How to Make a Big Wedding Still Feel Intimate

Bring everyone together on your special day

Updated 07/31/17

Photo by Sara Wight Photography

Whether you planned to party with a crowd or that guest list seemed to multiply overnight, there are so many great reasons to have a big wedding. There are very few times when you get to have all of the people you love in one place, so why not make the most of it? And a crowd can lead to a killer dance party! But of course, the thing you can sometimes lose is a feeling of intimacy, especially when the guest count starts to creep past 200 people. So, how do you give your big day that personal, warm, and inviting vibe, even when there are more guests than you had in your high school class? We have a few expert tips to help you make a big wedding feel intimate.

Big guest lists mean big spaces, which can sometimes feel too sprawling and sterile instead of cozy and personal, so it will take a few feats of design (and careful planning) to make your guests feel welcome instead of just part of the crowd.

It all starts with your venue. While huge ballrooms and function spaces might be your first choice, instead look for a space with more personality. Time your day to move guests through the venue, giving them a tour from the ceremony on the lawn to cocktails on the patio to dinner inside. Moving guests through multiple spaces (versus having everything all in the same place) allows you to work with spaces that might be on the smaller size, creating a cozier feel.

Stuck with a big space? Use furniture and lighting to break it up. Soft amber hues are much more inviting than harsh cool colors, and candlelight adds a layer of romance no matter where you’re hosting. Use vignettes of lounge furniture to invite your guests to settle in (especially around the dance floor!), and consider grouping tables to create the feeling of multiple smaller reception spaces instead of one huge one. Consider skipping the dozens of round tables in favor of fewer long ones, which will foster more of a family-style atmosphere.

The experience your guests have will also help make them feel taken care of instead of like a herd of sheep. Opt for interactive food and drink elements, like a bourbon tasting station or a wandering oyster shucker. It serves as a talking point and also encourages your guests to gather in smaller groups. When it’s time for dinner, up the number of servers to provide an extra level of attention, making sure wine glasses aren’t left empty and it doesn’t take too long for food to be served or cleared. Nothing emphasizes how big a group is like making your guests wait!

For the main event (the ceremony!), rows and rows of chairs can make the guests in the back feel miles away. If you have the flexibility to do so, set up seating in the round, with guests on all sides of the altar. This will keep the last row from feeling too far, plus it will literally surround you with the people you love.

With so many people in attendance, it might be impossible to greet everyone during the reception. Consider making a weekend of it with a welcome party, activities, and brunch to give yourselves more time to make the rounds. You may not have gotten to dance with your Aunt Mabel at the reception, but you’ll both remember the time you spent together sipping Bloody Marys the next day!

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