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How to Make a Big Wedding Feel Intimate

Chief among breakout wedding trends for the 2022 season is the return of huge, extravagant wedding festivities. From huge guest lists to literal fireworks, couples are seeking to make up for lost time and, after a year locked indoors, people are ready to party.

But how can couples throw the wedding bash of their dreams without losing the cozy, intimate feel that makes a wedding day so special?

From fostering new connections amongst your guests to the use of foliage or drapery to create the illusion of divided space, finding the perfect balance between expansiveness and intimacy just requires a little strategy.

Here are seven ways to make your big wedding feel like a cozy gathering of close friends.

Set the Ambience

What feels more intimate: the aisles of a beautiful old library or the aisles of a supermarket? The latter feels clinical, cold, sparse—it’s designed to feel harsh, to discourage you from staying too long.

The former, by contrast? The cozy ambience can make anyone feel at home amongst those hallowed shelves.

What’s the key difference? Outside of the absence of shrieking children, the biggest difference is the lighting.

When designing the lightscape for your wedding day, think carefully about the feeling you want to emulate. If you’re angling for an intimate, romantic feel, opt for lots of candles and dim or coloured lighting.

This lighting should be dispersed evenly around your venue. You’ll want to use warmer rather than cooler lights, possibly making use of smartphone-controllable coloured lights like Philips Hue Bulbs. It should never be difficult to see, but it shouldn’t feel bright; think of your favourite cocktail bar on a Saturday night for inspiration and start there.

Create Hideaways

A big space can feel vacuous without the right furniture and decor. Instead of using tiny cocktail tables, consider opting for bigger furniture and lots of potted plants or other statement decor.

Making the space feel abundant is only half the equation, though. It’s becoming increasingly popular to create discrete “hideaways” that guests can use to lounge, dine, and chat. These little enclaves become cozy reprieves from the madness of the dance floor, where guests can chat in a quieter, more private space.

Creating hideaways is an excellent way to subdivide a huge space and create a more exciting, wondrous experience for your guests. Making these cozy spaces will make the festivities feel cozier, more intimate, and more memorable.

Embrace Long Table Seating

Round tables are a well loved tradition in the wedding industry, but they aren’t the best way to encourage conversation amongst your guests. Instead of round tables—which are often at minimum six feet in diameter, and must be spaced farther from other tables—opt for long rectangular tables.

With round tables, it’s difficult for guests to speak to those sitting opposite them. With long tables, a la the classic “long table dinner,” guests have a better opportunity to speak with those they’re sitting next to and across from.

Similarly, you can fit more rectangular tables into a room than round tables; this makes more space for more guests to dine, chat, and enjoy your big celebration.

Try Dramatic Draping Fabrics

If your venue has high ceilings, you may struggle to create a very intimate atmosphere. Vaulted ceilings are beautiful and dramatic but at times feel too expansive. To counteract this effect, consider making use of draped fabrics to offset this feeling without totally obscuring the drama of a vaulted ceiling.

Opt to hang luxurious and sumptuous fabrics from the ceiling itself in dramatic draped shapes. This fabric will sway and move throughout the event, giving the space a graceful sense of movement. This will create the illusion of a lower ceiling which makes the space feel more cozy and intimate. Draped fabrics also work exceptionally well to create the cozy hideaways discussed above.

Encircle the Ceremony

The typical ceremony set up involves an altar where the couple is married and straight rows of chairs or pews that look on. For the people sitting in the back row, it can be very difficult to feel involved or immersed in the most important aspect of the wedding day: the ceremony.

To create a greater sense of inclusivity during your ceremony, consider arranging seats for your guests in a circle or semicircle around the altar.

This way, you’re able to seat more people in the “front row”, allowing you to condense the total number of rows required to seat all guests. Everyone gets to be closer to the action, and it’s a special feeling to literally be encircled by the people you love on your wedding day.

Double Up on Staff

With a big wedding, it’s always a risk that guests might feel the event is understaffed. If empty dinner plates sit too long or hors d’oeuvres don’t make the rounds frequently enough, the size of the event can be felt more acutely.

To avoid this problem, consider hiring more staff to cater and bartend your wedding so that every guest will feel cared for. This way, the event appears smaller and more intimate than it actually is.

It’s also always a good idea to ensure everyone is well fed—after a long day and with a long night ahead, there’s nothing worse than a bunch of hangry relatives.

Make It Yours

The most important thing you can do to make your big wedding feel intimate is to make the wedding recognizably yours. Making your own personal touches felt throughout the festivities will make it impossible for guests to ever forget where they are or who they’re celebrating.

Tack photos up—from your engagement, or even baby photos!—in a big display; set up stations where guests can take Polaroids and sign them, or leave you notes or advice. Handwrite notes for your guests to thank them for being there. Be sure to give a heartfelt, authentic toast.

Your guests are there to celebrate you. Making sure there are multiple touchpoints where you can interact with your guests—be it in person or just at a fun little photo station—will make your guests feel close to you.

On your wedding day, that sense of closeness is really all that matters.

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