Personally I like the intimate wedding ideas.... where the number of invites is less to allow more interaction between bride 'n groom with their closest friends and family, and where special care and attention is given to the how and why's of the details.
This isn't the time to invite all the long lost friends and cousins, the childhood friends one seldom sees now. It should include those that really matter in your life on a regular basis. Those that you share the ups and downs of life with, not those whom you share only the highlights with. And I believe ultimately its the bride 'n groom's friends who should be invited, not the friends of the parents/guardians (unless of course they are also friends of the bride or groom).
I would suggest that if somebody really wants to invite alot of people, say the whole church congregation, or the community, etc., then a feasible way is to not feed them all a meal (as has become custom here in Canada) or have them all bring food for a potluck (pot-blessing). Let's face it.....feeding a crowd can be very costly. And the point of the day is to get married, not run the soup-kitchen......unless that is part of the individual couple's outreach and then the soup-kitchen is already their community and perhaps they do want to feed them.
The friends and family that you do invite might be a great resource for talents such as making decorations, assembling decorations at the venue for the ceremony and/or reception, providing music or being a DJ, sewing dresses, or presiding over the ceremony. It will make them feel useful using their talents while including them in an integral part of your wedding.
Your guests could also be included in other unique ways. I read about a couple that collected old gold jewelry from their guests ahead of time, had it melted down by a jeweller like greenkarat.com then they had a credit to use towards making unique wedding bands.
You could give 'assignments' to certain people, like request somebody to take care of getting a guestbook and arrange to set up and 'man' the table before the ceremony. That could be in place of any wedding gift they might have given. They've given of themselves which is always a superior gift than something tangible.
Another friend might have a garden full of beautiful flowers that they might be excited to incorporate into bouquets or centrepieces for you. If you don't ask, you don't know. And when people say: “What can I do to help?” they mean it!
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Question for You: If you were to do it all over again, would you change from an intimate wedding to a big list of invites, or vice versa? Were you happy with the choices you had made?