My Fiance and I have battled this same exact issue for the last couple of months; last night we just decided to go with a “big” (between 100-120 guest) wedding.
For me an intimate wedding seemed fun, more relaxed, more us, etc. We got engaged Thanksgiving weekend, and I left that weekend thinking I wish my wedding could be exactly like that. Close family sitting around eating a great meal, celebrating our engagement, playing games, bonding, etc. It felt like the perfect way to join us together and the cost compared to a big wedding is amazing. But my mom and my entire family was upset about it; I’m an only child, the only granddaughter, and the only niece so my wedding has been a huge deal since I was little. It got me to thinking, what’s so bad about the big wedding? Why can’t be celebrate with more people? We don’t have to, and we won’t be inviting everyone and their neighbor we will just be inviting those closest to us and that have played a crucial role in making us who we are as individuals and as couples. I want to be able to share the joy with those people. So we are having a big wedding, but making it intimate. Yes there will be more then 50 guests, and we might not get to talk long with every single guest, but I can’t not allow them to come to our wedding when they have played such a big role in our lives. Plus, our wedding will be just like we dreamed of a small wedding, only more guests; there will still be amazing food, we are setting up a game area, we will be celebrating with those closest to us, and every guest will feel like a big part of the wedding and feel included.
Besides, I only plan on getting married once and when I get married I want to experience everything. I want to be able to have a bridal shower, and bridesmaids, and a bachelorette party, I want a big party the morning of, etc etc etc.
Really the only advice I can give you is to follow your heart, and listen to your gut. If you will forever be happy with a wedding of only 40 guests, and you don’t have any feelings like you’re missing out by not celebrating with everyone you dreamed of. If you don’t wish people would be there who can’t because of the small wedding guest list then go for it. If you at all feel like you will be missing out if you have a small wedding then go with the big wedding. Yes its more stressful, and cost more money, and takes longer to organize but enjoy the time being engaged to the love of your life because all too soon you will be married and will never be able to go back in time to when you were just engaged and planning the wedding of your dreams.
Also something Fiance and I are considering is having an intimate first look ceremony type thing. We really want to do traditional vows, but we love the intimacy of the intimate wedding. So we might be doing a first look, and saying hand written vows to each other. It would only be us (and the photographer) and maybe our moms, saying vows to each other, before going into the big ceremony in front of everyone. Just something to consider.