The Best Small Wedding Venues in the U.S.

March 14, 2023

The Best Small Wedding Venues in the U.S.

If you’re planning a small wedding, then finding an awesome small wedding venue is probably on your list of things to do. Whether you want to get married in the desert, the mountains, or maybe somewhere along the coast, there are so many incredible options. Throughout my years as an elopement and small wedding photographer, I’ve done tons of research to find incredibly unique accommodations and venues across the country. I wanted to create this little guide to share some of my favorite places that would be perfect for hosting a small wedding. 

What is a small wedding?

Although small weddings and elopements are very similar (so similar that the terms can sort of be used interchangeably nowadays) the main difference between the two is that a small wedding is a day that includes guests! There is no strict definition of what a small wedding is, but I typically consider it to be a day with under 25 guests or so. By keeping your guest list small, you will have so many incredible options for venues, and won’t be restricted by guest size! It also gives you the opportunity to really connect with those you chose to invite, instead of feeling like your attention is torn between hundreds of people! 

P.S. – Don’t feel left out if you are eloping (just the two of you)! Any of these locations would be amazing for an elopement as well 🙂 

What is a small wedding venue?

I’m sure when you hear the words “wedding venue” you think of a musty barn with overused decorations, an old church, or even a local golf club. A small wedding venue is entirely different though – this could be anything from a boutique hotel, to an A-frame cabin in the woods! There are so many incredible, unique options all across the country to choose from. Maybe you want a luxurious Air-Bnb out in the remote desert that can host a small group of guests, or maybe you want to rent out a campsite and spend the weekend playing games and laughing around the campfire with your people. Whatever your unique vision is, there’s likely an awesome small wedding venue that can accommodate it! 

A small wedding venue doesn’t necessarily have to be the place you say your vows and get married! This can be the place where you sleep, and spend the morning getting ready, or host your guests for dinner at the end of the night. Oftentimes, couples will still choose to adventure off the property for the “ceremony” portion of the day. The great thing about a small wedding is you can do anything you want! There’s no right or wrong way to do this. 

What makes a good small wedding venue?

As an intimate wedding photographer myself, I’ve had a lot of experience shooting at many different small wedding venues, from boutique hotels to luxurious resorts. Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about what to look for in a small wedding venue. Most of my couples have a deep appreciation for nature, and a desire to be married in the outdoors. All of my favorite small wedding venues provide a well rounded experience – access to incredible adventure, and a little bit of luxury. Sometimes it’s an epic Jeep trip into the mountains, followed by dinner with a private chef at a boutique hotel. Or it might be a gorgeous chalet nestled in the mountains, that you never have to leave!

There are a few factors to consider when choosing your small wedding venue:

Location:

Like I mentioned earlier, the venue you choose often won’t be the place you actually say your vows and get married. Many couples choose to embark on some sort of epic adventure for their small wedding, so you’ll want to choose a location that has access to beautiful outdoor locations. This could mean a boutique hotel in a small mountain town, or an Air-Bnb on the edge of a national park. If you do plan to actually get married at the venue, then make sure the property has options for a beautiful ceremony location that fits your vision.

Size:

You obviously want to choose a venue that will fit your guest size! Most small wedding venues range in capacity size, anywhere from 20-100 guests or so. Air-Bnb limits maximum capacity to 16 guests, so if you are having more than that, you won’t be able to book an Air-Bnb. If you are booking a venue that will be used for accommodations, then make sure you find something that can comfortably host your guests. You don’t want everyone crammed into a small space! If you are planning to host some sort of dinner / reception celebration, then make sure the space is big enough for that as well! Is the kitchen large enough to cook in? Is there a table on the property that can seat everybody? 

Experience:

Last but certainly not least, the experience of a small wedding venue is so important –  whether it’s a luxury off the grid resort in the remote mountains with private hot springs to soak in, or a boutique hotel with an onsite chef that provides incredible culinary experiences. You are choosing to elope because you want to have an incredible, one in a lifetime experience, so I recommend investing in a venue that can provide that for you! 

How much does a small wedding venue cost?

Small wedding venues will drastically range in price, depending on the location, experience, and size. There are plenty of Air-Bnb’s that are less than $500 a night, that would be incredible options to host a group of guests. There are also luxury resorts that are up to $20,000 per night to reserve the entire property. These high prices might sound crazy, but in comparison to paying $20,000 for a few hours at a musty barn, it’s really not so bad. There are tons of options for every price range, but just remember, the more guests you have the more expensive your small wedding venue will likely be!

