Micro Wedding Timeline and Planning Checklist (2021)

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Micro weddings have been around a long time but they have become very popular this past year due to the pandemic the world is going through.

Covid-19 has forced almost all couples to scramble and make alternative wedding plans.

We know that navigating the current situation can be really stressful, and we are here to help.

In this post we cover the following (click on any of the links below and you will be taken to that section):

A small intimate micro wedding next to a river. In this photo is a small wedding taking place with a bride, groom, pastor, 5 children, and a man playing an acoustic guitar.
Photo by Merritt Chesson Photography

What is a micro wedding?

A micro wedding simply refers to a wedding that falls between a small/mid-sized wedding and an elopement.

The name micro wedding has been making the rounds lately as couples try to deal with planning a wedding during Covid-19, but the truth is, micro weddings have been around a long time. And now that couples are seeing how amazing they can be, we think they are going to become a lot more popular, even after the pandemic is over.

Unlike elopements, these tiny weddings usually follow a more standard “wedding day-of timeline”, although they are a lot less stressful for the couple.

A common question that couples have is, how big is a micro wedding?

Micro weddings typically have anywhere between 10-50 guests with the average being 20-25.

A micro wedding is simply a normal wedding with a much smaller guest count, but just like everything else in the wedding world, it can be interpreted in many different ways. We offer much more info below

We hear different terms like micro wedding, ‘minimony’, backyard wedding, and elopement. Is there a difference between these types of weddings?

Many wedding blogs use these terms interchangeably but yes, there is a difference.

A bride and groom dancing near a cornfield after their small elopement wedding. The sun is setting behind them.

Micro Wedding

As mentioned above, micro weddings are typically 10-50 guests (average is 20) and follow a more standard wedding-day timeline. They usually involve many of the same vendors that you would have at your regular-sized wedding.

Minimony

A minimony is what many couples have turned to since Covid-19 started.

While some couples postponed their entire wedding until later in 2021 or 2022, many couples opted to get married in front of their closest loved ones (typically 10 people or less) and save the big party for whenever the pandemic is over.

One of the minimonies that we covered in early 2020 was only the couple, their pastor, and their photographer. They live-streamed the ceremony to their parents and siblings.

After the ceremony, they opened a bottle of champagne, toasted each other, and gave each other small gifts. Then finished the day with a trip through the Chic-fil-A drive-thru!

The couple had a micro wedding with 40 guests later in 2020 when venues started opening back up.

They had originally planned a wedding for 185 guests. The bride told us that even though she was sad for the reason that their wedding was downsized, she was very happy that they had a smaller wedding with the people closest to them.

A bride and groom getting married in a micro wedding along the coastline of the atlantic ocean
Photo by Nicole Daacke Photography

Backyard Wedding

A backyard wedding can be anything you want. Depending on the area you live in, backyard weddings can be small intimate affairs or they can be huge events with 300+ people.

We have covered backyard weddings that had only 10 people. There was a small ceremony set up and a beautiful early-evening dinner. It was perfect for that couple.

That same year we covered a backyard wedding that had 350 guests, a 15 piece band (on a stage), and a light-up dance floor. Just like the wedding mentioned above, it was perfect for that couple.

I am proud to say that I had a backyard wedding when I got married. We had 85 guests, a big fire-pit, and amazing food (we provided our own music and made our own floral arrangements). It was amazing!

Since Covid started, many couples have been turning to backyard weddings as a way to keep their original wedding date.

If you are having a wedding with over 40 guests, there are many logistics that go into planning a backyard wedding. We have put together another article that will walk you through everything you need to know (not only did I have my own backyard wedding, but we have also helped plan 40 backyard weddings for other couples). Check out our backyard wedding planning resource.

Elopement

An elopement is typically when the couple gets married with only parents/siblings in attendance (or sometimes nobody at all except the couple and the person who is marrying them).

A bride and groom standing forehead to forehead at their micro wedding in the forrest.
Photo by Preston Christman Photography

Why should you have a micro wedding? Is a micro wedding better than a regular wedding?

