How to Make a Large Wedding Feel Intimate

A group of people at a wedding reception with sparklers lit against an evening sky.

Have you always dreamed of having a big wedding, but still want the atmosphere to be intimate? There’s nothing worse than attending a huge wedding where you don’t even get to speak with the bride and groom; don’t let your loved ones become just another face in the crowd at your wedding!

The average number of guests invited to weddings is 136. This is a very manageable amount, but what happens when that number creeps closer to 200? That’s a lot of people to greet and interact with personally over a four-hour dinner reception. So, what should you do?

It’s hard to eliminate people you care about from your big day but, luckily, you don’t have to. In fact, you can still create that intimate feeling you’ve always wanted without dropping a single person from the event. Keep the following tips in mind to ensure both your wedding ceremony and reception are inviting, warm, and personal.

Keep Decorations Personal

A display of personal photos at a wedding reception.

The way you decorate will greatly impact your wedding’s overall atmosphere. While it’s likely that you’ve found numerous decoration ideas online (Pinterest is both a gift and a curse!), it’s absolutely imperative that you choose elements that fit your style as a couple. One of the easiest ways to make your wedding intimate is to incorporate as many personal touches as possible. Remaining authentic to yourselves is the best course of action—if you want Death Stars and X-Wing Starfighter models hanging from the ceiling or a TARDIS-shaped cake, then go for it!

(On a more technical note, avoid including mirrors in your decorations. Mirrors create the illusion of additional space. To keep your wedding cozy, leave these out of your decoration plans.)

Opt for a Cozier Venue

One of the easiest ways to ensure your big wedding is intimate is to choose a cozy venue. This may seem counterintuitive as you’re planning to invite a significant number of people. Keeping everyone close, however, will create the atmosphere you’re seeking. Your guests will be forced to mingle with one another. You’ll also be able to easily locate people for a quick chat or hug. A large ballroom or open estate, on the other hand, promotes distance and will result in a lot of empty space.

If possible, find a venue that’s small, but has multiple rooms or spaces. You and your guests can move between the different areas to interact with others, grab food, and dance. Your friends and family may also enjoy the ability to explore a little.

Set the Mood with Lighting

An elegant table at a wedding reception with candles and twinkle lights in a tree.

Decorations aren’t the only thing that will set the tone of your wedding; your lighting can play a huge role in establishing an intimate atmosphere for your ceremony and reception. Keeping your lights dim will create a soft glow in the room. Candles are also extremely effective. If your venue allows the use of candles, incorporate as many as possible.

Dimming the lights is especially effective if you choose the right color scheme. Matte, dark colors absorb light very well and will create a softer aesthetic. If you strongly prefer lighters colors, ivory (as opposed to white) is probably the best choice.

Make it a Weekend!

Who says your wedding should last only a single day? Nowhere is it written that you must limit yourselves in this way. Making your union into a weekend event is ideal when you have a large guest list, as you’ll all have significantly more time to interact. This is particularly ideal for destination weddings because your guests will appreciate extra time to see the nearby sights.

If you like the idea of a multiday wedding, make sure you include several different activities for your guests. Consider throwing a welcome cocktail party on Friday evening so everyone gets a chance to mingle. You may also want to schedule some fun activities, a group brunch, a group dinner, and/or a farewell party.

Offer Interactive Activities

A photobooth sign with props for a wedding reception.

Dancing isn’t the only fun activity to incorporate into your wedding. In fact, providing a wide assortment of entertainment options for your guests can make your event seem much more intimate. Find theme-related activities that your friends and family can enjoy throughout the evening. A few great options include black jack tables, corn hole, fire pits, s’mores stations, photo booths, lawn games, board games, or a scavenger hunt.

If you’re tired of fretting over who to cut from your guest list, stop right now. Big weddings are incredible. After all, how many times will you and your significant other have the opportunity to bring all of your closest friends and family together in one place? Don’t sacrifice this chance to include all the people you love in one of the most memorable days of your life. You can totally make it work!

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