Ok let’s dive in! Here’s a roundup of the best small wedding venues in the U.S.

Colorado Small Wedding Venues:

Dunton Hot Springs

The Dunton Hot Springs are one of my favorite small wedding venues in the country – a small, exclusive resort nestled in the San Juan mountains of Colorado (just outside of Telluride). Dunton was once an old mining camp, and is now expertly restored with 13 unique cabin accommodations, and private natural hot springs. Both rustic and luxurious, this venue is the perfect place to host a small wedding. Dunton Hot Springs can accommodate up to 40 guests, and weddings can happen onsite because of the gorgeous waterfall on the property.

The Bonnie Bell Cabin

The Bonnie Bell Cabin is an incredible backcountry cabin located in the remote San Juan mountains – just outside of Silverton, Colorado. This cabin is only accessible by 4×4 vehicle, ATV, or on foot, and can host up to 8 people, making it the perfect venue for an adventurous, secluded elopement. The Bonnie Bell cabin is so much more than just a place to sleep at night, it’s a basecamp to so much adventure. With world class hiking, jeeping and mountain biking right outside the door, you could never get bored here. 

Collective Vail

Collective Vail is the perfect place to experience the ruggedness of the Rocky Mountains. With over 1,000 acres of untouched land, you’ll be fully immersed in the American West, while still being a short drive from a popular resort town. This retreat provides luxurious safari style tent accommodations, farm to ranch dining, and tons of activities and excursions. Collective Vail features a mix of indoor and outdoor spaces, with a communal dining area, and has 18 guest rooms on site. 

Schmidt Family Ranch

Schmid Family Ranch sits at the base of Mt. Wilson, surrounded by breathtaking mountain views. This ranch is located just outside of Telluride, Colorado making it the perfect spot to host a small wedding! The ranch itself features 2 cabins for you and your family to stay in, but can accommodate many more guests for the wedding day! There are 2 different ceremony sites, so you never have to leave the property. 

Red Mountain Alpine Lodge

Here’s another awesome backcountry lodge that I love! Red Mountain Alpine Lodge is located at 11,000 ft. on Red Mountain Pass. Despite its location in the backcountry, the lodge operates year round, which means you can elope during any of the 4 incredible seasons in the San Juans mountains. Red Mountain Alpine Lodge is the perfect combination of rustic and luxury, with tons of amenities. The lodge can accommodate up to 22 people, and includes all meals onsite, as well as on demand guiding services.

The Western Hotel

The Western Hotel is a historic hotel, built in 1891, that has been meticulously restored to a luxurious, boutique hotel. The hotel features 16 different modern suites, the original old western saloon and dining hall, a nordic spa, and elevated indoor-outdoor event spaces – perfect for a small wedding. The Western is located in the town of Ouray, Colorado which is one of my top recommended elopement locations. It’s the jeeping mecca of the world, meaning when you stay here at The Western, you have hundreds of world class 4×4 trails right at your doorstep. 

Learn More: Ouray Elopement Packages | How to Elope in Ouray

Alta Lakes Observatory

Alta Lakes Observatory is a private, unique mountain cabin located on the shores of Alta Lakes – one of my favorite mountain locations. Alta Lakes is accessible via a 4×4 vehicle or by foot. During the winter months, it’s accessible by snowmobile, or snowshoes. The peaceful ambiance, and remoteness of Alta Lakes observatory makes it the perfect place to host a small wedding. The observatory sleeps up to 12 people, and can accommodate up to 45 people for an outdoor celebration. With a fully equipped kitchen and cozy interior, you never have to leave – but you might want to! There are tons of incredible activities and adventures just outside the door, including kayaking, hiking, off-roading, fishing and mountain biking.

Learn More: | Telluride Elopement Packages | How to Elope in Telluride

California Small Wedding Venues:

Ventana, Big Sur

Ventana is an all inclusive enclave tucked into a redwood grove on the Big Sur coastline. Ventana offers a variety of accommodations, from luxury suites to rugged safari style glamping tents. The property also features multiple event spaces to host your guests. Beyond just your wedding, there are also so many activities to do in the area, such as exploring the majestic old growth redwood grove that the property sits on, hiking along the rugged coastline, and driving down Highway 1. 

