Hosting an Intimate Wedding: A Bride’s Perspective

Vlada and her husband Shawn decided to scale back their 150 person guest list, and instead, host an intimate wedding with 26 guests. Due to Covid, many brides are asked to make the impossible decision to either postpone their wedding, or host a smaller, more intimate wedding like Shawn and Vlada. In this blog post, Vlada shares what it was like to plan an intimate wedding, where you should focus your budget, how you can still make it your dream wedding (and an amazing experience for your guests), and why a smaller guest count can be a really beautiful option.  

Vlada Walker is an amazing lifestyle blogger (check out her blog The North Bay Blonde!), based out of Sonoma, California. I had the absolute pleasure of photographing hers and Shawn’s intimate wedding last year, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear first-hand what this experience was like from a bride’s perspective. 

Vlada also shared additional details about her wedding on her blog, The North Bay Blonde

Why did you choose an intimate wedding for you and Shawn?
When we first started wedding planning, we anticipated a 50-60 guest count. As things progressed, we realized that our list was growing fast and we would easily hit 150+ guests. At some point, we just sat down and really thought about this. Is this wedding about us or is it an extended family/high school reunion? I think many couples find themself wanting to invite old friends, cousins, aunts, you name it. But for me, personally, my wedding would always be about my closest friends and family. 

What would you say was the biggest benefit of having an intimate wedding?
Fewer family relations management, for sure. If there’s a possibility of a family feud at my wedding, no thank you. By inviting only immediate family members and best friends, we were able to have an intimate ceremony full of love and laughter. My favorite part of the wedding was the dinner where we all sat at a long 12ft table, shared stories, and enjoying a delicious dinner as one family. 

To future brides planning an intimate wedding – where should they focus their budget? Where should they save their budget?
If you’re ready to plan an intimate wedding and know the style and theme, I’d say skip the wedding planner (which can cost around~ $3000+).  But only if you’re an organized bride that will take care of small details. On the day of the wedding, a planner is a must. They will make sure people go to the right place at the right time, keep track of the timeline, and also answer any questions guests may have so the bride and groom can focus on getting ready, photos, the ceremony, etc. 

A quality photographer is one of the main things to invest in! Hannah was so amazing to work with. From organizing the parents, who were often in the way (lol), to the first look, to dinner and reception photos… When we received the photos, I actually cried because I didn’t realize Hannah was able to get moments of the ceremony and reception that I had missed. 

If you have talented people in the family, ask them to take care of the signs and flowers. I loved that my mom did all of our floral arrangements. It was a beautiful touch and a big contribution to the wedding. 

My husband and I are foodies, so good food was a must as well. We used Fig Caterers (from Girl and the Fig in Sonoma) and it was a hit. I loved our family-style dinner and desserts which we were able to take home with us. The food was one of the major expenses for us but so worth it. 

If you’re watching your budget, find a venue that provides some of the services in their rental price. For example, our winery (Cline Cellars) offered us a discount on wine, complimentary umbrellas, parking, wait staff, etc. Many venues will also provide their own wedding planner, catering service, etc.

What was your favorite part about having an intimate wedding?
My favorite part was being able to speak and spend quality time with our guests. Even with having only 26 guests at our wedding, it was still overwhelming going from group to group. I can’t imagine spending 2 hours walking from person to person at a 150+ wedding. 

How did you break down your guest list from 150+ people to 26 people?
We decided on immediate family and best friends only. It was a little tough to not invite some people but at the end of the day, we chose the people that we couldn’t imagine getting married without having them there.  

It’s really important that you communicate to your guests about your wishes in having an intimate wedding. Be upfront about +1s, last-minute cancellations or additions. 

You decided to have a small bridal party at your wedding. What would you say the pros/cons to this was?
In my opinion, a bridal party is not necessary for a small wedding. However, it is always helpful to have at least one person assigned to help with tasks for the bride. You never know if you’ll forget your bouquet, shoes or veil… I loved having my 4 people bridal party by my side the night before the wedding and the morning of. We shared tons of laughs and cries, got ready together, and had a great time taking photos with Hannah. 

Overall the pros were moral support, help with organization and responsibilities, good time drinking champagne and getting ready 🙂 

Cons – if you have a very small number of guests, think about the ceremony set up. At first, I felt awkward having 9 people out of 26 to stand next to us during the vows. On the other hand, it felt amazing having my best friends by my side. Also, which is true for any size wedding,  if you ask people to be in your wedding party, make sure they’re up for the job. After all, it’s your day and it’s about you, not about their drama or selfishness. 

What is your biggest tip for brides going from a large wedding to an intimate wedding?
Be honest with yourself and choose what’s best for you. It’s your wedding and it should feel 100% like yours… beautiful, authentic, and full of love.

I would also recommend confirming the cancelation and postponement policy with your vendors, given all the unknown with Covid. Make sure to ask if there is a fee for rescheduling. Most vendors are very understanding but you also want to make sure you don’t get stuck with a huge additional expense due to rescheduling fees. 

How did you still make your wedding an “experience,” even with a smaller guest count?
We added in fun activities for our guests like lawn games, a Photo Booth, a DJ, a dance floor, and a cigar bar. All the things you’d have in a large wedding but better and more intimate 🙂 You should also consider a rehearsal dinner and after the wedding, brunch/pool day, which is a great way to tie everything together as a small group. 

If you are a bride planning an intimate wedding and are still looking for a photographer, I’d love to be part of your day. Reach out here and let’s chat!


Photographer: Hannah Berglund Photography

Venue: Cline Cellars

Wedding Planner / Coordination: Quintana Events

DJ and Lawn Games: AMC Entertainment 

Catering and Desserts: Fig Catering

Calligraphy: Better Together Calligraphy 

Dress: Grace Loves Lace