Intimate Wedding Reception Ideas & Tips

This year (2022) a lot of our elopement couples ended up inviting some of their closest family members and friends. It seems like everyone was really happy to be able to share this day with their loved ones, and we ended up shooting more intimate weddings than ever! It was a blast. Days like these require a little more planning than elopements with just the couple, so I wanted to share some intimate wedding reception ideas with you guys!

Intimate Wedding Reception Ideas
How to Include Your Guests

Most of the intimate weddings we shoot still take part outdoors. Yosemite, Sequoia, Big Sur, etc. Which, a lot of the time means we’ll be hiking around with the couple at some point to get some epic shots and experience some amazing landscapes.

That also means we’ll be heading away from the guests for that amount of time, which can vary from 2-4 hours.

So how do you make sure they feel included in your day? Well, here are a couple of ideas:

  • Separate a couple of hours in your timeline to hang out with them

This can happen outdoors, usually right after the ceremony, with a picnic, for example! You can also plan a mini reception at a venue, hotel, or Airbnb – which we’ll talk more in-depth about later.

  • Make sure they know your plans for the day

Share your wedding day timeline with them, so they know exactly what to expect. They’ll know when you’re heading off to take pictures, where they’re supposed to go, and when you’ll be coming back! That way, they won’t feel lost.

  • Include some “traditional wedding elements” to your day

Cake cutting, toasts, first dances, etc. Not all wedding traditions have to go, and they don’t all have to be included as well. It’s whatever you want to do, and whatever you feel like your guests would enjoy as well!

Intimate Wedding Reception Ideas
Intimate Wedding Reception Ideas

Good news! Planning a wedding reception for 10-25 people is WAY less stressful than for 200 + guests. Even so, I know that it can be an overwhelming task. There are a couple of routes you can go through:

  • Book a hotel for the reception

Pros: hotels will probably already have a list of catering companies and coordinators that work there often. That way, you can basically just leave it up to them. Tenaya Lodge, for example, offers that kind of service, and this hotel is just 10 minutes from the south gates of Yosemite National Park.

Cons: depending on where they have the “reception room”, it might not be intimate enough, as other hotel guests might be able to walk by.

  • Hire a private chef to come to your Airbnb

This is something a lot of our couples have been doing! That way, they get to enjoy the outdoor part of their day without worrying about the logistics of the reception. The private chef/catering company will come to you, and they usually bring EVERYTHING they need, such as plates, glasses, etc. So you really don’t have to worry about anything and you can just relax and enjoy the end of the day!

  • Reserve a private area at a restaurant

Depending on where you’re getting married, that might be the hardest option. Near Yosemite for example, there aren’t too many options as far as restaurants go. But if you’re eloping near a town, it might be worth considering this option!

Intimate Wedding Reception Ideas
T+A Intimate Wedding Day in Yosemite – Best of Both Worlds!

T+A is a great example of how you can have the best of both worlds! They chose to have their first look and ceremony at Yosemite National Park. We also took all of the family pictures shortly after the ceremony and had time to drive around Yosemite with them, so they could get pictures in some of the most epic spots in the Valley!

After that, we all drove to their Airbnb, where they were going to have a reception with all of their guests – roughly 20 of them.

They hired an “all in 1” company, local to the area. They did the flowers, all of the decoration, and also the catering! I could not believe how amazing everything looked (and tasted) when we got there. They were able to transform a cabin’s deck into a little venue. It was such a cool and intimate atmosphere!

Catering, Flowers, Decoration, and Cake by: Cake Walk Yosemite

Check out T+A intimate wedding below!

Intimate Wedding Reception Ideas

I hope this blog has answered some of your questions and given you some ideas! Planning an intimate wedding can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be! You can still be outdoors and elope without excluding the important people in your life!

For more helpful articles on this subject, check out these guides:


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  1. […] We wrote a blog post specifically about how to plan a reception while still having an outdoor wedding in Yosemite. You should check it out here! […]

  2. […] T+A – intimate wedding + reception near Yosemite […]

  3. […] you might envision a day full of activities, a reception with your loved ones at the end of the day at a cool Airbnb, and even a next-day […]

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