I know couples across the UK have been thrown a curve ball (or maybe a lot of curve balls) and there’s probably so many of you sitting there feeling down, confused, frustrated and wondering when and how you will be able to just get on with having the wedding you’ve been dreaming of.
The important thing to remember in the midst of all these obstacles is that your wedding is still your day, so making a decision on what to do should be based on how you both feel about the different alternatives.
For some couples, the idea of limiting guest numbers is just a no-go and if that’s how you feel, hopefully your venue and suppliers can work with you to reschedule. But for couples who don’t want to wait, what can you do with such strict limits on your guest list?
COVID-19 Wedding Planning
The first option is to plan an elopement. That’s right, just take off, just the two of you, for the most romantic experience ever. There’s never been a better opportunity to just run away to one of the UK’s most beautiful spots and make it all about you. The second option is to plan a micro wedding, with just your closest friends and family sharing your day with you.
While the first reaction to hearing about the strict restrictions might be sadness or panic, trust me: Micro weddings and elopements can be amazing. Some of the most gorgeous weddings we’ve planned over the years have been elopements or micro weddings, but to get the best from the experience, you have to re-imagine the experience to take advantage of all the new possibilities you have once the guest list shrinks.
Let’s keep it real, in the next six months you’re probably not going to be having a big party with a band and dancing and everyone you love there. But that doesn’t mean you never will. So if you’re feeling sad about missing the party, then start planning one. The only thing better than doing something is planning it (which is why I do it for a living). So set a date (I’d recommend in 2022) and plan a big, all-out, amazing party.
You can set a date for your big post-wedding bash and tailor the plans for this to what makes you feel most excited. If you want that sense of a traditional “big” wedding that you feel you’ve missed out on, then make it a vow renewal which can be exactly like any other wedding (but without the paperwork). Or if you prefer more of a party then you can have a ball getting creative with this; giving your friends, family and colleagues a chance to dress up and celebrate with you when we’re all over this and back to dancing, hugging and celebrating.
This is the fun part.
Planning a small wedding means you can do things that would never be possible if you had a big guest list. Not just because it would be insanely expensive, but also because it would just to too time consuming and impractical. So grab the opportunity to take advantage of some of these ideas to make your micro wedding amazing:
- Go crazy with the styling, from extravagant table settings to bespoke favours.
- Make personalised gift boxes for each guest.
- Splurge on a top photographer and head off for an extra-long photo shoot.
- Work with top designers on little touches like handmade stationery.
- Choose a gorgeous location that would be totally impractical for a big group.
- Spend 2 or 3 nights in a private location with your guests.
- Share a candlelit romantic first dance to a string quartet after sunset.
- Travel somewhere a bit further from home without worrying about guests’ transport.
What I am saying is: plan a mini-movie wedding. Make the flowers insanely over the top. Make the décor worthy of the cover of a magazine. Create something that would have been impossible for 150 people, but easy for 15.
How To Choose A Location
If you already have a wedding venue booked, you might want to move ahead with having your micro wedding there, or if it’s not suitable for smaller guest numbers you can look at other places. As your guest list is going to be small, this probably gives you freedom to look anywhere across the UK and perhaps make a mini-staycation out of the experience.
You can choose from hotels, country houses, stately homes, outdoor spaces and because all large weddings will be cancelled or postponed for the next six months, you will probably be spoiled for choice.
One of my favourite ways to plan a wedding for 15 – 20 guests is to hire out a small country house hotel for a few nights and let guests enjoy a couple of days together, maybe with some fun country activities, a beautiful ceremony and an intimate dinner by candlelight (while adhering to the current COVID-19 laws and restrictions).
One thing to consider is the marriage laws in the country where you’re intending to get married. As I plan weddings and elopements in Scotland, you can be legally married anywhere from a private home to a mountainside, but obviously in other parts of the UK there are restrictions. If you want to get married at a location where you can’t be legally married, you do have the option to do the legal part separately which would give you more flexibility.
The main advantage of planning a really intimate wedding is that you really don’t need to think too much about practicalities like transport, weather, timings or parking because it’s so much easier to manage when you’re with a small group.
How To Structure The Day – Timeline
With a reduced guest list and no evening party permitted, that means your wedding day schedule will be much shorter. I’d recommend working to something along these lines:
3.30pm Cocktails, Canapes and Photos
4.30pm First dance (I love doing this for small weddings, especially with a live musician!)
4.40pm Cake Cutting
4.45pm Seating for dinner
After dinner, you can all enjoy a few drinks together, or if you have opted for a wedding in a private location (eg: a rented country house) then you have a bit more privacy, especially if you’re from the same household.
Don’t forget to speak to your photographer before deciding on timings because things like the time of the sunset will play a part in the optimum schedule. You definitely don’t want to be taking your pictures in the dark!
Most of the couples I work with on micro weddings and elopements really splurge on getting an amazing photographer and perhaps a videographer and if you take this option, it can be a really good idea to have a private photo shoot the day after the wedding to give you ample time to get pictures in some fun locations without your guests left waiting.
How To Tell Your Guests They Aren’t Invited
This is definitely one time where your guests are going to be understanding that you can’t invite them to your wedding, so if your invitations have already gone out I’d recommend sending out a card or email to let them know that due to the new restrictions you’ve had to restrict the guest list to just a handful of people. If you’re planning to have a party or celebration once lock-down restrictions are lifted, you can go ahead and send an invitation out for this to give guests something to look forward to.
How To Make The Guests Who Couldn’t Be There Feel Loved
Quite often for our clients who choose to elope, we put together souvenir gift boxes from the wedding – including a framed photo of the bride and groom – to send out to guests who couldn’t be there on the day. This is a great way to make any extra-special peeps feel really loved even though they couldn’t be there with you.
A great way to include everyone else is to send out videos or photos of the day, or even to have them join you over Zoom or a live video link. There are so many ideas for how to make this fun, but creative couples can ask guests to dress up at home and even send a menu for guests to prepare at home.
Whimsical Wonderland Weddings is full of real weddings and elopements for inspiration on how to create something unique, exciting and incredibly romantic despite the obstacles. Instagram (find me at @weddingsbysarajane) and Pinterest are also great resources and you can browse elopements I’ve planned and intimate weddings here. With your smaller guest list, recreating the perfect day will be a breeze!
A big thank you to Ash Powell Photography for providing the images in this post from our clients’ Logan and Sarah’s wedding on the Isle of Skye. A perfect example of a dreamy micro-wedding. Ash is based in Cornwall but travels all over the UK.
Sending love to all!
Summary Of The Current Restrictions Across The UK*
- In England 15 people are allowed to attend for both ceremony and reception.
- In Scotland 20 people are allowed to attend for both ceremony and reception.
- In Northern Ireland outdoor ceremonies for up to 30 are allowed with indoor ceremonies and receptions permitted depending on your venue’s risk assessment.
- In Wales 30 people are allowed to attend for both ceremony and reception.
*Correct at the time of writing. Please see the government websites for updated information.