Whether you’re reimagining your wedding plans in light of public health recommendations or you’re just eager to tie the knot after getting engaged,, a small wedding at home might just be for you. Technically defined as a wedding with fewer than 50 guests, micro-weddings have taken off as a major trend over the past year, and for good reason. They prioritize safety in light of social distancing recommendations, while still making for a special day. While courthouse ceremonies are the most common versions of these micro celebrations, there are plenty of small wedding ideas at home that feel fresh and unique. There’s a micro-wedding theme for every kind of couple.
Planning any kind of wedding—even one with just a few guests—is an undertaking. Just because a wedding is “micro” doesn’t mean it requires any less thought than a 300-person affair would. So, to get you started on your journey to wedded bliss, here are some tips for how to make your small wedding at home be the day you’ve always dreamed of.
“Helianthus” backyard wedding invitation by John Derian for Paperless Post.
How can I plan a small wedding at home?
First things first: The size of your final guest list is not reflective of how many supportive, close friends and family members you have in your life—but it can still be hard to have to limit your guests. In fact, figuring out who to invite might be the most challenging part of planning a small wedding at home. Because of COVID precautions and restrictions, think “quaran-tiny.” To help narrow down your list, consider setting specific restrictions, like “only immediate family members” or “only close friends that you and your partner both know.”
You can also clarify if your restrictions are family-only, to better explain the situation. Remember that you can always add a virtual component to your backyard wedding (whether that means live-streaming your ceremony or having a Zoom reception) so that these guests are still a part of your day. It’s also perfectly acceptable to throw a large reception at a later date, when public health officials deem it safe to do so. Most of all, don’t stress too much. Because of the unforeseen circumstances of the past year, most guests will be absolutely understanding that plans need to change.
When to send invitations for a small wedding at home?
Once you’ve settled on who to invite to your small wedding at home, send your invitations at least six to eight weeks before the big day (save the dates can be sent anywhere from six to 12 months before the wedding, if you’re planning far enough ahead of time). We recommend sending digital wedding invitations, which make it easy to alert your guests of any update or a change of plans—which is especially useful as COVID restrictions may shift in months to come.
If you’re in the position of having to rescind wedding invitations because you’re downsizing in light of COVID, consider giving closer friends and family members a phone call with the news, and sending out a cancellation card that explains your situation. You can word it along these lines: “In order to follow current safety precautions we’ve made the decision to severely limit the size of our wedding. We regret that we won’t have you with us as we tie the knot, but can’t wait to celebrate together once it’s safe again.”
How do you make a small wedding feel special?
Remember that having fewer guests can free up more of your budget, so consider investing more in the elements that you think will make your wedding especially memorable for everyone who’s there. That can mean splurging on professional floral arrangements that make your backyard look like a magical garden or opting for a pricier reception meal (you might not serve truffle pasta or steak at a wedding with 200 people, but when you have just 10 guests, it’s a lot more reasonable).
“Santa Fe” backyard wedding invitation by Paperless Post.
As long as your backyard is spacious enough for everyone on your guest list to properly distance, it can be decorated to look just as special as a rented property—plus, if you’re at a family member’s home, it grants the day an extra sentimental touch.
Hosting your wedding at home requires a few more considerations that you don’t have to think about with public wedding venues: Ensure that bathrooms are easily accessible to guests and parking won’t be an issue. For outdoor weddings, having a rain plan is also crucial, whether that means setting a rain date a few days later (which you can specify on your invitations) or renting a tent so that everyone has a dry place to sit, no matter how the forecast turns out. Rental furniture is also incredibly helpful when you’re setting up a backyard; if you can, look into any necessary rentals as early as possible so you can ensure you get them on the day you need them.
Especially if you’re not working with a wedding planner, don’t hesitate to ask for or accept help from friends and family members—delegate the tasks that need to get done, and the day will feel a lot less stressful. And last, don’t forget to hire a photographer (and videographer if you’d like) who can capture the day for everyone who can’t attend and for you to look back on. Your favorite photos will make for a great wedding announcement card you can send out post-wedding.
“Oratorio” small at home wedding invitation by Venamour for Paperless Post.
5 small wedding ideas at home we love
One easy way to make a micro-wedding feel extra-special? Give it a theme—as broad or as specific as you want. This can mean outfitting your entire venue in your colors of choice, leaning in to a specific meal for the reception, or even adding a socially distant drive-by component to the big day. Dream big, but plan small. Here are some small wedding ideas you’ve been searching for:
The classic backyard wedding
To make this micro-wedding COVID-safe, make sure all components are outdoors—bar carts, banquet tables, lounge areas, etc. You can treat this ceremony just like you would a traditional wedding with elaborate flower arrangements and fine china—but you can also make it cozy with throw blankets, cushions to sit on, or even picnic blankets. Go as formal or as casual as you’d like.