There are many advantages and benefits to having a micro wedding, but is a smaller intimate wedding right for you? Here are some of the main reasons that you might consider having one:

  • Quality time with guests – one of the big complaints we hear from couples after they get married is that they did not have enough time to talk to everyone at the wedding. With a micro wedding, you get to spend as much time as you want with every person there.
  • More flexibility with the budget – the money that you would have spent on food and drinks can now be used elsewhere (longer honeymoon, downpayment on a house, future vacations, etc.) You get to spend your money in a much more intentional way. By having a micro wedding, you can save money with almost every part of your wedding day.
  • Intimate wedding ceremony and reception – having a micro wedding opens up the choices for a wedding venue (you don’t even have to choose a venue at all). It allows you to get really creative with your location if you choose to do so.
  • Less stress and planning time – Think of all the time you will save without having to chase down all of those guests who don’t send in their RSVP
  • Peace of mind – it’s a nice feeling knowing that you won’t need to postpone or cancel the wedding if Covid restrictions get tighter
  • Staying safe – Having a smaller wedding simply decreases the chances of your guests getting sick.
  • Keep the traditions of a “regular” wedding day – A micro wedding is really just a smaller version of what you would normally plan, but with fewer guests. You still get to do all of the “regular” wedding things like getting ready with your wedding party in the morning, first looks, first looks with dad, cocktail hour, amazing photos, grand entrance, first dance, parent dances, etc. (obviously you would only choose the things that you want to do)
a small intimate micro wedding in a beautiful backyard. This photo shows the bride and groom getting married right in front of a house.
Photo by Sunny Lee Photography

How to plan a micro wedding (tips for planning)

Just like a regular-sized wedding, one of the first things you should do when planning your micro wedding is figuring out and then setting your budget.

There is no one-size-fits-all budget when it comes to any wedding day. It all depends on what you can afford and what you want to spend.

Sit down with your partner and come up with the total amount that you have to spend on the wedding:

  • What do you already have saved? 
  • How much will be saving per month between now and the wedding day?
  • How much is being contributed by family members? – sometimes this is nothing, sometimes it’s a lot. Everyone will have a different number

Once you have all of that figured out, this is what you can afford to spend (Please don’t put your wedding on a credit card).

Between you and your partner, find out the must-haves at your wedding. This is going to be different for everyone. What are the priorities (from first to last)?

One of the nice things about a micro wedding or elopement is that it’s much easier to prioritize things that are most important to you. With a regular-sized wedding of 150-250 people, most of your budget is going to go towards the venue and food. There is no way around it. with a smaller wedding, you will be able to splurge on things that matter the most to you.

Once you know your budget the next things that you should do are:

  • Figure out your guest list (some helpful info below)
  • Book your venue and your must-have wedding vendors
  • Make a wedding website to keep your guests informed of everything that is happening

How much do micro weddings cost?

As with everything else in the wedding world, you can spend as little or as much on a wedding as you like, but the average cost of a micro wedding with 20-50 guests will cost you between $5000-$13,000 (this includes venue and food). That is less than half of the average price for a full-sized wedding (in 2019 the average price range in the United States was $23,000-$32,000)

There are many different ways to lower that price by adding some DIY (do-it-yourself) elements into your day. If you are interested in learning more about this, let me know in the comments or send me a message on social media. If there are enough people interested, I will put together a detailed article.

A bride and groom sharing a first dance after their intimate micro wedding in pennsylvania

How to make a micro wedding special (how to personalize it)

Here are a few ideas to personalize your wedding day and maybe do a few things that would be difficult with a larger number of guests:

  • A group photo – with a smaller amount of guests, it will be easy to have your photographer take a few group shots of everyone in attendance. This is typically not possible on a wedding day with lots of people.
  • Food favorites – Since you will be feeding such a small group of people, you can get a lot more creative with the menu. Come up with something that fits you and your partner (last year we attended a micro wedding that served mini club sandwiches as an appetizer because they were the groom’s favorite).
  • Custom music playlist – Reach out to your guests and find out their favorite songs. Add them to your music playlist or ask your band if they can play some of them.
  • Food trucks – We have seen food trucks at large weddings and they can cause a bit of chaos. They sound like a good idea, but when you have 120-150 people lining up for an ice cream truck, it can really empty the dance floor and take up a lot of time. With a micro wedding, adding an awesome food truck to the schedule is not only possible, but it’s also easy and stress-free.
  • Toasts – Having a micro wedding means that the people in attendance will all be close family and the best of friends. More people can stand up and give a fun story about the couple or offer some nice words.
  • Favors – With fewer guests, you can get a little more creative with your favors. People love food favors. Consider finding some local food/drink favorites and hand those out to guests (a bottle of wine from your favorite winery, a small gift basket from a local spa, etc.)

