Guest Writer | The stripped down wedding


All photographs in this blog post were taken by Hafenliebe who specialise in intimate weddings and elopements. Connect with them via Facebook.

Hooray Weddings: The stripped Down Wedding

The Stripped Down Wedding: CC Rossler

It may seem counterintuitive to be reading on a wedding blog that sometimes weddings just aren’t worth the effort. While every marriage is worthy of community celebration, is the expensive party always necessary? If you’re finding yourself sliding down the slippery slope of “if we invite X, then we HAVE TO invite Y” into a guest list that is anything but your nearest and dearest, perhaps it’s time to consider a tiny wedding. Being a ‘tiny’ bride myself I can only rave about the benefits of stripping down the festivities to the bare necessities and focusing on what truly matters to you. Not sure you are brave enough to walk away from the Pinterest cookie-cutter model wedding that everyone’s expecting you to throw? Here’s some compelling reasons to embrace the simple life:

Hooray Weddings: The stripped Down Wedding Hooray Weddings: The stripped Down Wedding

1. “But people will be offended if I don’t invite them”

Without a doubt the first defining feature of a tiny wedding is the tiny guest list. Will people be upset? Yes, for sure. Many of the people who have participated in your life thus far, rightly feel they have earned the chance to celebrate with you over a free plate of food. However, the more people who are included, the lower the ratio of actual meaningful relationships to seat fillers. Those seat fillers are the ones you will be worried about while planning your wedding. Your nice cousin and his not-so-nice-girlfriend will need something to do while you have your photos taken, they will need to eat and sit and go home with a gift and they have to think this is the BEST. WEDDING. EVER. That’s a lot of fuss, stress and expense for a distant relative’s-soon-to-be-ex. 

Consider the joy of having ONLY your very best friends and favourite family there. Just the people who love you so dearly that there is no need to impress them. The people who will laugh with you when things go wrong and roll up their sleeves to make it go right. Imagine a gathering of people you don’t have to put on a show for, where they aren’t there to see your professional make-up and dieting efforts pay off. Imagine a receiving line where people have more meaningful things to say to you than “You look so beautiful” or “Nice to meet you”, but rather the warm welcome of eyes filled with equal parts tears and pride. 

Yes people will be offended when they assume that you are having a normal wedding and excluded only them. When they see how small and intimate your wedding was, all will be forgotten because they probably wouldn’t invite you to their own tiny wedding, either.

Hooray Weddings: The stripped Down Wedding

2. “But my parents have certain expectations”

I love moms and dads, I do, so I’m not about to tell you to secretly elope and send them a postcard (…although…) Your parents will play a huge role in your tiny wedding but if they start throwing their weight around about who to invite you can simply fire them from the job of putting on your wedding. A huge benefit to the tiny wedding is the tiny budget. Parents generally only have such a say in your wedding because they’re footing the extensive bill. With a tiny wedding you can generously release them from such an archaic duty and go about your wedding planning like the grown-up, independent adults you are. They have already paid untold fortunes raising you and might have even spoiled you with a car, a degree and a place to live. Isn’t it time you treat them to a fabulous meal and say ‘thank you’ from the pit of your heart, without having to add ‘for spending what could have been our home down payment on this one night’. 

Hooray Weddings: The stripped Down Wedding

3. “But what does a tiny wedding cost?” 

The beauty of the core guest list is you get to take away all the production and fluff of the wedding. Normal weddings have surprise costs and little things really add up when multiplied by 150+ guests. A tiny wedding only has to include what you want to pay for. My wedding had about 20 guests and we decided to spoil them by having them all stay at a beach house with us for the weekend before witnessing our simple barefoot ceremony on Sunday morning and then sharing a fabulous meal before heading off on honeymoon. We paid for accommodation, a photographer and the most awesome wedding food I’ve ever had. The list of things I didn’t have to buy is endless: flower girl dresses, bridesmaid shoes, hairstyling, boutonnieres (seriously what are those even for?), a garter, manicures, stationary, canapés, decorations. You get it. Now that I photograph weddings, I’ve had more than a few brides bitterly confide that something was a waste of money. If that’s how they felt on their wedding day, I can only imagine what it feels like 2, 3, 10 years later. Our tiny wedding is still the most memorable those 20 guests ever went to and cost us less than most couples spend on a short local honeymoon.

