How to plan an intimate wedding without cutting your guest list

April 19, 2018

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Love the idea of planning an intimate wedding but aren’t sure where to start?

The ease of planning, lower price tag, and smaller guest list are all appealing.

But how do you decide who gets an invite and who doesn’t?

David and Linnea found a happy medium between the intimate wedding they dreamed of and the big, traditional wedding that their parents wanted.

They had an intimate garden ceremony that was exactly what they wanted as far as location, guest list and ceremony activities. They followed it with a bigger, more traditional reception where their parents and guests could have more input in the event as well.

I love catching up with Lumos Couples after their weddings and keeping in touch. By the end of the wedding experience, it’s awesome to call my Lumos Couples friends. I caught up with David and Linnea over coffee and got all of the details of how they pulled off their amazing wedding.

What drew you to planning an intimate wedding and a larger reception? What perks were there? 

David is an introvert and I am an extroverted introvert. Neither of us are big fans of crowds and the thought of having to mingle with 300 people was overwhelming.
We didn’t want to make awkward small talk on our wedding day. We just wanted the people we know best and love most to be around, especially for the ceremony. Keeping the ceremony small and having only the people we wanted there was sacred to us and our families respected that for the most part. We had more flexibility for the reception (since we were having more people) but it was actually harder to figure out where to cut it off- our parents both kept wanted to add more people! The ceremony guest list was easy because it was all family and our closest friends. We really just wanted to spend quality time with the people we loved most.

Tell me a little bit about the vision you had for your wedding day-

Linnea- Our original vision was more casual than it ended up, but we always wanted to get married in the fall, outdoors, at a small ceremony. We valued fun with friends and family and having everyone we love in the same room.
Since my family is quite large, I knew I wouldn’t get away with small for the reception too, so the compromise was small ceremony, bigger reception.  I’d always wanted to get married at Como Park, and it ended up working perfectly and within our budget. Originally, we looked at a lot of parks too, which were nice but they didn’t have indoor options in case of rain.
David- I just wanted to make Linnea happy and make sure that she got the day she wanted.
Linnea- I wanted your input too! But I knew he’d say that 🙂

What were some of the struggles, stresses and worries you had about planning your wedding? 

Linnea- We gave our parents the number of people they could invite and they said no. My mom especially wanted to invite many people since we have such a large family (bigger than David’s). Due to family situations that were out of our control during our engagement, a lot more extended family members got invited than we were planning and wanted.
It was a sticking point with my mom about inviting too many extended family members to the reception but she insisted. We wanted to respect what our family wanted but still have the day that we wanted. We never shared guest invite numbers between families because we didn’t want a competition about whose family had more invites, but it kinda turned out that way anyway.
Communication was difficult and did not go well. We could have avoided a lot of stress if we would have communicated expectations better with our families and if they would have communicated more clearly to us. The guest list was more of a concern to us than our parents because big crowds are overwhelming to us but not them.

Was there any drama or people who felt left out of you ceremony, and if so, how did you handle it?

Linnea- The ceremony was a “close family only” event, with those friends that we consider family as well. Everyone we are close with was very understanding.  My parents respected the ceremony invite list and knew that was our thing.  Some extended family showed up to the ceremony who wasn’t invited, but there wasn’t anything we could about it at that point.
David- My mom’s friends were confused as to why they didn’t get ceremony info with their invites so I had to explain to my mom that they weren’t invited to that part of the day. It was easy to decide who made the cut for the ceremony but the reception was harder to choose because we didn’t really know where to draw the line for that.  There was a little bit of drama with my mom’s friends who wanted a plus one and didn’t get one so she didn’t come but that that wasn’t a huge deal to us.  We didn’t stress out about it.

Any advice for couples looking to plan an intimate, outdoor wedding ceremony?