Glen Oaks Lodge

Glen Oaks Lodge offers a wide variety of accommodations, from cozy cabins on the banks of the river, to beautiful cottages in the redwood grove. What makes this place special isn’t grandeur, in your face fanciness. It’s the thoughtful intentionality put into every detail. The property also features outdoor spaces to hold a small ceremony among the towering redwood trees (some of the biggest in the country are located at Glen Oaks), and easy access to some of the most iconic locations in Big Sur.

Crook Point

Crook Point is the perfect small wedding venue for a couple wanting to explore the Oregon coast. The property is located on 2 miles of remote, rugged coastline – making this one of the most unique options on this list! Crook Point features various different venues (all at different price points) located in different areas along the 2 miles of private coastline. There are also various options for reception locations, as well as accommodation options for you and your guests. If you want breathtaking, secluded views along the Southern Oregon Coast, then look no further. 

Auto Camp Yosemite

Auto Camp Yosemite features a wide variety of accommodations, from luxury tents to cabins, but the most notable and unique options are the fully outfitted airstreams. The camp is located conveniently right at the entrance to Yosemite National Park, making it the perfect base camp for exploring the park. There are multiple outdoor spaces, as well as a clubhouse that can be used to host guests. There is also the opportunity for a full buyout if you are bringing along a larger group. 

Southern Utah Small Wedding Venues:

Amangiri, Utah

This iconic desert retreat perfectly blends modern design with the majestic, rugged, red rock landscape. Surrounded by canyons, mesas, ridges and gorges, this secluded setting offers abundant opportunity for adventure and relaxation all at the same time. Amangiri is perfect for multi day celebrations, and personalized activities. The property can accommodate up to 100 guests, making this the perfect option for an intimate desert gathering. Amangiri is surrounded by thousands of miles of ancient, untouched scenery, at the edge of major multiple national parks. Guests can explore designated hiking trails, climb the Via Ferrata, ride on horseback through the desert, explore Lake Powell, and so much more.  

Under Canvas

Under Canvas is a next level glamping experience, with safari style tent accommodations that feature plush beds, hot running water, and wood burning stoves – the perfect combination of rugged and luxurious. Under Canvas has many locations across the country, my favorites being the southern Utah locations; Zion National Park, Moab, and Grand Staircase Escalante. Under Canvas provides highly curated events, exceptional accommodations, unique culinary experiences, and access to iconic destinations across the US.

The Red Earth Venue

The Red Earth Venue was built to provide a sustainable solution for couples to host intimate gatherings in the incredible Moab landscape. Renting the Red Earth venue is like renting your own private national park – surrounded by red rock cliffs, rugged landscapes and big views. The venue features two different spaces that can be rented either separately or in conjunction with one another. 

Zion Villa

The Zion Villa is a newly renovated, Mediterranean style villa that sits only 10 minutes from Zion National Park. The villa can accommodate up to 58 guests, and features a pool, hot tub, pickleball courts, home theater, a game room, and over 10 acres of private gathering space, perfect for hosting a group of guests. With stunning views from every corner of this property, Zion Villa is the perfect venue for a small wedding. 

Learn More: Ultimate Moab Elopement Guide | The Best Desert Elopement Locations

Bride and groom holding hands at their small wedding venue in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree Small Wedding Venues:

Rim Rock Ranch

Rom Rock Ranch is a beautiful 30 acre ranch, located just outside of Joshua Tree National Park. The grounds are unique, surrounded by spectacular desert views. There are multiple different cabins and houses that can be rented to accommodate guests, as well as gorgeous outdoor spaces to host a ceremony surrounded by Joshua trees. There are hiking trails, plunge pools, observation decks, and private fire pits that can be enjoyed by guests during their stay. 

Ma Sa Ya Ranch

Ma Sa Ya Ranch is an exclusive hideaway, tucked away in the Joshua Tree desert. The grounds feature over 7 acres of sprawling landscape, a sauna, pool, and private fire pit. The architecture is adobe inspired, with gorgeous details and warm colors. Ma Sa Ya Ranch can accommodate up to 6 guests – perfect for a very intimate gathering. 

Seven Arches

Seven Arches is a peaceful Spanish ranch style home, located in the high desert. Surrounded by the rocky landscape, this is the perfect desert escape. At Seven Ranches, you’ll feel off the grid, while still having access to all the important local amenities. This venue can accommodate up to 8 guests, and boasts some fun features, such as star gazing, outdoor movies, a jacuzzi and dipping pool, and a comfortable space to entertain. Being that this property is located in the desert, it’s also quite common to spot unexpected guests like wild rabbits, coyotes, and even snakes – which is part of the adventure!

