Lucie Sterns Wedding

9 Creative Ways to Add Intimacy to a Large Wedding

This is a guest post by Wendy Dessler for Lauren Lindley Photography.  Read more about Wendy at the bottom of the post.

Adding Intimacy to large weddings

Large weddings can seem overwhelming and impersonal, unless you make specific efforts to combat those impressions. From staffing up to help ease crowding to enlisting the help of attendants recognizable in their bridesmaid dresses, here are nine creative ways to add intimacy to a large wedding:

1. Treat every arriving guest like a valued VIP. Have servers tray-pass non-alcoholic refreshments before the ceremony (and collect the containers – please!), and have many greeters and ushers who can help find seats and pass programs.

Fresh Coconut water

Fresh coconut water passed out as guests arrive to a island beach wedding hits the spot!

2.  Spread out services so guests don’t feel like cattle waiting in long lines. Have many smaller bars for beverage service, stations throughout the room that repeat so there is always somewhere to go to get quick service. You will never regret going overboard on the number of servers you have, and you may have to make a special request to increase the staffing, but be firm. The least intimate feeling originates when your guests feel like their needs are not being managed well. Long lines lead to wasted time and isolation. Demand the service you need to make every guest feel special and loved.

Taco Bar

3.  Create vignettes – these small scenes will allow you to celebrate many different things about your relationship, whether they gel well into a theme or not. In a large venue, you can create smaller rooms and scenes. Incorporate some aspect of your personalities – his love of baseball or her love of the ballet – and theme the food, music and décor in that area on that aspect.

4.  Seat guests at tables of six to eight. Tables of ten can be overwhelming and don’t create a sense of camaraderie. There is always someone at some end of the table who doesn’t know what is going on at the other. It will cost you more in linens and centerpieces, but it will create a feeling that the wedding is smaller and more intimate.

Wedding reception

5.  Don’t choose enormous centerpieces that block conversation. Intimacy is created through interactions and relationships. Choose low centerpieces that allow visibility across tables.

Wedding Table Decor
6.  Enlist the help of your attendants to make guests feel at home. Your guests will recognize their role from their matching grey bridesmaid dresses and will naturally be more inclined to talk to them.

Greeting wedding guests

7.  Schedule a five-hour reception instead of four, and plan to spend a significant amount of that time greeting guests. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat – if your meal is seated, you could use a bit of extra time at the cocktail hour to have a small private meal, just the two of you, then circulate while your guests eat. Or, follow a stations model of food service instead of seated, then between small, freshly-prepared portions you can roam the room.

8.  Stay organized! It’s difficult to keep track of all of the details of a large wedding, but if you make the extra effort to keep your seating chart, guest meal preferences, escort card list and other such details organized, your guests will never suffer while your staff tries to “sort things out” at the last minute. Be conscientious and know that the more detail you can provide your servers about special dietary requests and guest needs, the better they can perform their jobs.

Wedding Favors

10.  Personalize the details throughout your wedding so every guest feels like they are part of your love story. Take the time before the wedding to handwrite tiny personal thank you notes on each guest favor, for example. You’ll have to start early, but your guests will surely appreciate your efforts.

 

Author Spotlight: Wendy Dessler is a super-connector with Outreachmama.com and Toweringseo.com who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking. She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses her efforts on developing customized blogger outreach plans depending on the industry and competition.

Lakeside Beach Elopement

Lakeside Beach Elopement | Lili + David

Lili and David met while working at a summer camp years ago.  He’s from Ireland and what ensued was a global romance, that involved trips to Australia, transAtlantic long distance love and finally, a pledge to wed.  It took sometime to secure David’s visa and Lili and David were adamant that I be the one to photograph their elopement, which is the ultimate compliment.  I got to pick the time (sunset of course!) and we started off with a portrait session at nearby Kahle Community Center and Rabe Meadows.

I’m so excited for these two to not only be in the same continent, but to have shared their experience with me.  They were nothing but laughter and smiles the entire evening.  It was an incredibly special Tahoe sunset Lakeside Beach elopement and I feel pretty lucky to have been the one to capture their ceremony.

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Tahoe Family Portraits

Tahoe Family Portraits | Bryant Family

This family has the cutest most adorable endearing two year old ever.  The weather the week they were on their Tahoe vacation was incredibly cold and blustery and for a few days, we weren’t sure if we were going to have a weather window on this day to photograph their Tahoe family portraits.  In the end, we had some beautiful overcast skies and nice soft light but frigid May temps.  Their kiddo was a trooper and was almost all smiles the whole time, especially because her parents were hands on and excited to interact with her.  From games of hide and seek to playing with pinecones, your natural interactions with your children create images of precious vacation memories that you’ll value as a keepsake from your travels!

