How to Create an Intimate Wedding

 
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My intention as a photographer has always been to capture intimate and emotionally rich moments. Minimal design is much like wedding planning. You must be intentional and hone in on the end result. Don’t let the noise distract you. There is a of unseen planning that goes into creating a day that truly embodies who you are as a couple!

Not only do I want to give advice to my readers about how to create intimacy on your wedding day, I also want to make you feel like you have permission to do whatever the heck you want when it comes to planning your wedding day. This is the one day, I believe, you get to be selfish.

Since I’m a photographer, I want to also shed some light as to why some of these choices can impact (for the better) your wedding images. Great wedding photography is truly a collaborative effort and planning events with light, time, and intimacy in mind will help not only give you the images you want, but also create a more memorable and curated experience.

 

1. ELOPE

Ten years ago, eloping got a bad reputation. It was more often than not designed for couples who got pregnant before marriage, were on their second, third or fourth marriage, or a quick decision. This wasn’t always the case, but eloping was far less common. The new trend of eloping is much more powerful and takes the pressure off couples. What I love about elopements is that they are some of the most unique and raw ceremonies. When opting for an elopement you are able to let go and be yourself. You are able to breathe in the moments and take a second to savor all that makes you unique. You don’t need to feel embarrassed about writing your own vows and taking it to a personal level. I think elopements are perfect for couples who love adventure and to travel. If you have a favorite vacation spot, consider that location. Your favorite vacation spot could turn into more of a second home. A place to return throughout your marriage. Maybe you are more adventurous and want to go somewhere that is on your bucket list and experience it together for the first time on your wedding day.  The possibilities are endless. Instead of pouring money and time into creating an experience for your guests, you keep it simple and focus on the two people who are being celebrated, yourselves

 

2. PLAN A DESTINATION WEDDING

I may be a bit biased on this topic since this is what my husband and I opted to do. We started creating a list of guests we wanted to invite and felt obligated to invite and the list quickly grew to over what we could comfortably afford while maintaining the kind of wedding we wanted. We wanted an intimate wedding and we wanted the day to reflect who we are, and when we sat down and discussed it, a destination wedding made sense. For us, it was in Sonoma, California. The place he proposed. Now, Sonoma is like a second home to us. It is a place that we return once a year to make time for ourselves and our marriage. If you’re wanting to have wedding with fewer guests, planning a destination can be a way for you to do that with the least amount of conflict. Having a destination wedding not only allows you to visit a new place (or one of your favorite places), but it also means that you can create a special and unique experience for your nearest and dearest. What I loved about having a destination wedding is that our wedding didn’t just last a day, it lasted a week. We were able to vacation with the people we cared about most all at once. We were able to go to wineries, cook out and have long lasting conversations that will always be remembered.

 

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3. PICK A VENUE THAT ALLOWS ON SITE ACCOMMODATIONS

Whether you’re planning a larger or a smaller wedding, one of the best ways to ensure quality time with your friends and family is to book a venue with on-site accommodations. From experience, finding a Villa, Boutique Hotel or large home that accommodates weddings can be a challenge, but it can be done. First place I would start is Air B&B & VRBO. I would pick a location that is less popular in the wedding industry. For instance, Wine Country in California proved very difficult to find a large home that allowed weddings due to licensing. A really amazing spot here in Wisconsin I recommend is Camp Wandawega. Let me tell you, it is tough to reserve so booking ahead of time is crucial. There are plenty of camp resorts in Wisconsin that would be wonderful choices for a wedding if you are more outdoorsy folk. Choosing a camo resort may require more DIY projects, but it would allow you to completely take ownership of your day.

 

4. LIMIT YOUR GUEST LIST

As you already read, this was something my husband and I personally struggled with. My husband comes from a divorced family, and large extended families at that. His family list alone was over one hundred and that was before adding friends and my family. It was absolutely out of control. I know it may be hard to limit the list since you may feel certain obligations. Here is the permission you need to limit your guest list. This is your wedding day. Not your mothers, not your mother in laws. Yours! Do what will make you happy. If you truly worried about upsetting people, think about having an after party.

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5. WRITE YOUR OWN VOWS OR A SEPARATE LOVE NOTE

Sometimes weddings, by their nature, are big, exciting events, with a lot of guests and a space that isn’t quite as intimate as a quiet campground in the woods, and that’s totally fine. One way to keep your wedding personal and unique is to write your own vows. Writing your own vows can be one of the easiest, and simplest ways to bring calm and intimacy into your wedding day without needing to restructure the wedding day itself. Do you like the idea of writing your own vows, but don’t want to do it in public. I totally get that. So here is an idea, write a love note to one another before you walk down the aisle. Something personal on a nice stationary. If you do this, make sure your photographer knows ahead of time so they can capture the emotions of the notes.

