This month we’ve teamed up with The Stars Inside, a bespoke planning and design studio, to bring you a wealth of nifty tips for planning an intimate, micro-wedding or the elopement of your dreams. 

Planning a wedding can, at times, be completely overwhelming. In lockdown, that overwhelming feeling seemed to grow extra arms of anxiety with rather monstrous proportions. Luckily for you, Valentina Ring, founder of The Stars Inside - a bespoke planning and design studio - has an endless supply of helpful tips and advice if you’re planning a smaller, more heartfelt micro wedding or elopement…

Above photography: Rebecca Carpenter Photography

Emily Rose Photography 

I’ve always believed that every single wedding deserves to be planned with joy and care, and that every wedding is beautiful in its own special way. Over the years that I’ve been a wedding planner, I’ve come to specialise in smaller celebrations and destination weddings – I think this has been a very natural consequence of my focus on helping couples have a mindful planning journey, be present on the day, and curate every detail so that it really tells THEIR story. My work and ethos tends to resonate with couples who want their day to feel heartfelt, and who want to welcome their guests into an experience that is authentic and enriching. Travel has always been a huge part of my life, so I also love connecting with couples who want to take their nearest and dearest on an international adventure along with them! 

What I’ve learned supporting couples having micro weddings and elopements is that these smaller celebrations are a very unique kind of magic – with their own challenges but also their own immense rewards. I would love to share some tips and advice with you, which hopefully will inspire you to celebrate your way!

TIP #1 – Focus on your priorities

The key to celebrating in an intentional, joyful way is to identify what matters most to you, and to be really honest with each other: it’s all about finding your own definitions of luxury, adventure, and beauty. Your priorities might be to have great food, fantastic music, or breathtaking views – or maybe you adore flowers and want the day to feel like you’ve stepped into a wild garden. Whatever they may be, hold on to these must-haves, and let go of any expectations or external pressures. Just because you’re thinking of having a smaller wedding, that doesn’t mean you can’t have wedding “stuff” – like a gorgeous bouquet, a scrumptious mini cake, a hair and make-up artist to make you feel fabulous, custom vow books, and so much more – but you also don’t have to have any of that if you don’t want to. It’s really all about what is right for you. 

Rebecca Carpenter Photography

TIP #2 Hyper-personalise the experience

Small celebrations mean being able to create moments for memory-making with every single guest, and also investing a proportionately larger portion of your budget per person – which, if done in an intentional way, can be a recipe for a truly unforgettable day. Not only will your guests feel extra loved and appreciated, you’ll also be making time for YOU to truly experience the celebrations. Consider those elements that will make your guests feel truly looked after – and upgrade as much of the experience as your budget allows. Think about every part of the guest journey, and how you can enrich it with meaningful luxury: what can you do to make your guests feel as comfortable and welcome as possible? What unexpected surprises can you delight them with? What elements can you make unique to each guest? What will make you feel like you love where the money is going? If you’re foodies or wine lovers, curating a menu of fine food and drink pairings, or personalised dessert selections for example, is something every guest will be able to truly enjoy and remember – and that will forever remind them of you. 

Grace and Mitch Photography

TIP #3 – Widen your venue search

If you’re in the process of researching venues for your intimate celebration, broaden your search away from hotels and over to restaurants, hotel suites, galleries, gardens, wine bars, and cool private locations. Many of these will be able to offer you really unique spaces, with great indoor and outdoor options, as well as gourmet food and curated decor that won’t need much embellishment. If you’re open to hosting your intimate wedding on a weekday and out of peak season (i.e. not in summer) you’ll have an even broader choice of venues. Think about whether you have any favourite spots that you can share with your guests, or somewhere you’ve always wanted to go! Another option for small weddings is to use your own family homes or hire a private home – both of which give you great flexibility. Choosing a venue with enough accommodation for all your guests to stay together is easier when your guest list is smaller, and is a wonderful way to ensure the experience is even more cosy. There is just something about the complicity and intimacy of exploring a place together that will make you all feel emotionally closer and more present!

Rebecca Carpenter Photography

TIP #4 – Choose a meaningful destination

With a small guest list, you’ll have more agility to have a destination wedding, so definitely don’t rule that out! If there is somewhere you’ve always dreamed of seeing, or a favourite spot on the map that you know makes you happy, why not take your closest loved ones there to celebrate with you? Travel plans will be easier to coordinate when you don’t have many people joining you, and you’ll be able to genuinely enjoy being with your guests with all the excitement of an awesome holiday. Visually breathtaking landscapes can be one of the most exciting elements of an elopement, so definitely don’t limit yourself to places you’ve been, or places you know. Open that map up wide and think about all the different corners of our beautiful planet – follow the compass of YOUR excitement. My advice is to try to choose a place that is meaningful to you in some way – somewhere linked to a fond memory, a bucket list location, or an embodiment of the passions and hobbies you share as a couple. These are kinds of questions I ask my couples when I first start getting to know them, before setting off on a hunt for their perfect elopement location. 