The brunch wedding
Host your ceremony around 11 a.m. or noon, and follow it up with all of your favorite brunch foods with your family (consider seeing if you can get a favorite diner or restaurant to cater). Your loved ones are welcome to give speeches during the meal, whether they prefer to cheers with champagne, mimosas, Bloody Marys, or coffee. In the evening, feel free to have a few friends over for another toast.
The backyard barbecue wedding
Some couples want their big day to feel relaxed and casual—and what’s more low-key and fun than a barbecue? Plan to have your wedding ceremony in the afternoon and throw a family style cookout afterwards. You can consider this the start of a new anniversary tradition.
If a micro-wedding feels just a little too big for your comfort level or you want to have an even more intimate ceremony with your partner, consider the minimony. You can think of it as an elopement, without the traditional traveling component. Under a tree in your backyard (or at a spot at your favorite park or another place that’s special to you), have a dear friend or family member guide you through a short and sweet vows ceremony. And don’t forget to have someone in the background to capture it on photo and video for you to cherish forever. Afterwards, meet up with friends and family members outdoors at a restaurant or in someone’s backyard for a toast and small celebration.
Newlywed visiting hours
You can also follow up a pared-back micro-wedding or minimony with a drive-by meet-and-greet. This is a great option to help you keep your social distance, while also getting to celebrate with your friends and family members. Set up “visiting hours” in time blocks for your loved ones to drop by for some one-on-one time after your wedding. You can arrange a spot in a local park where people can find you, or decorate a porch, deck, or yard with decorations, drinks, and snacks. Suggest a few times for each guest to swing by in your online wedding invitation so you can make sure the group doesn’t get too big.
“Wild Lilac” small wedding invitation by Felix Doolittle for Paperless Post.
5 small wedding itinerary ideas
When you’re not hosting your wedding at a more traditional venue, a bit more event planning is involved. Your guests might not feel as inclined to head to the dance floor if there are just a handful of them (but that’s no reason to skip out on traditional elements like the first dance, if those components are important to you). And if your refreshments are self-serve, you’ll have to pace your lunch or dinner yourself. Since micro-weddings also don’t typically involve traveling from a ceremony to a reception, or to a different location for photos, you’ll also have a little more free time. All this is to say that it’s a good idea to plan some outdoor games and activities that will make the celebration even more entertaining. Here are some ideas:
COVID precautions as part of the decor
Planning a wedding during COVID requires extra precautions. For the event itself, make sure your set-up allows for proper social distancing. Seat households or quarantine pods together, with at least six feet in between each group of chairs, and set up a few hand sanitizer stations around your venue. You should ask guests to come wearing masks, but it’s always a good idea to keep a few spare ones on-hand in case of any accidents. You can even provide masks to fit your color theme if you want to make them feel a little more festive. To make sure everyone is on the same page about what level of contact you’re comfortable with, over-communicate, and consider making a few friendly signs to remind people “no hugs please” or “fist bumps only.”
Have an outdoor bar
No bartender, no problem. Set up an outdoor bar, either with pre-poured glasses for guests to take, or arrange a self-serve cocktail station. If you want to have a signature drink, you can have all the ingredients laid out and instructions on how to make it written on a chalkboard. Use cocktail name tags or a wine glass marker so that guests can keep track of their drink. Designate someone to keep tabs on the bar for when ingredients need to be restocked.
Hire a late-night food cart
Nothing caps off a night better than a nice, hot pretzel or a bag of fresh popcorn. Instead of sending your guests off with favors, look into hiring a local food cart or truck to swing by with some munchies that everyone will enjoy. If that’s out of budget, or you can’t find a food truck in your area, never underestimate the power of a surprise pizza delivery at the end of the long day of festivities.
Have a fire pit with s’mores
Not only can a backyard fire pit keep your guests warm, it also opens up the possibility of a classic dessert: s’mores. To make sure it doesn’t get too crowded around your “campfire,” consider passing out individual bags of chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows, along with a roasting stick. That way, there’s no competition for ingredients, and everyone can make their delectable, gooey, graham cracker sandwiches at their own pace. Your hand sanitizer supply will also come in handy for sticky fingers.
No backyard? Rent one!
If you don’t have access to a backyard that feels suitable for a small backyard wedding, you can consider booking a home through Airbnb, or even renting a boat or small yacht for the day (as long as no one on your invite list is prone to seasickness). Some couples are even hosting small weddings at a vacation home where all the guests stay on the property. Because micro-weddings have been growing in popularity even before the onset of the pandemic, many wedding venues specifically designed for micro-weddings have also popped up, so you can try to find one in your area.
“Wedding Barn” backyard wedding Flyer by Paperless Post.
No matter how you decide to host your small wedding at home, the day should feel reflective of what’s most important to you and your partner. Celebrations with the people that are the nearest and dearest to you always make for memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime—no matter how big or small they may be.
Browse beautiful online wedding invitations for your small wedding at home. Need a hand with your design? Our Personal Design Services team is here to help. Contact us.