So you're not looking to throw an extravagant party—that doesn't mean you have to elope at the courthouse. Consider the increasingly popular micro wedding, to which couples invite up to a couple of dozen close friends and family members. It may be difficult to narrow down your guest list that far—but if you can manage it, these small gatherings offer a special kind of intimacy. Sarah Toulouse, venue director/co-owner of Creativo Loft, in Chicago, has recently seen an uptick in couples desiring a more personal day that allows them to connect with individual guests. "You feel like you can socialize and talk with everybody," she says.
Of course, omitting so many people may hurt some feelings, which can be difficult. Still, the ease is appealing: fewer invitations to send and RSVPs to track; a table or two of people (no complicated seating chart!). "Having fewer guests basically eliminates an entire layer of stress," says Amanda Buchanan, owner of Simple Day, in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can keep all the traditions of a larger wedding, or customize the event, doing only what's meaningful to you.
The trimmed head count can keep a budget in check, says Sonja Beazley Burch, owner and wedding planner at Intimate Weddings Napa Valley, in California. But savings isn't always the goal. Burch points out that it can also free up funds for a luxury mini wedding. "Some couples spend a thousand dollars a head to have everything they want," she says—which could include extraordinary local food and wine, a spectacular destination, expensive linens, or the bride's dream gown.
Toulouse designed one microwedding that involved a ceremony followed by brunch, a trolley ride to scenic Maggie Daley Park for mini golf, Chicago's famed Architecture Foundation River Cruise, and finally dinner. Guests had come from all over, so the gathering doubled as a reunion and an excuse to travel. The bride and groom spoiled their guests—and spent their day just the way they wanted.