When Garrett and I decided on a small, destination wedding in Hawaii instead of a large, local one in Atlanta, I received a lot of questions about why it was our decision. In my experience, a lot of couples flirt with the idea of a small, destination wedding ceremony, but rarely do couples choose this path. A lot of factors are at play: family obligation, guest count, tradition, etc. And those factors can be important. Our conclusion, like many other couples’, came from what we valued most.
Simply put, we value travel and experience over tradition. We love adventure, and we travel together often. Some of our fondest memories come from traveling, whether together or on our own. And it’s during these moments that we found clarity in our goals and mindset as human beings. We wanted the same clarity and path for our marriage.
In addition to those reasons, Garrett and I realized that we could do more with our resources by choosing a small wedding. We also felt, and you can read about this in my previous posts about our wedding day, that we wanted to be intentional with every aspect of our celebration. Who we invited, the details we included, and how we spent the days leading up to our wedding were all questions we asked ourselves in order to use to hone in on the experience we wanted.
If you are considering a small wedding, or maybe you don’t feel tied to a big wedding (save for family obligations and tradition), I hope this post can bring some clarity and excitement at the idea of having a small, intentional wedding day.
With a smaller guest count, it’s less likely that your close friends and family will be tied to one location. This is even easier if you and your fiancé share different home states. One side of the family will already have to travel, so why not make it to a fun, unique location? In my experience, everyone loves to travel, but few rarely do. Why? We all need a push sometimes, or an excuse, to make an investment to do something out of the ordinary. A wedding is the perfect reason to take some time off and spend it with loved ones.
A smaller sized wedding also means flexibility in venue. With less guests, you can use unique, underrated venues that would typically be out of the running. For Hannah and Won’s wedding ceremony, they decided to use the below ceremony space over a reflection pool instead of one of Meadowlark 1939’s various other spaces. If they had invited more guests, this space would not have worked out. And it was gorgeous! Small numbers allow for more creativity and flexibility.
Speaking for myself as a photographer in the wedding industry, there is a lot of wedding inspiration on the internet. Most of the time, wedding inspiration shared on Style Me Pretty, Wedding Sparrow (to name a few) and seen on Pinterest comes from weddings with large budgets. I’m talking six figures and hundreds of guests. That is perfectly fine and quite normal for some, but that wasn’t the budget or wedding that Garrett and I could plan for. I wanted my dream aesthetic with all the details I loved. I wanted an extravagant bouquet, plenty of florals and a gorgeous venue. But I knew that my budget per guest wouldn’t make that feasible so we decided that an intimate wedding was the perfect balance so we could have the best of both worlds. Our wedding was still a luxury experience for us and our guests, but we still remained inside our budget.
We had our wedding in Philadelphia, but the majority of our loved ones were coming from Florida. It just so happens that the week of our wedding, a major hurricane hit the Sunshine State and I spent the days leading up to the day rebooking flights and hotel rooms. While the situation was stressful, having less people to worry about helped our stress levels immensely. Plus, since our entire guest list was made up of close family and friends, no one had a problem with the added costs and worries that came with the last minute changes.
Garrett and I realized that we are two people who value few, but deep, relationships. We value quality over quantity, and we knew that we were never going to have a 20 person bridal party or 200 guests. Our immediate families and close circle of friends were exactly who we wanted to celebrate our wedding with.
Because we kept our guest count small and chose a unique destination, we could create more memories with our guests and offer them a personal experience. In fact, we had a full week of activities planned with our friend in Oahu. From kayaking to islands off the coast of Kaneohe to visiting North Shore and the Dole Plantation, we have so many cherished memories from our time together. According to The Knot, “There is a real focus on the guest experience right now, and this is the ultimate for a guest.” Because we focused on the experience for our guests rather than party favors or a getaway car, we were able to do something truly unique and custom for everyone.
Number 5 on this list truly is for me. I love portrait time on a wedding day. Far too often, my couples can become tired from portraits throughout the day. On small, intimate wedding days, portrait time is much more relaxed, and we’re able to have more time to capture portraits at the locations we love. For Hannah and Won’s wedding at Meadowlark, they were able to celebrate with quality time with loved ones, and walk the grounds of Meadowlark for beautiful portraits afterward. And the best part was, they enjoyed every bit. I love planning out intentional timelines for an intimate ceremony so that my couples and their guests have that special time, but my couples also receive a little extra love during their portraits. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate!