If you're getting married in the next 6-12 months you’ve probably spent time agonising over your options. You may be 100% committed to your large wedding and prepared to wait. Or you could be wondering whether to consider downsizing to a small wedding that can go ahead within the restricted rules of Covid-19, possibly in combination with a much larger celebration a year or two ahead.
Is this your dilemma? Then read on!
When the Coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, first reared its ugly head in the UK, every Spring 2020 wedding was thrown into jeopardy literally overnight. With April, May and June being three of the busiest months for weddings, my inbox immediately filled with variations on the following:
"Hi Jenny, we're so, so sorry, but we're having to postpone our wedding.
We are hoping against hope that you are available for one of the new dates
our venue has offered us...."
I, like every wedding photographer, venue and supplier around the world, grabbed the diary and quicky rescheduled those Spring weddings. Without the benefit of hindsight, many couples optimistically chose dates in Summer or Autumn. I lost a few as they were understandably holding out for Saturdays wherever possible, and my Summer Saturdays were long gone. It was tough, I'd got to know them and was already wholly invested in their special day. The impact of those cancellations was far more than just financial.
But then sometime around late Spring, early Summer, things changed.
Small wedding Lewes, East SussexBridesmaids playing around with bouquets outside Lewes Registry Office before small wedding during Covid-19 pandemic.
As the reality of the situation started to take hold, the rollercoaster we were all on started to take new twists and turns. For me, some of the lows became highs again, as couples postponed for the second time, typically to 2021 or even 2022, and several were able to return to me as clients. And at the same time, along came a new chapter in the story: the small wedding.
According to Hitched, a small or intimate wedding has around 30-60 guests, and a micro wedding less than 20. However, with all weddings in England restricted to a maximum of 30 since the end of March 2020, and as I write, just 15, these terms have all been used largely interchangeably.
Having already waited two years or more for their special day, some couples decided they just wanted to get on with it. Yes, they'd probably still have their 100-strong guest celebrations the following year, but for now, the priority was to get married. Alongside the postponement emails, a new request popped into my inbox:
"Hi Jenny, we'd still like you to photograph our rearranged big day in 2021 as agreed, but we're planning a small ceremony in a few weeks' time - is that something you'd consider
capturing for us?"
Absolutely, I wouldn't miss it for the world! And within the space of a few short weeks, my diary for July to October went from eerily empty to seven intimate weddings.
With many wedding photographers having not picked up a camera since March, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been invited to capture these weddings. I've been able to reassure many of my future couples thanks to my positive experience, and thought it could be helpful to share my beind-the-scenes peek into small weddings more widely. If even one couple feels more relaxed about the prospect of downsizing their special day, then it was definitely worth doing!
Small wedding 2020 Walton CastleHappy bride getting ready for her small wedding at Walton Castle, Somerset.
If you’re planning to downsize, you may be wondering whether you need a professional photographer for your circa 15 people ceremony. Maybe you’ll just invest in the photography for the larger cerebrations you’ll be having in a year’s time. But it’s still your wedding. Coronavirus or not, the day you get married will always be special and worthy of memories to match.
From my point of view as a wedding photographer, before this Summer I had two misconceptions about micro weddings, and especially those with less than 10 guests:
Misconception 1: There won’t be much to photograph
I figured that with a short ceremony (no readings allowed) and just a few family members attending, I'd be finished within a couple of hours max. Not so! 4-6 hours (9 in one case!) and many, many photos later, I headed home.
For the most part I was there to capture the bride – and sometimes the groom – getting ready. And celebrations after the event ranged from a few socially distanced conversations, to confetti and a glass of bubbly, to speeches and a sit-down meal. One of my couples even managed a First Dance!
The Coronavirus guidelines varied from week to week, among postcodes, venues, registrars, indoors or outdoors, church, barn or castle…. And a lot of it came down to how individual suppliers – and the wedding party themselves – felt best able to manage risk within the guidelines.
