest list or people are giving you a hard time over their status on said list, take a deep breath & remember what is most important.

Remember That You Deserve Your Dream Wedding

Everyone deserves their dream wedding! You deserve your dream wedding more than guests "deserve" to be present – it sounds harsh, but it's true. If it's between your joy or the joy of your guests, we're going to advocate for YOU every time.

Make a List

Check it twice or thrice. Hence how you're reading this advice right now, we LOVE lists! Make lists of your wants, priorities, potential guests, and everything else you're considering as part of your wedding day. Get out that red pen & take notes – a lot of clarity can come from simply writing things down.

Let Big Decisions Guide the Little Things

Once you've made some big choices, like date & location, let that guide the little decisions left to make as you finalize plans. If you try to have the little things inform the big choices, you will have a hard time getting anywhere. It would help if you decided for yourself what is big & what is small – then avoid giving power to the things that don't matter as much.

You Don't Have to Limit Your Celebration.

Weddings don't have to be single-day parties! If it's tearing you in two to want an elopement AND a day with your loved ones, plan a post-elopement reception. Even if you do invite some guests to an intimate wedding, but also want a day to mingle with distant relatives & more friends – no one is going to say "no" to the second celebration of your marriage!

Intimate Wedding Ceremony Ideas

When you're getting married to guests, the ceremony can include your loved ones. You can still get married in an epic outdoor location and have a wedding party – they're just standing with you on uneven terrain with a gorgeous backdrop instead of on the carpeted stairs of a church. It's totally up to you how involved your guests are! You can speak your vows openly in front of everyone or to the side for your partner's ears only. Your marriage ceremony doesn't have to be any different because you have guests, but it's also a fun opportunity to involve people to whatever extent you want. 

Here are a few fun ideas to turn your wedding ceremony into a bit more than just exchanging vows:

Have a Friend Officiate

How you get married legally depends on where your marriage license is from, but it's possible to have a friend officiate your ceremony whether they are or are not ordained. There are ways to get ordained online if your friend or family member is interested, or you can step aside and say the necessary sentences to sign the paper with us (we're all ordained) and then have anyone lead the ceremony.

Perform a Unity Ritual 

Handfasting, mixing sand, planting a tree, hand laying, or any other number of unity ceremonies can be a fun way to involve loved ones in your wedding. Family members can help you perform the ritual by laying the cords across your hands or participate by speaking words of encouragement over the union. Even if your guests aren't directly involved, a unity ceremony can be an enjoyable way to have a meaningful ceremony that they get to witness.

Invite Guests to Write Letters

This is something you can involve as part of the ceremony or something you can share afterwards. Having a physical letter from your loved ones to hold onto as the years pass can be a beautiful way to bring yourself back to your wedding day and remember how much support you have from your friends & family.

Invite the Talent 

Do you have a musically inclined cousin? How about a highly artistic brother? Live music can be a super fun way to get your family involved in your ceremony by playing songs to set the mood, make everyone happy, cry, and bring a beautiful layer to an already incredible day. Creating art together is also a fun way to get everyone involved and produce something you can look at for years to come!


Don't fall into the trap of thinking bigger is always better--look for opportunities to throw incredible intimate weddings. Designing small weddings allows you to enjoy a different kind of challenge with the potential for enormous satisfaction. Too busy with life to really plan your wedding in detail? Have someone else do it for you and check out our list of Wedding Planners in Melbourne to help take the stress away.

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