BY MARTIE EMORY
Photo by toujours
As you may be watching your guest list grow a little each day, you may also see your vision of an intimate gathering of friends and family slipping away. If you’re still venue shopping, there are elements to look for that will help you stage a cozier setting – so read on – or, if you’ve already booked with a large ballroom or banquet hall, learn some creative tricks to turn the setting into a more personable celebration!
- Be creative! An otherwise boring reception hall that’s sectioned off into comfortable lounge areas with banquettes and throw pillows (all available to rent) adds a homey touch, as does sheer fabric (familiarize yourself with the term “pipe and drape”) draped to provide other vignette seating areas for the reception. Even just draping the ceiling makes a dramatic difference.
- Lighting, lighting, lighting! Warm lighting, mixed with warm colors for table linens, can make a larger space feel more intimate, and amber lighting is flattering to all skin tones – just a bonus. Also, don’t skimp on candlelight at every table, including the entryway. That soft glow works wonders.
- Placing lounge seating around the dance floor adds an especially comfortable touch. You can rent sofas and chairs, or arrange with the venue to move seating from another area closer to where your guests will gather most.
- If your reception venue is made up of several smaller rooms, you’ll feel more like you’re at home entertaining – so consider those venues first. If there’s a garden or patio area available, extend your cocktail hour with additional seating outdoors.
- Flowers and greenery soften any space, so ask your florist to drape greenery garlands over chandeliers, mantels and on the front of long dining tables.
- For an even bigger touch of nature, bring in trees for the corners of a large room, and add twinkling lights for a bit of sparkle.
- Instead of several smaller guest tables, consider long farm tables for your reception dinner – which offer a more “family style” feel. Keep your centerpieces low, so guests can easily chat with each other, and opt for loose, flowing arrangements to soften the mood (with candles, of course).
- Be sure your caterer has ample wait staff to serve guests promptly and consistently – no empty beverage glasses! That extra attention is a personal touch that will make everyone feel at home.
- If your ceremony will be held in the same large ballroom as your reception, arrange chairs for guests in a circle around the spot where you plan to say your vows, rather than rows and rows of chairs where those at the back won’t feel connected to your big moment.
- Besides adjusting your décor, spend a few extra minutes chatting with guests at each table, and find ways to encourage conversation among your guests.
- Plan several events throughout the weekend – a welcome party, a farewell brunch the next day – so you’ll be able to spend even more time with everyone!