There were virtual hugs, masks, family bubbles, and even friends who'd chosen to self-isolate beforehand to minimise risk. A combination of common sense and robust social distancing rules applied by the venues kept everyone safe, and I soon became comfortable capturing indoor ceremonies wearing a mask. Happily, the weather obliged for the most part, and much of the celebrations were held outdoors under sunny skies.
In any case, there was certainly no shortage of things to photograph. My couples from those weddings with less than 10 guests still received upwards of 350 photos!
Small wedding Long Furlong Barn SussexGreat expression behind the mask as Best Man opens the box to present the ring to the bride. During a small, socially-distanced wedding ceremony at beautiful Long Furlong Barn in West Sussex
Misconception 2: There won’t be much opportunity for documentary photography
The second thing I was concerned about was my ability to capture these weddings in my own style of mostly documentary photography, i.e. genuinely unposed moments captured candidly. I figured that hiding unobtrusively would be a tad difficult in a crowd of seven. Turns out I was wrong about that too. People quickly ignored me and the camera and just got on with it. Just as they would with a much larger wedding.
To keep socially distanced I made more use of my long zoom lens than I would normally, allowing me a) to stand back and b) to compress elements in the scene, thereby rendering distances between people visually smaller. My wide-angle lens was used more for scene setting shots rather than getting up close into the thick of things as I would generally do in more normal times.
But the emotion was there (heightened by the intimacy and Covid-related stress leading up to the day) and the moments still happened. I had just as much fun as I always do finding creative ways to capture them.
Small wedding Walton Castle SomersetCandid black and white image of Bride's veil lifting up in wind during wedding ceremony at Walton Castle in Somerset/.
To give context to the images in this blog, they were all taken from the seven small weddings I photographed between July and October in 2020, with numbers ranging from just six people in total through to thirty. In fact, only one of my couples was able to have thirty on their special day (the church wedding), the rest were all fewer than fifteen.
The 50 images (well, there may be a couple more, as I couldn't decide which to leave out!) tell the collective story of these couples' wedding days, beginning with the bride and groom getting ready, and continuing through to the ceremony and celebrations, and into the evening.
Whilst I also captured family photos and couple photos at all of these weddings, I have deliberately chosen only unposed, documentary photos to illustrate this blog. I hope to reassure couples considering a small wedding that they can still have high-quality, relaxed and unobtrusive documentary style photography, even with a small number of guests.
A huge thank you to my 2020 couples for allowing me to share these images and for their lovely testimonials which you can read in amongst the photos below:
Small wedding Walton Castle in 2020Groom and Best Man getting ready for Micro wedding in 2020 during Covid-19 pandemic at Walton Castle Somerset Lewest wedding SussexBride and bridesmaids getting ready for small wedding ceremony at Lewes Registry Office. Covid-19, socially distanced micro-wedding Small Long Furlong Barn wedding SussexBride spraying hairspry whilst getting ready with bridesmaids for small wedding ceremony at Long Furlong Barn. Socially distanced micro-wedding during Covid-19 pandemic. Small wedding Walton Castle 2020Groomsmen get ready for small wedding at Walton Castle in Somerset. Small wedding Sussex 2020 during Covid-19 pandemicFlowergirl has a twirl in her dress during the bride's preparations before her Sussex church wedding. Small wedding Lewes East Sussex 2020Bride's parents getting ready for small wedding ceremony at Lewes Registry Office. Covid-19, socially distanced micro-wedding Small wedding Walton Castle in 2020Groom and groomsmen prepare for a small wedding at Walton Castle, Somerset during Covid-19 Pandemic Small wedding Walton Castle 2020Maid of Honour helps bride get into her wedding dress before wedding at Walton Castle in Somerset Small wedding Long Furlong Barn Sussex 2020 during Covid-19 pandemicBride getting ready with bridesmaids for small wedding ceremony at Long Furlong Barn. Socially distanced micro-wedding during Covid-19 pandemic.
