In this guide you’re going to learn how much a micro wedding costs in Virginia, how to plan a micro wedding, what the term “micro wedding” means and the best venue ideas for hosting your micro wedding in Virginia.
Generally speaking, a micro wedding guest list includes immediate family (i.e., parents, grandparents and siblings) and sometimes a few close friends. But, for sure, you can and should invite whomever you want.
A micro wedding (or intimate wedding) is a small celebration of about 15-50 people. Most of the ones I photograph have about 20-40.
Most micro weddings function similarly to big traditional weddings, just on a smaller scale. Typical differences: the reception centers around a meal rather than dancing; and the venue may be a restaurant or VRBO or bed and breakfast rather than a big barn space.
The words micro wedding, small wedding, intimate wedding, mini-mony and even elopement can be used interchangeably.
For me, I typically break them down in this way:
Elopement: 2-15 people
Mini-mony: A small wedding ceremony or elopement with a larger reception planned at a different date. That can be a sunrise elopement with afternoon reception or a micro wedding with a large reception planned several months down the road.
Micro/Intimate wedding: A small wedding for 15-50 people
Looking for micro wedding inspiration? Check out this Charlottesville micro wedding, this intimate Airbnb wedding or this Bed & Breakfast wedding in Harrisonburg.
I am a Virginia micro wedding photographer and let me tell you…I love small weddings.
Number one: they are almost always less stressful for the couple than a big wedding.
To my mind, you should enjoy your wedding – the planning, the anticipation, the day…all of it. If you aren’t enjoying the process then why are you doing it? After all, a wedding is simply the celebration of your decision to marry your person. It’s not a family reunion or a party for other people. It’s about your closest-caring community coming together to celebrate your remarkable relationship. And that’s super cool.
Micro weddings are also typically:
With fewer people in attendance you can actually spend time with the people you do invite. You can afford to feed them better food. You can spend money on things like a shared experience for your guests to remember forever. You can be more flexible and creative with the timeline. And fewer people just means fewer moving parts.
Look – big weddings can be wonderful and fun. And if that’s the direction you want to go in that is totally okay! But if you do that, may I recommend that you turn the experience over to a full-service planner who can handle all of the things for you and take the stress off of you? Hiring a good planner can be really expensive, though. If you’re on a budget it may be a better idea to simply downsize (even if you keep the planner who does everything for you!) If you need suggestions for a planner, just let me know. I can connect you to some really good ones!
I have never had a couple who regretted having a micro wedding. On the contrary, if you read through wedding forums on Reddit or Facebook the opposite is true. You’ll find thousands of couples who “wish we would have just eloped.” Or “wish we would have planned a small wedding.” Big weddings can be super fun if done right. (If planning a big wedding is your goal then I highly recommend investing in a full-service planner.) But for a lot of people they are stressful, expensive and ultimately not worth it.
“We absolutely loved working with Kara for our Charlottesville micro-wedding. The moment I saw/read her website, I felt so connected to her style and approach to capturing candid, real moments. She gave great advice throughout the planning process about timelines, lighting, and locations, etc. On wedding day, she made us feel so comfortable and captured the most authentic, natural, gorgeous photos ever (in our humble opinion). She gave us fun direction/prompts when needed – and also was able to blend into the background and capture candid photos of our guests and families throughout the day. Kara’s energy is calm, flexible, and relaxed. She helped put us at ease throughout the entire day. Neither of us particularly enjoy being in the spotlight, but Kara helped us feel comfortable and natural so that we never felt like we had to pose or be inauthentic. When we look through our gallery, we are transported back to that day… We definitely recommend hiring Kara to take your photos – we are so glad we did!”
-Amanda and Andrew
The number one factor in how much a wedding in Virginia costs is how many guests you have. The more guests you have, the bigger the venue needs to be, the more staff the venue needs to hire, the more meals you are paying for etc. You get the picture.
You also have to consider what your priorities are when getting married. You can do every single piece of your wedding day on a budget. Or you may choose to cut down on your guest list so you can have a luxury wedding for small number of people.
But is it cheaper to have a micro wedding than a traditional wedding? Overwhelmingly, yes. The average cost of a wedding in Virginia in 2021 was a little more than $28,000. You have to go pretty fancy to get to that number with a micro wedding. It’s easy to spend half that amount and still have a really nice day as I’ve detailed below.
Total: $3,375 (Range $3500-$7500)
Total: $12,650 (Range $10,000-$15,000)
Total: $47,040 (Range $30,000+)
If you’re leaning toward a micro wedding, here is a quick step-by-step guide to planning it.
You’ve said yes to getting married, now what?
Most of the weddings you’ve attended as a guest probably looked something like what my siblings chose – my brother got married in a church with a tent reception on his in-laws property. My sister got married in a different kind of church with an upscale vineyard reception. Both of them probably had between 150-200 guests.
But if you care to consider a different approach, just keep reminding yourself that weddings are a celebration of your marriage. And that celebration can look like whatever you want!
So start here: ask yourselves what do we two love to do? Do you love craft beer and hiking? You can build your day around that!
Do you love new adventure experiences? Build your day around that!
Do you love wine and conversation? Build your day around that!
You could start your wedding day with a sunrise first-look in Shenandoah National Park followed by a reception at a brewery with your friends and family.
You could plan a weekend of regional activities for all your guests like climbing the Via Ferrata or whitewater rafting or a canoe trip together.
You could host a five-course dinner party at a beautiful intimate vineyard for your close friends and family.
