For all the soon-to-be-married couples out there, I have one blunt but important thing to say: No matter how you choose to get married, remember that you control the guest list. 

On your wedding day, whether you’re opting for a larger destination wedding venue with a handful of loved ones or a smaller but luxurious venue with just a few close folks by your side, it’s important that everyone who’s with you is just that–with you.

You deserve unending support, infinite love, and a conflict-free, problem-free, stress-free wedding day experience. 

If you have someone on your guest list who’s putting any of those feelings on the fence, my best and most honest advice is this–consider leaving them off the invite list. 

Your wedding day is about you two and you two alone–it’s important to let it be just that.  

I am an enormous proponent of inviting your loved ones to your wedding–your dearest friends, your closest family members, and the people in your life who make you feel safe, loved, and blissfully happy. It’s the people who pop into your head when you read that previous sentence that should snag a spot on that guest list of yours. 

If you’ve got a list in mind of those you want to invite to your small wedding or elopement but want to make absolutely certain they understand how the day should go, this blog is the perfect place to direct them. 

This guide is for you, of course, but mostly it’s written for those people you can’t wait to send your wedding invitations to.

A micro wedding ceremony taking place at sunset on a rocky cliff overlooking the desert landscape in Moab Utah.

Pictured: An April micro wedding at sunset in Moab Utah.

Your Guide to Being the Best Small Wedding Guest 

So, you were lucky enough to be invited to a non-traditional wedding? 

First things first, this calls for a celebration. Your loved ones are getting married, and they chose you (yes, you!) as someone they’d like to stand by them as they embark on the most beautiful adventure of their lives. That gesture? It’s the best gift they could ever give you.

In return, you can give them an invaluable gift–being the absolute best small wedding or luxe elopement guest possible

If you’re new to the non-traditional wedding world and aren’t sure how this day might go, this blog is the jumping-off point you need to get your bearings. 

All of the points we’ll go over matter, but if you’re looking for the ultimate tip to being a supreme small wedding guest, remember that, above all, you should act as a rallying team of support, love, and positivity for the couple before, during, and after their day. 

That’s truly the easiest and most appreciated way to be the best elopement guest possible.

Bride and groom standing across from one another on a sand dune with  the rocky Oregon coast behind them during their intimate wedding ceremony.
Grandpa and grandma to the bride congratulate the bride with joy following her intimate wedding ceremony on a sand dune overlooking the rocky Oregon Coast.

Pictured: An August micro wedding on the Oregon Coast, Cannon Beach. Flowers by The Slow Cult.

What You Should Do as the Best Small Wedding or Elopement Guest 

Embrace the beauty of the celebration 

Likely, if you’ve been invited to a non-traditional wedding, you’ve made a curated and cherished list of people who are trusted and appreciated. In case you weren’t sure, that’s a big deal and something you should be proud of. The people in your life who are tying the knot thought long and hard about who would support them intentionally and wholeheartedly– and your name made the cut. 

Be Their Biggest & Most Supportive Fan 

The couple’s happiness on their wedding day is the top priority. Even if the way they’re choosing to get married isn’t the way you might choose, your support and encouragement are precisely what they’re looking for. So, what can you do? Embrace the non-traditional. Bask in their unique decision. Support every second of their day and have a great time doing it. 

Show up In Style 

Whether you’re attending a destination wedding, a luxe elopement, or a one-of-a-kind intimate wedding, it’s likely the couple you’re supporting has put time into the details of it all. If the hosting couple has a specific theme or vibe for their wedding, one of the best things you can do is embrace that theme with your personal style. 

Does the welcome party theme mirror the location of the destination wedding? What kind of decor does the couple have in mind for their wedding? If they’ve shared details with you–what do they look like? What do they feel like? 

If there’s nothing specifically outlined, take cues from the invitation or wedding website. What’s the aesthetic they’re after for their luxe wedding? Does there seem to be a recurring color palette? You can always ask the couple–what’s the vibe of the wedding and is it encouraged to embrace it with my own wardrobe, style, and personal touch? 

From experience, I can say that nothing feels quite so joyful as a couple seeing their guests embrace their unique style, notice the intricate details of their day, and play up their wardrobe to seamlessly blend with it all. 

Do Your Research 

Never been invited to an intimate wedding or an elopement? That makes this first experience so special–for your favorite couple and for you. Don’t be afraid to dive headfirst into research to get a little insight into what you can expect. Spend time looking up the area and the venue the couple chose, as if you’re going on a vacation somewhere new.

Research what the venue is like and what you can expect while spending time there. Google the weather in the location the couple has chosen–what do you need to bring to be prepared? Do some research on what an elopement or small wedding is in the first place–

A bride and groom and their bridal party stand at Glacier Point overlook in Yosemite National Park during their micro wedding ceremony, half dome looming in the background.

Pictured: An October micro wedding with a bridal party in Yosemite National Park.

Understand & Abide By Leave No Trace Principles 

Depending on where the couple has decided to get married, you may  need to know a thing or two about Leave No Trace principles. These seven principles act as a framework for how to respect the outdoors and minimize your impact when adventuring outside. 

