As some of you may know, Sam and I recently had an intimate ceremony and reception at the beautiful barrel room of Sand Rock Farm in Aptos, CA. We technically didn’t get legally married, but for all other intents and purposes, it was a wedding… and we planned it in less than six months! It was the most magical weekend of our lives and, to be completely honest, there are very few things I would have changed about it. I am so incredibly glad we ended up choosing to have a small wedding with less than 30 guests. I thought it might be helpful to write a blog post sharing my thoughts on how to plan an intimate wedding in six months, along with our reasons for choosing a small wedding.
I’m not going to give you a detailed schedule of when to do each task, because you can definitely find that elsewhere. Instead, I wanted to give you my top tips for pulling off the best day possible while maintaining your sanity!
1 – Find the perfect venue (and other key vendors!)
The very first thing we did was find a venue. We actually didn’t even create a solid guest list until we had chosen our wedding venue. I actually recommend this for every couple planning a wedding, whether it is going to be big or small. I feel like choosing a wedding venue is the most important choice for the wedding day. It often dictates the number of guests, a majority of the budget, what vendors you need, and more.
Here are a few things to consider when searching for a venue for intimate weddings.
Has this venue done intimate weddings before? Many venues are geared towards larger weddings of at least 50 guests. This means their venue fees can be quite high as they are intended to be spread across a higher guest count. For example, many venues we looked at had a food and beverage minimum of $5000-$10000. With 25 guests, that would have meant spending $200-$400 per person, sometimes on top of the site fee, which was not practical for us.
Can your guests stay on site? One of my favorite things about Sand Rock Farm is that lodging was provided for up to 18 people. It was lovely having a leisurely breakfast with our family before the wedding and heading upstairs to get ready.
Will the venue feel overwhelming for our guest count? If you are only having a small handful of guests, you probably don’t want a cocktail area as big as a football field! Having a smaller space will make everything feel more cozy and intimate.
For more questions to ask yourself while picking a wedding venue, check out my blog post on how to pick a wedding venue.
For intimate weddings in the Bay Area, Sand Rock Farm was by far the best choice we could have made! I highly, highly recommend it to anyone looking for a stunning venue with incredible food, amazing customer service and an excellent overall experience. Keep in mind that you’ll likely have to be flexible with your date, if you’re hoping to have a wedding within six months. Wedding venues often book out more than a year in advance. We actually planned everything around Sand Rock Farm’s availability. What I loved about Sand Rock Farm is that the space wasn’t overwhelming for our number of guests.
Other than the wedding venue, there are a few other key vendors you should book ASAP. Photographers, videographers, florists and DJs generally only book one wedding per day, so if you are in love with a particular vendor’s work, reach out to them as soon as you have locked down a date! We actually shifted our wedding to Sunday because our photographer was already booked on Saturday.
2 – Hire a planner.
Seriously, you’ll thank yourself for this! As a wedding photographer, I’ve had a fair bit of exposure to weddings, but I still panicked over the idea of pulling all the details together into a cohesive event in just six months. This is what planners and designers excel at, so I highly recommend letting the professionals take over especially with a shorter timeline. Wedding planners/coordinators have connections with wedding vendors you would have never even thought of and are super helpful with making recommendations! When you only have six months to plan a wedding, it’s imperative that you get vendors nailed down as soon as possible, as vendors can often be booked out up to a year in advance.
Our amazing wedding planner Elise of Brannan Events not only helped me put together a beautiful design board, she also helped coordinate all the vendors and details both leading up to the wedding and on the day of. Having Elise there on the day of was a god-send and I would never have been able to do it without her! That being said, having her in the months before was just as important, so I highly recommend hiring your planner for a longer duration rather than just for the day of. This allows your planner to be familiar with all the details, making for a smoother wedding day where you can truly just relax!
3 – Temper your DIY expectations.
My suggestion would be to come up with a list of the projects you would like to do, rank them in order of importance and then come up with backup plans if you can’t complete them. Our wedding ended up being fairly DIY heavy, but we had backups for each and every one of the projects in case we ran out of time to complete them (thanks to Elise for all her research!!). One thing to keep in mind is the cost.
Here’s a list of the things we made: our wedding invitations with gold calligraphy on gray agate slices and a detail cards on handmade gold-flecked kozo paper, my lace cathedral veil, paper flowers scattered around our wedding, acrylic menus, acrylic signage, copper arches for both the signs and the ceremony, a paper flower covered photo frame, and a Hawaiian shave ice stand. My sister is an incredibly talented calligraphist (funnily enough, I was the one who did calligraphy for her wedding!), so she helped with the invitations and all the other signage.
I originally had the insane idea of crafting paper flowers for our entire wedding. Even with an intimate wedding, we ended up having hundreds of flowers and branches of greenery, so I would have never been able to make all of them myself. That being said, I did ask my amazing florist (Kaylia of Tumbleweed Floral Truck) to incorporate the paper flowers I did make in our arrangements, and I am so glad I did! It was so fun seeing little touches of my handiwork in all of the arrangements.
4 – Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Do as I say and not as I do… Honestly, I am terrible at delegating, so I probably took on a little more than I should have. That being said, our friends and family were complete lifesavers throughout the weekend. All the boys helped with cleaning the copper pipes to make sure they weren’t tarnished for the wedding. My sister obviously did all the calligraphy. We had various family members pick up and drop off all the rentals, which was such a relief, stress-wise. I sewed all the lace on my veil myself until the weekend before the wedding, when I finally let my mom help me finish it off. I totally should have done that earlier, because she was way faster at it than I was, haha! Trust me, I understand wanting to do everything yourself, but it will be way easier if you can delegate. The week before the wedding, we made a Google Docs list of all the tasks that needed to be done and separated the ones that could be done by other people.
We also asked my best friend Thomas to officiate the wedding, which was one of the best decisions we made! This won’t be for everyone, of course, but if you’re looking to keep the feel of your wedding very intimate, I highly recommend asking one of your friends and family who were already going to attend the wedding be the officiant. With such a small number of people attending the ceremony, it would have felt a little jarring to have a vendor we didn’t know officiate our wedding. Thomas completely crushed it and I loved that he was able to have a special part in our day.
5 – Turn the event into a weekend affair.
I am SO glad we did this, because I got to talk to every single one of our guests multiple times throughout the weekend. With such a small wedding, we were already able to talk to everyone on the day of (which often isn’t possible for many brides and grooms!), but having dinner the night before with all of our guests was one of the best decisions we made! Even better, we actually cooked the dinner ourselves, meaning everyone got to help cook and we had a lot of space to move around in during and after dinner. I got to have meaningful conversations with all of our guests throughout the weekend, which I didn’t manage on the wedding day! It was also awesome because our friends and family got to meet each other before the wedding as well, making the actual wedding feel even more intimate.
I hope these tips were helpful for planning your intimate wedding. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or, of course, if you are looking for a photographer 😉