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Ten small wedding planning tips

COVID-19 has had an undeniable impact on the wedding industry, with thousands of weddings across the world postponed and rescheduled.

The uncertainty surrounding the pandemic has led to a revival of the small wedding trend, with lower-scale ceremonies having less risk factor for newly engaged couples. So, for those looking to plan a small wedding – where do you start?

We’ve compiled our top ten small wedding planning tips to help make the lead up to saying ‘I do’ more manageable.

1. Establish your budget

How much does a small wedding cost?

The cost of a small wedding depends entirely on the decisions you make for the day. For example, you may choose to use the budget of a large wedding for a smaller one and spend more money per guest on food, gifts, travel, or accommodation.

If this isn’t the idea you have in mind, don’t fret – small weddings are generally easier on the wallet, as less people usually means less overheads. Plus, when it’s just your nearest and dearest attending, you can all have a role in the planning of the big day and be creative with a smaller budget.

Lynsey Boardman of Resurrection Promotions and Events in Manchester shares her top tip: “Set a budget and stick to it, as going over budget comes hand in hand with falling into the trap of an extravagant wedding. Keep your entertainment intimate, perhaps and acoustic band or orchestra. Go minimal with flowers, make your own invitations, and let the venue speak for itself.”

How do I make a budget for my wedding?

It may sound overwhelming now, but there are plenty of ways to map out your costs. In 2020, brides and grooms alike have the gift of downloadable budget planners which help break everything down. The benefit of a downloadable planner is that you can make any spreadsheet live and shareable with those helping you plan for the big day.

You can find plenty of budget planners online; Bridal Musings have a wedding budget spreadsheet template which is a downloadable Excel spreadsheet covering “everything you might be including in your day.” Alternatively, if you have Microsoft Office software, Excel has inbuilt wedding budget planners you can easily search through and test out.

If downloads aren’t your thing, websites such as Hitched and Bridebook offer their own budget tools both online and in their apps, which are easy to use and offer live tracking.

2. Creating a Wedding Planning Checklist

The next step for planning a wedding of any size is to establish a wedding planning checklist. This will lay out everything involved in the planning, from the big details of booking a venue to the smallest of tasks, such as choosing the wedding favours.

But how do you start a checklist if you have no idea where to start?

You can get free checklists sent to your inbox from sites such as Bridebook, Wedding Wire and The Knot, as well as access to a whole variety of tools on their respective mobile apps. The advantage of these platforms is that many of them are free and allow collaboration between you and your partner.

However, if you prefer to go old school with your planning and getting pen on paper, we’ve made our own checklist which you can use for inspiration.

Your Wedding Planning Checklist:

This checklist is made for a bride and groom, but LGBTQ+ couples can make amends as necessary.

Money

  • Determine your budget
  • Break down overall costs into a monthly saving plan
  • Make a note of deposit deadlines for your suppliers
  • Ensure all suppliers are paid in full a couple of months before the big day

Wedding Party

  • Decide how many guests you want attending the ceremony
  • Decide how many guests you want at the reception
  • Draw up your final guest list
  • Choose your maid of honour
  • Choose your best man
  • Choose someone to walk the bride up the aisle
  • Choose your bridesmaids
  • Choose your groomsmen
  • Find a marriage officiant or minister

Venue

  • Draw up list of venues
  • Visit venues
  • Shortlist venues
  • Choose a venue
  • Decide on a date
  • Pay venue deposit
  • Visit reception venues, if different to ceremony
  • Choose reception venue
  • Pay reception venue deposit
  • Create seating plan for ceremony
  • Create seating plan for reception

Wedding Attire

  • Book your wedding dress appointment
  • Try on wedding dresses
  • Choose your wedding dress!
  • Request any alterations for your wedding dress
  • Attend first dress fitting
  • Attend final dress fitting
  • Book wedding suit appointment
  • Try on your wedding suit
  • Choose your wedding suit!
  • Decide whether to rent or buy bridesmaid dresses
  • Decide whether to rent or buy groomsmen suits
  • Find bridesmaid dresses
  • Find groomsmen outfits
  • Decide on your flower theme
  • Book hair and makeup for the day
  • Purchase wedding rings
  • Purchase bridal accessories

