Let's cut to the chase. I'm a world traveling, Central California based wedding and couples photographer with a deep passion for documenting my couples' love stories as raw and candidly as possible.
I can't wait to create something beautiful with you.
i'm sierra brook
Intimate weddings (and elopements) have become all the rage in the last few years. And I’m just here to say: I amhere for it. BUT, that might not be the case for every couple. If you’re wondering how to know if an intimate wedding is right for you, you’ve come to the right place. I’m walking you through all the pros and cons of intimate weddings from my point of view. As a full-time wedding and elopement photographer, I’ve photographed tons of intimate weddings. So I’d like to think I’m qualified to spill some tea! 😉 Let’s get into it.
What is an Intimate Wedding
Before you can decide if an intimate wedding is right for you, let’s chat about the details of what qualifies as an intimate wedding. Most types of weddings are broken down by the number of guests. In the world of weddings, most “intimate” weddings are between 20 and 75 guests. Anything less than 20 guests would be considered a micro-wedding. Both are obviously very intimate affairs, so it all just depends on how many people you are looking to include!
In an intimate wedding, the guest list is comprised of only those that are nearest and dearest to your heart. Spoiler: That’s one of my favorite things about an intimate wedding.
What an intimate wedding is not is “standard”. There is no “one way” to have an intimate wedding. So whether you’re toying with the idea of a backyard wedding, getting married atop a lookout in Yosemite, or heading down to the courthouse… there’s many options to consider. So let’s chat about the Pros and Cons of each type of intimate wedding to help get you closer to nailing down your dream wedding!
Intimate Backyard Wedding
Backyard weddings are 100% slept on! Over the last few years, I feel like backyard weddings have certainly made a comeback, but they’ve always held a soft spot in my heart. But once again, they’re not for everybody.
Pros of a Backyard Wedding:
This is one of the biggest advantages of a backyard wedding! If you’re looking to have a budget friendly wedding, a backyard wedding is a great option. There are many ways to keep costs low at a backyard wedding, depending what you’re wanting. Maybe your mom’s garden is full of lush blooms that would make the perfect backdrop for your ceremony. Maybe your Uncle Steve still has the tent he bought for your cousin’s graduation. There are a lot of great options for planning a backyard wedding!
Familiarity + Sentimentality
One of the main reasons couples choose a backyard wedding is because of the sentimental value it holds. But beyond that, there are little to no surprises that will happen in a familiar backyard. In a wedding venue, you might discover some oddities during your wedding. Maybe there’s an eyesore in a portrait location, the bathroom door is stuck open, etc. You shouldn’t have many surprises in a backyard wedding.
Backyard wedding receptions are lit. 😅 Of course there are some limitations in regards to music, fireworks, and even alcohol, a backyard wedding reception is essentially limitless. Farm or country weddings have even fewer rules, which means the sky is actually the limit (within reason of course).
Cons of a Backyard Wedding:
Lack of “Newness”
While familiarity is a pro in some instances, it may be a con in others. If you’re looking to branch out and experience something new, a backyard wedding might feel a little stale if you grew up spending a ton of time there.
Limited Guest Size
Depending on the size of your backyard, there may only be room for 40 guests, rather than 75. There’s only so much space for tables, dancing, the ceremony, etc. Some locations may also have restrictions on how many cars can be parked on the streets or noise ordinances.
Intimate Courthouse Wedding
Courthouse weddings are still all the rage, let’s be honest. Again, they’ve made a resurgence in the past few years, and I couldn’t love it more. There’s something so classic about a courthouse wedding!
Pros of a Courthouse Wedding
Courthouses are a classic when it comes to small weddings. If I wasn’t a wedding photographer, I would think that I’ve romanticized the idea thanks to Sex and the City. But I can say with certainty, they are not. Marrying your lover at 10:00 am on a Tuesday!? That’s the very definition of romantic, I swear.
Potentially Incredible Architecture
Now I’m not saying that every city has a stunning courthouse, but when they do… UFF. Southern California especially has some courthouses with the most immaculate architecture and views. Some standout SoCal courthouse are San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Old Orange County.
Proximity to Photo Locations
Most courthouses are downtown, which means endless photo ops! You can get some incredible urban shots, head to a rooftop, or capture the cityscape. The downtown vibes really add to the old-school vibes of a courthouse wedding.
Cons of a Courthouse Wedding
I don’t know of many courthouses that have private ceremonies, so keep this one in mind! Many courthouse weddings take place in the presence of other couples or families. If you don’t want strangers watching you get married, this might not be the best option for you!
