How Do You Entertain Guests at a Small Wedding?

There is not even going to be a dance floor

Wedding Advice Two Cents Banner

Q: I’ve managed to actually convince my family that my twenty-guest wedding is a good idea! Considering what social butterflies my parents are, this is a huge feat!

We’re having the ceremony in a park, and we hired a photographer who will probably take photos before and after, but we’re not quite sure what else to do before and after the ceremony other than going to the restaurant we booked for some food. Does anyone have ideas to entertain wedding guests? Pretty much every wedding idea I can think of involves… more than twenty people and a far more traditional wedding set up.

Answer From the Editor

There are many ways you can entertain wedding guests, sometimes you just have to think outside the box. You can create a DIY backdrop to put in the restaurant and provide an Instax camera and some props for your guests to snap away all night long (just imagine the photos you’ll get out of your social butterfly parents). You can keep the mood loose in the photo booth by creating a playlist with everyone’s favorite dancing tunes or special requests. Or you can even do what an APW staff member did at her wedding: surprise your partner (and your guests) with a video you made just for them!

How did you entertain your guests at a small wedding?
Have you attended an intimate wedding with fringe activities worth copying?

If you want the APW community’s two cents, send it to QUESTIONS AT APRACTICALWEDDING DOT COM, and we’ll do our best to crowdsource you some answers!

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  • MeepMorps

    If you’re looking for something that could go on into the night, and if your park allows you could always do a bonfire. Socializing, smores, and music in the background! Or cards/board games!

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      Yes to bonfires. Everybody is friends at a bonfire.

  • Katie

    I don’t think you need to entertain! We did something very similar- ceremony and dinner with just our immediate families (totaling 24 people, including us). After dinner, we did have an optional “nightcap hour” at another restaurant in walking distance for anyone who wasn’t quite ready for the evening to end. We were delighted with how the day went- low stress and lovely.

    • Katie

      ETA: we did have toasts, cake cutting, and party crackers (like these: at each place setting (there were 4 kids under 8, but the adults all got and loved them, too) that we made ourselves with a paper crown, different love quotes we wrote, temporary tattoos, and chocolates.

    • Yayforsmallweddings!

      This! We had a small ceremony (about 24? 25? people total) with just the ceremony and a dinner as well. Right after the ceremony we served champagne and cupcakes and people mingled while my husband and I took pictures. Then we all headed to the restaurant. People kicked it, ate, drank, gave toasts, and basked in the glow of our love. The benefit (at least from my perspective) of having a small wedding is that you don’t have to plan a bunch of extra things if you don’t want to. Because the wedding is so small, you actually have time to connect with your partner and your guests.

      Side note: since it’s a park, if people get bored while y’all are taking pictures they could go for a walk or frolic on the playground. Or if they aren’t park people they can head to the restaurant early for drinks. No extra entertainment needed! Not that games and photo booths etc, aren’t fun and awesome (if that’s your jam go for it! Your guests will love it!) but they’re not necessary. Maybe have some snacks and water available but feel free to keep it chill!

    • angela

      I always like the optional evening activity at daytime weddings – it doesn’t have to be hosted or organized, just a location for the “not quite ready for the evening to end” people (especially if guests are coming from out of town). If this isn’t your speed, you might be able to outsource it. My cousin had a 30 person wedding, and he had one of his friends send out an email saying, essentially, “Bride and groom aren’t going to be there, but I’m doing karaoke at x place and all are invited!” No pressure on the couple and there were probably 10-15 of us who showed up and had a great time!

      • nutbrownrose

        My MIL did this! She invited a bunch of her people, my mom, and the groomsmen to meet her at Denny’s after. We were not there, as we were off enjoying our time away from humans in our fancy wedding-night hotel, but I have heard only good things about it. People will keep themselves entertained!

  • CW

    Maybe invite everyone to do toasts or share good stories throughout dinner/after dinner? Think about what your families enjoy. If both sides don’t know each other well, so sort of icebreaker (people bingo, etc) to allow people mix.

    • Eenie

      Yeah, the less people know each other the more I lean towards having an activity of some kind.

