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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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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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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Chateau Winter Wedding

Chateau Winter Wedding | Incline Village, NV | Lisa + Jeff

Any couple who has It’s Its instead of cake is cool in my book, literally and figuratively.

I know Lisa and Jeff because of Lisa’s sister in law, who has been a good friend and client of mine for many years. I’ve watched Lisa’s nephew, Jack, grow up over the years. I think I was supposed to be taking photos of Lisa and Jeff’s wedding but what I was really doing was taking photos of Jack.  His cuteness is irrefutable.

Lisa and Jeff, I’ll always be the fifth wheel on dinner dates with you and the fam.  I know y’all are going to have a lifetime of happiness together purely based on the simplicity, genuineness and care put into your wedding day.  Weddings that are about spending time with the ones closest to you, and not about burlap, have a special loving place in my heart and I’m so honored to have been part of yours.

May your lives be filled with whiskey, wine and laughter.

Venue: The Chateau at Incline Village | Coordinator: Cloud 9 Event Company | Florist: High Sierra Gardens | Hair and Makeup: Michelle at L’Atelier | Bride’s Attire: David’s Bridal | Groom’s Attire: Jos A Bank | DJ: Lake Tahoe DJ | Bakery: It’s-It

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Central Texas Wedding Photography

On Death, Love and Photography

Last week, some of my good friends traveled to Utah to celebrate their cousin’s wedding.  Their week was filled with celebrations of life, love and their enthusiasm for the mountains and winter.  The wedding was held at the top of a resort and everyone who was able skied down together afterwards.

The groom’s mother, Aunt to my friends, who had been suffering some significant health problems, watched her son get wed to his love, danced the first dance with him, and then passed away in the pre-dawn hours of the next morning.

Mother and Bride

I photograph weddings because I believe that the images that capture the relationship between you and your loved ones, on one of the most special and memorable days of your life, often become the only written and permanent history of your family and friends.   This weekend, I photographed my third wedding of 2017, fresh off the inspiration of Fearless Conference Europe, but introspective over my friends and their family.  I can’t imagine the roller coaster of emotions that must come from the high of a wedding day and the low of a death in such a short timespan.   I hope that their cousin hired an amazing photographer, because those images of the groom’s mother will be the last photos they have.  I think about my friend Nicky, whose wedding I will photograph in September, whose mother passed away from cancer on New Year’s Day a few years ago.  She will not have images of her mother on her wedding day.  I think about one of my oldest and dearest friends, whose mother was diagnosed with ALS and is rapidly declining.   The photos I took of his mother on his wedding day are the last professional photos they will have of her.  In them, she looks proud, happy and beautiful.

I photograph weddings because when an elderly grandmother leans in snarkily to me every summer with a wag of her finger and whispers in my ear with a laugh, “I know you’re taking so many photos of me because I’m going to die soon,” we both know that all things funny have an element of truth to them.

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At the wedding I photographed this past weekend, the mother of the bride hated being photographed.  She wore sunglasses the entire day and spent most of her evening avoiding my lens and abruptly turning around backwards with a scowl every time I tried to get an image of her.  She didn’t care for me much, but frankly, I decided I didn’t care whether she liked me or not.  Normally, I see it as part of my job to win over the extended family members of the bride and groom, but in this case, I wasn’t going to give in.  I took it upon myself, in light of how I was feeling about death and love and family, to rise to the challenge.  I was absolutely going to get a good photo of her so that her family members would have some images of her to cherish.

Later that night, while chatting with some family members on the dance floor, the bride’s cousin told me that most of the photos they have of the mother of the bride involve her holding her hands or a napkin up over her face.  When I showed her an image that I captured of the two of them together in the back of my camera, she cried.

Virginia City Wedding

At Fearless Europe this year, Emma Case talked a lot about her why.  She strives to make images that are personal to her clients, while photographing both the extraordinary and the ordinary.  She talked about how our images link the past, present and the future together and that by photographing weddings, that we are photographing something bigger than us.  While it certainly resonated with me at the time, the incredible importance didn’t really sink in until my friend’s Aunt passed away.  So while my heart is heavy for my friends and loved ones, I am inspired to keep doing what I do in the best way I know possible: trusting myself to continue to grow while capturing the moments that will tell your story for generations to come.   To be frank, I think it’s a hell of a lot more important for me to be photographing you facetiming with your grandmother in her nursing home than off photographing your shoes on a damn tree trunk.

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This week was a reminder that I am photographing not just for you, but for decades of your family members to come after you, as well as, for the friends near and dear that hold a space for you in your heart.  As photographers, even as wedding photographers, we are responsible for cataloging our culture, our traditions, and our relationships for all of time.  We are the record keepers and as Emma reminded me, even the mundane is important.

I love that my clients become my friends.  I love that I have a hard time untangling how I feel about them and what I see in a photo from the technical specifications of it.   That I can’t judge the compositional merits of my own images, because I’m too blinded by how happy my clients make me feel.  I love that when I look at a photo of someone’s wedding day that I took, it summons up how I felt about the day with a high speed retelling of the events and feelings and speeches and funny touching moments that I remember.  They whoosh by in my head with an explosion.  I can only hope that the images I hand over to my clients make them feel exactly the same way and that one day, a new generation of your family will cherish the images as well, albeit for completely different reasons.

