How to Plan the Perfect Small Wedding

Caroline Langham


How to Plan the Perfect Small Wedding

As we wrote in last week’s blog about how to find the perfect small wedding venue, this week we are talking about how to plan the perfect small wedding to go with that carefully chosen small wedding venue! 

Planning the perfect small wedding isn’t necessarily about cutting the budget. With fewer guests, you may find that you have more budget per head, allowing the flexibility to indulge in those luxury items that make your wedding less ordinary. Small still is the perfect wedding.

Barn Wedding Ceremony

Size Really Does Matter

The perfect venue for you will be the one small enough for your wedding but big enough to take your VIP list of your ‘Nearest and Dearest’. 
So how do you slim down that all-important guest list?

Wedding Stationery by Lily and Jacks Paper Studio
Wedding Stationery by Lily and Jacks Paper Studio

The Guest List

Having chosen the perfect wedding venue in a place that you adore, you now need to set about designing your guest list. Can you have a small wedding with a big family? Of course, you can! Although this can be a daunting challenge, here are a few of my top tips to trimming down your wedding guest numbers:

1 List all the people from your phone that you have spoken to, messaged, zoomed or emailed in the last three months. These are more than likely your best friends and closest family – They are in!
2 How close are you to each guest? Would you be offended if they didn’t invite you to their wedding? No – They are out!
3 If you were hosting an intimate dinner party for 12 at home, would these guests be included on your guest list (do you enjoy their company?) No? – They are out!
4 Would you splash out hundreds of pounds treating these guests to a Michelin starred dinner at a restaurant? No – They are out!

In other words… Be selective. Your wedding day shouldn’t be about working the room, in the most significant event of your life. It should be about quality time with those you hold most dear and focussed on the the ‘here and now’ – The best day of your life!

Jenga at play in our rustic barn wedding

Build in time before the wedding

If all of your guests are staying locally, think about spending meaningful time with them. This is a fantastic way to catch up on the latest gossip before the wedding. Particularly if you are planning a more extended stay. Consider a mid-week wedding, opting for a local self-catering cottage to build in extra time for relaxation and settling in can be great for calming pre-wedding nerves. It also gives spare time to consider group activities before the wedding as ice breakers. Here in the Lake District, many people opt for small private boat cruises on Lake Windermere or choose a Mountain Goat bespoke scenic tours by executive minibus. If your guests have never been to your favourite location before, think about how wonderful it would be to share some of your favourite spots with them.

Mountain Goat Bespoke Wedding Tours

Add some Quirky Additions and Personal Touches

See if your small wedding can offer you some quirky touches. Many small venues are operated by their owners. Usually more hands-on, they may provide you with more flexibility in the order and style of your day, perhaps an opportunity to add some fun, humour and personality into your special wedding day.

Caroline and Clare opted to plant a tree to commemorate their wedding. What a wonderful idea and we are happy to report it is still happily growing in the paddock!

Plant a wedding tree
Perfect Small Countryside Wedding Venue
Perfect Small Countryside Wedding Venue

Rip up the Rule Book

Take this freedom to break with tradition and plan your own style of wedding.
Do you need a formal bridal party? Bridesmaids and groomsmen. And are you going to be walked down the aisle? Maybe you would prefer to walk in together as a couple?
Have you heard of the “first look”? This is when you are both dressed and ready to go, but take a moment in private to peek at your partner and have a few moments alone before the wedding. You then might choose to host the rest of the day together, walking down the aisle as a couple.

Do you want speeches – Or maybe a few casual thank yous? Formal reception line ups or a toast and a quick thank you because let’s face it. Everybody present knows your love story already, right?

Host your wedding together
Host your wedding together - Like you own the joint!

Get your Priorities Right

No matter how small your wedding is, the main essentials of a great wedding are always the food, the drink and the music. Think about how you can make each of these the very best they can be.
Ditch the wedding treadmill and latest ‘must-haves’, and put your budget towards adding indulgent touches to the things that are important to you. Maybe you are a music enthusiast and would appreciate a little live musician for different aspects of the day? Perhaps you are very visual and creative. You may feel that wedding photography is an essential aspect, and you could choose more the luxury options your photographer offers. Flowers are a real focal point of any wedding, and here you could indulge a little more, but then present your table flowers as takeaway gifts for your guests.