Limited “Rural Vibes”
As I mentioned above, courthouses give off urban vibes. So if you’re looking to have some epic photos in a wide-open field or deep within a forest, know that you’ll have to travel for those shots.
Potentially Mediocre Location
Look. Not every courthouse is going to have Spanish-style architecture and views of the ocean. In fact, they might be located next to a prison across from a KFC. If aesthetics are important to you, keep this in mind & do your research 😅
Intimate Destination Wedding
Destination weddings are a combination of a traditional wedding and an elopement. Whether you’re choosing a resort in Mexico, a California beach, or tying the knot in a National Park, the possibilities are endless. I could go on and on about this one – let me know if you’d like a separate blog on this one!
Pros of a Destination Wedding
Explore an Epic Location
One of the biggest appeals in a destination wedding is the potential to explore an exotic place with those closest to you. There aren’t many times in life where you can travel the world with your closest friends, family, and your lover.
Honeymoon, Part 1
With a destination wedding, many couples choose to either extend their stay at the destination or even hop from there. For example, if you’re getting married in Europe, why not explore the rest of the continent?! Tying the knot in Spain? Have your honeymoon in Italy; you’re already so close.
Cons of a Destination Wedding
No surprise with this one! A destination wedding is bound to cost a pretty penny for you and your guests. ‘Nuff said. Consider travel costs, your personal accommodations, food, wedding vendors, etc.
Travel + Accommodations
The reality of a destination wedding is that unfortunately, some of the people who mean the most to you won’t be able to make it. Travel and accommodations are expensive, especially nowadays. There are also more logistics for guests to consider like taking off work, finding pet sitters, getting a passport…
Now that I’ve shared the pros and cons of intimate weddings, you’re set up to make the decision! But if you’re still looking for some more tips, check out my previous blog that’s all about Booking Your DREAM Wedding Photographer. And as always, let’s be friends over on Instagram (@sierrabrookphotography). Now, let’s get you married 💍
"Sierra was amazing to work with. I was super nervous for our engagement shoot - she even caught me trying to take a tequila shot to calm the nerves, haha. She made us laugh and really just made us feel incredibly comfortable. She paid attention to details and even braved the cold water of the Kern River to get us the shots we wanted. I would HIGHLY recommend Sierra and will absolutely work with her again in the future." - Natasha
She made us feel incredibly comfortable.
"Let me tell you about how appreciative I am of Sierra’s lovely soul. She was a dream to work with and I would HIGHLY recommend booking with her. Sierra made us feel so comfortable as my bf and I were kind of nervous to be in front of the camera. We ended up laughing the entire time, it was so fun and felt like friends just hanging out. I screamed when we got our sneak peeks and our gallery, she got them back to us so so fast. We will definitely be booking Sierra in the future and for our future wedding. If you’re looking for a sign to tell you to book with her, THIS IS IT" - Miranda
Felt like friends just hanging out
"can't say enough good things about sierra! we've worked with her twice now in the past month. she provides beautifully curated, high quality memories to cherish for a lifetime! she's very professional, but feels like a long-time friend during sessions. sierra makes her clients feel absolutely comfortable in front of the camera, and can really gauge the perfect ambience per her clients and their specific styles; it's quite impressive! we can't wait to work with her again for all of the holiday and birthday celebrations!"
High quality memories to last a lifetime
"Sierra captured every moment perfectly. Each emotion, every smile, ALL the love, and even all the happiness from the guests. It was all so perfect. More so, Sierra’s presence was so calming and reassuring. I am uncomfortable in front of cameras and this was our first time in our entire relationship taking any type of professional photos and she made it effortless. Best part for me was her keeping everything on track yet still being able to go with the flow of my messy self (who is almost never on time for anything). She didn’t bat an eye at any of the flaws we had, she accepted them and rolled with them. We can’t thank her enough. We cannot wait to take anniversary pictures with her. One year can’t come soon enough!" - Larissa
Captured every moment perfectly
"Sierra was awesome! She got our wedding pictures back to us in no time, and they were all amazing. She was extremely professional and made sure to get all the photos that we requested. She also reached out to us before our wedding to help with the timeline of our day which was something that I really appreciated. I will definitely be reaching out to Sierra for another project, and highly recommend her for all your photography needs!" - Erandy
"My experience with Sierra was 10/10! From the time I inquired, to the shoot, to delivering our photos, she was extremely professional and prompt. I have nothing but good things to say about Sierra and her work! I’m so in love with the photos she captured, and I highly recommend choosing her for your next shoot!" - Caleigh