"Oh my goodness WE LOVE THE PHOTOS SO MUCH ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️
thank you thank you thank you!!!!!!!!
they are INCREDIBLE!"
From when we booked you, to when we moved our date, to when we booked our micro wedding you have been so accommodating, understanding and organised.
We loved our engagement photo shoot - you made us feel so at ease.
On the wedding day my whole family commented on your professionalism - we loved the candid shots you took. You managed to capture moments of our wedding we didn’t even know had happened along with moments that tell funny stories and anecdotes! You are a true magician with a camera and got the most beautiful shots. We will treasure them forever.
We loved the package we received with our wedding photos and loved showing our families the photo reel.
So so so pleased we chose you as our wedding photographer and will highly recommend you to our friends! Can’t wait to use your amazing skills again (hopefully) in 2021!
Beckie & Adam, Long Furlong Barn
Bride before Small wedding Sussex 2020Bride in her dress ready to leave home for her Sussex church ceremony. Small wedding Walton Castle in 2020Candid arial photo of a guest arriving for small, socially-distanced ceremony at Walton Castle during Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Bride getting on vintage bus to small wedding SussexBride helped by Maid of Honour gets on board vintage bus to travel to her church wedding in Sussex. Small wedding Walton Casle 2020Usher checks his phone before socailly distanced ceremony at Walton Castle Somerset during Covid-19 pandemic. Small wedding Walton Castle in 2020Candid photo of bride going down stairs to her small wedding at Walton Castle in Somerset. Woodland wedding at Two Woods Estate in West SussexFlower girl holds bride's dress as they walk to the outdoor ceremony entrance at Two Woods Estate in West Sussex
"We are so happy we chose Jenny to capture our wedding which ended up
being caught up in the Covid-19 pandemic!
The day wasn’t what we planned but we had what was important to us and that included Jenny as our photographer. She captured the day so
naturally and beautifully.
We are very thankful to the suppliers we had - it made the day what it was.
Thank you Jenny - if you want beautiful but natural photos to tell the story of your day, Jenny is your photographer!"
Stacie & Russell, Two Woods Estate
Small wedding at Two Woods Estate, West SussexUnique woodland wedding venue, Two Woods Estate in West Sussex. Candid photo of outdoor wedding conducted by celebrant Claire of Creating Ceremony Small wedding Long Furlong Barn 2020Mother of the Bride and Mother of the Groom talk to each other behind masks as they prepare to sign the wedding register as witnesses. Small, socially distanced wedding held during the Covid-19 pandemic at beautiful venue Long Furlong Barn in West Sussex Small wedding Walton Castle 2020Bride and her Dad walk down the aisle from entrance to castle. Small, socially distanced wedding at Walton Castle during the Covid-19 pandemic Small wedding Long Furlong Barn Sussex 2020Guests wearing masks during socially-distanced wedding ceremony at Long Furlong Barn in West Sussex. Wedding held during Covid-19 global pandemic in 2020. Brighton Bandstand small wedding 2020Just married couple are congratulated by the registar at their outdoor beach wedding on Brighton Bandstand. Small wedding Walton Castle SomersetBride's Dad gives her away during beautiful Autumn outdoor ceremony at Walton Castle in Somerset. Small wedding Lewes East Sussex 2020 during Covid-19 pandemicCouple married at Lewes Registry Office during Covid-19 pandemic are unable to exchange rings during the ceremony. So they hold a mock ring exchange outside conducted by their bridesmaid and witnessed by family and friends. Small wedding Pangdean Barn West Sussex in 2020Lovely informal moment of guests laughing with bride and groom during their small, socially-distanced wedding ceremony at Pangdean Barn near Brighton in Sussex Small Two Woods Estate wedding in West SussexCouple exchange rings during their small woodland ceremony at Two Woods Estate in West Sussex Small church wedding Sussex during Covid-19 pandemicGuests wearing masks and socially distanced in church pews at small wedding in Sussex during the Covid-19 pandemic Brighton Bandstand wedding SussexBride and groom share laughter after signing the register at their Brighton Bandstand wedding Small wedding Long Furlong Barn Sussex in 2020Happy moment as the Bride walks up the aisle with her Dad at their Long Furlong Barn wedding in West Sussex. Small wedding Walton Castle in 2020Candid photo of bride and groom exchanging rings at Walton Castle in Somerset. Image taken from inside castle entrance, and framed by the doorway and chandelier. Small Brighton Bandstand weddingJust married couple kiss during their small ceremony on Brighton Bandstand. Atmospheric black and white image capturing the emotion of the special moment Small wedding Lewes SussexCouple married at Lewes Registry Office during Covid-19 pandemic are unable to exchange rings during the ceremony. So they hold a mock ring exchange outside conducted by their bridesmaid and witnessed by family and friends.
