Why choose a small wedding on your big day?

Marguerite MacRobert

With many people currently keeping their wedding guest lists short, Namibia Planners will be sharing insights on why people choose small weddings. Whether you have always dreamt of a more intimate, bespoke wedding, or financial constraints mean you need to keep your wedding small, Namibia Planners have some backup for your decision.

Reasons why people have intimate weddings.

With the global coronavirus pandemic, many countries are either legislating against big gatherings, or at least strongly advising against them. This has led to an international trend towards drastically smaller weddings. Ashley Fetters writes for The Atlantic that this trend that may extend beyond 2020’s wedding season.

When planning your wedding, it is important that you first consult local authorities about current regulations regarding the size of gatherings permitted in your venue’s area. In Namibia, you can start here. Also enquire at the venue, as they should be up to date with the latest guidelines.

However, this is certainly not the only reason to have a small wedding. Couples have been choosing more intimate weddings for decades already.

I spoke to Marie-Helene Skaap, manager of Lalapanzi Lodge about why couples choose intimate weddings over big bashes. She has many years of experience catering for small weddings, sometimes with 12 or fewer guests. The smallest wedding she has catered for? “Just the couple and the marriage officer. I had to act as witness.” She says the reasons people give for wanting smaller weddings vary from couple to couple, but the most common are budget limits, or having more quality time with family.

Quality time with family

She points out that families are more spread out nowadays. Family members flying in from other towns or even continents for a big wedding may only catch a glimpse of the happy couple before they dash off on honeymoon again. Couples often prefer a smaller wedding over a weekend, where they spend time catching up with these far-flung relatives. With many venues like Lalapanzi including the booking out of their venue’s accommodation as part of the wedding package (in season or on a weekend, you can’t have wedding parties going on while other lodge guests are sleeping) this makes a lot of sense practically for your wedding guests.

It also often happens that the wedding is the first time the bride and groom’s families actually meet each other, so this extended bonding experience is important to the couple as much as the ceremony and reception. This was certainly the case for my cousin and his wife, who had a small wedding of close family and friends in Sweden. They even had a party game to help everyone get to know each other. All the guests had to work out from a list of little riddles (which told you something about the person) who the other guests were. It was such a great way to get some complete strangers talking that my husband and I borrowed it for our own intimate wedding!

Limiting wedding expenses

When budgeting for the wedding, some couples afford having a luxury wedding at their dream venue by inviting fewer guests. Most wedding expenses, from food to tableware, floral arrangements and furniture, and even the equipment needed for a dance floor, are determined by the number of guests attending the wedding. For this reason, venues often price packages ‘per guest’. You also have to add in your photographer, videographer, make-up artist, the marriage officer and the DJ, as they need to eat if you need them to stick around throughout the day. Staying within budget is always a numbers game.

Even wealthy couples save on on the wedding so they can splurge on a lavish honeymoon. For others, cost is an issue no matter where they are getting married, and they wisely choose to start married life without piles of debt.

Your dream wedding venue has limited capacity, or is in a remote location

Your choice of wedding venues is also impacted by your guest list. Some venues only cater for intimate weddings. This can be because bespoke intimate weddings fit their vision for their restaurant’s cuisine, or because of nature reserve regulations. Other venues are working around the limitations of their kitchen and dinning area size.

We attended a fabulous African destination wedding, where all the guests had to be ferried into the remote safari encampment by 4×4, and stay the weekend. It was worth the effort to dance under a star-lit African sky, see the bride arrive by white-water raft, and all have a go the next day on a zipline in pristine surroundings. It was a wedding we will never forget, we felt honoured to be included, and it didn’t need to be a 200-guest affair. The venue in this case kept numbers down to limit the impact of people on the nature they were preserving.

You are a more socially reserved couple

Have you ever caught yourself sighing, “I wish we could just elope!” If you want to be alone, you are not alone in wanting this! Perhaps you just prefer intimate groups of friends to big parties. It’s wonderful to be true to this rather than feeling obliged to hold a celebration that is just not who you are. 

For Marie-Helene, when a couple speak about elopement to a venue, it’s important they get the practicalities right.  “25 guests is still a wedding,” in terms of catering and decor needs.

‘Elopement’ is just the couple, the required witnesses (the venue staff can stand in) and the marriage officer. If you still want the beautiful photographs and make up, hair etc. then the service providers have to be part of your plans when booking a venue.

Do you even need a venue? Before you just run off to the local nature reserve or park in a big white dress, check local regulations. Some nature reserves charge for photography shoots and weddings, even if they are spontaneous, intimate ones.  Others don’t allow them or have strict rules to prevent, for example, pollution by confetti or balloons. You don’t want to spoil your special day by getting into an argument with a park ranger or picking up a fine.

Namibia Planners hope you find these insights useful as you plan your intimate wedding, and that you can find a way to celebrate your special day in the way that means the most you to as a couple.

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