Guest Post: Why This Wedding Planner Says ‘Heck yes, and here’s how!’ to Small Weddings with Alex Fisher, Owner/Head Cheerleader of Lucky Penny Creative
Y’all, I’ve gotta be honest, yes...large weddings pay my bills. But if I could share one thing with the world on a universal level it would be this: intimate weddings and elopements are 10,000% allowed and amazing! And if you’re reading this right now, you’re probably in the same boat or looking to get on board.
I get it, giant weddings -- even 100 person weddings -- can be super overwhelming for some folks. Maybe because you’re introverted. Maybe because you’re working on a budget. Maybe because you’re just not a fan of big parties. Whatever the reason, I want you to know, it is completely acceptable to have an intimate wedding or elopement. My only suggestion: know your ‘why’ and know your ‘who’.
I’ve worked with hundreds of couples planning every shade of wedding you can dream up over the last 5 years of running our business and before we ever dive into napkin colors and photographer recommendations I always ask the following two questions:
“What is most important to you on your wedding day?”
“Who do you want to share that with?”
I know it seems funny and like a total no-brainer but the answers are sometimes surprising.
If you were born and raised in the U.S. within the last 50 years, your brain has probably been inundated with a million and one “must-dos” for your big day. The rabbit hole of Pinterest can be totally overwhelming to some. And I’m pretty sure we all have that one well-meaning friend or relative that “knows what they’re talking about” and has ideas for every detail of your wedding and absolutely no issues telling you about them. But let me be the one to reassure you -- none of that shit matters.
What you and your partner want on your wedding day does.
If you’re reading this blog and follow Chelsea’s work then you’re probably already seriously considering a more intimate wedding and my advice to you is the same as any other couple: I encourage you to make a list of ‘Must Haves/Non-Negotiables’ and ‘Would be Nices’ along with a list of things that totally do not matter to you in the slightest. And then I want you to own every single one of those desires while also remaining flexible. Because sometimes, shit just happens.
Once you have those lists, start putting dollar amounts to those Non-Negotiables. Or, at the very least, a percentage of your budget that you want to allot to each item. For example, if you desire the most delicious cuisine with perfect wine pairings and for the day to be beautifully photographed but you could care less about music -- put the majority of your budget into food, drink and photography and hook a spotify playlist up to a speaker system and call it a day!
I know, it’s more involved than that, but approaching your planning with that mindset can truly save you a lot of headaches along the way.
The beautiful thing about intimate weddings and elopements is that your budget has to stretch to far less people so you can really treat those special few to an incredible wedding experience while also staying in tune with your own desires as a couple.
I know what I’m about to say is absolutely easier said than done, especially if some of your budget is being provided by a family member or friend who may have some say in the guest list. BUT the one thing I really desire for every one of our couples is the knowledge that, if you really don’t want someone at your wedding, you don’t have to invite them. Plain and simple.
I am fully aware that this is really tough. Almost every couple we’ve worked with has struggled to make peace with who they’re inviting to the wedding. I completely understand. I was one of those people too. Family dynamics are tough and maneuvering them during wedding planning can be completely overwhelming sometimes. A friend of mine said it best (and so gracefully) when she shared, “I’m gonna have to go to therapy if I don’t invite my mom and I’m gonna have to go to therapy if I do invite my mom.” Either way, it’s going to be a little extra work on your part to attempt to stay sane. But at the end of the day, what matters most, is if you and your partner will be able to be present with each other the day of your wedding.
Which brings me to my final point regarding who you involve in your wedding: KNOW. YOUR. VENDORS!
You’re not just ordering cake and music and photos and a timeline -- you’re hiring all the people that makes those things happen. If you’re not jiving, it’s gonna feel funky. If you feel in any way not cozy with someone you’re looking to work with -- I’m talking gut reaction here, not just “oh my god, we’re paying this person a lot of money” not cozy -- it is completely okay to say “We’re going to keep looking.” and move along.
Ultimately, your wedding day should be a celebration of you, your partner and your coupleship. You deserve every bit of grace, joy and connection that a wedding day brings and your wedding crew should reflect that to you. Cheers to you and the process, my friend! And have a look at our Ultimate Intimate Wedding Checklist to get started on your planning!
Many engaged couples choose their wedding package based on pricing + their day-of timeline. Hopefully both, not one or the other!
I've got another reason to consider, what moments do you need your photographer to NOT miss?
Is Grandpa secretly a cryer? Do you have a group ready to dance their asses off at the reception? Or maybe it's definitely NOT a dancing group so you know late night won't be necessary. Envision the day and how you see it unfolding to really know what you want photographed!
I offer packages from 2 hour to 8 hour coverage for my small weddings because this takes care of all the bases. I'm happy to customize but it's nice to offer what most couples need from the get-go!
So let's look at how they each play out based on my experience with small weddings + elopements (for which I offer an hourly rate).
