Shelly Pate

Best of Both Worlds: Combining Elopement Elements with an Intimate Wedding Day

I love it when a day represents a couple so well that you can’t really trace a line between family and cultural traditions and the couple’s own influences and choices. It blends so well creating a perfect mix that’s just uniquely them! This couple created a micro wedding with some elopement touches that fit their priorities for the day. See how each element of their day was chosen specifically to make this intimate wedding day their own!

couple embraces at Washington DC rooftop intimate wedding

Ingredients for an Intimate Wedding Day

What exactly counts as an intimate wedding? The definition can differ between wedding vendors, but the general consensus is that these are weddings with 50 guests or less. Other ways to make the day more intimate may include how the day is personalized to the couple and the ways that they incorporate guests and family into the day.

The entire experience is less of a production, more specialized, and fitted to the couple. There are usually fewer vendors and it generally incorporates DIY wedding ideas. For Herma and Johannes, their guest list totalled at 25, and they included special moments for their families and cultures to shine.

DIY & Family Involvement

couple holds hands during ceremony at Iron Gate Restaurant DC
  • Welcome Table: the table was decorated with pictures of the couple alongside a guest book with a Polaroid camera so guests could take photos and place them inside. 
ring bearer holds hands with flower girls at intimate wedding
  • Even though the couple opted not to have a wedding party, they still had flower girls (Johannes’ nieces), and Herma’s nephew as a ring bearer.
bridesmaid reads at at Iron Gate Restaurant DC intimate wedding
  • The speeches, poems, and blessings were presented by family members throughout the night. During the ceremony, the groom’s dad gave a blessing in German and the bride’s sister read a poem. The groom is German (grew up there) and the bride is Bolivian (grew up in Massachusetts), so the couple’s siblings translated for the rest of the guests during the speeches.
map of couple's love story

Touches that Blend Together a Personalized Day

My couples have taken various approaches to creating days that echo them. This has included eloping and then throwing a party later down the road or keeping things super intimate. In Herma and Johannes’ case, they got the best parts of an intimate wedding with family while reserving a good chunk of their day all to themselves closer to an elopement experience.

couple walks through forest at Rock Creek Park elopement

All was made possible by the fact that these two stood by what they specifically envisioned for their day without catering to any outside pressures. Having this perspective even when entering into wedding planning that’s DIY is the best way to put your own personality into the wedding day.

What connects one small wedding to another is the guest count, and what separates them is how vastly different they can be due to the personalization possibilities. Herma and Johannes balanced their desire well for a small and intimate gathering that kept family and friends involved while reserving private moments for themselves.

couple embraces in forest at Rock Creek Park elopement

After meeting in Germany and dating long-distance for three years, Herma and Johannes lived together in Germany for two years until moving to Washington, DC late last year. Herma shared that “we’ve been together for five years and we are proud that we survived a trans-Atlantic relationship!” Their wedding day was not only the blending of family but also of cultures!

couple holds hands in forest at Rock Creek Park elopement

How to Add Elopement Elements to Your Intimate Wedding Day

couple walks through forest at Rock Creek Park elopement

This intimate wedding day was simple and elegant. The first half of the day was exclusively for the bride and groom beginning with private moments much like they would have had this been a full elopement day. They started with a celebration of their new Washington, DC life together by doing their first look and couples portraits on the rooftop of the The Hay-Adams hotel. It overlooks the Washington, DC cityscape including the Washington Monument.

While remaining in DC, they celebrated the adventurous activities they love to do together (hiking and cycling) by exploring Rock Creek Park. We purposefully took shots beside the various bicycles along the trails to reflect their love of cycling together.

couple walks in forest at Rock Creek Park elopement
couple kisses in forest at Rock Creek Park elopement

What Mattered the Most to Them on their Intimate Wedding Day

white floral wedding decorations at Iron Gate Restaurant DC

After returning to their micro wedding venue, their small wedding ceremony, cocktail hour and reception were held at the Iron Gate Restaurant DC in Dupont Circle. Both the ceremony and reception were held in the outdoor Garden Patio underneath the sunlight and then glowing string lights at night. The couple joined everyone for cocktail hour and also took this time to capture family photos.

These two loved the ivy-covered terrace and overall romantic and simplistic feel of this venue for a small wedding. The color palette of their decor (white and green) also complemented the exposed bricks and candles creating a classic look.

couple stands with flower girl at Iron Gate Restaurant DC intimate wedding

Most important to Herma and Johannes was creating a romantic and cozy atmosphere for intentional time with their family and friends (and also the food!). Johannes’ immediate family came in from Germany meeting Herma’s family for the first time from Massachusetts. It was the uniting of two families literally from across the world! One of the bride’s nieces was even celebrated with a special birthday cupcake, song and gift.

A string quartet played during the reception closing out a day that truly showcased the couple’s life together right now and all that it will be in the future!

Wedding Vendors

First Look & Getting Ready | The Hay-Adams
Photographer | Shelly Pate Photography
Ceremony & Reception | Iron Gate Restaurant DC
Portraits | Rock Creek Park
Florals | True Floral
Dress | Ellie’s Bridal Boutique
Dress Designer | Essense of Australia
HMU | Lauren Abagale Bridal
Music | Kennedy String Quartet


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