In terms of planning, have a backup plan in case the weather is crazy! Weather in MN is so unpredictable. Make sure to designate a few people to facilitate anything that might go wrong throughout the day.
Find vendors that you really like and connect with. That’ll add to the intimate feeling of your wedding day because if you aren’t comfortable around them, you’ll feel awkward the whole day. All of our vendors were incredible and took great care of us throughout the whole day, and we enjoyed having them around.
Make sure you know and love all of the faces of the people who are with you during your ceremony. That’s intimate. If you need help knowing who to invite, it should be the group of people you called when excitedly planning your proposal or who you wanted to tell first right after you get engaged. The people who you can call in the middle of the night if you need something and who will always be there for you.
Pets are tricky! Our dog is extremely important to our family, but she is very hyper and would have added unnecessary stress. It would have been nice to include her, but she had a great time at a doggy friend’s house!
After the ceremony, it was really important to us to take time to ourselves without anyone else. You’ll need that time to slow time down and soak it all in, and it’s a really romantic moment. I think Laura suggested that actually!

What kind of planning went into the actual ceremony? How did you make it reflect your unique personalities and relationship? 

Linnea- We planned it with a lot of help from our awesome officiant Michelle. Neither David nor I are religious. But David’s family is. As soon as we told Michelle that, she understood right away and said, “Jesus Lite. Got it!” We also really wanted our moms to be involved, so to personalize the ceremony we had them read letters they wrote to us. The teariest moment of the ceremony, for sure!
Our best man played guitar during the processional and recessional. He wrote a song when we were all in New Zealand together, and I said even before we were engaged that I wanted to walk down the aisle to that song. It was really perfect and included him as well.
We weren’t into the whole unity sand or candle thing. Those didn’t have much meaning to us but we’ve always had a candy drawer at home so we decided to do unity candy instead. We’ve kept the jar in a special place in our house and we keep refilling it.

What surprised you about your wedding- good, bad and in-between?  

Linnea: We’re not clubbers or dancers but danced all night because we were in such a good mood and so happy! We were also very laid back on the day which surprised us because normally I’m are very detail-oriented but because we knew at that point there was nothing else that could be done, we just let the day unfold naturally. I was at my most chill!


David: Everything worked itself out. Even the big things that came up weren’t a big deal. I was laid back on our wedding and nothing could bother us- we were so happy. As long as the end of the day, I’m married, I’ll be happy.


Any tips for relieving stress while wedding planning? 

Think about what is actually important! What is going to matter 10 years from now? Figure that out and let the rest go. Don’t start crying because the exact guest book you want isn’t available!

Is there anything you would have done differently if you could go back in time? 

Linnea: Communication with my parents. They were paying for a lot and wanted a say in decisions, which I understood. I needed to be clearer about my “non-negotiables.” I feel like if they had been clearer, we could have avoided many headaches (apparently invitations were really important to them and we ended up ordering 3 different ones. Who knew?)

What kind of things did you do to save money and keep to budget? 

Since I am so organized, it was easy to make a spreadsheet of who was paying for what, what the goal budget should be in each particular area, and what we had paid so far. I was really on top of the “oh, we paid too much in this area, now we’re going to need to take money from somewhere else.”

There are so many resources out there for “this is the percentage you should spend on ___”  There were definitely some areas that I thought were really important and spent more money than I should-but I did budget for it!


To keep costs down, my mom and her friends did the centerpieces–I wouldn’t recommend going that route if you aren’t experienced. DIY can end up being very expensive. They actually grew all the flowers in their garden and were out cutting on the Friday night before our wedding! We also saved by having our best man as the musician during the ceremony, but that was something we wanted to personalize our day.


 Our location had linens and chairs and tableware provided. They also had their own caterer, with a very large menu so I knew we’d find something we liked. There was also less stress about finding a caterer. It was easy to find something cheaper that was also delicious.

What do you think? Are you ready to plan an intimate wedding? If you are looking for a venue, contact me using the form below and I’ll send you a list of venues in Minnesota and Wisconsin that are perfect for small weddings. And if you need a photographer, I offer unique collections that are specifically built for intimate weddings and elopements. Start the conversation below to get more info!

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