I photograph weddings because I like people.  I think they are weird and quirky, entertaining and amusing, funny and touching.  I like watching them interact with each other, or not.  I like meeting them and dancing with them and sharing with them and in the end, I like cataloguing their day for them.  While the importance of my job certainly has never been lost on me, it’s nice to be inspired and reminded of just exactly why every once in awhile.

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Ehrman Mansion Wedding

Sugar Pine Point Wedding | Lake Tahoe, CA | Stefani + Sean

Stefani and Sean found me in a bit of a panic: their wedding photographer had cancelled on them mere months out from the big day.  It’s the stuff your wedding planning nightmares are made of.  I was happy to photograph this true Tahoe couple’s big day, especially since Sean is from Texas and Stef is from Tahoe and they met through mutual friends over a love of skiing!  They promised me an epic dance party (check), fun people (check), cookies (check), a raging afterparty (check), and a downright awesome time (check).  I was thankful to have one of my best friends, Nicky, of Nemus Photography, along to second shoot that day.  Their Sugar Pine Point wedding was the perfect gorgeous lakeside Tahoe beach affair.

Ceremony Venue: Sugar Pine Point State Park | Reception Venue: Tahoe Beach Retreat | Invitations: Wedding Paper Divas | Officiant: David Caputo | Coordinator: Tricia Boyle | Florist: The Petal Pusher | DJ: Big Sound DJ and Audio | Bride’s Attire: Casablanca Bridal | Bridesmaid Attire: Lulus | Groom and Groomsmen Attire: Men’s Wearhouse | Rentals: Event Masters | Videographer: Katie McNally | Second Photographer: Nemus Photography

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Zephyr Cove Resort Wedding

Zephyr Cove Resort Wedding | Lake Tahoe, NV | Ana + Andrew

Ana and Andrew had me at pizza.

When we first spoke in 2015 about their wedding, over a year out, Ana was most excited about the pizza.  As a photojournalist, there are few details that I worry about on a wedding day.  I am, frankly, unconcerned with the pomp and circumstance and whether or not you’re going to have any traditions.  By all means, cut that cake and I will photograph it, but I’m not going to orchestrate your day or suggest that you do things you don’t want to for photos sake.  What I will get behind though: pizza.

The pizza was fantastic.

But the rest of their day, that was fantastic also.  From the tear inducing speeches to the cake in Andrew’s brother’s face, from the coordinated and choreographed first dances (Ana and her father danced to Time Warp!), everything about their daytime Zephyr Cove Resort wedding with a pizza buffet was right up my alley.

Venue: Zephyr Cove Resort | Coordinator : Stephanie Stugart | Officiant: Sharon Rusk | Invitations: Mighty Industries | Florist: Rose Petals Florist | Bakery: Tahoe Cakes by Grace | DJ: Southworth Entertainment | Bride’s Attire: David’s Bridal | Groom’s Attire: Men’s Warehouse | Hair and Make-Up: Tahoe Salon Be | Videographer: HeavenSide Studios | Second Shooter: Annie Robillard

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Chateau at Incline Village

Chateau Wedding | Incline Village, NV | Caitlin and Brad

Can all weddings have flower girls that clean up their flowers during the ceremony please?  For real.  Have you ever seen anything more adorable?

Caitlin and Brad met while attending the University of Arizona and now are loving living in Reno.  Mountains, athletics and four seasons are important to them and their friends definately did not let any of this, or their antics during college, escape their speeches at the wedding!  Brad’s brother actually kicked off the entertainment: he delivered, without a doubt, the most hysterical and amazing best man speech I’ve ever heard in the history of all weddings.  I could hardly take photos through the laughter induced tears.

Their Chateau wedding in Incline Village was graced with beautiful light, a kick ass dance party and plenty of laughter.  It was a beautiful day for a beautiful couple!

Venue: The Chateau at Incline Village | Officiant: Erica Jones | Invitations: Compass Rose Studio | Florist: A Floral Affair | Bakery: Dee’s Bakery | DJ: Epik Entertainment | Bride’s Attire: Bridal & Veil | Bridesmaid Attire: Jenny Yoo | Groom and Groomsmen Attire: Joseph Abboud from Men’s Warehouse | Hair and Make-Up: Tahoe Salon Be

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Valhalla Wedding

Valhalla Winter Wedding | South Lake Tahoe, CA | Mary + Scotty

Mary and Scotty are pretty much the raddest kids around with the best hair.  Until Scotty shaved his hair off on his wedding night.  True story.

Mary ascertained that he needed “marraige hair” instead of “bachelor hair.”  What I think probably started as an inside joke grew to actuality as the dance party went on into the night and the whiskey flowed.

Other reasons they are rad: they wanted a Viking themed photo booth because they were getting married at Valhalla.  Their Hope Valley engagement session featured golden light, stylish threads and dogs.  Their grandma facetimed them while they were getting ready.

Venue: Valhalla Estate | Wedding Planner: Tahoe Dream Events | Florist: Enchanted Florist | Bakery: Cakes by Grace | Catering: Blue Angel Cafe | Bride’s Attire: Nicole Miller from The Wedding Party | Groom’s Attire: J Crew | Second photographer: Nicky Lockman of Nemus Photography

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