Logistics

  • Decide how bride and groom will be arriving to the ceremony
  • Find post-wedding transport for married couple
  • Arrange transport for wedding party if necessary
  • Decide on wedding catering – buffet or sit-down dinner?
  • Research and book wedding caterers
  • Research and book wedding photographer
  • Research and book DJ/Band
  • Research and book your florist
  • Design your ‘Save the Dates’
  • Send your ‘Save the Dates’
  • Design your wedding invitations
  • Send your wedding invitations
  • Find and book a cake maker

Smaller details

  • Draw up a list of wedding decorations, such as table settings, signposts, balloons
  • Finalise your wedding decoration list, with details on where to buy them, and how much they cost
  • Ensure wedding stationery is ready: place names, table settings, menu cards, programmes, and guest book

Pre-Wedding Events

  • Decide on whether you will host an engagement party
  • Attend your hen do
  • Attend your stag do

3. Keep your guest list intimate

The easiest way to keep your ceremony (and wedding bill) small is to limit the number of guests you invite. Not only can this make your day feel more intimate, but it opens doors for more affordable wedding packages under the ‘elopement’ category.

Micaela Karina, a London-based wedding photographer and creative entrepreneur, says: “A smaller guest list (or none at all) gives you more time to do things to make your day extra special. Browse Pinterest for ideas that appeal to you and have some fun with DIY projects that really reveal the character of your relationship. You’ll appreciate the things you put your own love and energy into so much more.”

New bride and groom at a small wedding

4. Figure out who is most important

When you’re keeping things intimate, it’s natural you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. But remember that your wedding day is meant to be one of the happiest days of your life. Having a small ceremony, with only your most favourite people, can make it that much more special.

Alice Higgins of The Events Executive advises: “It may be helpful to set-up a flow chart which you can refer to if you are unsure if there is someone who will ‘make the cut’. These questions can include ‘Are they family?’ ‘Have you seen them in the last year?’ or ‘Were you invited to their wedding?’. Whilst this does not need to be stuck to religiously, it may help to give you some guidance when you get stumped or need to cut down on numbers further. Inevitably there will be some people who may expect an invite who you do not end up inviting. Try not to let this worry you. Most people will be understanding, especially in this current climate, and if they are not, maybe you should question what kind of friend they are!”

5. Be prepared for how COVID-19 may impact the finer details

At the time of writing, wedding ceremonies across the UK are being heavily impacted by COVID-19, from the guest list to the seating plan. Professional makeup artist Joyce Connor shares her tips for being prepared for any hair and makeup you have on the day:

“Be prepared on the day for just having one person at a time in the room for your hair and makeup unless there is enough space to socially distance.

On the wedding day, have everything at hand you will need for getting ready; makeup artists will need a bit more time than usual because of working to sanitation guidelines. Check with the makeup artist if you need to bring your own mascara and lipstick to touch up later in the day and have a good skincare routine in the run up to the wedding day.”

6. Think logistics

With COVID-19 on everyone’s minds, jewellers William May share their insight when thinking outside the box: “To make your wedding even more fun, you could encourage a friend or a family member to become ordained as a celebrant. Not only will this make the moment extra special, but it will also minimise the number of external people who are present.

Whether you choose the indoor or the outdoor option, try to keep your ceremony and reception venues within walking distance of each other. The 2-metre distance rule will still apply. Social distancing makes car sharing and public transport problematic, so try to keep things close by or find one venue where you can do both bits.”

The happy couple showered with confetti

7. Get your loved ones involved in the planning

No matter the size of your wedding, the biggest priority for many couples is having the presence of their nearest and dearest. With a smaller ceremony, you can work on integrating them into the day to make it even more memorable for everyone involved.

