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guest list-cutting tip

When cutting your guest list, start by eliminating certain groups of people. For example, you may decide to invite aunts and uncles but no cousins. Or limit invitations by asking singles without significant others to attend without a date. At a small wedding, singletons won't feel lost in the crowd.

 
reception, intimate wedding

Wedding Style: Small and Intimate Weddings

Size really does matter. And when it comes to weddings, smaller may actually be better.

Photo: Doug Keese

When it comes wedding celebrations, many couples agree: size matters. Fewer people can mean a more personal celebration. There is more time for the bride and groom to spend with their guests, the group really gets to know one another, and everyone contributes to the event in his or her own way. Intimate celebrations, it seems, have certain advantages. Here, we unveil the truth behind small celebrations.

Keep to a Smaller Budget

You might decide that a four-course dinner for 50 is better than cake and punch for 100. Some couples having fewer than 75 guests have cut their guest lists to the bare minimum in order to maximize their budgets. It becomes a choice between cutting corners in order to have 150 guests or cutting the list in half and having everything just the way you envision the day.

Treat Your Guests Well

A small wedding gives you the chance to really go all out. Perhaps guests can stay at a luxurious inn or your rehearsal dinner can be more elaborate and take place in a wine cellar with a wine-pairing for each course. We know one wedding where all 20 guests were picked up by limousine and were delivered to the wedding ceremony. Afterward, guests were taken to a private room at a top-notch restaurant for an unforgettable dinner. Keeping things small means that the extra details, like providing limousine service, loaded gift baskets, and six-course feasts for your guests, are suddenly more accessible. Think boxes of chocolate instead of a single truffle, the best champagne rather than sparkling wines, and luxurious arrangements of roses and rare orchids as far as the eye can see.

Pay Attention to the Details

Often when a pair is planning a small wedding they're inclined not to hire a wedding consultant. We warn: smaller is not synonymous with simpler. When the wedding is small, every detail is noticed, so careful attention to detail is called for. There is no hiding behind the crowd at a small celebration -- goofs and gaffes that might have gone unnoticed with 200 people milling around but will be painfully obvious with 50 and under.

Make it Entertaining

This is perhaps the best part of having a smaller wedding: With fewer people on the scene, it's easy to get everyone into the act somehow. Depending on how small the event will be, you can have everyone read a line of a prayer or a special reading at the ceremony, have them stand and encircle you as you exchange your vows, seat them at one big table at the wedding reception, or pass around a blank guest book and big box of colored pencils for all to share their favorite memories of the bride and groom.

Limit the Guest List

Do you find yourself agonizing over the guest list thinking, who is so and so? No mother's best friend's dentist will be attending your wedding. Not wanting to deal with a sea of unfamiliar faces on such an emotional day, some couples decide to limit their lists agreeing that a smaller celebration can create a more joyful atmosphere: The guests attending a smaller wedding are there to offer their love and support to the bride and groom not just on their wedding day, but every day of their lives which makes for a meaningful, love-filled day.

Bonus: There are so many creative options for locations when one is not trying to accommodate hundreds of guests. There are unique restaurants, rustic ranches, cozy cabins, posh private clubs, settings with exquisite views and gardens, natural or fancy.

Now the hard part: You may be greeted by howls of protest from your families when you ask them to cut down portions of their lists to the lean-and-mean few who really matter. And, of course, you and your sweetheart must be prepared to do the same. This may mean having to explain to friends who expected to be there why they will not receive an invitation. There is no easy way to do this, except to be perfectly honest. Tell your friends that you are keeping the event very small and limiting the list. But be prepared for the occasional hurt feelings and lingering bitterness.

Party On

This is an option for couples who find themselves guilt-ridden at the thought of cutting guests off their list. If an intimate ceremony is most important, you can create a separate, larger guest list for the reception. Just be sure to inform your guests of the arrangements. If you want the whole event to be intimate, you might choose to have a large, casual party a month or so after your wedding. Of course, this means paying for another event, but it can be fun to have a bigger crowd gathered in a more relaxed setting -- call it a housewarming if you have moved into a new home.

Destination Weddings

You can eliminate lots of griping from de-listed guests if your wedding is taking place very far away. Consider a wonderful celebration in Bermuda or Alaska. Use the small number of your nearest and dearest to your advantage: take over an inn out in the mountains or rent a group of cottages on the beach. Stretching the festivities out to three or four days of fishing, skiing, brunching, and loafing all adds up to a fabulous destination wedding, and a chance to really bond with your guests.

Contributors: JoAnn Gregoli, a New Jersey-based wedding consultant
Bonnie Kowar, a Colorado-based wedding consultant
Jean Picard, a California-based wedding consultant

-- Lisa Carse

See More: Wedding Style