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Friday Finds: 20 Big Ideas for Maximizing Small Event Spaces

Did you find a venue that’s perfect for your event but it’s a bit smaller than you were envisioning? A small venue doesn’t have to cramp your style. Try these tricks to take advantage of every square inch and give the illusion that your event has room to spare. 

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Venues spaces are often one of the most expensive items in your event budget. Make sure you get the most out of your investment with these tips. 

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1. Choose open floor plans. 

Keep your guests from feeling cramped and give them the room they need to move around easily with this layout. An open floor plan may add a sense of airiness to your space too! Fabric or curtain dividers break your guests’ line of sight, dividing your small space into even smaller segments, so be sure to avoid them at all costs. Take a look at this guide if you need help creating a well-designed event floor plan.

2. Skip ceiling decor. 

Avoid bringing attention to the ceiling height if it’s one of the physical constraints of the room. Objects that hang from the ceiling will shorten the space. If you feel the light fixtures are hanging too low, ask the venue if it’s possible to adjust them. As a rule of thumb, light fixtures should hang about 30” to 36” above your tables.

3. Use round tables. 

They allow for more seating per square foot than rectangular tables. 8-10 adults can sit at a 5’ round table and 10-12 adults can sit at a 6’ round table, but only 8 adults can sit at an 8’ rectangular table. Plus, round tablecloths are easier to find than rectangular ones, so they also give you more decorating options.

4. Embrace the ambiance of low lighting with plenty of candles. 

The soft shadows from candlelight create dimension and add a touch of elegance to any space. Candle centerpieces can be incorporated regardless of your décor style, like in these beautiful arrangements.  

5. Keep wall decor minimalist and focus on clean lines. 

 Less really is more! Clean lines prevent breaking your guests’ line of sight, making the space feel bigger and less cluttered. Minimalism has been trendy in recent years, and there are plenty of ways to achieve its perfect balance of simplicity and beauty. Ask the venue if you can remove or adjust any hanging art or photos while you’re in the space. Take photos of the space with them and without them, then compare side by side to see if there is any difference in the perceived amount of space. 

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6. Use short centerpieces. 

Remember how ceiling décor will shorten the space in a small venue? The same goes for centerpieces. Tall centerpieces draw guests attention upward, whereas short centerpieces draw guests inward. Short centerpieces are usually less expensive to create too so you can save room in your budget for other items. Floral arrangements, low vases, as well as books and candles can make for beautiful low centerpieces.

7. Prioritize whites and light neutrals in your decor color scheme. 

These tones feel light and airy while dark or bold tones feel heavy. If you are feeling overwhelmed by choosing the colors for your big day, this handy quiz can help.

8. Go with solid colored tablecloths. 

Or, if you’re set on using a pattern, use one with smaller, more delicate designs. You could also incorporate patterns or textures by having table runners. Feeling crafty? This is an item you can DIY.

9. Opt for clear glass votives, translucent chairs, and any other semi-see through material for event furniture or accessories. 

These allow your guests to see as much of the room as possible no matter where their glance falls. Your invitations, programs, and seating chart could compliment the translucent theme thanks to vellum paper.

10. Offer tray pass catering with bistro style tables for mingling. 

This type of service brings a warm hospitable feeling to any event and permits your guests to move around the venue as delicious food is served to them. Skewers, sliders, and crackers make for excellent passed hors-d’Oeuvres.

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11. Make sure window coverings and drapes are the same colors as the walls. 

You can even use sheer curtains to create the same effect. Or leave them completely uncovered. Guests can enjoy more natural light or admire the scenery this way.

12. Use 2-3 large furniture pieces. 

Small event spaces filled with a few dozen tiny tables and chairs can feel cramped. But selectively incorporating fewer, more sizeable pieces will actually give the illusion that you’re working with more square footage. For this reason, choosing banquet style tables for dinners or oval tables for meetings (if they fit with your event theme and activities) is better than cramming everything you can in the room.  

