How to plan a small wedding (when you have your heart set on a big party)

Published by Claire Gould on

Thank you lovely Carla Thomas Photography for this contribution to English Wedding.

2020 has been anything but dull and the good news if your wedding is planned for the end of the year, weddings are now allowed to take place. Of course, there are some restrictions in place as the country and world eases back into the new normal.

If you were planning a large wedding and reception, you’re now faced with a hard and emotional decision to make. Do you postpone everything until later next year or 2022 or do you go ahead with a small wedding now and a large celebration later? Couples who have gone through the heartache of postponing their wedding this year will tell you how much of a rollercoaster making this decision is. After all the planning to not get married on a date that likely has some significance. Take your time to process your feelings. The constant changes are unnerving and the uncertainty unsettling. So take your time to feel what you feel.

It may not make sense to postpone everything until next year when you’ve already booked suppliers etc for this year, so how do you proceed with a smaller wedding that makes you happy even if you have to wait for the big celebration with all your friends and family?

In this post, I wanted to share a few tips with you on how to enjoy your wedding day with a smaller guest list without feeling like you’re missing out on the full wedding experience.

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Maximise your budget

Getting married now and partying at a later date will make your budget go further, giving you more money to play with. You could make changes to your wedding day to make it even more special and exactly how you want it. Or you may decide to keep your wedding ceremony as it is and save any extra money for a blow out celebration with all your favourite people when it’s safe to do so.

Whatever your plan, I can’t reiterate enough the importance of actually having a wedding budget. If you haven’t set one, do that now so you can see how much you have to play with.

Invite who you want

While the guidelines say you can have up to 30 people at your wedding, it doesn’t mean you have to. Don’t forget this number also includes yourself, officiants and suppliers like your photographer. With your day now split over two days, you may decide to keep the actual ceremony small and either have only two witnesses or your immediate families. I’ve been privileged to be part of several elopements and small weddings and words cannot describe how personal and emotional they can be. You feel part of the ceremony as you focus on every vow being exchanged. It doesn’t get rawer than that and is beautiful to witness.

Discuss together what kind of atmosphere you want to create on your wedding day and then invite whoever you want to be there that will help you create the day you want.

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Consider streaming your wedding

The upside, if there is such a thing in a pandemic, is that technology is our friend and so easy to use and access. Why not stream your nuptials online so all your guests can be a part of your day in spirit if not in body. Everyone stays safe but still get to witness you exchanging your vows. You can stream via Zoom or another video calling service with little more than your phone and a tripod. Whatever you do, make sure you have a designated person to manage the live stream.

Communicate with your guests

While most people may have seen the news about changes to weddings, they may not realise what it means for you and your wedding plans. To protect your mental and emotional health, the earlier you can communicate any changes in your plans, the better. If you’ve already sent invites, consider sending cancellation/postponement messages to those guests who cannot be a part of your wedding ceremony. Let them know that your wedding plans are changing and how you can’t wait to celebrate with them next year.

If you decide to stream your ceremony and haven’t sent your invites out yet, send them as you planned. Make sure it states they will be joining online and give them the relevant details.

Check restrictions at your wedding ceremony venue

With the need for smaller groups, there may be restrictions on whether you can have a photographer and/or videographer present during the service for safety. Speak to your venue you and confirm what restrictions are in place so your photographer can let you know what impact that will have on their ability to cover your wedding. I shot a wedding in the summertime where I was shooting back into the room from the doorway. The registrar was great and let me say where the couple stood so I could get the best photos of them during the ceremony. This may not always be the case at every venue.

Communicate with your suppliers

You’ve chosen your suppliers for a reason and likely still want them to be part of your celebrations. Let them know as soon as you’ve made decisions on any changes to your wedding. They will be able to lend their expertise to you to help make your planning seamless.

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There are some key benefits to having a smaller wedding now and partying at a later date…

Planning your day will be easier

There will be fewer decisions to make and hopefully less family drama to along with it so you can remain relaxed in the lead up to your wedding.

Your wedding stress will be reduced

You won’t feel like your life plans have been put on hold if you get married this year. It also means that planning your reception becomes less emotionally and logistically stressful. You won’t have to worry about all the little details along with the excitement and nerves that come with getting married in the first place, so you can enjoy your celebrations and be more relaxed.

You get to wear your wedding outfits twice…

Or not. You may decide on a low key outfit for your wedding ceremony this year and go all out later. I say go with what feels right for you.

Planning your reception party in 2021 and beyond

Social distancing may still be necessary

It’s not unrealistic to think that a 200+ people reception may not be possible come March 2021, even as numbers allowed for gatherings increases. Of course, I do hope I’m wrong but remember this is my opinion so please don’t take this as gospel. Please continue to refer to the website for the latest updates.

Finding a date may not be easy

There are rumours that weddings will need to take place every day of the week next year to accommodate weddings from 2020 as well as those already planned for 2021. This means that weekend dates are more than likely going to be completely booked out for your venue.

When it comes to setting a date for your wedding reception, you could set a date now or leave it until later to see how things play out. The longer you wait, the more chance your celebration can take place as you want it, as things improve/we get a vaccine. If you’re keen on setting a date now, you will need to be open to a weekday celebration to give you a better chance of finding a free date at your chosen venue.

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Bonus tip

If you don’t stream your wedding, help your guests (and you) relive the day by showing photos and/or video from your wedding during the reception. Will help bring both parts of your wedding day(s) together.

Getting married during a global pandemic can still be very beautiful despite the challenges and talk about making history and having a very unique wedding story to share with your children! However you decide to celebrate, I hope the above helps you enjoy your smaller day now while planning for your party next year.

Carla Thomas Photography is an English Wedding member

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Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.


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