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Sugar Bowl Wedding

Sugar Bowl Wedding | Truckee, CA | Kristin + Alan

Kristin and Alan both spend their summers working for a summer camp for kids and they warned me ahead of time that their camp friends get a little rowdy, like to dance party, and that rubber animal masks often make an appearance.  What they did not warn me about: that there would be a ninja turtle at the dance party.  Best reception surprise ever!

Their Sugar Bowl wedding featured the highs and lows that you would expect from any ski resort wedding – literally.  They were wed on the grass at the base of the resort, sent their friends and family up the lift for cocktail hour at the top of the mountain and then returned to the base for a beautiful dinner and reception on the deck of the lodge.

Because their summer camp roots are so important to them, the reception was camp themed and the centerpieces featured appropriate items like lanterns.  Take away gifts were custom ceramic mugs and table assignments were according to cabin names. It was a gorgeous day, an adorably themed DIY wedding and an incredible dance party.

Venue: Sugar Bowl Ski Resort | Officiant: Rev Channing Smith | Florist: Sugar Bowl Ski Resort | Bakery: Ikeda’s California Country Market | Musician: Megan Bigelow | DJ: Ashlee Sleek | Bride’s Attire: Trudy’s Bridal | Bridesmaids’ Attire: Dessy | Groom’s Attire: The Celtic Shoppe | Hair and Make-up: Daymaker Brides | Second Shooter: Annie Robillard

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Tahoe Family Portraits

Tahoe Family Portraits | Valhalla Estate | Crandall Family

Although our spring temps are lingering in the realm of brisk this week, summer is on the horizon and that means summer vacationers will fill our beaches, campgrounds, rental houses and bike paths.  The welcome change in temperatures will surely pave the way for more outdoor adventures.  I’m personally ready to get on my bike!  Summer vacation is also the perfect time to take your Tahoe family portraits.

The Crandall family hailed from Texas so I felt right at home with this large loving laughing crew.  We did some large and small group shots, as we always do, but then the family trusted me enough to let their kids play and enjoy themselves in some outdoor exploration, which made for great candid photo opportunities, which I love.  Valhalla Estate is always a fantastic choice for your South Lake Tahoe Family portraits session because it offers such a wonderful mix of forest, meadow, lawn, pier and beach.

If you’re looking for Tahoe family portraits for your summer Tahoe vacation, get in touch!

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New Orleans Travel Photography

My New Orleans Travel Guide

New Orleans continues to be my favorite city in the world. It’s vibrant unique culture and diverse tolerant population of characters continues to draw me back, again and again.  It’s impossible not to fall in love with the people, the food, and the music of this incredible city.  After a few years away, I returned to New Orleans this time for Jazz Fest, which I hadn’t been to since before Katrina. Although some of my New Orleans Travel Guide remains the same, there’s a few new haunts I fell in love with listed below the photos.

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STAY:  Every neighborhood in New Orleans has it’s own unique feel and vibe, but I always encourage you to think outside the French Quarter when staying in this city so that you really get a feel for the varied cultures and differing architecture of the city.  While hotels and bed and breakfast’s abound, there’s also a great selection of rooms and entire homes on Airbnb and VRBO to choose from when visiting my favorite city in the world.

  • The Garden District: up river from the French Quarter, St Charles winds it’s way along the river bank into a neighborhood filled with colossal columned porches, lush overgrown green gardens, and wrought iron gates.  Magazine Street offers hip new restaurants, small independently owned boutiques and now, a trendy but delicious donut store.  Stay here if you want to really embrace that southern gentility and envision yourself drinking champs on a porch while the streetcar rolls by.
  • The Marigny used to be a secret, but it’s proximity to Frenchman Street and it’s laundry list of amazing nooks and crannies to explore has made it more popular.  The Marigny’s eclectic mix of late-Georgian, one-story Creole cottages and shotguns that are vibrantly colored make you want to wander down a different street every day on your way through town.  Stay here if you want to be close to the nightlife, but just out of the way of the French Quarter drunkards.
  • Mid-City is perfect if you’re coming to New Orleans for a festival.  It’s proximity to the fairgrounds means that you can walk to the fest while you’re feeling sparky during the day, but taxi and LYFT around to the nightlife at night when your feet are feeling the pressure.  From grand mansions, to shotgun doubles, to Victorian style homes, you’ll see a varied mix of architecture here, but none lacking in charm.  Make sure you head to the Parkway Tavern on your way home from the fest one day.  It’s one of the best po-boys in the city.

