There’s nothing quite like a large wedding: tons of your family and friends gathered together like never before – all to celebrate your love! While we already espoused the pros and cons of an intimate wedding in this previous post, we’re going to focus this particular blog on all the things you need to know about going the opposite route and how exactly to pull off a smooth event with over 200 people.
Anything logistical is going to take more time. Moving your guests from one place to another (or even to another space within a multi-purpose venue), getting guests to follow directions, find their reception seats, the serving of food, photos, etc. will all just plain take way more time with a large wedding. I would say with an average wedding guest count of 150 people it takes your guests 10-15 minutes to find their escort card or name on a seating chart and make their way to their seats, and that is with very easy to read or understand formatting + clear instructions from your DJ/MC and help from staff. You would of course need to double that for 300 people, and so on. Overall, this may mean moving your timeline up to start earlier to allow for the extra time needed to accommodate. Be sure you are connecting with your planner + caterer to see about dinner service or buffet timing so you can plan your timeline accordingly.
You will need all hands on deck. Early in my career I planned a large wedding for 750 people in conjunction with a planner who was familiar with the couple’s South Indian Hindu wedding traditions. Between our two companies we had over 15 staff members present, and truth be told we needed every single one of them. Trying to move or service that many people is no joke, and we were just trying to handle the logistics. The more guests you invite you will definitely need additional catering and bar staff, and given the guest count maybe additional providers of other services as well. This is one area you simply cannot skimp on with large guest counts – failure to do so will mean long lines for drinks, cold meals for some final tables and possibly not getting to some things you wanted photographed before your package time ends.
Be realistic when choosing your venue. Just because it says it will it 250 doesn’t mean it will do so comfortably. Ask to see a few floorplans with your exact guest count so you can ensure you’ll have room for the things you might want like a big dance floor, photobooth, second bar, etc. while still having actually room for people to move around. Think about past weddings you have attended – did people just sit in their chairs all night? I thought not. They have a tendency to get up and mingle or move to a more comfortable sitting area to chat – if there isn’t room for this at your venue with your guest count, they might just leave instead.
Give ’em something to do. Since it’s going to take longer to move, feed and see everyone – giving everyone else something to do in the meantime is always a great idea. Think past just a photobooth and look to have several other activities that people can get involved with, especially during a long cocktail hour if one is necessary for travel time, lots of photos, etc. Also – a skilled MC or band can entertain your crowd with games and dance contests while everyone is getting served a plated dinner, as with lots of people sometimes it can take a while to get to the last table – and often the first ones serve have been done for a while.
People will always want a piece of you. That rings true weather there are 40 guests or 400. They are there to see you, after all! Having people constantly interrupt your dinner to take photos or say hello will always happen at weddings, but with large guest counts it can become a real issue. Combat this with some kind of plan to give all your guests just a little taste of face time – whether that is a receiving line, making time to go around to each table for a few minutes, or even having a pre-wedding welcome party will help to ensure all your guests feel appreciated. Be sure to connect with your planner to communicate this in advance so the logistics and timing can be worked out. We always ask our clients about this beforehand, as without making time for it specifically and adding it to your timeline, finding the time to do this is nearly impossible once the day is set in motion.
You don’t necessarily have to have a large wedding party also. In fact, because you’re inviting everyone you know – I would suggest going the opposite route and having only a few trusted people on your squad, that way you won’t have people overload on several different levels, and they know they were selected for a reason.