What to wear to your micro wedding

If you have your heart set on wearing a gorgeous wedding dress with a veil, then you should do it. On the other hand, if you feel like you would be more comfortable wearing something more simple or casual, you should do that instead. You can get amazing white dresses from places like Forever 21 or Lulus for $50-$100 (or ditch the white dress completely and wear a bright colored sundress. It’s your day!)

A bride and groom kissing in the middle of the road at their small micro wedding
Photo by Thomas Beaman Photography

Who should you invite to your micro wedding? (Tips on making your guest list)

This is the big question. You may be asking yourself, how in the world am I going to cut a guest list from 200 to 30? We can help.

Let’s assume that you are having a micro wedding with 30 guests. With that assumption, we are guessing that you will include parents, siblings, and grandparents in that list.

That would be between 6-22 people including the couple. Even at the very top end of that, you would have room to invite a few of your best friends. So for most couples, a micro wedding with 20-40 guests that includes parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and best friends is very possible.

If you are trying to narrow down the list, here are a few questions to ask:

  • How often do you talk to or see this person? 
  • When was the last time you saw each other, talked, or texted?
  • Are there any negative feelings or emotions associated with this person?
  • Will this person cause drama in any way?
  • Is this person being invited due to external pressure (maybe from an outside family member)?

If this is not someone with who you have a close relationship, just take them off the list. You can either invite them to the larger reception next year (if that is something you are doing), or you can have a virtual option for guests that had to be removed from the list. Many couples that we worked with in 2020 had a virtual option and it worked out great. We highly recommend Event Live.

***Event Live gives you 24 hours of streaming to unlimited guests. You then have access to the stream or the option to download the stream for 365 days. 

A bride and groom standing near a fence.

How do you keep a small number of guests entertained?

Let us start by saying you don’t have to “entertain” your guests just because it’s a smaller gathering.

If you are having a small wedding with 30 people or less, we are guessing that the guests who are attending are your closest family and friends. Great conversation, amazing food, and sharing the day with those who you love most is going to be all anyone needs (this means you and your guests).

That being said, if want to do something out of the ordinary simply because it fits your personality, or you have the extra money in your budget and want to splurge on something fun, here are a few great ideas to include in your micro wedding:

  • Consider hiring a live band or musicians – Having a fun cover band play your micro-reception can be awesome entertainment for your guests. You could also consider a string quartet for your ceremony and/or dinner or an acoustic guitar/singer duo for a unique guest experience.
  • A magician – This could be a really funny after-dinner experience
  • Bring in a caricature artist – These are always fun and guests would have an awesome keepsake from your wedding.
  • Fireworks display – Some venues work with firework companies and can offer couples a variety of packages. We have personally been a part of dozens of weddings that included after reception fireworks and it is always a fun experience for guests.
  • Hire a mixologist – with a small guest list, having a group come in to teach people how to make a few signature cocktails could be a really fun experience for you and your guests.
  • Treat guests to a cigar bar – We have seen cigar bars at a few different weddings and they are a real hit (obviously you want to make sure that your close family and friends are fans of cigars)
a bride and groom laughing together.

What are recently married couples saying about micro weddings after having one?

We asked some couples to give us their thoughts on micro weddings after getting married. Here is what some of them had to say:

“Our wedding was only 15 people made up of immediate family and a few close friends. It was the best wedding decision ever! We were able to actually talk to everyone, sit down and have a relaxed dinner together, and share a truly intimate moment. Because we had so many fewer people than a typical wedding, we got to splurge on amazing food and a photographer who I have loved for years.
A tip to not offend people for not inviting them is to say immediate family only, and don’t break the rule because once you invite one you’ll have to invite more. All of our friends and family were very understanding.
Side note: this wasn’t a covid related decision and was in mid-2019.” – Rhonda and Josh