EAT: this list gets longer every time I return to New Orleans.  It’s been over a decade since Katrina and the restaurant scene here has really flourished in recent years.  There are a few of my stand-out favorites on this list, and some new ones that I discovered this trip around.

  • Elizabeth’s in the Bywater (don’t skip the Praline bacon), Slim Goodies Diner in the Garden District, and The Ruby Slipper Cafe are breakfast standouts.  The Ruby Slipper now has locations all over the city.  Cake Cafe and Bakery in the Marigny is also a great breakfast stop-off, where breakfast is served six days a week all day.
  • Jacques-Imo’s is still one of my favorite restaurants in the city.  It’s raucous atmosphere, incredible menu and alternative vibe have me returning again and again.  Expect a bit of a wait, but you can always head next door to the Maple Leaf for a drink.  For a real experience, come here on Tuesday night for dinner and then head on over to the Maple Leaf to see Rebirth Brass Band play their weekly show.
  • The list of restaurants on this page with James Beard awards is astounding and La Petite Grocery is part of that club for good reason.  The turtle bolognese was incredible and it didn’t hurt that I made new friends while dining at the bar.
  • Our meal at Shaya was a stand-out: modern Isreali cuisine prepared fresh, prepared fresh with a huge side of warm, brick fired pita.  You must order the hummus!
  • There are certain dishes that I spend my life dreaming and replaying over and over and over again in my head and Cochon‘s wood fired oysters are now on that list.  I’ve always maintained that I’d want my last meal on earth to be the mushroom strogonoff that I once had at South Congress Cafe in Austin, TX, but these oysters may be claiming that top spot.

DRINK:

  • Enjoying a Pimm’s Cup at the historic Napoleon House is a must-do.
  • If you can get in, Bacchanal is a wonderful way to while away the evening.  Part retail wine store, part patio, this Bywater haunt has become incredibly popular in the past few years and there is now usually a line around the corner to get in.  Skip it on the weekend and on festival weeks but if you are around in the off season, you might be able to score a seat on their deck and listen to music mid-week.
  • If you can’t score a seat at Bacchanal, the Tasting Room offers an eclectic dining menu and boutique wines from around the world.  It’s dark, cozy and just what you want a wine bar to be.  It’s perfect for lounging on the couch, reading a book and sipping wine in the event of poor weather.
  • Sitting on the deck of the Columns Hotel in the Garden district and whiling away the afternoon with a bottle of champagne will never lose it’s charm with me.

EXPLORE

  • Get lost on foot: the New Orleans Tours at Your Feet walking app offers guided tours of the French Quarter, the Garden District, Haunted Homes, and Cemeteries in the area.
  • If it’s your first trip to New Orleans, the World War II Museum is a must-visit.  It’s grown considerably in the past few years, but it remains informative and the exhibits are related to local history and people.
  • The Presbytere in the French Quarter houses a New Orleans cultural exhibit on mardi gras and it’s customs, along with an exceptional exhibit about Katrina and it’s aftermath.
  • Fest it up: the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Voodoo Festival and Mardi Gras continue to be huge draws to this city.  They are all amazing, but there’s also something to be said for just going for the shrimp and grits no reason at all.
Virginia City Wedding

Virginia City Wedding | Piper’s Opera House | Brenda + Dillon

WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME ABOUT VIRGINIA CITY?!?

Oh man, I’m just kidding.  My friend Holly talks about it all the time because she’s obsessed with ghosts and she likes to take her ghost hunting equipment (it’s a thing).

When Brenda first contacted me she gushed over my love for guacamole, enticed me with BBQ and promised me a man dressed as a miner with a donkey.  We never found the miner, or the donkey, but they did have a pistol packing preacher in a top hat (he had to check his gun at the Opera House gun check), fry bread, delicious promised BBQ, and both Brenda and Dillon have really wonderful and calm spirits.  When some things didn’t go as planned (sometimes red lipstick gets on wedding dresses), there was nary a beat in anyone’s steps because these two are so incredibly cool (so hot they’re cool!  so cool they’re hot!).  For future incidents: laughter helps and so do Tide pens!

Their venue was was full of wonder and intrigue: the Piper’s Opera House is a historic performing arts venue.  The current building was built in 1885, to replace the version built in 1878 that burned down in a fire.  It’s actually the third iteration of the Opera House: the Piper’s 1863 venue was destroyed by the 1875 Great Fire in Virginia City!  Piper utilized a lot of what could be salvaged from the original buildings when he started running out of money and you can see the use of it in the hallway leading into the great hall.  I was given a private tour by the onsite volunteer earlier in the evening and she told me that at one point they had to institute a gun check because the miners would get super drunk and rowdy and start hanging from the rafters and shooting their guns off!