Thank you so much for our beautiful photos! We absolutely love them and the video of the selection of photos was just amazing (I even cried!).
You captured so many moments that we hadn't even realised were caught on camera. Seeing the photos has made us very excited to do it all again next year and we're so pleased you'll be there.
Lisa & Andrew, Pangdean Barn
Small wedding Pangdean Barn West Sussex 2020Happy moment captured of the pageboy clapping to congratulate his parents, the bride and groom, on their marriage. Wedding ceremony and celebrations at Pangdean Barn near Brighton in West Sussex Small wedding Lewes Registry Office SussexCouple cheer to bridesmaids waiting outside as they exit Lewes Registry Office after their small wedding ceremony. Owing to social distancing, the bridesmaids and photographer weren't able to attend the actual ceremony. Small church wedding Sussex during Covid-19 pandemicVicar and guests clap as bride and groom exit the church after their socially-distanced small wedding in Sussex. Small wedding Pangdean Barn WPJA Gold awardAward-winning photo of pageboy laughing as he throws confetti over the bride and groom at their Pangdean Barn wedding in 2020. This image received the highest accolade of Gold Award from the Wedding Photojournalist Association (WPJA) Virtual hug at Two Woods Estate wedding Small Brighton Bardstand weddingGroom and two groomsmen pop the champagne over a table tennis table on Brighton seafront after the couple's small wedding at Brighton Bandstand. Small wedding Lewes Registry Office SussexConfetti is thrown over bride and groom as their exit the ceremony at Lewes Registry Office. Small wedding Walton Castle Somerset 2020Bride laughing after confetti throwing at small, socially-distanced wedding at Walton Castle in Somerset. Outdoor, micro wedding with just 14 guests held during Covid-19 global pandemic. Small Brighton Banstand weddingInstead of confetti, guests throw shingle at small family wedding on Brighton Bandstand, with celebrations held on Brighton beach. Small wedding at Two Woods Estate, West SussexBride pops the champagne just after getting married in an outdoor ceremony at Two Woods Estate in West Sussex. Bride kisses dog WPJA AwardAward-winning photo of bride kissing her dog at her Sussex church and marquee wedding. This image, taken in 2020, received an Award from the Wedding Photojournalist Association (WPJA) Small wedding Walton Castle SomersetBride's Dad toasts the newly married bride and groom with pink champagne following their outdoor wedding at Walton Castle in Somerset.
We wanted to say a massive thank you to you for our wedding photos.
We were completely blown away by the presentation of the USB and it really is something for us to treasure. We were so impressed at that point and we hadn’t even got to the photos yet!
We started with the video as you recommended and it made us both laugh and cry and it’s such a lovely thing to share with others who weren’t at the event. It really tells the story of the day.
We really love all the photos and some of our favourites are those where we just didn’t know they were being taken at all. We particularly love the picture of the boys with the ‘no alcohol’ sign in the foreground! Who knew!
Everyone’s really complimented the photos so we did just want to let you
know how pleased we are with them.
