Today, one of the biggest questions couples have to answer for themselves when planning a wedding is: do we want a large celebration of friends and family, or a smaller intimate gathering? I mean let’s be honest. We could all think of another person to add to the invite list, if we really put our minds to it. When I was planning on proposing to my fiancé and decided to plan a surprise engagement party for her that same evening, I suddenly found myself staring at a list of names that had at one point gone from 20 of our closest friends and family, to just shy of 55. 55 individuals, from all over the place, gathered in an evening intimate setting of one of our favorite spots near our home; our local coffee shop. And though it was everything I had ever dreamt it would be, there are some things I took away from having a gathering of that size, that I wouldn’t want to repeat for my actual wedding. Aside from my own personal experience, I have been apart of weddings on both ends of the spectrum, and am here to help break down some of the pros and cons, to ultimately help you decide which is best for you! Let's dive a little deeper into the differences between small and large weddings.
PROS OF LARGE WEDDINGS
Who doesn’t love a large wedding, honestly. Im talking upwards of 50 to 200 people. You’ve got almost every friend and family member in your life, all gathered under one roof! And if you’re someone like me who cares too deeply for everyone around me, that number could easily be achievable on just one side of the guest list alone. But the truth is, having a larger wedding doesn’t make it any less special of a day!
Some of us have long lists of childhood friends that we’ve gone through so many stages of our lives with. And not only our friends, but their families too. Their moms and dads were just as much ours, and that is something we could never ignore. You don’t want to have a large gathering just so you can brag numbers. Far from it. You want it to be a grand gesture of gratitude to anyone and everyone who has ever supported you, shown up for you, and will continue to do so as you enter this new chapter of your life. Furthermore, this might be better if you have a large family that you are very close with!
A family with traditions that involve multiple generations, that you’ve always dreamt of including in your wedding day when the time came. At the end of the day, if you close your eyes and can feel yourself moving through a room with anyone and everyone that you truly love and hold near your heart, then a grand wedding might be more suitable for you.
PROS OF INTIMATE GATHERINGS
On the contrary, bigger isn’t always better. It’s all about how you’re usin-… Wait. Sorry, no. That’s for another blog. Let’s switch gears though, and chat about a gathering that might feel a little more intimate.
When it comes to planning a smaller wedding, there are a number of benefits you will inherit right off the bat that you wouldn’t necessarily have when it comes to a larger gathering. One of the most significant being the amount of stress and anxiety you save yourself from, having to organize an evening for a smaller number of people. You don’t really have to stress about center pieces, seating arrangements, coordinate dress colors, patterns, styles. You dont need to have a 3 to 4 course catering menu setup for 100+ people, hunt people down to send in their RSVP’s for an accurate head count, or worry about getting photos with everyone who showed up.
The quality amount of time you get with each person in attendance will also dramatically increase, as opposed to bouncing around a larger gathering trying to make sure you say hi to every table there. I want to touch on that a little bit more, because I really think this is a very important question to consider when it comes to this decision.
Not everything is sunshine and lemonade when it comes to either of these gathering sizes. Both have their own set of cons that can also hinder which is best. Let’s start with the larger of the two.
THE DOWNSIDE OF LARGE WEDDINGS
As I mentioned before, a larger wedding has more that goes into it. There’s more planning, coordinating, organizing. Overall, it’s just more. A wedding planner can surely help alleviate a lot of these things, but that might not be apart of your budget? And if it is, you still might have a long wedding day packed with a lot to do in a short amount of time. In my experience, bigger weddings come at a cost. And I don’t mean financially. I mean, mentally and emotionally. There are a number of setbacks that almost always occur on every wedding day no matter how much you plan things out. And sometimes, that can take away your ability to enjoy your day. Especially if you’re doing all of the planning and coordinating yourself.
Another aspect of larger weddings that can have a negative affect on things, is your family. People get weird about weddings. I don’t care how sweet your mom or dad are, weddings always bring out some weird sides to people. Every family has some dysfunctional aspects to it. Thats just a straight up fact. A larger wedding might amplify some of those things, when it comes to which family members you decide to invite, and which you don’t. That can also lead to your family members feeling some type of way, and taking those feelings out on you.
Finally, larger weddings are just going to be flat out way more expensive. You are paying for each individual persons experience. From a place to sit, to the plated meals, to the drinks, to the desserts. You are arising to the expectations of the masses, which ultimately means spending more time and money doing so. But again, there is nothing wrong with that if you have the means and desire to do so! I have shot plenty of massive weddings, that to this day are some of the best gatherings I have ever attended. And with how happy my couples were that day in their photos, leaves me to believe they wouldn’t have changed a thing about it.
THE DOWNSIDE OF SMALLER INTIMATE GATHERINGS
That isn’t to say that a smaller gathering doesn’t have its downfalls as well. The cons list of an intimate wedding might not be as extensive as a larger one. But some things to consider still exist nonetheless. The most obvious here, is hurting the ones we love. Not everyone is going to make the cut to attend. And though that is okay, it might not feel great for them. There is a very real possibility, they may take it personally. But you're ultimately hoping that they’ll understand, and still want to celebrate the two of you in another unique and special way at another time.
Another point to be made with smaller weddings Is that you won’t get the full blown party feel, as you might with a larger gathering. If dancing the night away in your favorite Nike’s with a packed dance floor, or a photo booth firing off photo after photo of all your drunk college friends is something of importance to you, than a 20-30 person wedding might not be it. Again, it’s going to feel different than a larger gathering. But these are questions and aspects worth taking into consideration, and discussing in an open air conversation with your partner.
My fiancé and I really value quality time. Not only is it an important part of how we grow our relationship, but with the ones around us. We both are very close with our families that we were born into, as well as the family we get to choose a.k.a. our friends. We love opening our home for our people, hosting them for all sorts of reasons, and spending quality time with them as often as we can. Since neither she nor I live very close to either of our immediate families, its our chosen family that we really pour ourselves into. So when we close our eyes, and think about our dream wedding day, naturally we both find ourselves sitting at the center of one long, moody, candle lit dinner table, with about 20-25 of our closest friends and family on either side of us.
We place the value of our day more on giving our guests a destination experience, that is full of quality interactions with everyone attending, throughout the evening. We dont really care too much for placing our focus and emphasis on the decorations, center pieces, color schemes, and traditions that are normally tied with larger gatherings. But rather a focus on the experience we want to give a close few that we love with every fiber in our being. And that is something that is also significantly different when it comes to a larger wedding, versus a smaller one.
It’s going to feel different. The feeling of a smaller gathering is probably one that will feel a little more vivid and memorable, because the overall flow of the event is going to be slower and intimate. Where as larger gatherings are prone to go by in the blink of an eye, with how much more extensive the timeline of the day can be cramming in so much in such little time.
Ultimately, the choice is always going to fall on whichever you think is best for you. I sincerely hope that these words have led you to a place where you have a better understanding of what you can expect when it comes to deciding one or the other! And as always, I am here to answer any and all questions that you may have when it comes to this topic