1. Direction, Direction, Direction. Can't stress this enough. This was the first and foremost point we made; your guests love direction at any party over 10 guests, and it was needed even more so with a non-traditional style of wedding. We had programs and menus designed together in one document the guests could carry around. This explained the flow of the evening, the passed mini foods menu, and the places throughout the barn they would find more goodies. Think of it as a map: our guests knew they where they would find all the stations, bars, dessert displays and even the restrooms downstairs.
2. Consider Your Menu. Rather than fill an already over-filled space with even more tables for buffets, we instead hired lots of staff, reduced the food on the menu down to adorable conversation-starting one-bite appetizers, and had 90% of it all passed. Yes we paid more for staff and for the added labor of making the cutest little morsels like itty bitty grilled cheese and tomato soup shooters. But it was absolutely necessary and added to the experience for the guests- imagine their surprise when they realized food was going to be continually passed all evening long. Just stand there and food will arrive. Genius! The less trying to get around in a cramped space, the better.
3. Get Creative With Space. Again, with the menu, we opted for almost all of it to be passed to save on space, but we also re-purposed one of the high counter-bars built into the barn for one food station upstairs and cleaned out a horse stall downstairs for the other station. This eliminated the need for lines since guests could either wait for a passed item or take their time as they passed one of the stations.
4. Welcome Non-Conformity. Not all brides love the idea of having guests seated at tables for the ceremony. But, in this case, we tried to keep the ceremony special and heartfelt, even though some of the guests were already seated at long tables. There was simply no way we'd be able to turn over the room after the ceremony, and it also ensured the guests would enjoy the gorgeous table displays all evening long.
5. Seating Charts. This goes along with direction again. In our case, we had some guests seated, and some standing. Even if you loathe the idea of creating a seating arrangement, you must for any reserved seating you may have. If we wouldn't have had the family reserved tables outfitted with place cards, we would have had mass chaos on our hands- your guests are already going to naturally be a little confused with the lack of seating. Have a wedding planner or other authorized (sober) person on hand with the seating chart to help direct your guests either to their seats and to explain the style of seating for the ceremony. It makes all the difference and saves you from angry guests.
Hope this helps if you're finding the perfect venue is a little cozy for your guests! Have you had a similar experience? What have you done to counteract the lack of space? Do tell!