We’ve been mulling over writing this post on intimate weddings and elopements for a while now! As our brand and hearts have grown this past year so has our love for intentional wedding experiences. If you’re planning your own day right now, you will most likely come across the buzzword “intimate” at one point or another. Maybe you’re trying to understand what an intimate wedding even is or how to successfully throw one as you start your planning! We’re here to say you came to the right place! If you want advice, ideas, and real life examples on how to host your own intimate wedding or elopement this is for you!
This post is a compilation of our own advice as well as other photographers and couples who have hosted their own intimate weddings or elopements. These are our best tips for those wanting more than just the typical wedding day.
How many people make up an “intimate” wedding or elopement?
We first want to preface this section by saying we believe the number of guests attending your wedding is not the sole deciding factor of how intimate it will feel. Although this can be a major factor in the way your day unfolds + flows, The moment we realized intimacy was more than just a cut off number was when we documented Emily and Jon’s 200 something person wedding and felt like no more than 30 people were there. It completely changed our perspective and approach to how we view larger weddings. So although number plays a role, it’s not the all saying factor.
How do you decide who to invite?
One of the best pieces of advice we can give you on creating an intimate vibe for your day is invite the people who truly care and are in your life for the long haul. Whether you are having 200 or just 10 guests this still applies. It may seem like a REALLY BIG DEAL right now as you create your guest list and battle with the thought of hurting someone’s feelings, but people have short memories and your wedding most likely isn’t a major life event for each and every one of your guests. You might always remember the flavor of cake + tiny little details you so feverishly put together, but the typical guest will most likely forget what they ate for your reception the very next day.
We personally had 120 guests at our wedding, and although we love them all I (Tandy) can’t say I knew many of them by name. The hard truth is if I did it all over again I would cut my list to immediate family + the closest of the closest friends. 4 years later looking back at wedding photos I still have to ask my husband “who’s this in the background?” And to make things even more sobering, I haven’t seen or connected with more than half of those people since my wedding day.
So ask yourself…who is in your life for the long haul?
Your wedding and elopement should be more than just a ceremony and reception, it should be an experience.
That means start to finish. Throughout our years of documenting intimate weddings and elopements, we have had the opportunity to witness so many sweet moments on wedding days. Many of which happen before the ceremony and reception! What’s commonly a time where brides and grooms run around buttoning up details, rush to get ready, and cross their fingers someone put the dessert signs out is also the very time you can experience the most meaningful moments. From couples carving out time to gift each other the sweetest surprises to having a full breakfast with the family, meaningful experiences come on your wedding day when you create space for them.
One of the biggest and most helpful tips we can suggest to you in creating the space to experience the love on your wedding day is to hire a wedding coordinator. If a full wedding coordinator isn’t in the budget, hire on a day of coordinator to alleviate having to be the person everyone comes to with questions! Because let’s be honest, people will have them! Leave the busy work to the professionals and give yourself permission to be in the moment.
Intentionally plan your timeline + create space to enjoy your day!
Don’t just take our word for it! Katy Weaver of Katy Weaver Photo shared some of the best advice on how to do this below during her destination wedding.
“My husband and I had a destination wedding on the south Oregon coast last July and had about 135 guests. But we were able to get a LOT of quality time in with each other! We purposefully scheduled our weekend to allow for connection with each other and our loved ones.
First, we arrived 3 days early to finish prepping. On the day before the wedding we did a 100 mile jet boat ride up a river where we got to sit side by side (with friends too of course) and experience the beauty of nature. It was so relaxing to have an activity like this built into our schedule, and it was so special to have that quality time. On the morning of our wedding, we cuddled in bed and had breakfast together overlooking the ocean. It was beautiful to start the day together before all the chaos! I highly recommend spending time together first thing before you get ready separately!
On our wedding day, we created a long, drawn out timeline that allowed us lots of time to have intimate moments together and with our guests. We did a first look and all our group photos before guests arrived. We had a 2 hour cocktail “hour” as guests trickled in at 3pm, hugging everyone and hanging out together before our ceremony! The ceremony followed with another long cocktail hour, and a long family style dinner where we sat at our own sweetheart table. That gave us a ton of time with each other, and we didn’t have to worry about walking around greeting people since we had already done that! It made dinner so relaxing and intimate. Our wedding went late into the night, ending around 12:30pm, and we continued to stay up late partying, talking, having a beach bonfire, and hot tubbing until around 3am.
There was so much time to connect with each other, celebrate and enjoy ourselves. It IS possible to have a wedding day go by slowly! Neither of us felt like our day went super fast. Even if you have a big guest list, you can build intimacy with an intentional timeline.”
Don’t fall into the pressure of wedding trends or what other people want.
If you’re not into dried florals, cascading greens, or pastel bridesmaid dresses DITCH THEM AND DON’T LOOK BACK! Be intentional about making your day about you. It’s easy to get wrapped up in living someone else’s day because everyone has their vision of what they want your wedding or elopement to look like.
If you haven’t already, grab a pen and paper and write out some things you truly couldn’t imagine your intimate weddings and elopements without. When you get into the thick of planning, pinterest, and people pulling you every which direction you can go back to this list of MUSTS to help ground and remind you that this is your day.
If you’re curious what’s trending and not trending this 2020 for whatever reason, take a look at Brides.com latest post, The Wedding Trends to Keep and Ditch in 2020, According to 20 Top Planners.
People won’t always understand if you ditch tradition and that’s okay. The truth is it’s your wedding day and you are the two humans that get to decide how it plays out! If you choose to elope with just the two of you and someone’s not too happy with that decision, we just want you to know we feel for you. Although it can be hard to make a decision like that, always remember this day is for you two.
If you’re curious what intimate weddings and elopements might look like, you can look back at Josh & Ryan’s Adventurous Joshua Tree Elopement linked HERE or Cameron & Lara’s Intimate Woods Wedding near Portland, Oregon HERE. Visit our Blog for more love stories like these!
Make it so unmistakably about YOU TWO and what you love that no other couple could step in and live your same intimate wedding and elopement day!
Real advice from outdoor conscious Jenn Maurer of Wild Coast Photo speaking on when her and her partner eloped instead of host a traditional wedding!
“When my partner and I decided to elope instead of have a traditional wedding, it was a huge weight off our shoulders! We wanted to be outdoors, but we also didn’t want to disrupt the environment too much. We’ve both grown up hiking and traveling and are all too aware of the affect large groups of people can have on a fragile space – so we shortened the guest list to a dozen and invited everyone to meet us at a remote GPS location in the Eastern Sierras. It was a place we both loved, but also a place we wanted to share. I swear, one of my favorite memories from our wedding day was looking around and seeing the smiles on our friend’s faces as they watched the sun set behind Mt. Whitney.
My biggest piece of advice to couples planning their own weddings is to consider what kind of experience they’ll be proud to remember. Not just something fun, but something that makes them proud. Because we all have goals and dreams about the people we want to be, whether we wish we were more “adventurous,” more “sustainable,” or more whatever-adjective-you-want. The traditional wedding industry tells us to make exceptions for our weddings, to be frivolous and extra. But I don’t think that’s the avenue to feeling fulfilled. Instead, planning a wedding that is the culmination of your dreams, the sort of day where you ARE the person you’ve always wanted to be, THAT is something to be proud of.”
Intimate weddings and elopements are often in the details. Focus on the feel and emotion your day holds when planning a day truly centered around you two! And we guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
Planning your own intimate wedding or elopement in Bend, Oregon + beyond!? Let’s chat! You can download our Central Oregon Elopement Guide below and Visit our contact page HERE!