Jocelyn and Steve had a simple wedding at a private rental home in the Malibu Canyons.

“From the get go, neither of us wanted a big wedding. Having been to many of them before, those weddings seem to be more about the spectacle than the actual ceremony. We wanted to do something special for us, and our families,” says Jocelyn.

With their dogs at their feet, the couple exchanged hand-written vows on a rooftop deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Following the ceremony, the couple, along with their 24 guests, enjoyed a gorgeous four-course gourmet meal cooked by a family friend.

The next day the couple held a BBQ for friends and extended family who weren’t at the wedding.

Thanks to Connie Lyu for the exquisite wedding photos!

Malibu rental house wedding

Jocelyn, 33 & Steve, 34

Malibu, CA

Wedding Date: October 8, 2011

Number of Guests: 24

Wedding Cost: $10,000

Wedding Ceremony Location: The rooftop deck of a rental house in the Malibu Canyons overlooking the Pacific Ocean

Wedding Reception Location: The great room of the house
pregnant bride and groom

Malibu rental house wedding reception
white wedding cake with chocolate ribbon and bird cake topper
neon tablecloth place setting
place setting with yellow flowers
malibu rental house wedding venue
malibu rental house wedding
white rose centerpiece
hydrangea flower centerpiece
purple hydrangea wedding centerpiece
mixed flower wedding centerpiece

Why did you have an intimate wedding?

First and foremost, it just seemed to fit our personalities. From the get go, neither of us wanted a big wedding. Having been to many of them before, those weddings seem to be more about the spectacle than the actual ceremony. We wanted to do something special for us, and our families. From there, it was a no brainer. We thought a long weekend with family, and a small ceremony would be perfect for us.
long wedding reception table
Malibu rental house wedding
malibu rental house

Malibu bride and groom kissing
bride in short lace wedding dress
black and white portrait of smiling bride
black and white portrait of groom
groom in blue and red striped tie
groom portrait

What are some of the challenges that you faced planning an intimate wedding?

Having divorced parents and step parents, the fear was, the more intimate, the more potentially awkward. We really had to remind each other that this event was about celebrating us. We realized as scary as it was, a lot was out of our control. We would set the stage and it would all unfold as it may. A big challenge was leaving out the few close friends or extended relatives that we may have wanted, but were faced with “we can’t invite this person and not this person”. This was a recurring problem that could have taken the guest list from 24 to 125 a few times. Since there was no wedding venue and no coordinator, everything was left for us to plan. The venue, rentals, decor, catering, planning the ceremony … it was a lot of work!! Especially at 5 months pregnant – intimate does not equal easy!

groom kissing bride on the head
pregnant bride in short lace wedding dress
pregnant bride and groom
bride and groom kissing in Malibu hills
bride and groom kissing
groom kissing bride on forehead
black and white bride and groom portrait

Was it difficult to pare down the guest list?

Once we decided we were inviting immediate family only – no.

bride hugging wedding guest
french bulldog wedding guest
babies in wedding attire

Did you have any ‘issues’ with the small guest list from friends and family? If so, how did you address them?

Because what we were doing was so unconventional, we had to remind those with questions that it was what we wanted. We found that a lot of people don’t often think out of the traditional “wedding box”. A small guest list gave us the freedom to have the wedding we wanted to have. I think it was hard for our family to grasp this concept at first, but they are all wonderful and very supportive. They all wanted us to have the wedding we wanted. We had a BBQ the next day where we were able to have those friends and extended family that we didn’t have at the wedding.

groom in green striped socks
bride wearing green chandelier earrings
bride wearing chunky pearl bracelet
short lace wedding dress
bride getting her make-up done
Malibu wedding guests
black and white bridal portrait
baby in wedding attire
groom climbing stairs

What were the highlights of the ceremony?

We had a civil ceremony. The reverend was a long time family friend who actually married Steve’s mother and step father four years ago. It felt small and special. We wrote our own vows and were able to read/cry them to each other. Everyone present had a close and special connection to us. There was not a dry eye in the house. Our dog slept in front of our feet through the ceremony.

dogs in bow ties bride walking down the aisle
Malibu balcony wedding
wedding ceremony on balcony of Malibu house
crying groom
crying bride
bride laughing during wedding ceremony
outdoor Malibu wedding
wedding guests on balcony wedding ceremony
bride and groom first kiss on balcony

What were the highlights of the reception?

