Ireland has always been a country of big weddings. It’s one of those milestone events when the whole extended family gets the chance to come together, and one of the reasons we all look forward to celebrating. But 2020 has turned the world upside down, and the traditions have to adapt just as well. And I’m sure a lot of couples have been asking themselves – should I have a small wedding?
I’ve got to capture a few small weddings over the years. But during the Covid pandemic even those couples who were originally planning to have a bigger celebration are looking for ways to make the most of the smaller guest numbers. And I’ve loved discovering the new perspective on what small weddings are like!
For me small weddings are actually quite close to heart. At our own wedding celebration 5 years ago my husband Ciaran and I had just 30 guests. But just like any other bride will say, I’ve had one of the best days of my life. Unlike with Covid weddings, having a smaller guest list was our choice. And I know first-hand how amazing intimate weddings can be.
Aodhnait and Pete tied the knot at the Millhouse in Slane after postponing their wedding day. Just like so many other couples this year, they couldn’t possibly think that the sudden Covid restrictions would last as long as they did. Even though they had to cut 3/4 of their guest list, they decided to go ahead. Were they happy with their decision? I asked Aodhnait herself, and here’s what she said:
Aodhnait and Pete: Covid Wedding Experience
“Coming up to the wedding there were a lot of anxieties based on things we couldn’t control, such as changing restrictions. I drove myself mad waiting for 6pm every day to hear the daily case numbers, and our mood that evening was dictated by if that was a lower or a higher than expected number. It’s no way to live! We tried to stop focusing on it, as hard as it was.
On the day, the venue had very good procedures in place for guests and this worked well to help reduce risk. I was also worried that a smaller wedding wouldn’t feel as special, or as “official” as the bigger wedding we had planned. In fact, I feel the smaller guest list was great! We had the time to speak to every single person, it felt more relaxed and we had so much fun!
My favourite part of the wedding was being able to spend time with (truly!) our nearest and dearest, which feels even more special given the times we live in. Our wedding gave our family and friends an opportunity to celebrate, something we’ve all missed in the last year. Seeing everybody relaxed and enjoying themselves was so amazing and we really valued that! Walking into the dinner as a married couple, feeling the love in the room and the relief we felt that we had managed to get married was indescribable! The moment walking back down the aisle with Pete after we married was so happy and special too- you can see the relief and joy on our faces, like a weight was lifted off our shoulders.
For us, getting married to each other was the priority, and waiting for a”normal” day in the future that none of us can predict wasn’t feasible after such a stressful few months…. Our guests made it such a fun and happy affair, and it didn’t feel any different to a larger wedding. Every situation is what you make of it – we decided big or small numbers it was going to be a large celebration, and I think we managed it! So no regrets on proceeding with a smaller wedding!”
Aodhnait and Pete, The Millhouse in Slane, August 2020
So, in answer to the question Should I have a small wedding… here is why small weddings are awesome!
I was worried that a smaller wedding wouldn’t feel as special, or as “official” as the bigger wedding we had planned. In fact, I feel the smaller guest list was great!
We all want to have a relaxing wedding day, but if you’ve ever planned a wedding you definitely know the amount of stress involved. Organizing 25 or 50 guests is very different to 150 guests! A more intimate wedding also means you’ll have your close friends and family on board to help. They will be a huge part of your day and will make sure you’ll have the best celebration possible.
More quality time
My favourite part of the wedding was being able to spend time with (truly!) our nearest and dearest, which feels even more special given the times we live in.
One of the most overwhelming experiences at a traditional wedding is the post-ceremony mingle when you realise you want to shake hands and say hello to 200 people! Smaller weddings mean more quality time with your guests. The greeting line is over in a few minutes, and you’re free to enjoy the chats, the drinks and the canapes. It truly feels like a relaxing garden party and not a rush to make sure you don’t miss anyone.
You’ll also be able to spend more quality time with each other. I’m certain that friends and family are super important to you, but your wedding day is still about the two of you. Make sure you’ll enjoy it together!
Your guests will get to know each other
We decided big or small numbers it was going to be a large celebration!
You might think that intimate weddings might make it awkward for people who don’t know each other. In my experience I’ve seen the exact opposite. When you have a large guest list people tend to stay in smaller groups and hardly mix. At intimate events guests are a lot more likely to connect, so by the end of the day they will all be friends! At my own wedding my husband and I had a huge mix of languages and cultures – Irish, French, German and Russian all mingled together, and we really needn’t have worried about the language barrier!
Attention to detail
With intimate wedding numbers there are a lot more opportunities – both in terms of your budget and the small details you can DIY throughout the day. You can organize drinks reception games that work really well for intimate weddings. There are also ways to really personalize the table settings. For example, Aodhnait and Pete printed out a photograph of each guest to use as table place cards. Pete even hand-made 45 little easel stand out of clothes pegs! Besides the photos, the couple wrote special messages to each of their guests on the back of the photos. The guests were absolutely delighted to receive them – just imagine taking home a memento like this one!