Rebecca Carpenter Photography

TIP #5 – Use styling to keep it cosy and intimate

If you’re using a wedding venue space that is quite vast, and need to adapt it for a smaller guest list, you can add flair by using more considered design elements. Ideas for this could be: opting for dim and cosy lighting, using creative seating and table layouts, using part of the room as a sofa and armchair lounge, hiring in a gorgeous bar, and adding interactive food and drink stations. A large room can easily be divided into smaller spaces by using clever lighting, furniture clusters, fabric installations, and even some cute potted plants. For your ceremony, why not seat everyone in a circle around you, so everyone has the best seat in the house? When it comes to the design of your intimate wedding, consider all the elements that will create the ambience: tables, lights, plants, fabrics, music, scented candles, and much more. Your tables should have enough detail to tell your story, but enough breathing room that guests feel comfortable and cosy: give them plenty of elbow room, easy access to drink, and clear eye-level height to hold conversations. Low and lush flowers and candles are a great way to make tables feel luxurious and snug, as are textured and coloured linens. If you want to add to that wow-factor, ask your florist for some artful hanging installations, blurring that line between flowers and art. Dining on a long banquet table or a U-shape is a fantastic option for small weddings because this set up is more informal and inclusive, and also has a more modern and contemporary look than using multiple round tables. Small weddings allow you to go hyper-custom in a way that would usually be financially prohibitive for larger parties – so make the most of it by really curating every detail of your styling.

Rebecca Carpenter Photography

TIP #6 – Have a plan for the day

My advice is: consider the experience before the logistics. Think about what you love to share in your spare time together, what meaningful routines you have in your relationship, and all the little and big things that make you both happy. Make a list of things you would do if money was no object – and see if you can start identifying a pattern, and finding ways to incorporate those elements in a way that respects your budget. Having said that, I also recommend not to neglect the logistics altogether! Although you may feel that your small wedding isn’t on the same scale as a larger event, do make sure the flow and timeline of the day is still clear to everyone on the team – if you can, hire a planner or on-the-day coordinator to help you host a truly seamless experience for everyone. A good timeline helps tell your story, and excellent service is even more important and noticeable when the guest list is small. The social dynamics of a wedding day is very different when there are 200 guests, 50 guests, 10 guests, or maybe none if it’s just the two of you eloping – and it’s key to make sure the structure of the day reflects and honours that. 

Rebecca Carpenter Photography

TIP #7 – Invest in a fantastic team

On a wedding day with lots of guests, the suppliers you choose will be operating with lots of other staff members and people around. For example, a bride might have hair and make-up done while surrounded by a group of moms and bridesmaids, or photos might be taken while surrounded by hundreds of people. Inevitably, with a micro wedding or elopement, the relationship with the suppliers is much tighter and more close-knit. As a result, I always recommend trying to meet (or video call) your vendor team as much as possible before the day itself, so that when the day comes around, it feels like reuniting with friendly, familiar faces – and the intimacy of the day is preserved. If you live in the same country, meeting up with your hair and make-up artist for a trial is a wonderful idea, as is having a couple session with your photographer – so you can start getting to know each other, and preparing for who will be with you during that very special, personal moment. Throughout the planning journey, keep communicating with your planner and your vendor team frequently and openly. Work with them to curate the visual and practical experience that most resonates with you.

Rebecca Carpenter Photography

Bonus Tip

With an elopement or small wedding, working with experienced photographers and videographers is even more important – they need to know how to blend in, how to be unobtrusive, and how to become a part of the day that your guests remember fondly. Every single staff member is all the more noticeable when there aren’t many guests, and your photographer needs to be able to integrate seamlessly into that atmosphere of familiarity, intimacy, and joy. Hire a trusted professional who will capture the moments you’ll treasure most, in the most natural and genuine way. After all, you want your adventure to be captured in all its glory! These few days away together will feel like a dream, one that you will enjoy re-living for many decades to come. The friends and family that didn’t join you will find it especially heartwarming to be able to share in this experience with you through the photographs and videos, and you can use them to send out a little elopement or wedding announcement when you return as well, if you wish. When choosing your photographer and videographer, make sure to get to know their websites and galleries, watch their films, scroll their social media profiles, and read testimonials, so you really feel like their aesthetic and ethos aligns with yours – and if your location is a particularly isolated, do ask if they have experience shooting adventure elopements. Suggest a video call in which to get to know each other: clicking with them, having fun with them, and liking them is really key to your whole experience being positive.

John Hersey Studio Photography | Penton Park

Remember that whatever happens, this will be an unforgettable moment of togetherness, and you will share in whatever experiences the day has in store. My final piece of advice is to keep your mind and heart as open as you can, and see what comes. Enjoy every moment of having chosen a small, heartfelt wedding experience for you and your loved ones – for all the right reasons.

Jade Osborne Photography 

If you’d like any support planning and styling your micro wedding or elopement, or a celebration in a gorgeous destination, I would love to hear from you! And in the meantime I hope this post has brought you some joy, inspiration, and constructive food for thought.

Much love,


Discover more, and contact Valentina from The Stars Inside, via her website.  


Email: valentina@thestarsinside.com

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