Small ceremony/Big reception?
Since we got engaged in June, my fiance and I have been planning a nice wedding of about ~100 people, with a price tag on everything we wanted being about $17k. However, we've recently started talking about doing something smaller and more cost-friendly.
We've been trying to toy with the idea of doing a smaller, more intimate ceremony during the week, then throw a big reception that weekend. It would save us so much money and stress, and we'd be able to get married sooner than our original 2-year timeline. Plus we could put more into the reception and make it more fun for the guests. However, there's a few things I can't shake from my original vision of a big wedding, and we're trying to figure out how to do this without hurting anyone's feelings.
We've considered a very intimate (for our family) ceremony, with only parents, grandparents, and siblings, and maybe a few friends (~28 people). If we go this route though, I'd feel awful leaving out my aunt and uncles. I know they'll be hurt.
We could go the half-way mark, where we invite some aunts and uncles. But then we start going down the slippery slope of "if we invite x, we have to invite y, and then we'd have to invite z." Even just adding aunts, uncles, and cousins puts us up to 50 guests.
My future BIL recommended doing something like a camping trip, where everyone rents a space and goes camping and we have a nice, simple outdoor wedding. But I don't think everyone will like that, and it would make it difficult on the grandparents (some of whom have medical issues). Plus I'm not sure we could find a campground that accommodates enough people AND has that many spots left for next year.
I really, really can't let go of wanting to buy or rent a beautiful wedding gown. I don't know why. It's a childhood dream of mine. So if we do something so small (courthouse - ~10 people), it'll feel silly and stupid to buy a gown for that. But if we do even a medium event with ~50 people, we probably won't save much anyway. I also really want to hire a nice photographer to have pictures of our big day, but if we do a 15 minute ceremony with just a few people, how can I justify hiring a photographer?
I'm really lost and I don't know how to balance saving money, having the people we want involved there without hurting someone, and still having the things I've always dreamed of having at our wedding.
I'm sorry for rambling. Do any of you have any advice or insight? Did anyone here do something similar or non-traditional? How did people handle it? What would you recommend, with how you'd done your wedding?