Today APW is partnering up with Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn to talk a little about weddings and food. As someone who spent 50% of her wedding budget on food, very intentionally, this is right up my alley. Later today, I’ll be over on The Kitchn, writing about Team Practical’s collective wisdom about self-catering your wedding. This afternoon, Apartment Therapy Managing Editor Faith will be here, talking about sensible ways to build a cooking focused wedding registry. But to kick it all off, I wanted to start with Faith’s wedding. Faith wrote about her wedding for APW two years ago, and it remains one of my all time favorite wedding graduate posts (no kidding). The way she discusses faith, hospitality, and food were so wise and so impact-full for me. So, as I said two years ago, I hope you like it a quarter as much as I do, because that would be very much indeed.
Mike and I were married last September in Columbus, Ohio. We really value our community of friends and family, and we wanted a celebration that would thank them for all their support in our journey, and acknowledge that marriage isn’t just a joining of two people: it’s more far-reaching than that.
I’m a food writer, so food and drink are crazy important to both of us. We lucked out big time with our caterer, Creative Cuisine. John, our contact there, is on the board of the Ohio organic and ecological farming association, and he was able to bring in some local ingredients. He was great to work with: I gave him my dream menu and he not only pulled it off but at a great price too.
Important words: We pulled out a few words to keep us anchored and centered during the process. Hospitality was one. I read once that a wedding reception is a bride and bridegroom’s first act of hospitality as a married couple. This drove a lot of the decisions we made: is this idea hospitable? Also, community. We have deep friendships with people all over the country, and we wanted to bring them together in a one-day reunion!
Being practical: A Practical Wedding was a big inspiration. I like the thought that being practical means doing what’s right for YOU – not just what the wedding industry or indie crowd thinks is ideal. This post also made me crow! So true.
We paid a little more for our wedding than we planned, but it was a deliberate decision. We wanted to serve everyone an excellent meal with great wine, and this is where the majority of our money went. It was 110% worth it. We were very frugal in other areas, but we also tried to be sensible in balancing creativity and time vs. the convenience (and sanity) of paying others to do things. We had a short engagement of about 4 months, so this was important.
Also on practicality and frugality: we had the wedding on a Sunday afternoon, which saved us quite a bit on venue. We also decided to keep our wedding party intimate: just our siblings and one good friend as the flower girl. I felt strongly about paying for my bridal party’s dresses – one thing that has always annoyed me about American weddings is the expectation for people to drop a ton of money on a dress they will of course, “wear again.” Keeping the parties intimate kept costs down, but the real reason was just that we wanted to stick with people that we know will be in our lives forever.
Being creative: It was so fun to think through ways to save money, be creative, and be hospitable to our guests.
We created our invites ourselves. I commissioned a papercut from Cindy Fergusonwebsite, and I even used a bit of the sage leaves as a design on custom-printed linen for my dress. Also, I love letterpress, but we decided not to splurge on it. Instead we ordered a custom embosser (about $60) with this image and stamped it on our envelopes, menus, and other print materials. It gave that lovely raised feel without the expense. Type geeks will appreciate: We bought one classic font and used it across all our print materials.
A talented friend made my dress. (I catered her wedding dessert reception the year before.) It was a combo of linen custom-printed by Anna of Food Flowers Style and really inexpensive silk I bought at a remnants shop. We kept it very simple: an empire shift, basically. I wanted something natural and easy to move around in. It wasn’t a princess dress, and even though this gave me a tiny pang, occasionally, it was so lovely and such a right choice for who I am.
We used old glass jars bought on Craigslist for the flower arrangements. I had about 20 girlfriends over the day before the wedding for brunch, and we did the flowers together. It was a blast, and I was able to have the more offbeat flowers and greens that I love. I cleaned the jars out and now they hold grains in my pantry.
We wanted a mix of urban, pastoral, and vintage in our wedding. We love the city, and our venue was an old former factory downtown. You can see the city and the highways all around, but there is a central grassy area where we held the ceremony.
Vintage things were so fun; I used old library drawers to hold the escort cards, and vintage flashcards for table numbers. We wrote notes to each of our guests on the escort cards. Bringing our family history in was important. We displayed old photos on the guest welcome table, and we created mini family histories through wedding photos on the website.
We did a photobooth, too, but we just used my own camera on a tripod and a remote. Friends brought props, and I printed up the photos after the wedding and included them in people’s thank you notes.
The menu: It was a September wedding, and I wanted to have a menu that reflected the seasons. Before the ceremony we had house-made sweet potato chips with rosemary, and a fizzy apple cider drink. After the ceremony, during the photos, there was a cocktail hour with white wine, deviled eggs with capers, and crostini with apple slices, brie, and honey. (Honey was a theme: I used beeswax candles on all the tables in little glass tumblers that are now at home and well-used in our kitchen!) Supper was beet coleslaw, focaccia bread, pasta with butternut squash and sage, roasted fall vegetables, and an herb-crusted pork loin. We set up long tables so everyone felt like they were at one big dinner table, and we passed the food family style.
We bought the wine ourselves — two inexpensive but really great favorites. The leftovers all came home with us! I made two kinds of cake, as well as lemon ice cream. This was hectic, but totally worth it! (You can see more about the cake on The Kitchn.) I wanted my mom’s family to participate somehow, so I asked my aunts and grandma to bring sweets for another dessert table. This was a huge hit. (Also more about the family sweets table here.)
– We aren’t into dancing, much (hello! we’re rather geeky. No one wants to watch us dance…) but we love music, so we asked friends and family to play at a sort of open mic instead. A couple friends sang some of our favorite songs. Another friend played a hilarious Elvis medley, and Mike and his mom and brother played an old Italian folk tune. Then his mom played a surprise encore of “That’s Amore!” on her accordion, to great hilarity and group singing. There were a lot of kids there and they were all up and dancing during the music!
We cut and served our own cake. This was by far the most meaningful part of the meal. We wanted to feed everyone from the time they got there to the time they left, and to serve our sweet cake together to all our friends and family was a good way to do a “receiving” line too.
Last words: No wedding is perfect. It’s just the kickoff to a marriage that also won’t be perfect, but hopefully both will reflect your spirits and your values. I know that not everyone has a religion or a faith connected to their wedding, but if you do, this is the time to put it front and center. We did a lot of things very differently, and dispensed with lots of purported wedding tradition (no unity candle!), but we did stick with short, simple, and old-fashioned words in our ceremony. We wanted to be connected to the longstanding supports of tradition, community, and strength we have available in our personal faiths. (No pun intended. Har.)
Also, we feel that our love of hospitality comes from God’s own hospitality towards us, and while we understand that not everyone has the same beliefs and traditions we do, for us it was such a deep pleasure to look down the rows of tables and see all our dearest friends and family enjoying one another with good food in community. For us, that’s one of the deepest expressions of what our faith means. After all the fun and creativity of a wedding is over, we are stuck with one another, and I believe we all need something — whether that is faith, friends, a common purpose — to help us remember our vows and love each other over the long haul. It’s what a wedding is all about, right? The more you can emphasize that unifying factor during that one shining day, the more memorable it will be. Our friends and that loaded table of food symbolize a lot of this for us, and those are the memories of our wedding that will last.
Photos: Bryan and Joleen Fenstermacher, photographers extraordinaire. Also, Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan (food pics) and our friend Bom Yi Kim.