Small family-only weddings can maximize the value of a small budget without compromising the meaningfulness of the moment. Instead of feeling forced to lead a 150-person conga line filled with people you don't have time to greet, you can share your special day with the ones you love. Even a small wedding involves a long list of details, plans and responsibilities, however. Prepare yourself and plan ahead for a successful big event.
The first locations you consider for a family-centered wedding may come from your family's own backyards, literally. Keeping the ceremony close to home simplifies the tasks of getting ready. If you envision a different venue for the reception, however, the logistical complexities return. Before you choose or rule out any of the options you're considering, take your digital camera with you on a location-scouting trip. Photograph all aspects of each of the possibilities so you can compare them on your tablet, computer monitor or even on your TV.
Formal invitations carry two layers of costs: the invitations themselves and the postage to send them. For a small, intimate family wedding with a deliberately selective guest list, you can rule out much of the former and most or all of the latter cost category. Typeset your invitations on your computer and print them out yourself, or take a ready-to-print PDF file to a quick printer and bring your paper with you. For the ultimate personal touch, hand deliver them to family members at a shared event. If some of your guests live in another city, postage costs trump travel. For an untraditional digital twist on invitations, make a video on your camcorder or smartphone and post it to a private page on social media. Send a link to the invitation in an email message and ask for confirmations by return message.
Wedding-reception food can ring up an expensive tab with a catering firm. If you take a do-it-yourself approach to the menu—especially if the reception takes place in your own backyard—you can minimize the expense without turning the affair into a casual picnic, unless that's what you want. Serving family favorites gives you an opportunity to invite more than one relative to contribute a dish and distributes the effort required. The types of preparation facilities and the amount of space you need for the cooks may determine at whose house the reception takes place so you can select the kitchen with the biggest refrigerator, the range with a convection oven or the quietest dishwasher. Even if you opt for a small, professionally decorated cake for your ceremonial taste as a married couple, you can offer your guests cupcakes, sheet cakes or other family-baked goods.
Delegating your all-important, one-chance-to-get-it-right photography to a family member may be a bigger leap of faith than you're willing to take on your wedding day. If you hire a professional by the hour for a limited amount of time, you can minimize the cost of her services and still receive the benefits of artfully composed, memorable images. In a family with one or more professional or semi-pro photographers, however, your do-it-yourself options broaden. Plan to keep your camera and camcorder on hand either way, with plenty of memory cards for both, and invite your guests to bring their own picture-taking equipment if you don't mind them snapping away.
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