If you are having a wedding with more than 250 people, you are definitely having a large wedding. An average sized wedding is challenging enough, but throw in an extra 100 to 300 people and you have quite a challenge! It is possible, however, to create an intimate feel at your large wedding by focusing on the logistics from the perspective of your guests. So much of how a guest views a wedding experience is based upon how comfortable they are, so focus on that aspect when dealing with planning your large wedding. Nobody likes to feel lost in a crowd.
Directions and Signage to help your guests
–Make sure there are clear signs for parking and signs directing guests to the ceremony.
-Have a greeter welcome guests, give directions to the restrooms, and take gifts. If you do not have a coordinator, assign a family member to do this. Keep in mind that it is a job that will get a bit tedious, as every guest needs to be greeted, but it is so important to make them feel like they matter!
-Have extra ushers on hand to help seat guests for the ceremony.
-If you do not have a coordinator to direct traffic, ask your officiant to announce where cocktail hour will be so guests know where to go after the ceremony.
-Make two tables for escort cards and split them up for ease: i.e., “A-M” and “N-Z”
-In a ballroom with 30, 40, or even 50 tables, finding your table is not easy. Your coordinator should have assistants with floor maps and alphabetical seating charts to help guests find their table. If you do not have a coordinator, consider framing the floorplan and putting it somewhere near the entry to the reception.
Managing your guests
-Keep in mind the amount of time it takes to move around large groups of people. You will need a longer cocktail hour if the cocktail and reception sites are not right next to each other.
-To prevent the bottleneck effect, place bars at opposite ends of the room away from the entrance.
-To prevent long bar lines, have servers tray pass wine and champagne during cocktail hour.
-Keep reception elements to a minimum as there needs to be padding in the timeline to service this many people. If too many activities (video montage, endless toasts, choreographed dances, dress changes, etc) are planned, there will not be enough time to say…..party, and your guest will leave feeling overwhelmed rather than elated.
Seat your guests
-If you are using round tables, consider a 60″ round instead of a 72″ and seat 10 people at it. A 72″ round tables seat 10-12 people, however, I find that you can only really talk to the person on each side of you as the table is so large. Also, if you are open to alternatives, long banquet, or feasting tables, lend an air of intimacy in the right venue.
-Consider a family style meal as opposed to a plated meal. The psychological aspect of passing around the entrees and sides adds to a more homey, Thanksgiving-y feeling that gets guests really interacting with each other.
-No matter how big or little your floral budget is, make sure that your centerpieces do not obstruct conversation. I don’t care how pretty something is, if I can’t talk to the people at my table, a crucial part of dinner time is forever lost.
Connect with your Guests
– Consider taking all photos before the ceremony in order to attend cocktail hour and spend more time with your guests.
-Write a note in your program telling them that each and every one of them matters to you.
-If time permits, write a personal thank you note and attach to each escort card. This would be a huge undertaking, but imagine being a guest at a wedding and finding a personal note from the bride and groom waiting for you!
-In my opinion, Jewish receptions that start off with the Hora are the best wedding receptions as they kick off the evening with a festive “we are a community” high energy group dance. If you are not Jewish, consider doing something like transitioning your first dance into high energy dance set as a way to get your guests on the dancefloor to start the party.
-Welcome your guests at the beginning of your reception and tell that you look forward to saying hello to them on the dancefloor!
-Guests really do follow your lead–if you are dancing and having fun, so will they!
Activities to engage your Guests
-Have something fun like a Photobooth to encourage guests to interact and have fun together. I have noticed that the line for the photobooth is usually longer than the line for the bar!
-Have an activity that allows your guests to contribute something important such as a scrapbook page or a signed wine bottle that will be opened on anniversaries.
-Later in the evening provide fun party toys like glowsticks, hats, or maracas. It sounds cheesy, but adding toys to a formal event breaks down reservations and people really having fun playing with them!