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It was exciting news for the wedding industry last week, as new government guidelines were announced permitting both ceremonies and sit-down receptions of up to 30 guests. But smaller doesn't necessarily have to mean low-key, and even though you've cut down on numbers, there are plenty of ways you can thrill your guests with a day to remember. Emma Deeley, owner of The Tythe Barn in Launton, Oxfordshire, shares her tips for making a small wedding feel extra special:
Have you, as a couple, been lucky enough to save more money over this period than you would have usually? The benefit of having a smaller guest list means that you may have a proportionately higher budget, allowing you to splurge on the things that are most important to you. First on your list of 'priority items' should be a photographer. A good photographer (and videographer too, if your budget allows) is a fantastic investment. Hire someone who will really capture the laughter, the happy tears, the toasts... after all, these are the moments with your nearest and dearest that you will treasure forever.
Location, location, location...
So, what if you fall in love with a venue that's designed to cater for 200 people? There are plenty of ways to make it feel intimate – even if socially distanced wedding breakfasts become the 'new normal'. Lower the ceiling with drapes, or suspend floral and moss installations over the tables to make the room feel cosy and romantic. Ambient fairylights will also help to create a more intimate atmosphere.
From gorgeous gardens to charming meadows and cosy courtyards, make the most of your venue's outdoor space. Weather permitting, how about a socially distanced lounge area? It's great to have an inviting space to relax and chat – fill with cushions, armchairs, or even haybales and rugs depending on your theme! Small music performances with a socially distanced audience are also permitted, giving you the option of adding a live musical act such as a harpist, string quartet or even a band.
Your flowers might be another area where you choose to allocate more of your budget than planned: "While couples previously may have had to split their floral budget across many tables, now is the perfect opportunity to have a large statement piece – a real focal point," says Michal Kowalski, master florist at Blooming Haus in London (www.bloominghaus.com). "Try a hanging flower display, a floral backdrop for the top table or a romantic installation to exchange your vows under."
Signed, sealed, delivered
If life in lockdown has taught us anything, it's the value of human connection. A smaller guest list means you can excite your loved ones with handwritten invitations – it's the perfect way to set the tone for your day. Handwritten notes as place settings also allow you to be as authentic and individual as you like. You could even hire an illustrator to sketch each guest!
Upgrade your menu
It may be goodbye to sharing platters and finger food for now, but it's the perfect opportunity to elevate your wedding breakfast to the next level. If the budget allows, why not upgrade your dinner to an indulgent seven-course meal with expert wine pairings? Or turn dinner on its head altogether and choose a hearty brunch or afternoon tea. A smaller guest list allows this flexibility. Whatever you decide, ensure your venue and caterers have a primary focus on quality, seasonal ingredients and locally sourced produce.
Keep it personal
An intimate wedding is about being able to relax and celebrate with the friends and family that truly matter, and meaningful touches are more valuable than ever. Whether it's including vintage family heirlooms in your bouquet or personalised cocktails on arrival, make sure your 'I do' is totally you. "For us, the magic of an intimate wedding is always in the details," adds Michal, "so make sure you have thought about every aspect, including your favourite colours, fragrances and memories. Translate these emotions into designs and you'll have created the most personalised wedding of all."
To find out more about weddings at this venue, visit www.thetythebarn.co.uk