Try These on for Size

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When a romantic surprise on the Strip links up with a cool crowd, you’ve got a party with Ocean's Eleven attitude. Viva Las Vegas!

Number of guests: 90

Location: Las Vegas

Style: Rat Pack hip

As an entertainment reporter and anchor for a Las Vegas TV station, Kate Maddox knows a thing or two about over-the-top megaparties. And that's exactly what she and her fiancé, Cab Bennett, intended to avoid when they were planning their post-wedding celebration in casino country. "I was insistent on not inviting strangers," Kate recalls. "Besides, I wanted to spend quality time with each and every person." So when family pressure pushed the list to 160, she started cutting back: no distant cousins, no children, no friends of the folks. The final count: 90 guests.

That manageable number made an intimate outdoor buffet possible, and the pool gardens at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas were a perfect fit. "We wanted a little bit of a Rat Pack feeling," Kate says, so the seating was informal—couches and ottomans in white patent leather, cocktail and café tables, all clustered around witty light fixtures resembling table lamps on steroids. "A lounge wouldn't have worked as well if we'd had more people," she says. Add a martini bar and a jazz combo softly playing Sinatra and Dean Martin favorites, and everyone had a blast. "People could really talk," says Kate. "Either they knew each other or there was just one degree of separation." The coup de théâtre: During cocktails, the couple surprised their guests with a marriage ceremony—the one they pretended to have had in the Caribbean two weeks before. Ain't that a kick in the head?

The Message on Medium

  • When it came to the guest list, Kate Maddox was ruthless. You can be too. Make rules and stick to them; if you've limited family members of your own generation to siblings, don't squeeze in your favorite first cousin.
  • If your list tops out at 100 or fewer, have just one or two attendants. A couple of bridesmaids at your side will look appropriate; a line of Rockettes will not.
  • When you're considering sites, pay attention to scale. That former bank lobby with 40-foot ceilings will dwarf the crowd and sap the energy from the event.
  • Don't deprive yourself or your guests of the sweet, often funny traditions—the toasts, the first dance, the cake-cutting—that distinguish a wedding from just another party.
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