  • Katharine Parker

    If it’s only 20 people, I’d treat it like any good party and trust that people are going to chat and drink and eat and nothing other than food and drink and appropriate space is required of you for your guests to have a good time. That said, if you want to add things, you can. Depending on the vibe you’re doing for, you could have a flower crown setup at the park, or a mimosa or sangria bar (or hot chocolate bar, if it’s colder out). A photo booth is always fun. You could still have dancing, if you and your guests like to dance (I’ve had a great time at 6 person dance parties), or keep the music chill. You can still do traditional wedding things like toasts and cake cutting, if you are so inclined. I think it is always nice when there is more than one space to move in, so even with only 20 people, if the restaurant has a patio where you could have a cocktail hour or after dinner drinks, that could be lovely. I would think about what parts of a wedding you like, and how you want to fit them into your wedding, without worrying about whether people will be entertained enough. Your guests will be fine!

    • Yes, I would LOVE to go to a wedding where I could just hang out and chat and take silly pictures with people. That sounds like a lovely wedding to me!

    • Her Lindsayship

      Yup this: “I would think about what parts of a wedding you like, and how you want to fit them into your wedding, without worrying about whether people will be entertained enough. Your guests will be fine!” It’s really about what you like and what you want – people come to a wedding (yes, even an intimate wedding) happy and ready to have a good time. They will enjoy it

    • emmers

      Plus one to extra spaces if possible. Creating that cocktail party vibe. But even if you’re just in one room, people will still have fun!

  • ManderGimlet

    I think one of the biggest draws to a small wedding, for me, would be the more relaxed atmosphere, the lack of “organized fun”, and an opportunity for the guests to communicate more. Maybe let people make toasts or something like that, but otherwise, just relax and have a good time socializing, I say! Nothing boring about that!

    • emmers

      Exactly! It’s like throwing a party. People are typically entertained by food, booze, and each other. If there’s something extra like a photo booth, that can be fun too, but it’s totally extra, not required.

    • julia charlotte

      Seconded! I had an almost-as-small wedding (35), and after the ceremony we just had cocktails and finger food but no formal entertainment…folks just chatted! And since it was a small group it means that people REALLY talked, and we actually got to socialize with them which was lovely.

  • Pickle

    Maybe lawn games of some kind for the park? Bocce, etc? This site rents fun stuff like giant jenga too:

  • Essssss

    A guest book sort of station where people can write wishes to you, or date night ideas, or something else? I always like to get up and move around and that’s something to do!

  • Amy March

    Are you serving them food and wine? Done. They are entertained. I don’t think you need to do anything else! The beauty of a small wedding is that they can entertain themselves by really talking to you and to each other!

    • Angela’s Back

      There were ten people at my botanical garden wedding and we got married, went and had our restaurant lunch and this is exactly what happened. There was food, there was booze, and most important there was that happy omg wedding feeling and people were entertained. Done.

    • beeethanyj

      This! I had a 45 guest wedding and it was all at a restaurant in a private room. We had a ceremony followed by a cocktail hour followed by dinner. It ended up being about an hour shorter than your average wedding with dancing and all that. Everyone mingled and no one needed entertainment!

  • another lady face

    Just went to a small (40-50 guests) wedding in the park a couple weeks ago. They had the instax/poloroid cameras for people to take photos and put in a guest book with notes/messages to the bride and groom. There was a park trail and tower area that guests could explore while waiting. They had a dj for a couple hours who played general music, introduced the wedding party (grand march style), etc. They also did the traditional toasts, first dance, etc. Otherwise, they had some yard games set up (corn hole/bean bag toss, giant yatzee dice, etc.) They also had a trailer thing where you could get your own beer from the taps on the side of the trailer! It was low key and really fit the style of the bride and groom and worked out great! Everyone seemed to be entertained for the night. I have also see people do board games or legos, etc, for the kids and ‘nerdy’ adults to entertain eachother. At our wedding, we did the ‘shoe game’ where the dj asks the bride and groom newlywed game style questions, and the bride and groom hold up the respective shoe of the person who best fits that question. (ex: who has control of the remote? who made the first move? who snores the loudest, etc.)That can be a fun way to entertain a small crowd, especially if they know the bride and groom well!