Father Lee Taylor, who looks after four churches in and around Llangollen, Wales, says: “When I am planning for a small wedding I try to get members of the family and friends involved in the ceremony in some way and make it as intimate as possible. So, for example, during the legal part of the ceremony when the couple and witnesses are signing the registers, I hand out heart-shaped labels to all the guests. I then invite them to write their name(s) on one side and their prayers and thoughts on the other. Then I collect all the labels, put them in a jar and present them to the couple.”

William May also have advice for those having to limit their guest lists to 30: “Just because you can’t have everyone there physically doesn’t mean that everyone can’t join in the fun. So, why not consider setting up a video link so virtual guests can still enjoy the occasion?”

8. Prioritise

Just because you’re having a small wedding, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice everything. In fact, it’s the total opposite! By figuring out what isn’t important, you can free up some of your budget for the things that do. For example, if you’re not fussed about having an expensive dress, you could spend more money on what you do care about, like flowers or photography.

9. Get creative with the finer details

Décor needn’t be expensive rose walls and glittering chandeliers. With your closest friends and families in attendance, you can afford to get creative with the decorations. Whether it’s displaying family heirlooms such as vintage photographs on tables or integrating a friend’s business into the supplier list, you can keep both fuss and price to a minimum.

10. Just do you!

At the end of it all, your wedding is a day to celebrate the love between you and your spouse.

Rebecca Brennan-Brown, wedding planner and co-host of The Wedding People Podcast, says: “Small doesn’t mean boring. Don’t feel like you have to tone down your day because you’ve been forced to make it smaller. You’re getting married and that should be celebrated, so if you want a full flower arch and a six-tier cake, do it! Don’t let the fear of other people’s opinions stop you from having your ideal day.”

Bonus tips from Grubstreet’s Wedding and Private Event Manager, Milena Gorska

Due to fluctuating Covid-19 restrictions, couples who weren’t initially planning a small wedding may have to minimise their wedding party by having less guests. However, the upside is that you can still use the same budget and assign it to different parts of your wedding.

Just because the celebrations are smaller, it doesn’t mean they can’t be grand! The four most important things your guests will remember is the ceremony, food, bar, and entertainment – and you can still make them beautiful despite Covid-19 restrictions.

Ceremony

Sometimes the ceremony can be overlooked as it is a short piece of the wedding and you don’t spend too much time in the ceremony room. However, as it is now a more intimate wedding with your nearest and dearest, it can be a much more precious and emotional moment. Here you can consider putting more thought into the detail, setting and content of the ceremony e.g. the décor, flowers, candles, having family members do readings, or even having live music. These things can make the ceremony so special and memorable.

Food

Perhaps now with less guests, couples can focus on making a big deal of their menu, making it bespoke to them, or adding more canapés or finger food to their reception. Why not have a grander cake, or even an impressive, dessert table to finish off dinner? These are things that will make guests go WOW!

Bar

Cocktails can be expensive, but with a smaller wedding party, adding a bespoke cocktail or creating a cocktail that means something to the couple could be an impressive start to the wedding celebrations. Hosting a champagne reception, adding a fine wine to accompany the meal, or even adding premium spirits for after dinner, can all be nice touches for the day. It’s important to keep the drinks flowing, as it is one of the key elements of the day your guests will remember.

Entertainment

Just because it is an intimate wedding and there won’t be a big party, it doesn’t mean you can’t hire either an amazing band for during dinner, or roaming musicians throughout the reception. It’s a great way to keep the guests entertained, and it’s always nice to have background music to create the perfect atmosphere.

Get in touch

The Grubstreet Author is a relaxed London wedding venue that’s ideal for all kinds of wedding celebrations. Bringing together chic design and traditional architecture, it’s a great spot for a contemporary wedding or civil partnership in a stylish environment in the very heart of London. Get in touch to find out how we can help shape your perfect wedding day.

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