Navigating a Wedding with a Big Family

Bride and groom with large family at wedding reception

Weddings are the perfect chance for entire families to get together and celebrate the happy couple, but they are also the perfect chance to send your stress levels through the roof as you figure out how to navigate the wedding with a crazy, big family. From figuring out who’s in the wedding and where everyone sits to making sure no one is left off the invite list and gets their feelings hurt, your dream wedding can turn into a nightmare. We’ve got a few ways to help you lower your stress levels and make sure your big family feels included at the same time.

The Wedding Party

When trying to decide who to include in your wedding party, you have some big decisions to make. You either include sisters, cousins, and best friends, or you cut all of them. My friend has eight brothers and sisters, so I was interested to see just how she would include all of them in her wedding party. I was an only child and still had eight bridesmaids so I felt sorry for her thinking her line of bridesmaids might extend down the aisles. I was astonished to realize not one of her siblings was in the wedding! She decided to just level the playing field and not include any of them. This might seem extreme, but no one could get their feelings hurt because no one was left out.

Wedding attendants aren’t cheap. Each person you add just adds on to the stress of finding the perfect dress to make everyone happy, finding wedding party gifts that don’t break your budget, and figuring out how to gather all of them together for pre-wedding events. I didn’t even mention the family drama that might arise as sisters fight like sisters and cousins fight for your attention. If you decide you don’t need the stress in your wedding, just explain to them you will give them other jobs or that you just want them in attendance to party. If you decide you do want to include your big family, make a plan of how you will do it and explain you probably cannot make every single one of them happy. Your family should respect whatever decision you make because it’s your big day, not theirs.

Numbered tables at a wedding reception

Seating Chart

Most tables won’t sit a family of 50 so you have to improvise with your seating chart. You could sit the younger kids at a few tables and disperse the older family at others. This might present a challenge for toddlers that are easier to feed next to their parents. Sit immediate family together if possible. Of course, this can be a challenge if you have a family of seven when a standard table sits eight. You can also sit family together that hasn’t seen one another in a long time so they have a chance to catch up. Remember, people usually only sit at their assigned seats to eat and will be up mingling most of the night so don’t put too much worry into where each person sits. This isn’t school where they will get sent to the Principal’s Office for not sitting in their assigned seat!

Wedding Jobs

A great way to include your big family in your wedding is to give them jobs. The jobs don’t need to be big to make them feel included. You can include little cousins or nieces and nephews as your ring bearer(s) or flower girl(s). Yes, you can have multiple if you want. This just adds to the cuteness factor. Older teenage family members can act as ushers and/or greeters. Again, you can have as many as you want. Some could pass out programs as people walk in the door. A great way to include older family members is to have them read a favorite quote or Bible verse during the ceremony. At the reception you can appoint a few people to greet guests and guide them to their seats. It’s not a popular job and might be a bit difficult for young family members, but you can ask a few to help cut the cake and pass it out. You can even make up little jobs that will help you stress less. Have someone make sure all of the details in your posed photos are perfect or even hold your flowers during photos. Usually family members jump at the chance to feel included.

Wedding photographer taking photos of family

The Big Family Photo

One of the hardest things to navigate after your wedding is the family photo. Think about herding a big crowd of people into one photo. The photographer will handle the difficult task, but it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone in attendance is ready to say cheese, so make sure to get everyone together and tell them it’s time for the big photo.

I was recently at a wedding where they wanted all extended family members in the photo. Everyone was already at the reception drinking and dancing so it was next to impossible to round them all up. The picture was snapped with less than half of the family members. All it takes is a little communication and rounding up by the loudest of your bunch. You can appoint a leader of the family to make sure everyone is in place for the photo. Group them by immediate family so it’s easier and the photographer knows how to position everyone. This is also a great opportunity for immediate family members to get a quick professional shot of just them after the big photo is taken. The photographer gets more pictures and your family members catch a moment in time that lasts forever. Everyone wins.

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