13. Keep all furniture a few inches away from the wall rather than backed up against it.

Pushing furniture up against the wall is a common faux pas. This may seem counterintuitive, but your space will feel bigger if the furniture has breathing room.

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14. Consider renting folding chairs and tables so you can put them away when not in use. 

The tables can be decorated with tablecloths and runners so you don’t have to sacrifice style for convenience. There are also many attractive ways to spruce up folding chairs.

15. Choose furniture in colors that match the venue walls. 

This is a great alternative if you aren’t a fan of translucent furniture. The furniture will blend into the walls, creating a seamless view without distractions for your guests.

16. Use striped rugs. 

Stripes visually widen a narrow room. The wider the room, the wider the stripes should be. Measure your space first to make sure you get the correct-sized rug. There should be a few inches between the rug and the wall, but it also depends on what furniture is in the space.

17. Change out lots of small pieces of art or wall decor for one oversized and dramatic hanging. 

Avoid clutter on the walls to make the space feel more open. You don’t want your guests to feel visually overwhelmed. If you are hanging artwork above furniture, make sure it’s proportionate and at the correct height.

18. Strategically hang or place mirrors. 

Well-placed mirrors visually double the size of your space. Hang them in places such as cramped hallways or entryways. They can also be placed on tables to add the illusion of height.

19. Skip the table skirts. 

Table skirts act like mini walls, closing in the space with more and more fabric. When you let furniture legs show through, they make the space feel lighter, more airy, and oftentimes more modern as well. If you need to cover or protect your rentals but still want to maximize space, try fitted tablecloths instead. 

20. Place tall floor lamps in the corners of the space. 

Corners are a great place for lights as they are reflected by the two adjacent walls, creating even more luminosity. These fixtures will also draw guests’ eyes across the room. Lamps on tables could serve the same purpose if the space permits it. If you’re feeling stuck, you may want to consider hiring a lighting designer.

Now that you have those space maximizing ideas in your bag of tricks, there are a few more things you should consider when dealing with this event planning challenge.  

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Critical Considerations to Keep in Mind When Producing Events in Small Venues 

1. How to ensure guest safety in small event spaces

  • Ensuring your guests’ health should be your top priority as the event planner. You may be able to hire a few EMTs for your event, but will you be able to properly manage and support them? Consider hiring a Field Training Officer (FTO) who can lean on their healthcare experience if a situation occurs.
  • Remember crowd control best practices so your event is fun and safe for everyone. Proper crowd management can also prevent poor event reviews.
  • Consider hiring qualified security guards. Even if your venue is small, you may need several guards depending on the flow of guest traffic and the number of event entry points. Get more event security tips here.

2. Lighting considerations for small event venues

  • Creatively make the space feel bigger by adding height. Use vertical lights (also known as uplighting) to make ceilings appear taller. Here are some unique ways to brighten up your space.
  • Limit how much lighting equipment you rent. Choose to use fewer, more interesting options such as logo lights or dynamic gobos rather than crowding the space with big, ordinary lighting fixtures. 
  • Use what’s around you. Always take advantage of natural light options or, at the very least, opt for lightweight LED fixtures. Studies have shown that natural light increases mood, therefore creating a more positive experience for your guests.

3. What you need to know about giving presentations in small event spaces

  • Make stage props and backgrounds more interesting to balance out a smaller presentation area. Make a big impact with a small stage using these tips.
  • Save your floor space by using tall, stacked speakers instead of a variety of short speakers.
  • Opt for round, half circle, or full circle seating arrangements to take advantage of great intimacy naturally created by the venue’s size.  

Now You Can Transform Any Tiny Space Into the Perfect Event Venue for Your Gathering! 

Stuck in an event-planning rut? Take a look at these five ways to find inspiration or browse new ideas to incorporate candles in your upcoming event. Consider how the five senses impact event design too.

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