  • idkmybffjill

    I vote – nothing special! I’ve had a blast at rehearsal dinners of about that size with just good food, good drink, and thoughtful seating arrangements. If your guests are drinkers, having a situation where the wine just keeps getting poured is ideal, IMO.

  • Alex K

    How would you entertain at a dinner party? Good food, drinks, awesome conversation? And you are done! Sounds like a blast to me.

  • Kelly

    At one intimate wedding I photographed over the winter, their families weren’t from the city in which they currently lived, so they took them on a trolley tour between the ceremony and dinner. And lawn games are always fun. But don’t overthink it. Food, booze and good conversation usually do the trick :) And if you need something to get the conversation started, these little conversation cards can be fun.

  • Cara

    Hi! This was my wedding almost exactly. We had 21 people if you count us and the minister who married us. We did nothing to entertain people. We got married at 5:30 and then went off with the photographer for about an hour. During the time we had an open bar and appetizers served. Dinner was probably sometime between 7:30 and 8. We ate and then visited with people. My friend played some music but no one paid that much attention. People started leaving around 10, and we and my friends closed up around 11 or 11:30. It was super fun in the same way a nice dinner with friends is fun. The entertainment was food and good company.

  • Lizz

    I agree with everyone else that you don’t need any entertainment aside from making food and drinks available.

    However, here are some other ideas:
    – Provide throwable things: frisbees, footballs, baseballs + gloves, nerf things
    – Lawn games: Kanjam, Bocce, Kubb (Sticky Sticks), Cornhole
    – Disposable cameras or instant cameras for guests to play with
    – A few decks of cards (easy to ignore if no one is interested, tons of options for games if they are)
    – Bubbles, coloring books, mad libs, legos (easy things you can start and stop casually, or do while chatting)
    – DIY ice cream bar or something like that
    – Karaoke machine?? depending on your venue and crowd…. haha

    • sofar

      Love the lawn games/lawn toys idea. If people ignore them, no big deal. If people embrace them, awesome!

  • Lisa

    I went to a 20 person wedding that still had a live bluegrass band, and we all danced. It was intimate and lovely! I also went to an 11 person wedding (an elopement, basically) where we went on a hike together.

  • Rose_C

    I’ve seen a handful of tiny weddings and wedding receptions happen in little NYC restaurants. In every case the entertainment sort of took care of itself. One time the older generation started singing old love songs, which was so sweet. Another time a spontaneous dance party broke out (in a very tiny room that was really only big enough for the tables and chairs). I think a small group will decide for itself what it most wants to do and that’s a really lovely, organic way of celebrating a wedding.

  • mjh

    +1 on no extra entertainment needed. If you feel like you’d like something more, some games at the park and/or cameras and a book or box + note cards for people to leave notes/well wishes/doodles would be great.

    Basically, I think the magic of your wedding will fill any void you may be worried about, and the extras should just be if you want them for your own sake. Want to play games with friends and family, or have pro pics of grandma and your bff playing giant jenga? Do it. Want to, in a few months or a year after the wedding, open a book/box of whatever words your friends wrote for you, or see their polaroid style photos? Do it. Concerned that your wedding won’t feel wedding-y enough unless you add props? Nothing to worry about. The vibe will be there, I’m sure of it. Every intimate, just nearest and dearest people wedding I’ve seen kills it with that vibe.

    Our wedding count was us + 15 for the ceremony and us + 13 for the reception (both including several kids). We didn’t do any special entertainment, and the word magical was used by more than one of our people to describe it afterward.

  • Lizzie

    Are you in a town or city? Could you go on an open bus tour or something else touristy? Or perhaps do a wine tasting

  • theteenygirl

    We’re having 25 guests at our wedding we’re hosting at an Inn. We also struggled to think of how to entertain people, since there wouldn’t be dancing and we just talked about what we liked to do. We like to play board games! So after the cake cutting we’re going to get into PJs and have a pajama party board game night before bed (which works because everyone is staying at the Inn)

  • Greta

    I attended a 20-ish person wedding and it was delightful. I wasn’t even invited to the ceremony, it was immediate family only, so I only attended the reception. It was in a private room at a restaurant. We mingled with booze and finger foods for a while, and then dinner was at a great big 20 person table. It was small enough that we actually had a group conversation with all of us instead of lots of small side conversations. There was some nice background music, it was very relaxed and chill, like a great big dinner party. I loved it and it was one of the most unique weddings I’ve ever attended. Food and booze? You likely don’t need anything else!