“We were due to have a big wedding in September of 2020. We ended up booking a small micro-ceremony with 20 guests in May of 2021 and the reception/party next May (2022). I’m even more excited now than I was before as the party will be stress-free and we will be able to have all of our original guest list at the reception.” – Monique and James

“We had 18 guests and it was amazing! We only had very close family and friends. I would highly recommend it! We are planning to have our big reception possibly later this year or next year. Now I get to wear my dress again!” – Rebecca and Chris

“I loved mine!!! I had 25 guests and it was so nice and stress-free. I feel like I really got a chance to take the entire day in. I have heard that wedding days feel like they go by really fast. By having a small number of guests, I never felt like the day was being rushed” – Audrey and Adam

“We eloped in December of 2020 with just parents, siblings, and close friends. It was perfect! We’re going to have our ‘regular wedding’ and celebration once things settle down. No regrets at all. Now we get to enjoy the big party!” – Alicia and Jillian

two brides kissing after their small intimate wedding in pennsylvania

What are wedding professionals saying about micro weddings?

We talked to multiple wedding vendors who have covered weddings ranging in size from 3 people to over 350 people. We asked them for their thoughts on micro weddings. Here is what they had to say:

“Micro weddings are great because the couple can really focus on the guests who are there, and not feel overwhelmed to be face to face with 100+ people. It makes the day much more intimate and personal, and it saves them some wiggle room in their budget for the important stuff!
If you’re planning a micro wedding, nail down the venue first, then book your photographer, those are the two most important! And really make it unique to you, don’t be afraid to let your personalities shine through.” – Emily with Elle Studios

“A micro wedding is to be considered as a bite-sized wedding. Micro weddings are a great option for couples who want to celebrate their commitment to one another with their immediate family or close friends. Some couples may even choose to have this wedding and have a bigger party later to celebrate. The micro wedding is a good idea if you have friends and family from all over that you want to celebrate with but cannot attend because of travel restrictions. You can be sure that all the people who celebrate your union will be up for that party when we can all gather again at a later date. My advice is to always lean on any wedding vendors to help you plan. You can still stream your ceremony to friends and loved ones who cannot attend via social media.”  – Preston Christman Photography

 “Micro weddings are awesome! One of our favorite things about them is how much the focus stays on the couple and their marriage since they are much more intimate. Having a backyard/micro wedding can hold a lot of sentimental value, especially if you’re hosting on a friends/family property. Backyard/micro weddings can be really meaningful since many couples host their weddings at a bigger, typical wedding venue. If you host an amazing backyard/micro wedding, your guests will never forget it! – Mercedes and Tim at Gangi Photography

“Treat your micro wedding like it’s a regular-sized wedding when planning. Get yourself a nice planner and get organized from the start. Make a day-of-timeline and get the schedule figured out before the wedding. The one mistake I have seen some couples make this past year is thinking they can just wing it since there are only 20-30 guests. You will take some much stress out of the day by simply making a plan. Definitely talk to your photographer and get recommendations. They will be more than happy to help. – Thomas Beaman Photography

Here are some real wedding examples of micro weddings for inspiration:

Valerie Gernhauser is a wedding planner who shares this very helpful video that she made with one of her real wedding clients about the decision-making process that they went through when planning a micro wedding this year and a bigger celebration next year:

Here is a quick checklist of everything you will want to do and think about when planning your micro wedding:

  • Choose your date.
  • Figure out your budget.
  • Make your guest list.
  • Contact those guests to see who will be able to make it.
  • Book your ceremony location/venue.
  • Figure out and book the location for your dinner (if different than the ceremony).
  • Book your photographer and any other important vendors (once you know the date and location, book all the other vendors that you need. Wedding vendors are booking up fast since so many weddings from 2020 had to be moved to 2021. Don’t wait!
  • Make your wedding website.
  • Once all of that is done, take some time to enjoy your engagement and know that all the big stuff is done.
  • Buy your dress and/or any other wardrobe items and make any appointments for alterations.
  • Put together the dinner plans for you and your guests.
  • Make a plan for the day (a rough timeline and order of events).
  • Figure out what you are doing for decor and purchase and/or make whatever you need.
  • Make your music playlist
  • Write your vows
  • Double-check and confirm everything.
  • Enjoy the day!

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