Every little girl loves planning her wedding: what dress she'll wear, where she wants to have it, what kind of cake she wants to eat.
No little girl, however, has answers to questions about seating arrangements or how she plans to pay for everything. We might all want the Carrie and Big wedding (before he left her at the library, that is), but no one wants to think about precisely what it takes to pull off the fairy-tale ending. All we envision is a gigantic wedding with every friend, family member and stuffed animal in attendance.
Big weddings are the epitome of pomp and circumstance. If you choose to have one, you should know what goes into it. Check out our pros and cons, with plenty of advice from the experts (AKA, people that are paid to deal with kicking and screaming brides on a day-to-day basis).
Pro: "Big" doesn’t always mean "big."
A big wedding is entirely subjective, but you knew that already.
"I've spoken to people who say they want a small wedding of 160 people and others call and say they want a big wedding of 120,” explained Rachel Sackheim, the Director of Sales and Events at Brooklyn Winery. “A big wedding largely depends on where you grew up and how big your family is. In the New York area, a large wedding is generally defined as anything at or over 200 guests. South American weddings can be upwards of 400 to 600 guests while a midwest wedding might be large at 120. Big is based on whatever the couple is used to."
Pro: Large weddings require as much work as smaller ones.
Andrea Freeman, the MVP of weddings who planned Ian Somerhalder’s nuptials to Nikki Reed, insists that “big weddings aren’t any more work to plan than intimate celebrations."
The reasoning behind it is simple: if you’re planning a wedding, you’ll already be thinking of the little details. The number of people only changes the quantity, not the actual minuscule moving parts.
Con: You might have to sell a kidney to pay it off.
Sackheim explains that your budget is really the first thing to keep in mind when planning a big shebang.
“The most expensive part of a wedding is the per person price, and as you increase the guest count, you increase the food and beverage, labor, furniture, decorations and anything else that you need."
The easiest way to decrease the overall cost? Knock some names off your guest list.
Sackheim suggests asking yourself, “Do you really need coworkers from a job you had 3 years ago there, or would you prefer to provide a better overall experience for your closest family and friends?"
Con: You need to budget time.
“I tell my couples to plan on spending 2 minutes with each wedding guest,” Freeman says. “Just remember that you’re not visiting with guests every moment — you also want time to dance, eat, cut your cake. Basically, once your list is north of 200, you’ll want to add time."
Sackheim agreed: “A lot of couples feel that they need to act as hosts and want to greet and welcome each of their guests. That can be extremely time consuming and stressful and takes away from the couple’s enjoyment of the evening."
"A large wedding,” she adds, “can make it difficult to seek out and spend time with the most important people there."
If a large wedding can be an excuse to ditch your in-laws and your scary Aunt Lucy, maybe that’s not so bad after all.
Pro: You get to have a giant party.
No surprise here: The more people you invite, the crazier a bash you can expect.
“A large room full of people who all showed up to see you is an incredibly amazing experience,” Sackheim explained, “I personally had a wedding of 208 guests, and looking out over that room was a wonderful, beautiful feeling."
Pro: Nobody is left behind.
When you have a large wedding, you don’t have to worry about leaving anyone out or having to turn anyone down.
Sackheim warned that creating a guest list is one of the most difficult parts of wedding planning — there are the bride and groom’s list, the bride’s family’s list and the groom’s family’s list.
“Putting a limit on any one of those groups can often lead to tension, so opting for a larger wedding can ease some stress,” she added.
Con: It’s not as intimate.
When Aparna Suresh married her husband, Dhruvan, she had a party that consisted almost 800 guests. A large part of her decision to opt for such a large wedding was because it was culturally appropriate. She explained her parents insisted on it.
The downside of having that many people at your wedding? Not knowing who the f*ck showed up or not.
“The entire experience loses its intimacy,” Suresh explained, “There are so many people you barely know who are either from your husband’s side and not related to you or are your parents' friends from 20 years ago."
Good luck remembering your great aunt’s boyfriend’s name, too. By the end of the day, Suresh warned, “You won’t remember anyone’s name when you have so much other sh*t happening."
Con: Seating is going to be a b*tch.
Everyone has family and friend drama — and if you’re going to invite everyone you have to take all that interpersonal sh*t into account.
“First rule of thumb is to have assigned tables,” Sackheim recommends, “and it’s even better to have assigned place settings. It eliminates any awkwardness that guests might have if they’re trying to figure out where to sit on their own."
Suresh agreed: “Seating was one of the biggest challenges. Choosing large tables of people that will get along with one another — that’s hard to find!"
Pro: You can hire someone to take care of all the stuff you don’t feel like dealing with.
If you’d rather bury yourself in a ditch than try and figure out flowers and seating arrangements, hire a wedding planner. You don’t have to opt for an expensive year-round one, either.
“If you know that the wedding is going to be big,” Sackheim suggests, “It’s a great idea to have a month-of or day-of planner, in addition to the venue-provided staff to make sure that everything goes off without a hitch."
Still unsure if you really need to splurge on the extra assistance?
“Having a planner means having someone to make sure every vendor is in place with all of their needs, someone to keep the timeline moving and someone to wrangle everyone into place, from getting guests seated for the ceremony to finding Grandma for photos."
Pro: You get all the swag.
This is perhaps the biggest pro of all: A large wedding means more guests, and more guests mean more presents.
Suresh enthused that one of the best things about her massive wedding was that due to the sheer number of attendees, she received "a load of money and presents,” which can be used to help pay off the cost of the wedding.
Extra goodies? Yes, please -- even if it means you have to put up with that side of the family.