Jeff Brummett

How To Make A Big Wedding Feel Intimate

bride and groom hugging in front of golden plants Matties wedding austin

How To Make A Big Wedding Feel More Intimate

By Destination Wedding Photographer Jeff Brummett


An intimate wedding is a great way to feel more connected and present on one of the most important days of your life.  Many people think an “intimate wedding” is the same as a “small wedding.”  You can still have an intimate feel, even with a larger guest list.  
The wedding industry has become known for lavish celebrations the past few decades. There is now a big movement toward more intimate feeling weddings and elopements.  As someone who values authentic connection and moments, I welcome this change.  Of course, the most obvious way to make a wedding more intimate is to have a smaller guest list.  Not everyone has that luxury or wants a smaller wedding.  I’m going to highlight some other options you may want to look into.  These will help give an intimate feel, no matter what your wedding looks like.


Get Ready Together

Getting ready for your wedding takes up a good part of the day.  Many times, I’ve experienced brides and grooms prepping with friends and family. They often get stressed and end up taking care of everyone but themselves.  There is something special about spending that time with your fiancé instead.  Don’t think this means you can’t also have a first look either.  I’ve seen couples get ready up to the point of putting the dress on, then still having an emotional first look.

bride in wedding dress and groom in double breasted tuxedo standing together outside adolphus hotel Dallas

Have an Intimate First Look

First looks can be a great way to experience a very emotional moment, without all eyes being on you.  They are not for everyone though.  I like the idea of having a last moment together before two become one, and you can do that without seeing each other.  Try getting together for a prayer or to talk about whats happening.  You can be in two adjoining rooms, around a corner, or get back to back (my personal favorite).  This is also great for couples who tend to get nervous and can have a calming effect when needed.

man in black tuxedo first look seeing bride in white gown to come down concrete stairs on french estate wedding day

Schedule Alone Time

This is a big one for me.  I encourage all my couples to schedule alone time before (if having a first look) or after the ceremony. They can get away from everyone else, slow things down, and take in the moment together.  This usually also doubles as a great time for candid portraits. Couples can explore an area around the location while I capture what happens.


Shrink the Bridal Party

Consider having less, if any, bridesmaids and groomsmen.  Many times your friends will enjoy the day more as guests anyway.  The smaller your party is, the less crowded and time consuming your prep, ceremony, and photos are.  If you’re finding it to hard to narrow it down, try having your party seated during the ceremony.  That way it’s just the two of you at the altar.

Bride holding white bouquet laughing with four bridesmaids at Dallas Arboretum Wedding

Create a Personalized Ceremony Layout

Think outside the box when it comes to your ceremony.  For example, try having your ceremony in the round with you two at the center. Your guests could even sit on casual furniture. This will set the tone for the event and let everyone know that it’s ok to relax and have fun.

Use a Close Friend as Your Officiant

Find a close friend or family member to officiate your ceremony.  The best ceremonies I’ve experienced almost always have this element in common.  It’s more personal and entertaining when someone you’re comfortable with performs this task.  One of my favorites is when a parent or sibling does the honors.

Involve Your Guests in the Ceremony

Another way to get things feeling more intimate is to involve your guests in the ceremony.  They may recite poems or scripture, pray over you, take turns storytelling, or thank people by name.  Only, make sure it fits with the vibe you want the ceremony to have.  I love it when the guests get involved in a ceremony recessional or exit. It’s usually a lot more fun and successful than exits at the end of the night and makes for better pictures as well!

Adolphus hotel wedding ceremony couple kissing altar luxury dallas

Exchange Private Vows

There is no law that says you have to exchange vows in front of anyone else or even at your own ceremony.  You may want to exchange private vows after the ceremony in a place of your choosing.  This usually makes for a more emotional and direct exchange. It’s also a great opportunity to create impactful photographs.  Another option is to have your ceremony without guests. You can always meet them afterwards at the reception.