  • Lexipedia

    Honestly – dinner parties with 20-ish people function with nothing more than good food, drink, and conversation. Anything you add on after that is just gravy.

  • Pterodactyl111

    If you were just having a party for 20 people, how would you entertain them? Answer: you wouldn’t organize anything, you’d just let them eat and drink and socialize with some nice music in the background. Sounds fun!!

  • sofar

    I’ve been to weddings of all sizes where the couple, with all the best intentions, came up with ways to “entertain” guests. The guests proceeded to ignore all those things and chat amongst themselves and eat.

    So don’t worry.

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    Do you have photos of your guests, from wherever you know them from? School year books, pics from family parties, that kinda thing? Might be a good opportunity for people to reminisce and get to know one another in the context of, “Oh, yeah, here’s a picture from that time back in college when [bride] and I took a midnight trip to Denny’s.”

    • That’s a fun idea! Photos could be hung up on a clothesline or some sort of installetion or used as table decor… I like seeing photos of the couple and each person’s photos of them growing up or on such-and-such trip, etc., and getting an idea of their lives before I knew them, and before the couple meet each other…and also seeing a fuller picture (ha) of the couple’s life together.

  • cg

    I agree with all the advise that food + drinks are enough. However, if you have a several people from out of town, maybe take a short trek to a quirky/poignant/beautiful/[whatever suits you] place for a short excursion before or after. We brought a lot of our family from other parts of the country to our adopted hometown for the first time, and it was really fun to show them some of our favorite places.

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  • Branches

    We had a 36 person wedding (including bride and groom). The ceremony was outdoors at 4:30pm. There were musicians playing music as everyone arrived (and during most of the ceremony). Ceremony lasted about 30 minutes or so. After we said “I do,” we snuck away for a about five minutes to be alone and smooch. Meanwhile, a couple pre-determined helpers served hot cider to our guests in vintage mugs while the musicians played. Then we rejoined everyone, hugged people, and hung outside in the beautiful weather for probably about 20 or so minutes. It was our mini-version of a cocktail hour. Then the musicians (again cued by a helper-friend) led us on a parade to the restaurant. Strangers gawked and wished us well, but honestly I was too happy to really notice much of anything. We had dinner in a private room at a wonderful French restaurant that we knew very well. When everyone was seated, we said a few words of welcome and thanks. Then food came out “family style” and everyone talked while music played. There were two toasts which brought down the house. Then we cut the cake. More talking. Then a friend made the announcement that everyone would be invited to head outside to grab a sparkler to send us off “but first we’re inviting” another friend up to do a “closing reading.” Then everyone ran outside to grab sparklers. We hung back for a minute thanking the staff. They already had our Visa (from the day earlier) for payment so we didn’t have to think about that. A friend took care of verifying the final bill and assigning a very generous tip so we didn’t do that either. Then we came outside and dashed under the sparklers and waved goodbye. We hopped in a car that was parked just around the corner of the building. It was about 9:30pm so an early finish, which was exactly what we wanted. A friend was waiting with the motor running to drive us home. After we left, one of our helper-coordinator-friends announced to everyone that the official wedding festivities were finished, but everyone could continue talking and getting to know each other and drinking in the restaurant’s courtyard. That was something we had assigned her to do beforehand. Apparently, lots of folks stayed until late into the night drinking and hanging out and it sounds like they had a lovely time. The next morning, we had breakfast with everyone (for the second time that weekend) and then we went on a hike in a national park with a smaller group of wedding guests (because it was peak autumn foliage and so beautiful out). Then we left for our mini-honeymoon. In short, I worried about entertaining people too, but basically you just need to curate each step of the experience and give people a “program” of sorts to follow. And then they’ll be happy and content.

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