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How to Have a Small Wedding With a Big Family

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Weddings already cost a lot of money. You should be prepared to splash some serious cash if you have a big family and want to throw a large, traditional storybook wedding.

One of the best ways to shrink your budget is to throw a small wedding. You can get creative and ask people close to you to get involved.

With help, you can pull off a small wedding without making people feel like they’re excluded.

Blue and yellow lights shine around wedding guests and wedding couple dancing in the first time

Managing family expectations is a major source of wedding stress. Plenty of brides around the world spend sleepless nights worrying about how they’ll be judged by their parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents.

The most important thing you can do while planning your wedding is to remember that it’s your wedding. Ultimately, you make the rules.

Of course, that’s easier said than done when Mom and Dad are paying for it.

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas on how to throw a small wedding for a big family, you’re in the right place. Here are some approaches you can use to make your small wedding go off without a hitch!

A happy wedding couple with glasses of wine passes along the guests after the wedding ceremony.

Skipping the Wedding Day Stress

Small weddings are a wonderful way to control what you can. Hosting parties is always stressful, and this is likely the most important one of your life.

Every wedding has stakeholders. So if you come from a big family, that carries with it a lot of expectations.

If your big family is close, then navigating who can come and who doesn’t make the cut can be extremely challenging.

Shrinking the size of your wedding will save you money, get you better venues, and help you avoid family blowups.

Most big families have that one uncle who’s always inclined to start some drama at any family event, and that’s something you’ll want to avoid.

When planning a small wedding, you have to be borderline merciless.

When you start making exceptions to guest head count, it’s easy to let more and more things slide. Before you know it, you’re spending thousands more on catering costs, and there will be people there who you’d rather not see.

Happy couple planning about wedding budget with money, notebook and calculator on the table

Come to an Agreement

Before you start planning your small wedding, you need to discuss wedding expectations with your partner. The big family could be their side of the family, and they may want everyone there.

You both need to be on board for you to successfully hold the line on your wishes for a small wedding. Your partner’s support will especially come in handy when it’s time to break the news to your in-laws.

Hopefully, you have a supportive circle of family members who want to make you happy.

Unfortunately, this isn’t usually the case. Parents have dreams of their kids’ weddings, so you’ll likely have to negotiate some sort of compromise.

Young couple talking with their parents

Overcoming Parental Objections

Most of the time, your parents and in-laws will be the ones pushing for a large wedding the most. They have friends and relatives they want there so they can show you off.

It’s a big moment for them, and it’s important that you don’t brush off their desire for a big wedding quickly.

That doesn’t mean that you should accommodate them, either. Stick to your guns and, if necessary, compromise on the guest list so you can both be happy on your wedding day.

They should understand the legitimate concerns about the size of your wedding if it’s stressing you out or you have a special destination in mind.

The earlier you can overcome objections to a small wedding, the better.

Don’t try and spring it on them too late because they’ll likely have been planning what they want the wedding to look like in their heads from the moment you got engaged.

Ideas for Small Weddings

Small weddings are intimate, cost less, and give you more flexibility to bring your dreams to life. If you’re dead set on throwing a small wedding, even with a big family, here are some ways you can make it happen.

Start making plans early to avoid getting swept up by family members who tend to want to plan everything for you.

Destination Weddings

Romantic wedding ceremony on the beach in Phuket, Thailand

Telling everyone that you’re running off to Hawaii is a nice way to trim the guest list. Not everyone has the means or the desire to get on a plane.

For the most part, the people who will commit to a destination wedding will be the people you wanted there in the first place. On your wedding day, you’ll see your closest friends and relatives by your side.

Just remember that a destination doesn’t guarantee that your great uncle won’t show up. If you’re going somewhere nice, they may just decide to make a trip of it.

By and large, a destination wedding is a wonderful excuse for not everyone being invited.

If anyone is upset they didn’t get an invitation, you can always tell them you thought you were inconveniencing them.

Have the Reception in Your Backyard

Bride and groom with guests at wedding reception outside in the backyard.

Hosting a reception in your yard or at a house that’s conducive to having a reception is another way to limit the size of your wedding. Moreover, you can tell people that the reception will last for hours and that they’re welcome to stop by any time.

Also, telling them that no meal will be served will keep people from lingering for too long.

You’ll still see all of the family members that want to come, but you won’t have to pay for steak dinners for everyone. People can come and go as they please.

Serving appetizers or having a dessert bar is the perfect choice for refreshments for this type of reception.

Enlist the Help of Parents

Couple talking to their parents in a restaurant about wedding plan

If you’re an introvert and can’t stand the thought of hundreds of people at your ceremony, ask your parents for help. They, along with some of your friends, can start spreading the word early that it will be a small wedding.

People will understand. They won’t pressure you into having a large wedding if they know it’s something you won’t enjoy.

Put a Cap on Plus-Ones

Single relatives in a big family will bring boyfriends or girlfriends. While this might be OK if you’re having a normal-sized wedding, accommodating plus-ones of distant relatives will strain your event’s size.

Go through your guest list and decide who gets a plus-one and who doesn’t.

Make sure to watch closely when the RSVPs start rolling in and tell people who register a plus-one mistakenly that they need to come by themselves.

Let More People in at the Reception

Happy groom and happy bride with guests at reception

If you are focused on having a small, more intimate ceremony but don’t mind if more people show up at the reception, just let people know on their invites.

Another way you can do this is to intentionally book a venue with limited seating for the ceremony. Places like museums, churches, and other popular wedding spots won’t let a million people in.

People will generally understand why they aren’t in the ceremony if they haven’t seen you for years. They’ll show up happily at the reception, where they can let loose.