 

6. HAVE A PRIVATE VOW CEREMONY

This is your wedding day so you get to make the rules. One option to combine the best of both worlds, a small intimate wedding and a large celebration all into one day. What if before the large ceremony, you had a private vow ceremony between you and your partner, separate from the wedding ceremony. Maybe you both love the idea of writing your vows, but find them to be too personal to share with a large crowd. You could share your written vows to each other privately and opt for more traditional vows that are recited in front of your guests.

 

7. GET READY ALONGSIDE ONE ANOTHER

Let’s talk simplicity. Getting ready together allows you to not have to worry about where everyone is going to be. You are all there. There is not hiding, less pre-planning and way more relaxation. What I love about this idea is that you are with your partner the entire day. You have the entire day to hug, kiss and just be with one another. Isn’t that what it is all about anyways. One phrase I hear a lot of people say is that, “My wedding day went so quickly”. Yes, it does. The part where you are your partner are together, goes even quicker. Factor in chatting with friends and family, how much time are you actually spending together. This solution may not be for everyone as it is very nontraditional, however think about the pros and cons of this when making your decision.

8. BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT WHERE YOU DECIDE TO GET READY

When my husband and I travel we strategically choose boutique hotels and rentals that will fuel us. We have two kids at home, so time away is important to us. We want to feel recharged. This idea can be used when planning where you get ready on your wedding day. I mean, who doesn’t want to wake up on their wedding day overlooking mountains, water or a beautiful rich city. As a photographer, being able to photograph unique, well-lit spaces only adds to the experience because it allows me to capture really beautiful imagery that helps build and transition the story without it feeling forced. Remember lighting is key to getting beautiful photographs so keep this in mind when choosing a room. Always ask ahead of time what room gets the best natural light. Usually this would be on higher floors facing East.

 

9. DON'T BE AFRAID TO GET A LITTLE DIRTY

And by that, I mean your dress. Remember your dress is a material item. In my opinion experiences, highly out way material items. This goes out to the brides. I don’t mean intentionally spill a bunch of chocolate on your $3,000 dress. What I mean is, don’t be afraid to move in your dress, sit where you want to and climb that fence to get to a taco truck (this was me on my wedding day). Remember your photographs will preserve your dress. Don’t let keeping it pristine keep you from fully enjoying your day.

 

10. THINK DEEPLY ABOUT YOUR RECEPTION SEATING

Instead of using five separate tables, opt for one massive long table. What is nice about this is that you are also only having to focus on decorating one table verses five. You are able to pour your ideas into one setting and make it truly unique. The best part is everyone is at the same table. Everyone feels special and no one has to sit at the singles table. Obviously, this won’t work if you are having a larger wedding. If you have large guest list and weather permits, outdoor seating may be something you want to consider. You are always able to rent heating lamps and a candlelight dinner is always magical.

 

11. DO A LITTLE DIY

I usually really hesitate in telling my clients to look at Pinterest. Mainly because when it comes to photography, I do not want to recreate someone else’s work. I would rather focus on finding what makes your wedding unique, However, if you are a DIY person, Pinterest is your best friend. When you do things, yourself you have the power of full customization and to have something that no one else may have. On the plus side, doing things yourself is usually more cost effective. Get together with your bridesmaids and have them help you create some personalized items for your wedding day.

 

12. PLAN A PORTRAIT SESSION

Getting your photograph taken is awkward for 99 percent of the population. I have gotten better; however, I still feel awkward in front of a camera. I cannot stress enough how important it is to practice before your wedding day with your photographer. Think about it as a test run. This is why I include a “Day in the Life” Engagement session with all my wedding investments. I do this because I truly believe it takes time to warm up to me and my camera and I would rather do it before your wedding than on your wedding day. What is unique about my Day in the Life sessions is that they are an adventure that allows us to travel together, grab a beverage and really get to know each other so I am not merely another vendor on your wedding day. I am a friend.

 

13. EMBRACE ALL THE EMOTIONS

Photographs should be authentic, be embedded with emotions and above all else tell the story of your legacy. I think the most amazing thing about Wedding stories is that you get to participate in the journey alongside those for whom you are documenting. I see life is full of beauty—even in the mundane. Daily Rituals. Awe. Fears. Hope. I think these are incredible feelings and I love how Weddings bring emotions together all into one place and turns them into one beautiful, and fluid, story. 


When planning your wedding, remember this is a celebration of you as a couple. It should embody characteristics of yourselves. Your wedding day is a big deal and you should be able to be a little selfish when it comes to planning it. You will not make everyone happy, Your mother my have a different idea, your father in law may have a vision and while that is great, it is up to you to make the choice. 

You can do whatever the hell you want to do.


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If you feel like you resonate with this list and would like to chat about wedding photography, I’d love to work and participate in your story. If you know of a venue that fits this vibe, please get in touch—I’d love to get a list going for couples!

You can reach me at audrey@hartandfig.com or through my contact form.