11 Creative Ways to Make a Big Space Seem Intimate for Your Small Wedding

Planning Tips, Wedding Style & Decor
make big wedding venue seem intimate

Photo: Getty Images

Wedding venues come in all shapes and sizes, whether it be a hotel ballroom, an urban loft space or a sprawling old estate — there's no standard size when it comes to wedding spaces, especially when you bring in the couple's hopes and dreams for their big day. So a bride planning a 50-person wedding might fall in love with the exposed brick and industrial nature of a repurposed warehouse that can fit up to 200, and she shouldn't have to pare down her ideas just because she's worried about a space feeling too big. Trust us, there are a slew of fun and creative ways to make a big event space seem cozy and intimate. Just see our favorite ideas, sourced from the experts, below.

1. Use trees to create closeness and divide the space.
Rustic, boho, earthy and even minimalist brides will definitely dig this idea! As wedding planner Tracie Domino, founder of Tracie Domino Events, points out, trees are a great way to divide a space in an organic way and create a cozier environment. Laura Irizarry-Garcia, owner of LIG Events agrees. "I love to place large trees or branch arrangements around the perimeter of the room to make a big room feel more intimate," she says. "They really help enclose the space visually and also provide a living element which totally transforms the energy of a venue."

2. Make the most of pipe and drape.
Chancey Charm Charleston wedding planner Samantha Wiley suggests using pipe and drape to make a space feel more intimate! "By draping the ceiling, you're moving your line of sight down which gives the illusion of a smaller space," she explains. Drape allows you to section the room and bring everything in so your guests feel like they are in a cozy space instead of an empty hollow room, adds wedding planner Lauren Chitwood, owner and founder of Lauren Chitwood Events.

3. Lower the ceiling with florals.
If the venue allows it, Anthony Navarro of Liven It Up Events advises bringing in elements that you can suspend from the ceiling, whether it be floral pieces, chandeliers, candles or cafe lights to help create a more intimate setting. For brides on a budget, Chitwood says you can also try "lowering" the ceiling by hanging structures like drum shades or paper lanterns.

4. Mix up your seating (i.e. nix the round tables!).
According to Anika Warden of Vibiana Los Angeles, incorporating square and rectangular tables is a great way to fill up your seating area. "Their hard angles don't fit together as easily as round tables do on a floor plan and require more space than the same number of guests at round tables often do too." She recommends using King's tables to allow for plenty of room for décor as well as your place settings and to maximize the overall use of the space.

5. Get creative with lighting.
Talk with a designer about creating a lighting plan that completely transforms your space, offers Skylar Caitlin, Chancey Charm Houston wedding planner. "Think of it as a restaurant. When restaurants want to create a romantic, intimate feel, they dim the lights and use candles to give off a natural glow," she says. "This feel could also be achieved by pin spotting (or spotlighting tables) or by using uplighting in a color that brings warmth to the venue." Keep the areas you don't want seen or used dark no matter what.

6. Set up a lounge space and throw some pretty pillows into the mix.
Want to give guests a space to mingle in a more intimate fashion? Jessica Upton, owner of Uptown Events and Travel, recommends creating cozy lounge spaces with couches, ottomans and fun pillows that tie into your design theme to help encourage conversation.

See More: The 9 Biggest Black Tie Wedding Mistakes Brides Make

7. Make a visual wall with décor
If you have metal grillwork in the ceiling, chances are you can use magnetic hooks to hold lightweight items on invisible fishline, such as paper lanterns, flower pinwheels or lengths of ribbon to create a visual wall, notes Florida Keys wedding planner Lynn D'Ascanio of D'Asigner Events.

8. Cluster purposefully
Some people look at a big space and spread everything out, but Samantha Gieseke, owner of Plan Our Day Houston, prefers to cluster. "For a big room, one tip is design the room layout with both cross walkways (between quadrants of tables and around a central dance floor) as well as leave space around the outside of the room to walk, so essentially pulling everything towards a center focal point like the DJ and dance floor or sweetheart table."

9. Opt for over the top (AKA tall!) centerpieces
As Pure Luxe Bride event designer Blake Bush Blake points out, tall centerpieces will make the ceilings seem lower and break up the space a bit, creating a more intimate vibe.

10. Use color to your advantage
White will make a space seem airy and larger, while darker colors (think rich hues) will make the space seem smaller, notes Greg Jenkins, founder of Bravo Productions. Also, forget the solid colored tablecloths and opt for large patterned linens in bold contrasting colors, advises Erika Stone-Miller, Senior Wedding Designer for Premier Catering & Events in Chicago. "Large florals and multi-colored stripes will flourish in large spaces and unify the different areas."

11. Set up food stations
Instead of a sit-down dinner, use food stations to take up space in the room, offers Jenkins. "You can spread the food stations out for guests' convenience, while utilizing space to make the room appear smaller." This also helps create intimacy, says Andrea Leslie of Andrea Leslie Weddings & Events. "Guests have the opportunity to interact with one another while selecting their food rather than staying seated through the entire reception."

Give a Subscription to Brides Magazine as a Gift

Get personalized planning advice, exclusive offers and must-read wedding news.

Thank You
for Signing Up!

Check your e-mail inbox for the latest updates from brides.com