Size is relative.
And given that we’re looking at weddings, size is especially relative when it comes to your… well… your relatives.
The number of people that constitute a small gathering depends on the amount of space you have to fill. 5 people in a broom closet? That’s a small gathering. 50 people in a broom closet? Arguably no longer a small gathering, but still, a smaller gathering than 100 people in the same broom closet.
It’s also true that the number of people at a “small” wedding will depend on factors like available budget and the complete pool of potential attendees.
For instance, if your combined pool of people who could and probably should be invited equals 300 people, but you can only afford to invite 100 – or you only want to invite 100 people, then you’re having a small wedding, because it’s only a third of the size it could be.
If your combined pool of people who could and should be invited equals only 50 people, and you invite all 50, you may be having a small wedding in terms of absolute numbers, but as a percentage of potential attendees, you’re having the biggest wedding you can.
So, really, we’re not kidding – small weddings are entirely relative.
Just in case you thought the definition of a small wedding wasn’t yet quite stretchy enough, there are cultural issues involved, too.
What some people might think of as a small wedding would equate to a family insult in some cultures – traditionally, some cultures have larger extended families, and extended family ties to go with them, so the notion of having a small wedding – close friends and family, say – becomes relatively meaningless in a hurry.
Why are we putting all these caveats in front of you when you’re just looking for a simple answer to a simple question?
Merely to explain that it’s not as simple a question as you might think, and that the simple answers of wedding magazine pages are not universally applicable. Try having a wedding of just 20-30 people in an Italian family, see how far you get before. Or an Irish family, come to that. Or an Asian, African, Jewish, etc etc.
Weddings are events that traditionally act as a gathering – and indeed, a merging – of the clans. If the clans are large and extensive, then getting anything even approaching a traditionally “small” wedding achieved is positively miraculous, but might also lead to seething family fault lines just bubbling below the surface for years.
“What? We’re not closer to the couple than Uncle Carmine who moved to Philadelphia and never so much as picks up the phone, but he’s on the list? Sure, that’s fair…”
But the point of all these exceptions and explanations is that there are established figures for what counts as a large, medium, and small wedding. It’s just that they don’t technically take real life or real family drama into account.
So what are the numbers you’re looking at?
In reverse order – a large wedding is regarded as anything over 150 guests. A medium wedding is anything between 60-150 people. And a small wedding is anything between 30-60 people.
So, in bald, wedding magazine terms, that’s the answer. Anything between 30-60 people and you’re classed as having had a small, intimate wedding.
Again, 60 people in a checkout line is never classed as a small checkout line – that’s practically Black Friday. But if you were at the back of a line 150 people long, you’d look at the line of 60 people and go “Hey – small line, I’m joining that!”
Relative size, you see?
We know what will have occurred to you by now. What if you just jump a flight to Vegas, take three witnesses and a dog, and get hitched in a wedding chapel? What then?
Well, again, good luck explaining that to the folks back home in most cases, but believe it or not, if you do that, you didn’t just have a small wedding.
Because you had a micro-wedding, that’s why.
Don’t blame us, we didn’t make the rules. Apparently, anything under 30 people goes through small and out the other side.
Now, micro-weddings may well be quite large enough for some people – again, the whole relative size thing makes most descriptions, if not meaningless, then certainly arbitrary.
But what if you have 600 cousins, aunties, uncles, real life friends, social media friends and work colleagues, and you want to have a small wedding?
There’s a new trend emerging, which to some extent was influenced by Covid-19, but which is proving to be a solution for the situation where you have a lots of people who want to celebrate your union, but only a small space or budget – or come to that, when it began, only a very limited number of people allowed in the same space!
That idea is known as a “sequel wedding.”
What that entails is essentially dislocating the wedding ceremony, so you have your 30-60 people in the room, with video conferencing set up so you can also broadcast the event live (or recorded) to the other 500 or so family members who want to be there.
You can choose the people actually in the room with you either on the basis of convenience, meaning, or even a kind of lottery, allowing say 10 family members, 10 colleagues, 20 friends, and so on.
That way, the audience viewing the event live feel at least that they’re part of the occasion, but you’re not paying for a wedding dinner for hundreds of people as you start out on your married life together.
Then, to add the second element in, you arrange a party for as many as want to come at a later date, when such a thing is feasible. That’s cunning, because it can simply involve booking a hall or bar, where the distance in time from your wedding means people can buy their own refreshment, but they still get to celebrate with you.
That way, you have a small physical wedding with a lot of family and friends support from those viewing online, and you keep the costs to a minimum, but you also get the pleasure of a big party at some point in the future for a fraction of the cost of booking a huge wedding venue.
Again, we say – size is relative. In the 21st century, even a small wedding can have a big party if it needs one – just not necessarily on the same day.