Auto Camp Joshua Tree

Another Auto Camp property, only this one sits nestled in the high desert of Joshua Tree, surrounded by the sprawling landscape and cholla cactus. Auto Camp Joshua Tree features the same awesome airstreams that make for a totally unique stay. This property features an outdoor ceremony space that can accommodate up to 108 guests, and the option for a full buyout to accommodate up to 165 guests – so plenty of space for a small wedding! 

Sacred Sands

Sacred Sands is a private event oasis, only 1 mile from the Joshua Tree National Park entrance. This luxurious space is the perfect location to host a small wedding. With a ceremony location that can accommodate up to 50 guests, as well as a receptions space, and 4 onsite accommodations, this property has everything you could need for your intimate gathering. The property is surrounded by rugged desert foothills, and rocky terrain, making it such a picturesque location. 

Bride and groom walking in Sedona, Arizona

Arizona Small Wedding Venues:

The Joshua Tree House

The Joshua Tree House located in Tucson, Arizona with over 38 acres of desert land, speckled with Saguaro cactus and abundant wildlife. The house was built as a place to slow down and reconnect, while celebrating both good design and nature. It’s the perfect place to host a small gathering immersed by the surrounding desert landscape. The Joshua Tree House has 6 unique suites, and can accommodate up to 14 guests.  

Red Agave Resort

Red Agave provides an outdoor setting for your small wedding, amidst the stunning Sedona backdrop that features views of some of the most iconic rock formations in Arizona. Red Agave can host up to 100 guests for a small wedding. The resort also features pools, fire pits, and private hiking trails, as well as access to the most incredible outdoor experiences that Sedona has to offer. 

Texas Small Wedding Venues:

The Willow House

Being a Texan myself, this is one of my favorite options on this list. The Willow House is a boutique hotel made up of 12 modern, concrete casitas, located in West Texas. Each house is built with an open concept, with views of the Chihuahuan desert speckled with ocotillo cactus. You can either rent a couple rooms, or book out the entire property for a small wedding. Its close proximity to Big Bend National Park makes it the perfect place to access all the outdoor adventure the area has to offer. The communal main house features a gourmet kitchen, perfect for cooking or mixing up a delicious cocktail. The property offers a unique, luxury experience unlike anything else in the area, while also providing tons of opportunity for adventure. 

Alaska Small Wedding Venues:

The Sheldon Chalet

The Sheldon Chalet might be one of the grandest options on this list. This luxury chalet is located in the Don Sheldon Amphitheater, in Denali National Park, and is so remote it is only accessible via a private flight-seeing tour, which is provided to all guests. At the Sheldon Chalet, you’ll experience some of the most majestic scenery in the world, while enjoying pure luxury. The chalet also provides on demand guided experiences such as glacier trekking with a gourmet picnic, crevasse exploration, avalanche viewing, ice climbing, snow cavern spelunking and so much more. It truly is the perfect place to host a small, adventurous wedding. 

Salted Roots

Salted Roots is a boutique, A-frame cabin style inn nestled between Chugach National Forest and Kenai Fjords National Park. The property can accommodate up to 20 guests, making it the perfect size for a small wedding venue. The location provides access to a plethora of outdoor activities, including private boating excursions to view glaciers in the Kenai Fjords, helicopter tours, kayaking, and world class hiking. 

Learn More: Alaska Elopement Packages | How to Elope in Alaska

This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there are hundreds of small wedding venues all across the country, but I wanted to keep this list highly curated to my favorite places, that are located in incredible destinations. These are all spots that I would excitedly recommend to any of me couples, so rest assured they will be incredible! 

Ready to start planning your small wedding? I’d be honored to tag along! Reach out here and we can get started planning together.

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Meet your elopement photographer

Hey, I'm Carissa! Intimate wedding & elopement photographer, for adventurous couples whose love takes them to the wildest corners of the earth. I can usually be found me with my couples, jeeping through the San Juan mountains, chasing sunsets in Moab, or exploring other wild destinations around the world. I care deeply about your elopement experience, and the photos you walk away with to remember it all. I'll help you plan the most unforgettable elopement day that feels like you, and document your adventure in a way that feels like art.

Based in the San Juan mountains of Colorado, and traveling worldwide.

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