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Scale and Intimacy – Do You Want to Impress or Welcome?

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Cipriani 42nd Street

It is important to look outside of the wedding business for inspiration and solutions.  As a planner, I do this not only for myself but also to add credence to my recommendations.  Architecture is a good place to look when thinking about venues.

Not too long ago a client of mine, who was expecting about 150 guests at her wedding, was looking at a very grand and luxurious ballroom.  It was truly an extraordinary space.  And although it could hold over 300 guests there are “tricks of the trade” that we could use to create the illusion of a full room.  What we could not do, however, was make it feel intimate.  In fact, the space was never designed for intimacy, it was designed to be spectacular and impress (as was the desire of its former tenants – it often serves banks and private clubs well to create an aura of power.)  I reviewed my notes from my first meeting with this client, and sure enough, “charming,” “intimate” and “cozy” were words that she had used to describe her perfect event.  Yet she had allowed herself to be entranced and seduced by this venue.

No one makes a more pursuasive argument against over-sized space than the architect and author Sarah Susanka.  In her first book, “The Not So Big House,” she discusses the impact of “starter castles,” aka McMansions.  The first chapter starts with the plight of Paul and Laura, a couple that spent a small fortune on a new home yet ended up deeply unhappy with a home that was void of warmth and intimacy.  How did they get here?  The were “simply following the process that is standard to working with a builder…”

This is not dissimilar to the process you will go through in searching for your wedding site.  Chances are that you will see some ballrooms that will amaze you.  But before you sign on the bottom line, it is important that you step back and do a bit of soul searching.  Do you want grand and regal, or is intimate and welcoming what you want your guests to experience?  The feel you want needs to drive your venue choice, not the other way around.

note: I am not suggesting that you exclude gorgeous ballrooms from your search; there are numerous smaller ballrooms that were designed with a degree of intimacy in mind, the Versailles Room at the St. Regis (NY) comes to mind.

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