Covers the basics. For my 2 hour couples, we generally fit in a few getting ready or scenic photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits. Boom. Done. If you only need the basics and have a small group in attendance, this may cover your needs. Or maybe it feels too limited...
Covers the basics plus you get time for candids. For my 4 hour couples, we fit in a few getting ready + scenic photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits + candid moments.
I'll be honest, I'm trying to capture candid moments even if we're together for a 1 hour session. But during a wedding day, things can get hectic. If we're trying to make it all work out smoothly and find the best lighting and feel slightly rushed, I won't have the freedom for candids. Candids require some breathing room for the photographer to walk around and find unexpected moments.
For my 6 hour couples, we fit in getting ready + scenic photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits + a touch of reception fun + plenty of candid moments.
This is a great option for a multiple location wedding too! If we're having a ceremony on a mountain top and a reception downtown, it's likely you'll need to add in driving time to the timeline.
I consider the 4 and 6 hour options happy medium package that fit the needs of most.
For my 8 hour couples, we fit in getting ready pics of BOTH partners + scenic photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits + ROARIN' reception fun + plenty of candid moments.
If you're booking me for 8 hours, you likely have a larger wedding (I sneak those in sometimes) and/or you have a full timeline with multiple locations and activities that can't be missed!
Regardless of your best fit, I'll always ask for the most important-can't-miss-photos you are dying for + I ask for enough time to get couples portraits + I photograph the sweet details of the day. Those are non negotiable ;)
I'm always available to take a 2nd look at your timeline too, happy to throw in my 2 cents.
“Will you Photoshop this out?”
A common phrase we hear all too often.
Cultural standards on appearance have skyrocketed with social media. We all sit around thinking others look perfect and put-together all the time (no way, not true!). We get down on ourselves for being human and real. This is a problem I have to address and contemplate a lot as a photographer.
I think it’s time to draw boundaries when it comes to how we edit and the impossible standards of Photoshopping + Instagram filters + weird apps that alter your face in a photo (WHAT?!).
Let’s break down the most common scenarios:
Well I edit out your freckles? No.
Will I edit out that blemish that’ll be gone in a week? Yes.
Will I edit out scars? No.
Will I edit out grey hairs? Sometimes! If it's clear you're going for natural hair color then no and if it's clear that you color your hair to cover up the grey then yes.
Will I edit out wrinkles in clothing? As much as I can without turning your clothing into plastic ;)
Will I edit out that t-shirt stain that appeared after lunch? Yes.
Will I edit out the flyaway hairs? If they're distracting. If they're showing the wind blowing through beautifully, then no.
Will I edit out that piece of trash or water bottle near your feet? Yes.
Will I edit out that distracting tree branch, bugs flying by, stranger in the background? Yes. I have no problem editing out environmental distractions to an otherwise lovely photo.
Will I "fix" your stomach or arms? No, that's what posing + flattering clothes are for. More below...
Will I edit out your “double chin”? No but I will guide you into flattering poses under beautiful lighting. That being said, not every image gets set up for flattering angles.
If your spouse makes you laugh out loud or if he/she says something so sweet that your cheeks flush, I’m not worried about you looking like a model. I’m sending that pic your way because of that special moment.
How do I make those decisions and why does it matter?
1. I would have to charge twice as much to accommodate editing time for extensive and timely Photoshop requests. I'm not interested in offering that service but there are many out there that do!
2. I don’t want to perpetuate impossible beauty standards by making you look like anything other than you. We need to collectively work towards highlighting the beauty of all people, not highlighting the beauty of over-Photoshopped skin or mimicking celeb Insty posts. a Light touch-up here and there is as far as I go.
It’s hard to define your role in this as a photographer because it’s my goal that you enjoy your experience and the results.
When you're 80 years old and showing your wedding photos to grandkids, I want you to recognize your beautiful self from so many years ago. I want you to be reminded of exactly how you felt that day. I don't want you to look back on a plastic figure.
Hot tips for a photo session you'll feel great about:
One final thought: You're great just the way you are!
One of the hardest parts of photographing couples on their wedding day is if one or both of them gets stressed out.
Stress is an unfortunate part of the wedding day. It's why wedding planners are so awesome!
When you're hosting a small wedding or elopement, a planner may not be in the cards and it's likely you're getting a lot of hands-on help from family and friends. It's wonderful to see family helping you create a beautiful wedding but that alone can cause tension.
Things don't go to plan... rain happens, someone forgot the flowers, the vendor is running late and did I mention rain?
So many of my clients envision an outdoor wedding in the mountains. Rain is most common here in the spring (March-May) and then it's unpredictable the rest of the year.
So what's the plan?
1. When to check the weather: The weather changes like CRAZY here in the mountains. If possible, wait until 24-36 hours out to make the call.
2. It may only sprinkle or you can't wait any longer to decide: You have the decision of what's more important- peace of mind or being outdoors?
