Make It A Mini

The joys of a small-scale celebration

Chris Miller

Count the minutes between when a new bride slips on her engagement ring and when she picks up a pencil to sketch out that first guest list (to be tweaked many times), and rarely is it many at all. The vision of being surrounded by an expansive sea of friends and family comes on fast and irresistibly to the newly engaged.

Then reality: the cost of catering, the complicated seating arrangements, the distance guests must travel, the limited one-on-one time you'll have to spend with each one. There are countless good reasons many couples choose to limit the guest list (and their stress and their credit card bills) and enjoy every minute of the big day in a closer, more intimate way.

While Palm Springs-area planners are happy to go wedding wild with an over-the-top lavish affair, many are even more thrilled when a couple comes to them with hopes for a miniature version of big-day bliss. Instead of sending an invitation to everyone you've ever met, give pause and picture inviting only your favorite people to stand by your side in one of the world's most relaxing vacation destinations.

Your best wedding ideas look even bigger and grander when you plan your celebration on a smaller scale. You'll stretch your wedding budget, spend more time with each guest, and be able to splurge in certain areas (book that knockout photographer to come back for an around-town afternoon a few days later or reserve a honeymoon villa with its own private pool), because you'll save so much in others. Intimate weddings offer a chance for true connection among your guests, long-lasting memories of moments and conversations, and genuine instead of posed photos. Consider these tips for a wonderfully small desert wedding.

Choose A Charming Venue.

Small weddings are perfectly suited to taking over an entire venue — whether a chic hotel or a private estate — and creating your own world. Gather poolside with those who mean most to you and settle in for an unforgettable weekend. Alternatively, wedding planner Cathy O'Connell of Celebrations of Joy suggests a nontraditional venue. "Book an art gallery, a museum, an outdoor locale in the heart of the desert," she says. "Small gatherings are more flexible and allow for the unexpected." With fewer guests, you can whisk them all away together — maybe they won't even know where they're going until they arrive!

Have A Pro Help You Plan.

Just because you have fewer folks on hand doesn't mean you want to leave the day's events to chance. A professional wedding planner will consider your wedding size and budget in setting her fee. As a savvy local, she'll also identify areas for cost savings and steer you to the smartest choices for your personality and price range. For straightforward events with little decision-making involved, Palm Desert-based events company Simply Celebrated specializes in all-inclusive wedding packages for groups of 25 to 50, all held at Desert Willow Country Club.

Mix Up The Menu.

Take the opportunity to express yourselves instead of trying to appease every palette. O'Connell loves it when a bride and groom go all out with a 12-course meal or host a wine-tasting reception with paired appetizers.

Thank Your Guests.

O'Connell says some couples enjoy planning a special gift or favor for their guests — custom napkin rings or other personalized favors. As an alternative, she says, "Write each guest a personalized note and leave it in their room or at their place setting." Your thoughtfulness serves as a sweet reminder that they weren't only invited to your wedding, but also to a sweet reminder that they are an appreciated part of your life well beyond your wedding day.

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