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How to Have a Small Wedding With a Big Family - 13 Ways to Make It Work

WhatToGetMy Instructional Article

Including your family in your wedding is understandably important, but when it’s a big family, and you just want a small ceremony, it’s easy to worry about how to have a small wedding with a big family.

Planning a small wedding can be pretty stressful as you need to endure the stress of a small wedding, and about offending people who won’t make it to the guest list.

Planning a small wedding can be pretty stressful as you need to endure the stress of a small wedding

Country spending on weddings as of 2019

You are not alone in this; many people are now choosing to go with smaller weddings for various reasons, the most prominent being to save costs. This chart by Statista shows just how expensive weddings have become, and more and more people are beginning to doubt the need to spend so much on a wedding.

Regardless of your reasons, what you want is a small wedding, and we are here to give you tips on how to make it happen.

Check out How to Plan a Wedding With Step-By-Step Instructions.

1. Get on the same page with your partner

Having a small wedding will definitely face some pushback which is why both you and your partner have to be united on this issue. You need to speak with each other and be sure that this is what you both want. Work on your reasons with each other to defend them to important people like your parents.

You should also decide on the guest list together, and the limit you would like to impose so that the people you both want are invited.

2. Tell relevant family members

The next step in small wedding planning is to inform those that are closest and most relevant to your wedding. This includes your parents, siblings, and any really close friends. This will prepare them for the wedding and give you a chance to hear their opinions and suggestions. 

Convincing them will be helpful in convincing others because they will be able to back you up to the rest of the family.

3. Get another family member on your side

In addition to your closest family, it would be beneficial to talk to someone else in the family to convince them to back you up. An uncle or aunt in your good books would be the best option. You should explain your reasons for wanting a small wedding and how you plan to go about it, so they are more understanding.

Apart from backing you up to other family members, they will also spread the word allowing for the expectation of several family members to be managed.

4. Really think about your guest list

“What is a small wedding size?” “Who should we invite for the wedding?” “Are we not inviting extended family to the wedding?”

These are some of the questions you will need to ask yourself when planning out the guest list. Seeing as you are not having a big family wedding, deciding the guestlist will be quite tricky. Might we suggest a few tips to help?

  • Invite those who absolutely have to be there, such as close family and those you simply cannot celebrate this day without.
  • Invite those that bring positivity – no need to invite family or in-laws that constantly put your relationship down.
  • Practice equality – if you plan on inviting aunts and uncles from your side, you must invite aunts and uncles from your partner’s side as well.

5. Leave the kids?

If you plan on having a small wedding guest list, then limiting the number of children at the event might just be the way to go. You could have a blanket ban on all children or allow only certain children to be there.

However, a small problem arises if you want parents, who would be unable to find babysitters. You could solve this problem by limiting the number of children above a certain age – older children don’t need babysitters – thereby avoiding the need for a babysitter.

6. Plus-one policy

You want to plan a small wedding yet have a big family, which means they can’t all make it. If that is the case, it would be unfair to allow plus-ones in either unless they are engaged to a family member or have been with one for so long that they are now part of the furniture.

Limiting plus-ones can be quite controversial, which means that you and your partner need to put a lot of thought into deciding whether a blanket ban would be best, or some exceptions can be made.

7. Hint at your plans

Play down the expectations of family and friends when they talk about the wedding by dropping hints that you plan on having a small wedding. When they start going on about how big the wedding will be – or talk about the wedding at all – find a way to include that you want something small and won’t be inviting everyone you know. Go a step further by even seeking their opinion on how to have a small wedding with a big family.

Putting this in their minds will help prepare them for the chance of not being invited, thereby making the process easier for both of you.

8. Big ceremony, Small reception

A tip on how to have a small wedding without offending anyone is to find a way to involve them all. One way to do this is to have a big ceremony that can accommodate many people at a large enough venue, such as a church or an open space outside. You can then slip away to a small reception where you host only a tiny number of close friends and family.

You get to save costs on the ceremony as you don’t have to serve food – unless a few appetizers – and those who don’t make the reception would have at least attended one part of the wedding.

Check out What to Serve at Wedding Reception.

9. Small ceremony, Large reception

You could pull an Uno reverse and have a small wedding-big reception on the flip side. This way your nearest and dearest can be the ones to witness you saying “I do” to the love of your life.

The reception does not even have to be held on the same day. You can do it a couple of days after the wedding in a casual setting to save costs and have everyone more comfortable. 

This allows others to celebrate your wedding with you even if they weren’t there for the ceremony.

Check out Ideas for a Cheap but Classy Wedding Reception.

10. Livestream the ceremony

The pandemic of 2020 and 2021 forced us to learn how to have a small wedding with a big family by restricting travel and imposing limitations on the number of people allowed at social events.

We learned the importance of live video technology in those times as we used it for many things, from work to concerts and religious gatherings. We also used it for weddings. A tiny wedding idea would therefore be to set up a live streaming facility for the event so that you can have your small wedding, but the family still gets to be with you on the day.

11. Plan a destination wedding

When planning on how to have a small wedding and you are stuck on who to invite, let this idea slim your guest list down for you. A destination wedding will give your special day a great atmosphere and ensure that only a few people can attend.

This way, you don’t offend people by not inviting them, and you get a lovely occasion – it’s a win-win if you can afford it.

Keep in mind, however, that there might be some people whose presence you would appreciate but who would find attending a destination wedding a tad difficult. Make alternative plans for them if you can, or tell them ahead of time to allow them to make plans to attend.

Check out these Undiscovered Honeymoon Destinations.

12. Expect disappointment

Whatever your plans are, so long as you have decided to have a small wedding, there will be some who simply won’t understand. They will give reasons why a big wedding is better, try to convince you that you are making a mistake, or even give you tips on how to plan a small wedding that isn’t so small.

At this point, you need to remind them that it is you getting married, and this is what you want. You don’t have to explain your reasoning, but you can tell them the truth if they keep pestering- and have some familial influence.

13. Set boundaries but allow for some negotiation

Regarding the pushback you will face, you need to be resolute in your decision by setting boundaries and putting your foot down about what YOU want in your wedding. Tell your detractors that this is what you have chosen and you would prefer their support and not their criticism.

You can then win them over by allowing some leeway for negotiation that will enable them to chip in some of their ideas so they can at least feel they were victorious in some way. You never know, they could give you great ideas on how to do a small wedding and family only wedding ideas that you hadn’t thought about.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you have a small wedding if you have a large family?

  • Be sure you and your partner are on the same page.
  • Tell relevant family members ahead of time.
  • Hint at your plans in conversations with family.
  • Meticulously plan your guest list.
  • Have a small ceremony but big reception.
  • Livestream the ceremony.
  • Have a destination wedding.

Is having a small wedding rude?

Having a small wedding ceremony is not rude, but there are specific ways you can go about it that can be considered rude such as inviting certain family from one side and not doing the same for the other.

Does anyone regret having a small wedding?

Several people have stated that they didn’t feel married because their small wedding felt anticlimactic.

On the other hand, other people have stated that they enjoyed their small wedding as they engaged in wedding rites such as flowers, clothing, and the general wedding setup, even with less than 25 people. They also got to spend more time with those that mattered to them while also comfortably affording food and drinks.

In Conclusion

There are several people who have come to regret their decision to have a small wedding, just as there are others who still swear by it. Put some serious thought into this decision so that you can be one of the latter.

Remember, this is your wedding day, and the point of it is to begin a new stage in your life with your partner. You ought to start it with happiness, and if a small wedding is one way you can achieve that, then by all means, go for it.

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