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How to Plan an Intimate At-Home Wedding on a Budget

How to Plan an Intimate At-Home Wedding on a Budget

Organize an ideal home wedding with our guide. Get budget tips for venue, decor, attire, catering, music, photos, and remote guest ideas.-----


Small, intimate weddings at home are becoming increasingly popular for couples looking to celebrate their marriage in a meaningful way without blowing their budget. According to Embracing the intimate: Why small weddings are so popular, these "micro-weddings" offer many benefits over large, traditional affairs including lower costs, increased flexibility, and greater intimacy with your closest loved ones.

By opting for a small at-home wedding, couples can avoid the steep expenses associated with large guest lists, fancy venues, abundant catering, and intricate decorations. This makes weddings much more affordable and manageable for the average couple. Having full control over the event also lends itself to greater flexibility in scheduling and personalizing each detail.

Most importantly, a small wedding surrounded only by those nearest and dearest to you allows for deeper connections and more meaningful moments throughout the day. With fewer guests, you can dedicate more quality time to each person and create cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

Determine Your Vision and Priorities

The first step to planning your small home wedding is to sit down with your partner and determine your shared vision and what's most important to you both. Have an open conversation about your ideal guest list, budget, style, and other priorities using a wedding vision sheet or by simply ranking aspects on a scale of 1-10. Key areas to discuss include:

  • Guest list - How many people can you comfortably accommodate?

  • Budget - What can you comfortably afford to spend?

  • Location - Indoors, outdoors, or both?

  • Style and theme - Classic, rustic, Bohemian?

  • Tone - Relaxed, elegant, festive?

  • Food and drinks - Full meals or snacks and appetizers?

  • Music - Live, DJ, or playlists?

  • Photos - Professional, amateur, or mix?

Aligning your vision upfront ensures you stay focused on what matters most as you plan. Refer back to your priorities list whenever you need to make decisions. The wedding priority list will keep your home wedding customized around you.

Create Your Guest List

Small weddings are typically defined as having 50 guests or less. According to The Knot Real Weddings Study, the average wedding size in 2023 was 115 guests. Decide on your max number early in your planning process. For a truly intimate affair, keep it to just your immediate family and very closest friends - you're looking at 25-40 guests.

Sit down together and make a list of your must-have VIPs. Parents, siblings, grandparents, and bridal party members are usually at the top. Next, add your closest friends - don't feel obligated to invite every acquaintance. Keep paring down your list until you get to your ideal number. Send Save the Dates 6-8 months out to give guests plenty of notice.

The smaller the attendee list, the more you can focus on each cherished guest. Create a meaningful, memorable event by celebrating your marriage surrounded only by those you love most.

Pick Your Location

When planning a small at-home wedding, one of the first big decisions is picking your location. Popular options for DIY venues include your own home, backyard, a local park, or family property. Each location comes with its own considerations.

Hosting the wedding ceremony and reception at your home can provide familiarity and convenience. Just be sure to have an indoor backup plan if using the backyard, in case of rain or other weather issues. Permits are usually not needed for events at private residences. Transform your living room for the ceremony then move outdoors for cocktails and dinner.

Public parks can offer beautiful scenery at an affordable rate. Look for local parks with pavilions, structures, or indoor facilities to handle variable weather. Be aware that permits, insurance, and other fees may apply for public spaces. Scout locations thoroughly and confirm what's allowed.

Sprawling private family properties like farms, estates, or lakeside retreats provide rustic charm. Work with the owners to determine capacity, noise regulations, parking, and other logistics. These personalized venues often allow greater flexibility too.

Research options in your area that fit within budget. Weigh amenities, permitting needs, and backup plans for each location. Then determine the ideal venue to host your special day!

Accommodate Out-of-Town Guests

Having out-of-town guests attend your small home wedding can be tricky, but there are ways to make them feel welcome. Consider putting up some of your closest friends or family members at your house if you have the space. This allows for even more quality time together around your special event. Give them plenty of notice so they can make travel plans, and let them know details like if kids are welcome. For other guests, block out rooms at a nearby hotel or motel and provide a group rate or discount code. Recommend accommodations at different price points close to your venue. Share transportation options for getting to the ceremony and reception. Provide out-of-town guests with welcome bags at their hotel with local treats, maps, attraction brochures, and an event schedule or itinerary. List your contact information in case they need anything. You can also arrange for transportation like shuttles or ride shares to and from the venue. Making out-of-town wedding guests feel as comfortable as possible will ensure they can fully enjoy your special day.

