How to Keep Your Wedding Small + Meaningful

Let me just start by saying, our wedding day was the absolute best day of our lives. I can honestly look back on our wedding day with few regrets because every decision was intentional. With that said, I would be lying if I said there weren’t hick ups along the way. Let me explain…

I never wanted a big, traditional wedding. Although I adore my girlfriends, I never wanted a bridal party. I’ll eat any dessert under the sun, but I never wanted to cut a cake. I love spending time with family and friends, but never dreamed of spending time with all of them at the same time.

All Photos by Bean Art Photography

Our wedding was beautiful, but it wasn’t without compromise

Let me just start by saying, our wedding day was the absolute best day of our lives. I can honestly look back on our wedding day with few regrets because every decision was intentional. With that said, I would be lying if I said there weren’t hick ups along the way. Let me explain…

I never wanted a big, traditional wedding. Although I adore my girlfriends, I never wanted a bridal party. I’ll eat any dessert under the sun, but I never wanted to cut a cake. I love spending time with family and friends, but never dreamed of spending time with all of them at the same time.

For me personally, a traditional wedding was never even an option. So when Ron and I first decided to get married I figured we would just elope. We would pick a place + date, then invite our parents, siblings and closest friends to watch us exchange vows. Maybe it would be in our home town, or maybe we’d make a weekend trip out of it. Or, maybe we would elope somewhere incredible, then celebrate with a reception afterward. Maybe, maybe, maybe…
 Lucky me, it wasn’t that easy. While I was dreaming about an elopement in a faraway land, Ron was dreaming up something more grandeur. He wanted the dancing, the buffet dinner, the centerpieces, the bridal party, the hoosker doos, the hoosker don’ts… needless to say, we didn’t agree right off the bat. So, we decided to start with a guest list. I wrote down my must invites, and he his. Okay, so this is where the stress set in.

My recommendation to those struggling with their guest list stress is to stop, put all it away, and sit on it.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it forever: no matter how you plan your wedding, your guest list will be the hardest part of wedding planning.

You want to invite everyone, then no one:

  • Family, because they’re family. But then you have a hard time drawing the line where close family ends and extended family begins.
  • People you never see, because you never see them. But then you only want to invite the people you see often because you see them often.

Do you see where I’m going here? Nobody ever wants to admit it, but it’s overwhelming.

Even if it takes a few weeks or a few months, there’s nothing wrong with sitting on your guest list for awhile. During this time, breathe happiness in, and worry out.

While I was feeling at my worst, a friend said to me, “focus on the good and the life after, and all will be well.”

And she was right. No matter who attends, this is the day you marry your best friend, and in the end, isn’t that all that matters?

Once I was able to set my expectations aside and just accepted the idea of compromise, everything just sort of fell into place. I think too many people put this one day up on a pedestal. Yes, you only do it once (hopefully), but there will always be a cheaper, more beautiful, more unique or otherwise better way of doing things. Always.

Once you are able to accept imperfections, everything will become easier. Spend what you can afford, and prioritize according to your beliefs. Don’t care about flowers? Guess what, you don’t need them. Don’t care about shoes? Guess what, you can wear something you already own. Don’t care about jewelry or never wear it? Guess what, you don’t need it!

People kept laughing at me because my wedding planning motto was, “I don’t care.”

It’s not that I didn’t value the meaning behind our wedding day, in fact I think I valued the meaning more than anyone because all of the little details didn’t feel important enough to stress over. It felt wrong to make my wedding day into a big, expensive production because to me, all of those little details were distractions from the purpose of the day.

I knew people wouldn’t see or care about my shoes, so I wore an affordable pair of sandals I knew I’d wear 100 more times. I wanted a beautiful gown but knew I’d never wear it again, so I bought a dress used online. A waste-free wedding was also important to us, so we avoided plastic or fast-fashion decor and instead opted to scatter loose greens between candles.