Afternoon Tea with hand made scented candle teacups
Afternoon Tea with hand made scented candle teacups
time to chill out as Mrs and Mrs

Treat Yourselves

Are you a self-confessed foodie? Think about enhancing the food from the typical wedding catering to a more bespoke experience with fine-dining options. Guests could pick their own courses and design their own personal 5-course menu. If you like fine wines, don’t choose the house ‘red or white’, instead, offer a selection of premium wines that are hand-picked to complement the individual menu courses. Maybe you would like a sustainable English theme. You could upgrade your Prosecco to an English Sparkling Wine rather than French Champagne.

Intimate Fine Dining Wedding Options
Intimate Fine Dining Wedding Options - Photo by Caroline
Freshly Prepared Wedding Canapes

Quirky ideas and treasures to keep forever

Having a small wedding doesn’t mean wedding planning is less important. In fact, you will have just as much fun getting creative, but with less pressure as the numbers are lower. Practise making handmade decorations, place cards, table names, menus and orders of the day. A personal touch is always valued more by your guests over a high street purchase. If art is not your bag, you could splash out on having items professionally crafted for you with calligraphy or even hand-painted watercolours!
Local gifts and delicacies are a nice touch and connect your wedding with its location. Kate and Mat were from Manchester and decided to bespoke their wwedding with the Manchester Bee. Splashing out on such touches are never wasted on a small wedding, as your ‘select’ guests are likely to be those that are most in tune with you. They will appreciate and treasure these touches and keepsakes forever. 

Bespoke personalised wedding gifts
Bespoke personalised wedding gifts
Bespoke Manchester Bee Wedding Card Box
Bespoke Manchester Bee Wedding Card Box

Micro Wedding

This is the new buzzword in weddings and is set to become more widely used as small weddings become more the norm. It is usually a smaller, more intimate wedding of around 20 people but also more focussed on the guest experience. For us, this is business as usual as our average wedding size is, in fact, 20!

We really do believe that the smaller the wedding, the lower the pressure you experience, and the fewer nerves you are likely to feel. This all leads to a more enjoyable day for you. We have hosted many weddings over the years, both large and small. Without a doubt, our experience tells us that smaller weddings are by far the most relaxed and magical. They also add the extra special wow factor that your select guests will appreciate and deserve.
But don’t just take our word for it – Here are a few Wedding Testimonials, where you can read what our couples have to say… and how they got to plan a perfect small wedding!

Intimate Famly Wedding
Intimate Famly Wedding

Specialist Small Wedding Venue

Cote How has always specialised in the small bespoke wedding. We believe these are more aligned with our unique wedding venue, our personable approach and relaxed all-inclusive ethos.

Will our next small wedding be yours? 

Don’t be afraid of putting a red pen through your guest list, it can be more enjoyable than you think!

Of course, you may decide that ‘no guest list’ really appeals to you – the ultimate small wedding experience, where you simply focus on each other. A totally selfish and indulgent luxury elopement can still be at that all-important cherished destination, and retain every aspect of a relaxed and magical experience. You can read all about our Luxury Elopement Weddings here.
And here are Ten Reasons to Elope – Maybe eloping may suit you even better!

Take a peek around our small wedding venue via our online virtual show round

Perfect Lake District Lakeside Wedding Venue

Suppliers Links:

Photography by: Rachel Joyce Photography
Flowers By: Greenwheat of Penrith
Catering By: Karen Healy c/o Cote How
Guest Transport By: Mountain Goat 
Wedding Stationery By: Lily and Jack’s Paper Studio
Venue Styling By: Caroline@CoteHow 

Local Floristry by Greenwheat Florists Penrith
Local Floristry by Greenwheat Florists Penrith
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If you have enjoyed this blog, that’s great, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
If you would like to see a real small wedding here at Cote How then read all about Franco and Jenny’s Small Family Wedding

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