Decorate Your Venue

One of the best ways to transform your home or outdoor location into a wedding venue is through creative, budget-friendly decor. String lights instantly create a romantic, festive ambiance both indoors and outdoors. Hang them along fences, trees, walls, or ceilings. You can find affordable string light options at stores like Target or Amazon. Lanterns lined down an aisle or clustered on tables generate a cozy glow, and you can often find them in bulk for cheap on sites like Alibaba or DHgate. Gather greenery like eucalyptus, ferns, and ivy from your own backyard or local florists to make DIY garlands and arrangements. Hydrangeas, sunflowers, dahlias or other seasonal blooms make beautiful budget centerpieces (Architectural Digest). Visit flower farms or wholesale markets to buy flowers in bulk. Rent furniture like chairs, tables, and lounge seating rather than purchasing.

Plan Attire and Accessories

Your wedding day attire doesn't need to break the bank. There are many affordable options for dresses, suits, and accessories when you know where to look.

For brides on a budget, check out sites like JJ's House, Azazie, and David's Bridal for dresses under $200. Stores like BHLDN and Anthropologie also offer non-traditional dresses for less. You can also find great deals by searching second hand shops and online resale platforms like StillWhite and Nearly Newlywed.

Grooms can save money by wearing a suit they already own or renting attire. Check stores like H&M and Zara for budget-friendly suits under $200. You can also find deals by shopping end-of-season sales at department stores. Accessorize with ties, shoes, and other items you likely already own.

Consider buying custom or DIY items on Etsy to match your wedding theme and colors. You can also make your own accessories like hair pieces, jewelry, corsages, boutonnieres, etc. YouTube tutorials can help guide your DIY projects.

The key is looking for deals, repurposing items you or loved ones already have, and getting crafty with DIY projects. With creativity and effort, you can pull together wedding looks that feel special without the typical price tag.

Cater the Menu

One of the biggest budget items for a wedding is the food and drinks. But you can serve delicious cuisine while still keeping costs low with a bit of creativity. Some affordable catering ideas include:

Make food yourself - Get help from family to cook some of your favorite homemade recipes. Lasagna, chili, sandwiches, and desserts are all easy to make in batches. You can also prepare some items ahead of time and freeze them.

Have guests bring potluck dishes - Asking loved ones to each bring an appetizer, entree, or side is a great way to crowd source part of the meal. Give them recipe suggestions that match your theme.

Hire food trucks - Food trucks offer delicious fast casual options and are very budget friendly, usually ranging from $15-$25 per person. Go with a taco bar, slider truck, or pizza oven on wheels.

Order from a grocery store - Many grocery store chains offer hot and cold catering packages for reasonable prices.

Only serve appetizers - Skip a formal sit-down dinner and just offer a spread of fancy finger foods like bruschetta, crostini, meatballs, and mini quiche.

Provide your own alcohol - Buying beer, wine, and liquor yourself along with a bartender to serve will be much less expensive than a full open bar.

Think beyond dinner - Consider an afternoon tea reception, dessert and drinks only, or late-night snack buffet to save.

With smart planning, you can cater your small wedding at home while sticking to your budget. The food will still feel special by focusing on homemade, DIY options.

Personalize with Music, Vows, Photos

Personalizing your wedding with music, vows, and photos is a great way to make your special day feel unique to you as a couple. For music, create playlists for the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception that feature your favorite songs and artists. You can use a streaming service to arrange your playlists or make physical copies. If you have musical friends or family, see if they can perform live.

For your vows, take time to thoughtfully write meaningful promises to each other. Share fond memories, hopes for the future, or funny inside jokes. Keep them succinct but heartfelt. You can even write your own from scratch or add personal touches to traditional vows. Having customized vows makes the ceremony much more personal and intimate.

Even though your guest list is small, splurging on a professional wedding photographer is worth it. They can adeptly capture candid moments and important details. Look for an affordable photographer who will provide you with high resolution digital photos you can print yourself. Ask for a discount for fewer hours of coverage. Freeze magical memories of your special day that you can cherish 

Include Faraway Loved Ones

Though your guest list may be small, you'll still want to find special ways to include faraway loved ones who can't attend your wedding day. With today's technology, there are many options to make them feel involved.

Consider livestreaming your ceremony so friends and family from afar can watch in real time. Services like Zoom YouTube Live and Facebook Live make it easy to broadcast video. Test it beforehand and have someone monitoring comments.

Send wedding invitations to those not attending so they still feel part of the occasion. Include a thoughtful note about how much they mean to you.

Hire a videographer to capture footage that can be shared afterwards. This way faraway loved ones can experience the special moments.

Schedule video calls with key people right after the event when memories are fresh. Share photos and fill them in on all the wedding details.