They include elements like respecting wildlife, disposing of waste properly, leaving what you find, and more. These principles are musts for any wedding in the beautiful outdoors, but they’re also crucial for enjoying and experiencing the planet in any capacity. 

If you’re just learning about these principles, make sure you thank your favorite couple for giving you an avenue and a reason to learn even more about appreciating and respecting nature. 

Make the Destination an Adventure 

Above all, you’re there to support the couple getting married–but that doesn’t mean it can’t be an adventure for you, too. When couples choose to get married in unique and exciting places, there’s usually a destination wedding element to it. As a guest, I encourage you to embrace this wholeheartedly. 

Take the opportunity the couple is giving you to extend your trip, explore on your own, and absorb the beauty of the spot they’ve chosen to get married. 

This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime kinds of experiences (though I sincerely hope you’re invited to more than one elopement or intentional wedding), so channel your inner optimism, relax, and lean into the beauty of the adventure you get to be a part of. 

Be Vocal & Helpful 

It’s OK (and often appreciated) to see if a couple would like help on their day. Make sure they know you’re down for anything, willing to lend a hand, and happy to help where needed. 

On the flip side, if you offer help but they have everything under control, listen to them. They’ll appreciate your offer and take you up on it when needed–otherwise, enjoy the day alongside them. 

Ignore the Cameras–Melt into the Moments 

Unless a wedding photographer asks–or during a formal portrait session–feel free to ignore the cameras. Be yourself, don’t worry about what’s being captured, and allow yourself to feel and experience everything authentically. 

An intimate wedding is all about the couple being able to let genuine moments unfold without the need to perform for anyone. That applies to the guests, too. Allow yourself to be candid, don’t worry about looking a certain way, and forget posing–this is about the authentic experience of a couple’s intimate wedding day.

A couple exchanges vows in front of a small group of loved ones on private property in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.

Pictured: An April mico wedding on private property in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. Event design & florals by The Slow Cult, rentals from Arden Event Collective and Lily & Cane, and hair and makeup by Alyssa Underwood.

What You Should Not Do as a Small Wedding or Elopement Guest 

Just as there are ways to be a positive, uplifting wedding guest, there are some go-to moves for dampening the experience, too. My best advice? Avoid doing these kinds of things to uphold that “best wedding guest ever” title. 

  • Inserting non-supportive opinions: Remember, it’s not your wedding day, and you’re endlessly lucky to be included in this. Eloping or planning a small and intentional wedding isn’t everyone’s choice, and that’s OK. But just because you might do something differently doesn’t mean the couple needs to hear about it. 
  • Crossing over from helpful to overbearing: It’s absolutely appreciated if you want to offer your help to the couple–but if they tell you they’re good, they’re good. Don’t add additional stress by being overbearing, even if it’s rooted in good intentions. 
  • Participating in cat-herding behavior: Have you ever heard the expression “it’s like herding cats?” People use that phrase when they’re trying to describe something difficult. Don’t be a cat; do your very best to make everything seamless, easy, and joyful for the couple during their wedding. 
  • Focusing solely on your experience: This day is all about the couple–so make sure you’re shifting the focus to them. We’re all human, and we all tend to put our own experiences first. Make sure that on their wedding day–and the days surrounding it–you’re elevating their experience above all else. 

Sharing a less-than-positive opinion about the weather: Smaller outdoor weddings, luxe elopements, and destination weddings are all unique, but they usually share something wonderful: the couple has chosen a stunning, one-of-a-kind venue that blends the beauty of nature and architecture. Sometimes, this carries a certain degree of risk when it comes to the weather. If the conditions are less than favorable, a couple can still have an authentic and meaningful day–it’s all about the attitude they go into it with. In the same way, guests should temper their perspectives, too. Even if things don’t work out the way you pictured, keep things positive and avoid complaining. Your support means everything to the couple.

The chairs and white flowers that makeup a micro wedding ceremony set up at the Hanai Center in Bend Oregon.

Pictured: A June micro wedding at Hania Center in Bend Oregon. Wedding management by Ponderosa Planning, Flowers by Eryn, rentals from Curated Events, and hair and makeup by Bri Berliner.

Your Wedding Day Belongs to You–I’m Here to Capture Each Moment

Couples who are beginning to plan their elopements or small weddings, I hope this blog can guide you in the direction you’re seeking. Remember, each moment of your day has the potential to be intentional and authentic–honor yourselves, honor your vision for the day, and honor what you deserve by choosing guests who respect and support the wedding you’re chasing. 

Every moment of your elopement day or intentional wedding day counts–and the people you invite are a big part of that. In the same way, how you remember that day and how you relive those moments is an important part of that, too. 

If you’re seeking a small wedding or luxe wedding photographer who understands the balance of images that reflect the beauty of your day, the importance of support and encouragement, and the necessity of capturing the way your wedding truly felt, I’m here to help. 

How to be the Best Small Wedding & Elopement Guest

Jun 13, 2024