crescent court hotel wedding couple dallas

Make Time to Eat Together

Schedule time to eat dinner together.  This is another big one for me. So often I see the bride and groom’s cold plates sitting untouched at the end of the night.  Be sure to sit down together and eat uninterrupted.  Plan about the same amount of time it takes you to eat out somewhere on a date night. Then you can savor the food and have good conversation.  Resist the old school of thought that you have to go around the room and thank everyone.  This is what “Thank You” cards and guest favors are for (not to mention that you invited them).  Slow down and enjoy the evening together.

bride and groom eating pizza in new york city pizzeria

Plan a More Casual Reception

Plan a casual reception with open seating, lounge areas, and a horderve dinner.  For my wedding, we had a buffet style smorgasbord of food and open seating inside and outside. Our small french hotel venue was perfect for this.  Everyone got to mingle and interact this way.  Again, it creates a mood of informality. It also speeds up the timeline and allows more time for dancing and fun.

groom kissing laughing bride while dancing with wedding guests

Create Personalized Guest Favors

Taking the time to create something personal to each of your guests can go a long way.  It can be something as simple as a thank you card or something as elaborate as favorite homemade deserts.  A little goes a long way and people are very appreciative of any kind of acknowledgement.

Bride and groom kissing in front of Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco black and white planning destination wedding

Have a Surprise Wedding

This is something that is becoming more popular.  Invite your friends and family to a get together, then surprise them with nuptials.  This option is not for the faint of heart, but it can make for some very memorable moments!

Consider a Destination Wedding

I can’t recommend destination weddings enough if you’re looking for an intimate event.  There is something about getting everybody in an exotic setting. It loosens everyone up and puts them in a great mood.  After all, you’re on vacation!  The travel and time commitment also assures the guest list contains only people who want to be there.  You can choose to make the whole event a bit more inclusive because people are usually staying in the area.  For example, you can invite everyone to an informal rehearsal dinner or afterparty.

yosemite couple walking on ledge overlooking ledge El Capitan and valley at sunset

Consider Eloping Somewhere Special

This is my personal favorite option.  To experience your wedding in the most intimate, try adventuring someplace magical.  Try exchanging vows on the beach in Iceland or in the woods of the Pacific Northwest.  How about the two of you at San Francisco’s City Hall or on top of a mountain in Switzerland?  There’s so many amazing options. I love to help plan unforgettable experiences with my couples!  Check out some tips on how to plan an elopement here.

Marfa Texas couple desert couple embracing black and white


The whole appeal of intimate weddings are the personal moments and connections possible.  Big weddings don’t usually have as many of those opportunities.  Although, there are things you can do to enhance the experience, no matter the guest list size.  If you’re considering an intimate wedding or elopement, I’d love to tell your story. Learn more about me or  Get in touch and let’s get started!

Comments +

  1. Taylor says:

    Fantastic tips for planning an intimate wedding! I love the images you used to accompany the post!

  2. Kara says:

    These are some of the best tips for intimate weddings + making it their own and it’s so well written!! I loved reading through this and your images are all gorgeous!

  3. Andrew May says:

    Amazing content Jeff!! I love all the different shots from various intimate weddings and the thought behind the content. I love the idea of having a close friend or relative serve as the officiant and exchanging vows in private is always way more intimate. I’m sure this will help anyone who is toying with the idea of eloping or having a destination wedding. Cheers brotha!

  4. Abbi says:

    Wow, this is so awesome! I would find this so helpful if I was wanting to elope and didn’t know where to start!

  5. Jessica says:

    These are some amazing tips about intimate elopements and weddings! And I LOVE that first photo!! So beautiful

  6. Bethel says:

    I loved all your tips and tricks! A very solid list!

  7. Nicole says:

    This is such a good post! Great input for all intimate weddings!

  8. sydney says:

    I love these ideas for planning an intimate wedding!

  9. Sarah Meza says:

    What a great informational post about planning an intimate wedding or intimate elopement! I definitely want to show this to all my couples now! 🙂 I agree on EVERYTHING!

  10. Brittany Slaughter says:

    This is so full of such great tips for couples looking to completely customize their wedding day! Such a great read!

  11. Alex says:

    I love these intimate elopement ideas. So much good advice here!

  12. Daniela says:

    Such a good article! and even better photos!!

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