Once you have a rough sketch of what you want to do, then you’ll know whether (and what types) of vendors you’ll be needing. As a general rule, the bigger your guest list, the more planning that needs to happen. When there’s only a few of you, you can be more flexible.
This is the not-fun part. But weddings can be black holes when it comes to money. So you need to decide on a budget early and stick to it.
Most people do not have unlimited funds, so what I recommend is making a list of all of the things you want and then ordering them from most to least important.
If I were getting married again (or planning a vow renewal) mine would look like this in order of highest priority to least priority.
Obviously I’m a photographer and videographer – I believe capturing memories forever and beautifully is really important – so those two vendors would be the most important items on my list of budget items. (As an aside, notice that when people are fleeing their houses due to fires or other disasters, photographs are among the most important items they grab.)
Then I probably would want to schedule some activities for friends and family to do together for the weekend and maybe even hire a live band or really good DJ.
My husband and I are big foodies so having an excellent meal to share with my guestlist would be really important to us.
The venue is less important to me personally. I want it to be pretty, but I’m willing to go simple here so I can allocate more of my budget to other items.
I love beautiful wedding dresses, but when it comes down to it, I’m totally ok with buying my dress off of Etsy or secondhand or buying a bridesmaids dress in white to save some money.
I absolutely love fresh flowers, but for me, the day is more about the experience so this would be pretty low down on my priority list. In fact, for my wedding day I had no fresh flowers in the traditional sense – instead we had a mix of succulents, paper flowers, dried flowers and wood sola flowers.
The beautiful thing about going small is if you only have one or two tables to decorate you can spend a little bit more making those super custom. Splurge on locally made pottery that will then be used in your home for the next 50 years. Rent beautiful light fixtures (you only need a few!) Or – if you get here and are out of money, hang some bistro lights and call it a day. Everything looks better under twinkling lights. But for me, decorations are the icing. They are super nice to have, but it’s the last thing on my list.
Your list may be ordered differently – and that’s totally okay! Once you figure out your order of priorities, then you can decide what percentage of your budget to allocate to each item. It may be that by the time you get to the bottom few items you just knock them off altogether.
But do you want to hear something really interesting? In 2020, the average cost of a wedding was $19,000, according to The Knot. That’s about $10,000 less than the average cost of a wedding in 2019.
The difference? (I bet) – COVID forcing people to downsize. And I haven’t heard any moaning and groaning about these smaller weddings. My theory is that people ended up liking them!
For most of us our social groups are loosely categorized like this:
Of course relationships don’t always fit neatly into clear social circles.
You might be estranged from a parent or one has remarried and you don’t like the new spouse.
You might have siblings you don’t get along with (or their partners).
Your parents may feel strongly that their best friends (who are part of your outer circle) be invited to your wedding that you’re trying to keep small.
At my wedding (~85 guests) we had three criteria for inclusion:
Ok, now that we’ve gotten that intro out of the way, here’s another quick graphic.
Ok, now you have your “maybe list.” Perhaps you have room in your budget to invite 200 people, want to have a big wedding, and everyone on that list gets an invite!
If you have 200 people on your “maybe list” and can only afford to invite 75, order your list from most-wanted to least-desired guests. Then start working backwards and knocking people off. Sorry, boss!
In general it’s easier to draw the line in the sand at the same level, so to speak. So if you have a similar relationship with four people from work, invite them all or none. If you are inviting siblings and their significant others, invite them all, or none, etc. That way if someone seems hurt, you can say, “we just decided to do family, only!” or “oh, we just decided to keep it super intimate.”
Whatever kind of wedding you choose to have, I recommend picking a photographer (and, if desired, a videographer) who specializes in that type of celebration. Whomever you choose will be with you all day so you want someone who is both an expert in your specific kind of wedding and that you get along with really well.
For my intimate weddings and elopements I am the first vendor most of my couples book. Sometimes I’m the ONLY vendor they book!
Here’s why that’s something you should consider: there aren’t really planners or guides in Charlottesville who specialize specifically in intimate/micro weddings or elopements. But there ARE photographers who do.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve gathered resources like — who are the officiants who will hike? Or the hair and makeup artists who will get up at 3 am to fix you up? Where can you go if you don’t want to book a venue but you do want to maximize privacy? What do you DO on an all-day elopement? How do you take family photos when there are some members who don’t want to stand close to others?
So when you book me, I’m not only your photographer, but your guide to having an epic, intimate wedding. I basically take what you tell me about what you want your day to look like and then point you in the right direction so you can have that day as simply and seamlessly as possible.
I’ve written three blog posts on some of the best intimate and micro wedding venues in central Virginia.
The Best Intimate Wedding Venues in Charlottesville
The Best VRBO Wedding Venues in Virginia
Five Micro Wedding Venue Ideas in Virginia
In general, look for venues that will fit your guests without feeling absurdly large. If you have 20 people in a space designed for 200 you are going to feel like…where are the other people? But if you pick a really beautiful small space, it will feel intimate and cozy.
Since I’ve gone into detail about some of the best local options in other blogs I’m not going to spend a lot of time on that here, but do check those out – they are a great resource for you!
Here are the vendors I believe you will need for your micro wedding:
Here are the optional vendors I highly recommend if they fit in your budget:
If you end up booking with me for your photography and/or videography, then I have a list of other recommended vendors that I share with my clients.
But if you’re just reading this for your own research purposes, then here are a few tips about how to find the best vendors for your day. (This is how I would find vendors.)
The Ultimate Small Wedding Planning Guide and Checklist