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A black and white photo capturing a delicate moment of a bride, her veil fluttering, holding a bouquet of roses, embodying a blend of softness and strength for help deciding between a small wedding and a big wedding


Choosing Between a Small Wedding vs Big Wedding

April 19, 2024

Planning your wedding can be a long process, but one of the first questions you are most likely going to run into is the size of your wedding. Should you have a small wedding vs a big wedding or is something more grand what you are envisioning. 

As a wedding photographer myself, I have been part of weddings of all different sizes and at the end of the day, big or small the wedding day has always turned out amazing for my couples. However, this is a decision that you have to make based on what you both want for this special day. 

So, if you are trying to decide between a small wedding vs a big wedding, here are some things to consider that can help you make your decision! 

How to Choose Between a Small Wedding vs Big Wedding 

Consider what your budget is and how you want to spend it 

A vibrant wedding reception scene where a bride in a white fringed dress dances exuberantly in front of cheering guests, her joy contagiously spreading throughout the room.

One of the first things you should think about when planning your wedding is your budget. What are you willing to spend on your wedding and what is too much? Now, for most people, they may think that that is the end of the question: a small budget equals a small wedding and a big budget equals a big wedding. 

However, your budget goes a bit deeper than just that. Not only do you need to look at what you can or want to spend on your wedding, but you also want to think about how you want to spend it. 

For example, do you really value having all of your friends and family present at your wedding? If you do, you may find that you want to dedicate more of your budget to things like your reception to make sure you plan something big enough to accommodate everyone. 

On the other hand, you may value the memories and capturing the moments of your wedding more than having everyone you know be there on the day. In that case, you may find that you have the same budget as someone planning a big wedding, but you instead use more of it for things like photography and videography. 

So, when you are thinking about the budget for your wedding, be sure to think about not just what you want to spend but also what is important for you to spend it on and that can help your decision when it comes to the size of your wedding. 

Think about how many people you absolutely want to come to your wedding 

A couple dances under a translucent tented pavilion with string lights, their first dance as newlyweds, with the bride's dress swirling in motion and guests looking on admiringly.

You can also think about how many people you absolutely want to come to your wedding. This may be a really long list, or this may be a short list of the most important people in your lives. 

While no one wants to feel like they are “excluding” anyone from their wedding, at the end of the day, your wedding is for you and your partner and you don’t have to please anyone else. 

If you want to have something intimate and only invite a handful of people then that is totally fine. If you want to invite every single aunt, uncle, cousin, and friend that you have, that is also perfectly okay. 

The important thing to remember here is that this is your decision. 

Now, when it comes to this choice, there are a few things to keep in mind. One key thing to remember is that the more guests you invite to your wedding, the more expensive it is going to be. 

Even when you are just looking at something like food, most caterers will charge you a flat rate per person or per X amount of people. So while the difference between 75 and 100 guests may not feel like that much, if you are paying $150 per person for a plated dinner, the cost of your reception just went up by almost $4,000. 

So, think about who is most important to both of you and who you absolutely want to be there and make sure that is weighed into your decision. 

Look into venues and take into account their maximum capacity 

Venue size is really important when you are looking at a small wedding vs big wedding. At the most basic level, each venue is going to have their capacity limits and you need to make sure that you stay under that. 

This means that if your dream wedding venue is one that can only accommodate 100 people, you are going to have to plan a wedding on the slightly smaller side to make sure you are able to tie the knot where you want. 

Venues may also have different prices for different size weddings. Throughout Virginia, I have captured weddings at a few different venues that either 1) have different pancakes for weddings, micro-weddings, elopements, etc or 2) have different options for how much of the venue you can rent out depending on your wedding size. 

Since your venue is one of the first things that you will book for your wedding (and will be booked before you send out any invitations), you can have a general idea of the size you want your wedding to be, but wait until you find the perfect venue to really nail down that number. 

Keep in mind that larger weddings will generally require more planning 

Logistically, this is something really important to keep in mind when you are figuring out if you want a big or small wedding. In general, the bigger the wedding, the more planning you are going to need to do to make sure everything is in place. 

This can be things like making sure you have enough seating a plateware for everyone, making sure you find caterers that can accommodate that many people, sending out save the dates and invitations to more people and then following up with everyone who doesn’t answer them. 

With bigger weddings you may also find that you have more vendors which means making sure that all of them have everything they need and are all coordinated for your wedding day. 

Obviously there are ways to help mitigate the stress and load on you when it comes to your wedding planning (like hiring a wedding planner) but it is still something that is important to consider. 

Decide if you want a big party or if something a bit intimate is more your speed

A close-up of two brides from the back, one adjusting the other's lace wedding dress near a row of white ceremony chairs, showcasing the elegance of the gowns and the anticipation of the event.

Finally, you can ask yourself if you want a huge party or if something a bit more intimate for a day as special as this feels more authentic to you. If you’re not someone who wants to be the center of attention or wants to have this massive reception with tons of people, then a smaller wedding may be more up your alley. 

Budget aside, some people just enjoy being surrounded by others and celebrating together in this grand fashion and for some people that can feel really awkward to them. 

So, when you are thinking about the size of your wedding, talk to your partner about how you envision your reception and what your dream wedding night would look like! 

You can also go a bit more non-traditional with your wedding and choose to have a more intimate ceremony with just your closest friends and family and then have a larger reception where you can invite a wider range of people. 

It honestly does come down to whatever you would like and there are no rules on who needs to be a part of each individual portion of your wedding day. You can set it up however you would like to make it exactly as you have always wanted! 

Final Thoughts on a Big Wedding vs Small Wedding

Hopefully these tips help you as you and your partner decide between a small wedding vs big wedding. At the end of the day, you want to make sure that you are always putting you and your partner’s wants above anything else. This day is for you and it should play out exactly how you want it. 

And, if you are still looking for that perfect photographer to capture your wedding, big or small, I’d love to connect. Telling the story of your wedding day and capturing these memories for you to look back on is the best part of my job. 

You can take a look at my wedding photography services here or you can head over here to get in touch and chat about what your vision is for your wedding! 

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Photographer, amateur snowboarder, dive bar connoisseur,  inspired by music, good movies, and you.

I'm a Charlottesville wedding photographer and I specialize in capturing wedding days with a documentary approach. Love is pretty rad, and your photos should be, too.