Thank you again and take care,
Emma & Dan, Brighton Bandstand
Small wedding Long Furlong Barn SussexHappy unposed capture of groom and his friend outside in the grounds of beautiful Long Furlong Barn in West Sussex. The couple were married in a small, socially-distanced wedding in 2020 during the Covid-19 global pandemic Small church and marquee wedding Sussex in 2020Groom's speech at small church and marquee wedding Small wedding Pangdean Barn West SussexCandid photo of Bride and groom playing with their pageboy son at their wedding reception at Pangdean Barn near Brighton in West Sussex Small Brighton Bandstand weddingGroom's siblings having fun on Brighton beach after the couple's intimate family wedding on Brighton Bandstand Small wedding Sussex 2020 during Covid-19 pandemicBest man and groomsmen laughing after wedding ceremony. Small church wedding in West Sussex held during covid-19 global pandemic Small church and marquee wedding Sussex in 2020Candid photo of page boy playing with balloon at small church and marquee wedding in West Sussex Small wedding Walton Castle 2020Bride and guests laughing at groom in a happy moment captured just after their small outdoor ceremony at Walton Castle in Somerset. Small wedding Pangdean Barn West Sussex in 2020Bride, groom and Mother of the Bride enjoying the go-karts at their wedding reception at beautiful Pangdean Barn near Brighton in West Sussex Small wedding Walton Castle SomersetBride and Groom are joined by guests on the dancefloor at the end of their First Dance within one of the castle turrets at Walton Castle, Somerset.
After finally looking through the photos (Stefan missed the postman on Friday!) we owe you a huge thank you.
You have managed to capture all the truly special moments of our long-awaited Wedding day. Every photo shows the utter joy on our families' faces as they finally saw us become husband and wife.
They tell the story of the day so perfectly, capturing all the little moments I wanted to remember. These will be treasured forever, especially so because everything was so different from what we'd planned, yet it ended up being so perfect.
Thank you again for everything you've done for us - we couldn't be happier.
Ruth and Stefan, Walton Castle
Small wedding Walton Castle in 2020Candid photo at dusk of bride going up steps into castle after her small wedding at Walton Castle in Somerset.
Thanks for taking a peek at my Wedding Stories blog, I hope you found it inspiring. If you're planning your wedding, I wish you all the best for your special day, whatever size your final guest list.
Not got your photographer yet? If you'd like to check my availabilty and find out more, please do get in touch! In these unusual times, I'm literally taking bookings for last minute small weddings in Winter 2020, through to much larger weddings in 2022 and 2023. And if you're Sussex or Somerset based, you'll find all the fantastic wedding suppliers featured in this blog below. I wholeheartedly recommend each and every one.
Happy wedding planning!
(Where known. Some couples opted for DIY or were helped out by family friends for some elements of their wedding)
Long Furlong Barn, nr Worthing (West Sussex)
Pangdean Barn, nr Brighton (West Sussex)
Brighton Bandstand (Brighton & Hove)
Two Woods Estate, Pulborough (West Sussex)
Walton Castle, Clevedon (Somerset)
Lewes Registry Office (East Sussex)
St Margaret's Church Warnham (West Sussex)
Tony Dunn Flowers (Brighton & Hove)
Ladylissy Floristry (West Sussex & Surrey)
Stems of Southwater (West Sussex)
Linden Tree Flowers, Southwick (West Sussex)
Edward Allen Flowers (Somerset)
The Bridal Room, Reigate (Surrey)
Couture & Tiaras Bridal, Burgess Hill (West Sussex)
Whyte Weddings, Worthing (West Sussex)
Hair & Make Up
Kate Waller Hair & Make Up Artist, Crowborough (East Sussex)
Cat & Charlotte Hair & Make Up, Bromley (Kent)
Rose Forrest Hair & Make Up Artistry, Weston Super Mare (Somerset)
Bunston Bakes, Brighton
HS Cake Design (Gloucestershire)
Marks & Spencer Celebration Cakes (UK wide)
Claire Bradford, Creating Ceremony, Celebrant, Worthing (West Sussex)
Aurum Jewellers, Worthing (West Sussex)