Intimate weddings. Mirco-weddings. Once something niche, now becoming the norm. Covid has scuppered the plans of so many brides and grooms since early last year.
I was due to be a bridesmaid at a very special wedding in Australia in March last year. We had to cancel our flight literally eight hours before it took off - bags packed and all. The wedding ended up postponed only a few days before, leaving the bride and groom with a tremendous amount of rescheduling and stress. They are now back to re-planning for this March with all the stress that brings. And with the added heartache of a much smaller guest list. And, to my great sadness, one less in the bridal party as there's no way the borders will be open in time.
Weddings are a big deal. Many of us dream about our weddings all our lives. It's one of those pivotal moments in adulthood - defining a new chapter of our lives.
It's not a wonder Brides and Grooms the world over are finding this time really, really difficult. It absolutely sucks to have your lives put on hold the way they have been. My heart goes out to each and every one of you.
All that being said, I try as much as I can in life to focus on the positives. To force my brain to see the light rather than dwell in the dark. So I thought I'd write down a few things I've learned about small weddings in all my years of being an Edinburgh wedding photographer. I hope that these thoughts will help those whose plans have been scuppered by bloomin' Covid.
First, why small weddings are wonderful.
- Small weddings are very special. There's an intimacy, a feeling to them that you simply don't get with a larger event.
- They are also much more relaxed. Big weddings can we really, really stressful. The logistics of keeping lots of people happy is challenging. Only the most zen of brides and grooms aren't affected by the work of planning and managing the day.
- A small intimate wedding is 100% about you and your love. Saying your vows in front of hundreds is one thing, saying them in front of just your love, or just a few of your nearest and dearest - that's something exceptional.
- Similarly, a small wedding is much less of a 'performance' - it's more meaningful somehow. Big weddings can quickly become akin to a major theatre production.
- There are fewer 'expectations' on you at a small wedding... If you want burgers for lunch - do it! If you to wear your favourite old comfy shoes under your dress - go for it!
Here are some important things I've learned about weddings in my years as both a wife and a wedding photographer.
- Everyone says it, but after near 14 years of marriage, I can promise you it's true... There will ALWAYS be people at a big wedding that you won't keep up with, in ten years. ALWAYS! If I genuinely looked at the people who have supported our marriage over the years and had only invited them to our wedding, our guest list 14 years ago would have more than HALVED!
- No one, ever, has a completely 'perfect' day. And if they say they did, they're lying… Or they had a few too many glasses of fizz! There is always a drama/problem/mess-up that is remembered with a smile in years to come. I've a huge list of them from my wedding! My point is, one day, you'll be telling the story of your scheduled, rescheduled, amended, changed wedding – you'll smile, and say it wasn't ideal, but you'll hold the hand of your partner and accept it as part of your journey.
- This is just the beginning of your story. It should be and will be, a memorable day, but it won't be the ONLY memorable day. We're not confined to having just one happiest day of our lives, we're allowed to have many 'happiest' days! It's really easy to forget that when you're in the throes of planning a wedding.
- At the end of the day, your wedding day is about just two people, making a significant promise to each other. It's so easy to lose sight of that in amongst the guest lists and meal plans and dress choices.
Top ideas for your small wedding.
- With fewer people to account for - loosen up the schedule a bit! Allow 'in-between' time so you can enjoy the day. So many weddings days are such a rush!
- You can still plan a big party! Don't succumb to wedding FOMO… Plan two events! Just because you decide to become Mr & Mrs now doesn't mean you can't have a fabulous celebration planned for when everything is back to 'normal'. Have the celebrant perform a blessing, have the hen/stag parties, get back into the dress... Or if you'd rather not stress about fitting into it, just turn it into a big 'knees up'! Having been married in Australia, we had a party when we arrived back in Scotland. I got back in the dress, we took a few more wedding photos, and had a great time at our extra celebration. It was much more relaxed than the actual day because the 'official' part was already taken care of. Most of us have only ever had one wedding day, this is the perfect excuse to have two!
- You could either use this as an opportunity to save cash… OR you could use it as an opportunity to go all-out for just your few guests and yourselves!
- A smaller wedding means access to a wider range of venues. There are some gorgeous small chapels, wineries, restaurants and period homes perfect for a smaller wedding. One of my friends recently refurbished Monkton house. It's gorgeous and well worth checking out! Why not have everyone stay over and make it an all-weekend wedding?
- Use the small numbers as an opportunity to connect with your guests. Write them a hand-written note for their favours, involve them in proceedings with readings, toasts etc. and generally make them feel special. I wish I'd been able to really connect with each of my guests on my wedding day!
- A wedding photographer you love is even more important if you've only a few guests. You need someone who will fit in with the vibe of your day - someone relaxed, warm and unobtrusive. Not only will you want to remember the day, but you'll also want to share it with all those who couldn't be there.
- Ask your wedding photographer to release some of the pictures quickly so you can show them to family and friends. Better yet, ask them to make you a slideshow of your images! I ensure my couples have a sneak-peek slideshow within 24 hours of their ceremony - it's such a wonderful day to keep the buzz of the day going.
- If you need to, you can always ask your wedding photographer to be a witness to the marriage too! This might be needed if you're getting married within Tier 4 restrictions.
Please don't let Covid win. Don't let it take all the happiness and joy. Find a way to give yourself that joy and happiness despite all the cr*p we've been dealt. Small weddings are still wonderful weddings. Now more than ever we need to be celebrating love.