Julie and Robert, who live in Ohio, had plans to get married in Cleveland, but their plans changed when a close family member got sick.
“Sadly, Robert’s dad was diagnosed with cancer and he needed aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. We were originally planning to get married in Cleveland, Ohio, where we live, but Robert’s dad told us that he wouldn’t be able to travel during treatment,” says Julie.
Having Robert’s parents, who resided in North Carolina, attend the wedding was extremely important to the couple, so they brought the wedding to them.
“The travel plans of our guests were flexible and it was relatively simple to move a party of nineteen people across a few state lines. We were incredibly blessed to have all our family there to celebrate, even in the face of cancer treatment,” explains Julie.
Kudos to Winslow Picture Company for capturing this small wedding so beautifully.
Julie, 33 & Robert, 32
Location: Durham/Raleigh, North Carolina
Number of Guests: 17
Wedding Cost: $4,400
Location: Durham/Raleigh, North Carolina
Wedding Ceremony Location: St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church, Durham, NC
Wedding Reception Location: Vidrio, Raleigh, NC
Why did you have an intimate wedding?
We wanted to plan a wedding that was distinctly a celebration and confirmation of the relationship we already had, of the little “nontraditional” family we’d already begun. We didn’t want stress or fuss, just a day to reflect and focus and make our vows public. We discussed eloping and celebrating with friends and family after the fact, as we saw them in-person. And, basically, we decided that’s what we would do for most of our loved ones: to simply share a celebratory drink with them as we were able to see them individually! We asked our immediate family members and our closest friends (who would’ve been our “maid of honor”/“best man” if we’d had a traditional wedding party) to be witnesses to the wedding ceremony itself. Landry (Julie’s son/Robert’s stepson) was thrilled to be part of the planning process, and he told all his friends about the ice cream cake that would be at “his” wedding.
We were especially glad to have planned such a small wedding when, sadly, Robert’s dad was diagnosed with cancer and he needed aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. We were originally planning to get married in Cleveland, Ohio, where we live, but Robert’s dad told us that he wouldn’t be able to travel during treatment. Though Robert’s parents, who live in North Carolina, expected this meant that they wouldn’t be able to join us for the wedding, we were able to easily decide to move the wedding to them! The travel plans of our guests were flexible and it was relatively simple to move a party of nineteen people across a few state lines. We were incredibly blessed to have all our family there to celebrate, even in the face of cancer treatment.
What are some the challenges that you faced planning an intimate wedding?
The biggest challenge was moving our plans from Cleveland, Ohio, to Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina. But that ended up being relatively straightforward, thanks primarily to the fact that our original plan was to have such a small wedding. Our Episcopal priest in Cleveland was able to help us connect with an Episcopal church and priest in North Carolina, and we felt particularly embraced by a large ecclesiastical family! Working with the restaurant for the reception, Vidrio, was simply a pleasure, and it was great to know that all the details of the meal (and décor) were all set. I was nervous about my hair, but I decided to do it myself rather than try to find someone from afar. My Cleveland hairdresser did a trial/tutorial with me, and helped me find a style that I felt confident about doing on my own. (The one snag I hit was that North Carolina was way more humid – fuzzy hairs! – than Cleveland in December! But nothing hairspray couldn’t fix.)
All in all, any challenges we faced were minor because we were working with such a small group. And that allowed us to focus on the day itself and our loved ones who were able to celebrate with us.
Was it difficult to pare down the guest list?
I think there were certainly times when we thought, “Oh, I’d like to also share this day with so-and-so in addition to this group.” But it was easy to explain that we were keeping our list to immediate family members and our (would’ve-been-if-we-had-a-wedding-party) maid of honor/best man, and we didn’t appear to be playing favorites among other relatives or friends. (If you invite one particular-type-of-extended-relative, then really you need to invite all particular-type-of-extended-relatives!) And we were able to truthfully tell folks, “We’ll have a better individual celebration with you this way, since you won’t be one face in a hundred that we’re seeing all on one day!”
Did you have any ‘issues’ with the small guest list from friends and family? If so, how did you address them?
With such a small guest list, a higher percentage of guests ended up being five-years-old-and-under than in a typical wedding. But we set aside space for coloring books for the kids, and, in such an intimate group, the parents felt comfortable about letting kids wander among the other guests (all close friends and family, after all!). A wedding is about celebrating a family, and kids are often part of families, so it was a joy to have the little ones part of the party.
What were the highlights of the ceremony?
I loved walking into the church before the ceremony and seeing Landry blow us kisses from his seat. Landry was especially proud to be the “ring barrel” (despite all attempts to convince him that it is “ring bearer”).
What were the highlights of the reception?
At the restaurant, our niece Amelia (2.5 years old) promptly picked up a cocktail menu, opened it to the middle, and declared joyfully, “A story!” (A good story indeed!)
What was the best thing about having an intimate wedding?
It was just wonderful to be able to focus on the day itself instead of a billion little details.
What advice do you have for couples who are considering an intimate wedding?
Think about what you want your celebration to highlight, and don’t worry about trying to highlight anything else. Decide the two or three things that are most important to you (presence of family, photographs, your dress, etc), and splurge on those items. Be thrifty with everything else. Plan a day where you can really be in the moment. And remember that the smaller the wedding, the easier it is to be flexible when plans change!
Photographer: Winslow Picture Company, portraits photographed at Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Ceremony: St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church, Durham, NC
Reception: Vidrio, Raleigh, NC
Cake: Mama Bird’s Ice Creamery
Flowers: Fabulous Florals (online florist; bouquet arranged by the bride)
Hair/makeup/nails: DIY! …but I had a hair tutorial from Vivian at www.shawnpaulsalon.com and the nail supplies are from www.addsomepolish.com
Invitations/print: DIY (using Canva)
Website: Wix website builder