I feel really incredibly lucky to have connected with these two amazing people and explored such an unbelievably picturesque strange retro town with them.  Although no one was swinging from the rafters and shooting their guns off at Brenda and Dillon’s wedding, there was a rowdy dance party!

In summary, Virginia City is quite the place, with quite the demeanor, and it was overwhelmingly awesome to photograph there.  I mostly spent the entire day freaking out over one texture or another.  Y’all, there was brick!  REAL BRICK!

I had a difficult time trying to narrow this one down to 10 photos and so I just gave up and refused.  So here’s a lot of photos from Brenda and Dillon’s wedding that I love.

Venue: Piper’s Opera House | Coordinator: Jalie Premier Event Planning | Officiant: Rev James Matthieu, aka, “The Pistol Packing Preacher” | Bakery: Whole Foods Reno | Fry Bread: Muha’s Indian Tacos | Catering: Carson City BBQ | Bride’s Attire: Elizabeth Dye from Alt Brides | Groom’s Apparel: Saks Off Fifth | Groomsmen Attire: Macy’s | Hair and Makeup: Chellsie Danielle Kiger | Rentals: Camelot Party Rentals

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what to wear in your family portrait

Tahoe Family Photos | LTCC Demonstration Garden | Poth Family

Last fall, shortly before their second daughter was set to be born, my friends the Poth family hired me to celebrate their growing family with some Tahoe family photos.  We met early in the morning at the LTCC Demonstration Garden, when their spitfire of a child Zada would feel extra sparky and accommodating.

Since then, their family has grown to include their new daughter Ayah, but not without quite the journey.  Baby Ayah was born premature, blind, and with holes in her heart.  She is a little fighter and this family has been air-evaced back and forth across the Western US for more surgeries, hospital stays and emergencies than any one family should endure.  They are doing well and trying to be as normal as a family can be under the circumstances they are in.

If you are interested, you can donate to Ayah’s Go Fund Me.  In addition, the Poth family urges you to donate blood.  Donated blood is one of the only reasons Ayah is still here today.  Get information on donating blood in your area here.  If you are a Lake Tahoe resident, there is a blood drive in our area on May 23rd and you can register to donate here.

If you are not a member of a medical flight network, especially if you participate in any sort of sport, then both myself and the Poth family urge you to join one.  Our local networks for the Reno Tahoe area is AirMedCare.

The Poth family also requests that you contribute to medical and scientific research.  It saves lives.

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Tahoe Engagement Session

Tahoe Engagement Session | Brianna + Aaron

Brianna and Aaron trekked all the way up to Tahoe and then back home to the bay area in one day just for their engagement session.  I felt like that was quite the effort just to come see me, so I gave them the royal tour and took them to all of my favorite spots for a ton of variety.  We started out with coffees at the always adorable and endearing Red Hut Cafe Soda Fountain on Ski Run Blvd and then followed it up with stops at Kahle Community Center, Rabe Meadows, and the meadow in Al Tahoe for sunset.  They were so fun to work with – they spent the entire time laughing and totally at ease and their love, affection and genuine enthusiasm just gushes from their photos.  I can’t wait for their wedding in August!

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Gar Woods Wedding

Intimate Gar Woods Wedding | Kings Beach, CA | Meagan + Andrew

I’m not sure why they don’t go around just telling everyone this, and then subsequently just dancing on the street for no reason, because I think that they absolutely should, but Meagan and Andrew met at a country western dance hall.  Andrew convinced her to stay and dance, and do a shot of fireball, and it was clearly fate.  They are INCREDIBLE dancers.  During their small intimate Gar Woods wedding this winter, the two spent most of the time wowing their friends and family with their slick dance moves.  Meagan could hardly sit down to eat dinner because every time the next song came on, Andrew wooed her back out on the floor for some twirling.  Her dress was the perfect accompaniment to their dance moves.  “I feel like a snow monster met a ballerina and they had a baby,” she said to me.

Small intimate weddings are some of my favorite: when you lose the pomp and circumstance, it becomes a wonderfully intimate and relaxed evening with your nearest and dearest close at hand and Meagan and Andrew’s beach side wedding and dinner at Gar Woods was no exception.

Venue: Gar Woods Grill and Pier | Musician: Piper Sean | Bakery: Tahoe Cakes by Grace

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