6 Ways To Make Your Wedding As Intimate As An Elopement

My sister got married one year before I did. As my dad and sister were doing the father-daughter dance, he asked her, “Do you think Tina might want to elope?” (I imagine the full effect of how much a wedding costs was hitting him pretty hard.) She said, “I was the one who wanted to elope! Tina wants a big wedding.” I’m pretty sure he muttered something unrepeatable.

The next year Adam and I got married at our “big wedding” and it was the most fun I’ve ever had. Now, twelve years later, I often tell my husband that if we were to do it again again tomorrow, there are sooo many things I would do different. Eloping actually sounds pretty good (I guess my sister was wise in her youth). But I know I would miss partying with all my friends and family. So while I’d still do the big wedding, I would change a lot of things to add more intimacy to the day and honor who we are as people. After attending and shooting my fair share of weddings, here’s my advice for those who wish they could elope but just can’t. Here’s some suggestions for how to infuse similar elements into your wedding day.

1. Read a letter to each other before or after the ceremony.

If you want to have a moment of connection and calm without the crowds, write a note to your partner and read it together (silently or out-loud). (Your photographer / videographer will most likely be there, so make sure you like ’em.) A good time for this is after the first look or during sunset portraits. I guarantee you won’t regret this.

Couple reading letter to each other before ceremony2. Get ready together.

I know, I know. I know. The element of surprise might be one of the most fun parts of the day. It’s also a lot of pressure to respond the “right” way. This is not for everyone, but wouldn’t it be sweet to be able to spend the whole day together and have it be a slow and easy morning? I especially think this is awesome if you have family staying all near each other. This way everyone doesn’t have to worry about you catching a glimpse of each other before the ceremony.

Bride and Groom Getting Ready Together, adjusting tie3. Keep your wedding party itty bitty or maybe not even have one.

Wedding parties are half the stress in both the planning stage and on the wedding day. Even if you have super chill people in your party, there is something about official wedding party roles that seems to amp up the stress levels. Big wedding parties may add another level of needed attention that you might not have bargained for. If you love the simplicity of elopements, keep it simple with your wedding party.

Small Wedding Party, Flying Caballos Ranch San Luis ObispoPeppertree Ranch Wedding, Bride and maid of honor

4. Have long tables with no seating chart.

This is one we actually did for our own wedding and I loved it. Your guests can handle it, I promise. A bonus is that you won’t be up late the week before your wedding guessing you may offend because of their seat. Family style serving creates a more communal feel. It also allows guests to wander and mingle with everyone and not feel tied down to one spot. It’s extra magical when you add market lights.

Marin Headlands Center for the Arts WeddingSpreafico Farm Weddings, Outdoor Barn Wedding, California Barn Wedding

5. Hire professionals wherever you can (and don’t DIY it all).

Wherever the budget allows for it, hire professional wedding vendors. It will take so much stress off your plate and allow you to enjoy the day. They will work together to keep the schedule, make sure your guests are having a great time, and that you’re well taken care of. Keep decor simple and don’t worry about Pinterest’s latest DIY (unless your super crafty). Find people who are amazing at what they do and that you enjoy. If the food is amazing, but the caterer is a total jerk, it’s going to bum you out. Finding a venue that needs little decor to make it look awesome.

Baby's Breath in Galvanized Bucket

6. Walk down the aisle together.

In hindsight, this might be the one I most wish we had done. We’re making the commitment to each other so it would have been nice to start the ceremony together. Or, we could both walked down the aisle and asked our parents to walk with us signifying the transition into our own family unit.

Nipomo Golf Course Wedding, Blacklake Golf CourseIt’s okay to examine traditions, keep the ones you like and also create your own. There is no need to do things simply because “that’s what you do.”

I know that there are cultural, religious (such as the Ketubah signing below), and family traditions to honor and fun to be had by doing so. Your family also has traditions that are important to them. It’s complicated. I still remember the look on my mom’s face when she found out we were having cupcakes instead of a cake.

 If you ever need it, this article is a little extra permission to figure out what would work best for the two of you and move towards that.

Marin Headlands Center for the Arts, Ketubah SigningSparkler Exit

Images above are from Peppertree Ranch, Flying Caballos Ranch, Marin Headlands Center for the Arts, Spreafico Farms, Santa Margarita Ranch, Vine and Flourish, Blacklake Golf Course, and See Canyon Fruit Ranch.


















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  • Sue LoveridgeMarch 13, 2018 - 3:44 pm

    I hear what you are saying…good stuff!…but my favorite moment at your wedding was watching Adam’s face light up when you got out of the car and started down the aisle.ReplyCancel

  • Jen HMarch 13, 2018 - 4:28 pm

    Great article Tina! One of my favorite “intimate” wedding ideas is enjoying a private dinner as a newlywed couple in a completely separate area. While your guests are enjoying cocktails and appetizers, the couple can have a few quiet moments immediately after the ceremony to enjoy each other in peace. Then, while the guests are eating dinner, the couple is introduced and can make the rounds to say hi. I just love that they have a little alone time right after their wedding ceremony. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Taryn SchubertMarch 13, 2018 - 6:43 pm

    I LOVE this, Tina! Such great advice. I always encourage my clients to take a few moments to themselves whenever they can. Especially directly after the ceremony, while guests transition from ceremony to cocktail hour.ReplyCancel