We often talk to brides who have 'downsized' and opted for a family wedding, instead of a 'corporate' sized event. For a variety of reasons (cost, travel, family situation, timing, or just unhappiness with the whirlwind of planning a giant wedding) they have decided to pass on the country club, penthouse, loft or wedding palace, and have cut their guest list down to immediate family and close friends (usually 20-80 people, depending upon second cousins).
This brings up a dilemma: should the couple elope? Should they have a small wedding in a chapel or restaurant? How do you find a space for two dozen people, when restaurants have a minimum of 50? What about the dress, the cake, the ceremony -- the presents?
The first decision is whether to elope or to hold a small family wedding. If you want to get away and have a private wedding, it's best to just make arrangements and go for it. If you start including close family members and friends, you've turned the corner to a private wedding. Either way, you can still arrange for a reception back home at a later date, or a second "Wedding Blessing", where the legally married couple can have a ring blessing, a spiritual blessing, a vow renewal, or any combination of rituals you wish, followed by a reception and 'welcome home'. This is becoming a common new/old trend, and we have seen the 'wedding blessing' parties evolve into real celebrations, sometimes a year later than the legal wedding. See our other post on this topic.
But if the point is to involve your parents, or young cousins, or elderly relatives, and you are willing to have a family ceremony, why not 'recreate' the weddings of your grandparents, and be married at home, in the parlour (aka livingroom), or in the backyard, or in a friend's home or someone else's big backyard (or the community park in the bandshell, or the park's recreation center, or even a national park, if it's close by) - and have fun decorating with dollar store tulle and paper lanterns and homemade flower arrangements and candles in jam jars and and pictures of you both as kids on a table with a guestbook, etc.. You could even have a theme (Fiesta, Victorian, Gaslight, Greate Gatsby, MusicMan, Tropical Island) to coordinate dresses and decorations and music.
Find a sympathetic Marriage Officiant who can design a family-friendly ceremony which is dignified but incorporates the family in some way, whether offering readings, or speaking about the couple or the circumstances. Gather the 'parlour' chairs and have most people stand up for the ceremony but seat the elderly in a few rows in the front. The bride (and the groom) can come down the stairs, enter from the bedroom, or drive up in an old fashioned car. After the ceremony (or if coming back from the park - even walking together -- finish with at "at home" reception of potluck dishes or a catered meal with some big centerpieces (a carving station) and lots of vegetarian options. Ask people to bring desserts or cupcakes like a church social, and build a communal cupcake tree. Set up a taverna or speakeasy bar (hire a bartender from the local community college hospitality program and get the proper liquor permit). Live music would be the most fun, with IPOD backup for later in the night. Be sure to invite the neighbours.
Unlike the giant corporate weddings, everyone will be able to talk, and mingle, and have a good time, and everyone will remember it -- and so will you.
Click HERE for our most popular post: a step-by-step guide on How to Elope in New York : how to get a marriage license, find a New York marriage officiant, organize your ceremony, and have your marriage legally registered. See a little more advice HERE,