Small wedding ceremony at Flora

How to Plan a Small Wedding in San Diego

As couples embrace more unconventional wedding celebrations and look for ways to save money, small weddings have become extremely popular. Small weddings, or micro-weddings, can create more personalized moments for couples and guests alike, making them one of our favorite new trends of 2021. 

Choosing to have a small wedding venue and guest list can significantly reduce wedding costs, leaving more room to splurge on the details such as entertainment, decor, or a top-shelf open bar. 

A smaller wedding also affords couples the chance to put more thought and money into favors, a luxurious honeymoon, or even a destination wedding. If you’re interested in having a more intimate wedding, read on to learn how to plan a small wedding that you’ll never forget.


Types of small weddings

The desire to create more intimate weddings and reduce costs has increased dramatically since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. As more couples opt for small weddings, we’ve seen the rise of elopements, ‘minimonies,’ and micro-weddings. 



An elopement is a spontaneous, under-the-radar celebration, usually with less than ten guests.



A commitment ceremony with a small group that acts as a prequel to the in-person wedding. This is a great option for couples who’ve had to postpone their wedding but still want to legally tie the knot ASAP. Some couples have also chosen to live-stream their ‘minimony’ to include loved ones who can’t attend in-person. 



A micro-wedding is exactly like a traditional large wedding, but with a guest list of around 50 people consisting of immediate family and close friends. 


Reasons to have a small wedding

Destination weddings

For couples who want to host their wedding in a special location, such as the first place they met or a memorable vacation spot, small weddings are typically a good idea. Because accommodations, flights, group activities, and other factors usually make destination weddings quite expensive and inaccessible to some guests, micro weddings are a great choice. 


Minimize cost

The average cost of a wedding in 2020 was $19,000, a drop from 2019’s average wedding cost of $28,000. However, this is largely dependent on the number of guests in attendance. Catering and bar services typically take up a large chunk of wedding budgets. Couples can expect to spend an average of $4,075 on catering for a mid-sized wedding (66 people) or about $62 a plate. A smaller wedding significantly reduces catering costs and leaves room for splurging in other areas such as a dream wedding dress, floral displays, live entertainment, or an extravagant honeymoon.


Increased Intimacy

It’s usually impossible to say more than a quick “Thanks for coming” to guests at a large wedding, but a micro-wedding creates the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with guests. While small weddings do afford for more intimate moments, it does mean leaving some people off the guest list. It can be difficult to trim down a guest list, but it may be worth having more special moments with the most important people in the couple’s life. 


Unconventional venues

Couples who prefer a unique venue to traditional churches may find small weddings to be a great choice. Small wedding venues can help couples save money without sacrificing their fairytale wedding day. Choosing a small wedding venue also allows couples to work with the staff more intimately to achieve their desired aesthetic. Micro-weddings also require less planning which is perfect for couples who want a more lowkey event.


How to plan a small wedding

1. Choose the right small wedding venue

Because many aspects of wedding planning depend on the location, finding a small wedding venue is the essential first step. While large weddings are limited to expensive event spaces that can accommodate a big group, couples planning intimate nuptials can choose between small event spaces, outdoor spaces, art galleries, gardens, and many more unique options. 


2. Narrow down the guest list

One of the trickiest but most important aspects of a micro-wedding is only inviting the closest friends and family members to the couple. Couples should create the invite list together and be as discerning as possible with who makes the cut. If the invite list is pushing 50, forgoing plus-ones may be a good option. 


3. Find an officiant

Because small weddings are so intimate, couples may want to have a close friend or special person in their life to officiate the wedding ceremony. Couples can ask their officiant to use a more informal script that resonates with the couple’s values and personalities. 


4. Choose the wedding party

Some couples choose not to have a wedding party at their micro-wedding since it’s only close family and friends. Alternatively, many couples choose only to have one person stand up at the altar with them or an entire traditional wedding party, depending on their preferences. If couples decide to have a wedding party, sending out small favors before the big day is a thoughtful touch. 

5. Select food and drink options

One of the best perks of having a small wedding is reduced catering costs. Micro Wedding couples can choose to have their reception dinner at a restaurant or choose an affordable catering option through the venue. Work with the venue to find the best food and drink options based on the size of the celebration. 


6. Hire a Photographer

Regardless of how understated a wedding is, couples will still want to capture special moments throughout the day. Hire a professional photographer so that you don’t have to rely on guests to take photos. Take your time searching for the right fit by reviewing online portfolios and interviewing the top candidates to determine if their style and personality will be a good fit. 


7. Splurge on decor

Cutting the cost of catering allows for more room to splurge of decorations to create a picture-perfect wedding. Choose a florist to craft the perfect floral arrangements and work with the venue to determine the layout and other decorative elements. You can even DIY decorations or order from Etsy if you’re feeling crafty! 


8. Add personal touches

The entire point of a small wedding is to create a more intimate celebration and what better way to do that than with personalized touches? Creating thoughtful touches that reflect your partnership and that your close friends and family will understand will help make the day even more special. This can include handwritten invitations, calligraphy place cards, personalized gifts, and anything else that feels like a reflection of your love story. 


San Diego’s Best Small Wedding Venue

The newfound desire for intimacy, sentimentality, and meaning has created some incredible new wedding trends like the micro-wedding.

Choosing the right wedding venue is one of the most crucial steps to planning a small wedding. 
Flora’s dynamic San Diego wedding reception venue is as functional as it is beautiful. Our all-inclusive services and amenities, along with the versatile event space, is the perfect backdrop for your intimate nuptials. We’re committed to creating safe and enjoyable experiences for all our guests and love working with couples to customize our space to fit their needs. Get in touch with us to learn how our event team can help make your day unforgettable.

True Photography  @truephotography

Renoda Campbell Photography  @renodacampbellphoto

Ariel Min Photography @arielminphoto 

Nelly Cabanillas Photography @nelly_cabanillas 

Robert C Photography

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The Tapias Photo & Film  @_thetapias 

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Joey Reger @joeyreger