Hooray Weddings: The stripped Down WeddingHooray Weddings: The stripped Down Wedding

4. “But I want those fairytale moments to tell my kids about”

Ah, the dream of your dress floating elegantly as you twirl in his arms beneath twinkling lights while the audience is awed by the romance of it all. Sigh. Nope. Your shoes and/or dress is going to be pretty uncomfortable by that stage. You will be worried about the shine from your face showing up on the video. He’ll goof up a carefully planned move. Many of your guests will be embarrassingly drunk, some are disinterested dates ready to go home while the rest try to film you with their cell phones. Dance floors always smell a little bit like fart (too much bubbly and bending). So I guess what I’m saying is, what fairy tale moments? All the things that delight you about your wedding and make it into the family folklore are the bits you could never plan and certainly can’t buy. Also, weddings are a wonderful day but you will find them less and less interesting as the years go by, especially your own. Of all the amazing things you are going to do, weddings are actually pretty lame. The years ahead will be filled with ways you will contribute to your community, people you will touch and be touched by, tragic moments to be shouldered together, huge favours that can never be repaid, miracles, lessons, travels, forgiveness, friendships etc etc etc. My deepest wish for any newlywed is that their wedding day be one of the most basic, boring days of their life together. A big party? You can and you will do greater things. Showing off your newly-whittled waist in a too-expensive dress you will never fit into again in front of a collection of family and half strangers you won’t see for years? You are better than that.

Hooray Weddings: The stripped Down Wedding

5. “But will it still ‘feel’ big and be as memorable as a big wedding?”

When I went to buy my dress (a gorgeous purple bridesmaid dress that I ordered in ivory for 10% of the cost of the wedding gowns hanging right next to it) the saleslady took down my measurements and robotically asked “Are you a stress loser or a stress gainer?” I laughed and assured her I will not be stressed out and plan to get happily married in my default body shape. Which brings me to the sad factor of wedding stress. A lot of what makes a big wedding so exhilarating is that it’s finally here and therefore can finally be over. Bridal couples stress so much in the months leading up to it that it packs a mighty emotional punch to finally be there, doing all the things you planned and rehearsed. I can’t promise a tiny wedding will feel that way, you will simply be less stressed. Tiny weddings just feel normal, until the realness of it all slaps you in the face like a 2×4. The chances for authentic, messy and unrehearsed moments are greater when it hasn’t been planned down to the wire and played out for an audience. I will never forget strolling down to the beach, looking around for my wedding (since we never discussed exactly where it would be beyond the word ‘beach’) and finding my happy tribe assembled haphazardly by the sea. I headed towards the strains of my favourite people singing and in that moment a gust of wind blew off my veil, forcing me to chase it down the beach. Everyone burst into laugher and my best friend and future husband who could no longer wait at the end of the non-aisle came rushing forward to meet me. He clasped my face in his hands and we tried not to kiss while our treasured guests shouted “not yet!!”. Hand in hand we walked down the rest of the aisle and started our new life together. I don’t know what your tiny wedding would look like, but I can promise you if you put all the people you deeply love in the same place with no agenda other than to celebrate them and let them take part in the start of your marriage, you will never miss the big wedding you could have had.

Hooray Weddings: The stripped Down Wedding

In summary, tiny weddings aren’t for everyone. They are unrealistic for a lot of people but I suspect that if you made it this far down the article something about them grabs you. Taking what is often referred to as “the biggest day of your life” and gently putting it back in it’s place as one of many amazing days you have yet to have, is freeing. Celebrate wildly on your own terms, whatever that may look like, but don’t have a wedding based on other people’s expectations. For some, a tiny wedding might be a restaurant filled with 50 people and a jazz band, or 3 people in the forest. Whatever you need to strip away before your wedding starts to look like you, go for it with abandon. Have an amazing day and then take your time, money, stress and efforts and sew them into something that actually matters to you two.

2 thoughts on “Guest Writer | The stripped down wedding

  1. Kit says:

    Totally agree with all you said. Ours was 35 people over a braai in an apricot orchard. The best food put together by the whole family the main thing is celebrating with the people you love.

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