12 Ways to Turn a Big Wedding Into an Intimate Affair

Wedding pros share their advice for making a large event more personal.
by Carrie Anton
Wedding party with balloons
photo by Tony Gigov Photography

The average number of guests couples have at their wedding is 139, according to The Knot 2015 Real Weddings Study. So if you find mingling at smaller gatherings stressful, a big wedding might feel pretty intimidating. And even if you consider yourself the ultimate social butterfly, finding one-on-one time with your long list of guests might be a bigger task than even you can manage. But just because you're hosting a 350-person formal affair doesn't mean your wedding can't feel intimate too. We talked to some wedding pros to get their advice on how to turn your "big" day into something more personal. Here's what they had to say:

1. Pre-Party

"Host smaller, more intimate events leading up to your wedding day with various groups of guests." —Magnolia Bluebird Design & Events

2. Inviting Cocktails

"Leave miniature bottles of champagne awaiting your guests' arrival to the cocktail hour. Tags with the words 'Drink Me' or 'Drunk in Love,' and give your guests' glasses for a 'just walked into your home' kind of feel." —Sasha Danielle

3. Space Saver

"[At a museum event], we had the [exhibit] moved in closer to the center of the room to make it feel as if the space had shrunk to give it a more intimate feel. Then by adding a warm amber uplighting effect, it didn't feel like such a large space anymore." –Cherry Blossom Events

4. Light the Way

"Incorporating a variety of soft and romantic light can help create an intimate and welcoming atmosphere. Uplighting, lanterns, ceiling and market lighting will enhance the mood. Beware of harsh or bright lights, such as spotlights, and when in doubt, add an array of candles for a touch of romance." —Nicole George Event Planning & Design

5. Ceremony Setting

"Create a more intimate outdoor ceremony by setting up a circle with your chairs around the chuppah to include all of your guests. It makes a 200-plus wedding seem much more intimate this way." —Paige Hiller Photography

6. Family Feast

"Choose long tables over smaller round ones to create a feeling of being at an intimate dinner party with friends and family." —Brindamour Photography

7. Give Centerpieces the Lowdown

"While big, tall centerpieces may feel appropriate for a large wedding, consider a low and lush option instead. With low centerpieces, guests are able to see one another and carry on conversation." —Megan Dileen Events

8. Meal Mingling

"One way to make a large wedding feel intimate is through food stations. Guests will have an opportunity to interact with one another while selecting their food rather than staying seated through the entire reception." —Andrea Leslie Weddings & Events

9. Greet the Guests

"Taking the time to spend a few minutes at each table greeting guests allows the bride and groom an opportunity to enjoy mingling with all of their loved ones and friends, and allows their guests to feel included in their day." —Essence Photography

10. Casual Corners

"Designate a space that's away from the reception room for guests to gather and chat—for example, an intimate cigar lounge with a rustic feel complete with wood furniture, Mexican blankets, rugs and a fire pit." —Asya Photography

11. A Dance Among Friends

"Invite all the guests to gather along the edges of the dance floor right before your introduction, and then go right into your first dance warmly surrounded by your family and friends." —The Golden Coast All Stars

12. Keep Them Entertained

"Set up intimate lounge areas that cater to specific activities and smaller groups of guests, like a cigar and whiskey lounge, and so on." —Moana Events

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