After having been in more wedding parties, done more chicken dances, and bought more towel sets than I care to remember, I have occasion to have my own wedding.... but I don't really want to.   My fiancee and I are both professionals in our mid-30s and don't want to indulge the wedding-industrial complex. 
How do we have a small, dignified wedding without making anyone feel bad?  I'm fortunate to have quite a number of good friends, but about four I would consider "best." We're looking towards a small, non-religious ceremony in a public space followed by a nice sit-down dinner at a local restaurant.  We also don't want presents (considering directing people to a few local charities if they insist), but would like to make some kind of announcement to everybody else -- how to do so without saying "you didn't make the cut" and "really, no stuff?" 

Dear Weddinged-Out:

You and your fiance sound like two people who have considered their options and know exactly what they want.  And what they don't.  Good for you!

If you want a really intimate gathering with close family and a few friends, why not consider cluing everyone else in by sending a brief note informing them your wedding will be really tiny?  If you're planning to have a celebration later on that they'll be invited to (backyard barbeque, beach party, cocktails on the deck), mention that.  And you can even use that opportunity to address the present conundrum:

Dearest Family and Friends:

As you know, we will be married later this year.  We've chosen to do it in late July, and our fondest wish is to have a very tiny wedding with only immediate family and a few others we've known for a long, long time.
We hope we'll have your understanding and best wishes on the 31st, and will be thinking of you all on that day.

And we hope we'll be seeing you on September 6th, when we have an open house reception at our new address  .  (It will take us that long to unpack!)  Details will follow soon.

Please don't worry about presents--your presence truly is the present we'd most like to have.  (And at this point, our apartment isn't so large that it can hold much more...)  If you feel moved to, we've included a few nonprofits that would deeply appreciate any help you'd like to give.

So send good thoughts and prayers our way on the 31st, and know that we will be thanking you for your support and love.


Kamala and Martin

You could include a photo of the two of you in your letter of intent.  Follow with an announcement 

                                            Kamala Miller and Martin Becker 
                                                   are pleased to announce 
                                                             their marriage
                                                              31 July 2009
                                                            Broad Courtyard
                                                   Central Library, Los Angeles

and/or if you have a party, you could include a photo of yourselves on your wedding day on a card or in a paper frame, or on a commemorative paper bookmark or magnet (Kamala and Martin, July 31, 2009).

Mazel Tov,

Karen Grigsby Bates is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).

Next time: Where to seat the feuding relatives or (gulp!) parents at your wedding.

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is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).