In all, we saved thousands, I don’t think anyone missed the “fluff”, and the simplicity of it all meant the focus came back on us + the meaning of the day.

Our intimate wedding was a product of compromise: half traditional wedding, half elopement.

We wanted a celebration, but also wanted to avoid the overwhelming stress that comes with hosting a big party. It was important to us that the day be beautiful without spending thousands of dollars just to throw it away at the end of the night. We wanted to honor our friends with a wedding party, but didn’t want them to feel pressured to spend tons of money or time for something that wasn’t theirs.

The bottom line is no matter what you do, you’ll always look back and wish you did something different. That’s just how life works. You might wish you spent less money, or maybe more money… You might wish you had more friends there, or less friends… but in the end the most important thing is that you can look back and say (with confidence) that every decision made was yours.

Although a bit unconventional in some ways, our wedding day really was magical. We both slept at home the night before so we were able to wake up next to each other. Like any normal morning, we ate breakfast together and watched television with the cats before my mom picked me up. The entire day was designed with our “normal” in mind because our “normal” is our favorite part of our relationship.

Right after our first look, we surprised our parents and wedding party by inviting them to witness our exchange of personal vows we had written for one another. Surrounded by only our best friends and parents, we made our highest promises to one another. We invited them to witness because we trusted their ability to hold us to our vows and felt their presence in our marriage is going be a large part in it’s success. Although we followed our vow exchange with a traditional ceremony + reception with 60 more guests, at this moment in our hearts we were married.

My personal favorite part of the day was our first look.

After spending the morning getting ready with my girls, the butterflies crept in when Ron arrived. Seeing each other without anyone else present allowed us to be vulnerable and feel the moment with our entire being. We were able to express our emotions fully and honestly, and didn’t have to worry about reactions, interference or distractions. We had time to cry in each other’s arms, and really feel each other’s happiness.

So here I am, screaming from the roof tops, telling you that this is your day, and nobody else’s.

Your parents have been waiting for this day for a long time, but the truth is it’s not their day. People may be traveling from out of town, but that doesn’t mean it’s for them. Yes, you might upset some people if they or their kids aren’t invited, but again – this day isn’t for them.

Your wedding day is for you – your story, your love, your commitment – and being a guest to a wedding is a privilege, not a right.

 

 

Last but not least, a shameless plug for our incredible photographer, Tyler of Bean Art Photography. Seriously guys, this guy is the bomb.

Let's work together to turn your into memories

Other Elopement Planning Resources

Elopement Day Activities + Making The Day Special

There’s no doubt about it – eloping is one of the most intimate, romantic, and meaningful ways a couple can start their marriage. However, because elopements allow unlimited freedom for creativity, many couples wonder how to plan an elopement day filled love and excitement while keeping the day meaningful. There are tons of fun + meaningful elopement day activities you can include to make the experience special and memorable. Fun elopement day activities Make Breakfast Together Now I may be biased on this one because I’m the biggest fan of breakfast food, but I think starting with a homemade breakfast

Read More »

What Is Eloping + Why Do Couples Do It?

Long ago are the days ‘eloping’ meant running off to Las Vegas to get married in secret. Today, elopements have a completely different meaning and are quickly becoming the more popular than ever. More and more couples are foregoing tradition in favor of the intimacy and uniqueness that eloping offers. Although they were once thought of negatively, elopements are now a widely accepted and even warmly welcomed alternative to big conventional weddings. But what is eloping and what about them is getting everyone so fired up? How do elopements differ from weddings, and what’s so great about them? What is

Read More »

Why I Decided To Become An Elopement Photographer

I was having a conversation with a friend a few months ago where we were talking about bigger picture perspective. Both being creatives, we chose photography as our outlet. But then I got to thinking… why photography? Why couples? Why weddings? Why small weddings? Why elopements? So without further ado… here is why I decided to niche in small weddings and elopements.

Read More »