Some couples like to wing it and don't mind a little rain. Some couples can't be bothered with not-knowing. No right or wrong answer here, imagine yourself in each situation and choose the one that makes me you feel most at ease.
3. It's gonna rain: Are you going to let rain ruin this special day? Hell nah.
-Reschedule. Some weddings are small enough that it's possible to reschedule the whole thing to the day before or after. It's uncommon but I've had 2 couples go for this option in the past 2 years and I was able to work with the schedule change. You never know!
-Umbrellas. Maybe the rain is coming but it's not a downpour. Maybe you'll be outside on a patio/not a spot that'll get muddy... Worth investing in cute clear umbrellas for all your guests?
You can buy cheap throwaways or get quality umbrellas and consider them a favor to guests.
-Indoor venue. Can you move the whole thing indoors at the B&B you're staying at? At a local hotel? Air BnB? Friend's house? Studio space?
These options depend on your budget and number of guests so think stover ahead of time to save yourself stress during the week before the big day!
I've gathered up favorite resources that many couples could benefit from when planning a small wedding or elopement!
The internet is, um, big. So rallying resources in one helpful spot saves time!
Visit any of these websites that speak to you for inspiration, tips and insight - don't forget to follow them on social media too for even more goodness.
The larger names like Brides.com, The Knot, Style Me Pretty, 100 Layer Cake, Green Wedding Shoes (I could keep listing but I'll spare you) are easy to find and also have great resources. Don't discount them, give them a visit too! I just gathered the little guys that may not hit your radar.
BEST OVERALL RESOURCE
A Practical Wedding - Website and blog for the laid-back couple. Real advice that's helpful for those of us thinking we don't need to spend $15k on a wedding. The advice & etiquette section is my favorite but the whole site is helpful.
MOST BEAUTIFUL INSPIRATION
The Bridal Theory has been a longtime favorite of mine simply because their style is deep, romantic perfection! For major eye candy, follow them on Instagram for 'real wedding' dreaminess to motivate your own style.
BEST LBGTQ + FEMINIST RESOURCE
Catalyst Wedding Co. - I love this site because it shows the couples that aren't shown enough. Catalyst shines a light where we've needed a light to shine for so long! They have great articles, advice and inspo for everyone.
BEST ETHICAL RESOURCE
Black Sheep Bride - This team collects vendors and products best for those who care deeply about the source. They support companies that give back, have a smaller footprint and have a social conscious mission.
Modern Love for sweet stories from all walks of love life. This podcast is a quick listen - perfect for the car ride or while eating breakfast.
Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel for advice on hard topics from the ultimate pro. Esther's interviews on other's podcasts were popular enough to encourage her to launch her own. Where Should We Begin? is new so its a great time to catch up and stay subscribed for future shows.
We've got cover songs, original songs and entire albums to suggest for this Valentine's Day. And no genre is off limits but these tunes all blend well together.
Open up Spotify, press shuffle and enjoy!
Adele's cover of Make You Feel My Love (a Bob Dylan song)
Ala.ni - Ol Fashioned Kiss
Alina Baraz - just about any song on the Urban Flora EP but 4 are on this list!
Anthony Hamilton - Can't Let Go
Carla Bruni + Willie Nelson singing his song Crazy
Elle King - Wild Love
Janelle Monae + Miguel - Primetime
John Mayer's cover of Beyonce's XO
Justin Timberlake + Alicia Keys - Morning Light
Léon - Think About You
Muddy Waters - Sugar Sweet
Raphael Saadiq - 100 Yard Dash
The Roots + Erykah Badu - You Got Me
Son Little - Lay Down
702 - I Still Love You (an old school RnB jam from Pharrell's world)
Listen on Spotify now - Happy Valentine's Day!
Downtown Asheville has plenty of beautiful hotels and lofts (both pictured above) to create the perfect getting ready space on your wedding day. You'll want plenty of room for vendors, family and friends to stop in. Maybe this is the only part of the day you'll be downtown or maybe you'd like to hold the ceremony and reception in this area too...
Favorite downtown wedding venues:
Asheville Area Arts Council - minimal + artistic
The Asheville Masonic Temple - historic + cozy
Catawba Brewing - beer city + industrial chic (photos just below)
Altamonte Theatre - charming yet dramatic
The Orange Peel - laid-back + fun
Looking for a little bit of urban + nature for your wedding space?
Smokey Park Supper Club's Boat House sits right on the French Broad River and the location is in our River Arts District. The venue is a great mix for an outdoor venue.
Keep in mind that you can get ready in one place then carpool, rent a bus or drive up to the mountains for your ceremony.
You could also meet everyone in a beautiful outdoor spot for the ceremony then host a private dinner reception afterwards downtown! Check out my favorite restaurants with private dining spaces in this post.
Cheers to doing it your way!