The reception consisted of the four-course-gourmet dinner cooked by Nora, a friend. Everyone sat down and was served in a beautiful candle lit room just after sunset. We had one long table where it felt like everyone was celebrating and sharing in our joy with us.

cocktail hour crostinis
wedding dinner
wedding reception in Malibu rental house
Malibu wedding reception
Malibu rental house wedding reception
wedding speeches
guests at intimate wedding reception
birds and french bulldog cake topper

What was the best thing about having an intimate wedding?

Being able to really enjoy every single person present, their interaction with each other, and knowing that everyone there was celebrating our love. We were blending our families and it truly felt that way. I enjoyed including every one in the planning over the days leading up to the wedding day. The rental house acted as the “home base”. We had some family sleeping in the house and some in local hotels. Together, we spent a lot of time setting up, cooking, planning, and decorating. There was a lot of quality time and bonding.

guests on balcony wedding
wedding guests toasting the bride and groom
champagne toast
Malibu balcony wedding
Malibu wedding guests
dahlia wedding flowers
bread basket on neon tablecloth
Malibu balcony with twinkle lights
wedding reception prep
Malibu house wedding open bar
wedding caterer
wedding catering prep

What advice do you have for couples who are considering an intimate wedding?

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Your wedding should be what the two of you collectively want. You have to make the decision, go with it and have no regrets about it. The possibilities are endless. Have fun!!

bride and groom holding hands at reception


Cake: Hansen Cakes
Rentals: Classic Party Rentals
Rental Property:
Flowers: LA flower district
Catering: Nora Grazer Catering
Dress: Bloomingdales
Photographer: Connie Lyu

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13 Comments  |  Filed Under: Budget Weddings ($10,000 or less), Modern Weddings, Real Weddings

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  1. Posted by Jen on April 8th, 2012 at 11:34pm

    Love this. A small beautiful wedding with immediate family. Renting a house is a brilliant idea!
  2. Posted by shannon on April 11th, 2012 at 10:23pm

    This is seriously how I would do my wedding - if all the planets aligned and my family were able to fly. I've always wanted to rent a house in some fabulous location, get married with views behind us, and have a close intimate dinner with my immediate family.
  3. Posted by Rachel on July 28th, 2012 at 1:09pm

    This is the most beautiful wedding. Exactly what I dream my wedding will be like. Congratulations to the bride and groom.
  4. Posted by Arlene Stein on August 1st, 2012 at 4:06pm

    Can you tell me more about this vacation rental and possibly the VRBO number or contact info? Do you know what was the maximum number of guests allowed?

    Thank you,

  5. Posted by Christina on August 1st, 2012 at 9:10pm

    Arlene, I just emailed you the info.
  6. Posted by Allison on August 9th, 2012 at 9:12pm

    My fiance and I are also looking at planning a similar wedding! This looks wonderful! Would you mind also passing on the VRBO information to me as well?

    That would be so great! Thanks!!
  7. Posted by Brenda on August 15th, 2012 at 6:10am

    Hi Christina,

    I would love to know more about the rental property. Could you please forward me the information?
    Thank you and congrats on your beautiful wedding!

  8. Posted by Agatha on October 3rd, 2012 at 3:48pm

    What a beautiful location for an intimate wedding! Fiance and I are planning the same exact wedding but on the East Coast, and the rented house is the challenge, but once that's done everything else falls into place. Congrats on your beautiful wedding!
  9. Posted by Heather on October 22nd, 2012 at 12:35pm

    What a beautiful wedding! Love the location, please email me the rental information!
  10. Posted by Mitti on November 13th, 2012 at 1:05pm

    Gorgeous!! I'm looking into rental homes for my upcoming August wedding. I love the intimate feel. Please email me the VRBO listing!
  11. Posted by Sam on December 1st, 2012 at 2:33pm

    Beatuful wedding beatutiful setting.. Congrats!!

    How can I access this VRBO listing?
  12. Posted by Adina on December 3rd, 2012 at 5:10pm

    Can you please e-mail me the VRBO listing info as well? This is the exact wedding I want! :) Gorgeous!!
  13. Posted by Christina on December 3rd, 2012 at 8:47pm

    Here you go, Adina:
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