Wedding Graduates: Faith & Mike

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.

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  • I remember this graduate post from before. (I wasn’t actually following when it was first posted, but when I discovered APW I immersed myself in its archives). Her words about a wedding reception being the couples first act of hospitality, and that it comes from God’s hospitality towards us, that stuck with me ever since.

  • Heather

    So much fun to see this wedding again this morning! It was showing my now-husband the photo of Faith and Mike’s cake that he felt like he could succeed at making our wedding cake. The first wedding detail he ever asked about was wondering if he could make our cake. I was all for it, but someone saw a few too many 3 feet tall, perfectly frosted cakes and started to feel like he wouldn’t be able to make something special enough. No matter how many times I told him simple and tasty was better, it wasn’t until he saw this picture that he really believed me. So he found an amazing chocolate cake recipe, served it with whipped cream, and decorated it with the leftover hydrangeas I had from making the bouquets and bouts. It was simply stunning. Now, eighteen months after the fact, he’s still getting rave reviews and requests for the recipe. So thanks!

  • The design of the invites looks lovely. And oh wow that three-tiered cake looks so tasty. Is it covered with ganache? And what kind of building is your venue?

    Also *yay* for foodie-geeks :)

  • Jo

    Food was one of the hardest things for me to align with our very-budget wedding. I’ve learned that the way I can deal is by focusing on how it’s bringing us together to have a potluck, to have people work together to make our reception dinner after we make them breakfast, instead of thinking about how it’s not fancy or gourmet. For once, I’ll be making food a vehicle instead of focusing on food for food itself.

    This is such a beautiful graduate post! I loved it then, and love it now.

  • How beautiful. It’s so interesting – as I plan my own wedding, as I watch my friends plan theirs, and as I read about lovely weddings like yours – to see how everyone finds ways to emphasize the things that are special and important to them and how each wedding turns out to be a day of celebrating those things that make the particular couple who they are. I don’t think I ever understood that before, but I just love it. And while I haven’t bought my dress yet, I know it won’t be a princess dress, and I totally sympathize with your pang – you looked beautiful, though.

  • clampers

    This is awesome because my usual morning internet routine is to read APW and then The Kitchn.

    I liked what you said about the reception being the couple’s first act of hospitality…had never thought about it like that before.

  • Zan

    I loved this grad post when it went up (though I wasn’t reading then, so I found it in the archives). I loved it so much that I have a confession to make:

    We used that line, “The wedding is our first act of hospitality as a couple” on our wedding website. I couldn’t figure out how to add footnotes so we didn’t cite Faith, sorry! Consider this a belated citation, and thanks for providing such a fabulous perspective!

  • This post brought a lot of sunshine to my day. I, too, am totally inspired and moved by the author’s description of serving food at a wedding being a couple’s first act of hospitality and how that reflects the Lord’s hospitality toward us. That’s such a beautiful and meaningful picture to me. I’ve been thinking about the idea of serving the cake since I think it’s such a lovely idea. Not sure exactly how it would play out because we’re having more of a sweets table, but I definitely adore the sentiment! And it’s totally us as we’re seeking to build a Christian home full of love & hospitality!

  • Benita Wheeler

    I love this wedding that the couple had a moment. It is great how many creative ideas they had.

  • Ris

    I could go on and on about how much I love this wedding (a whole lot), but instead I’ll just aske a normal ol’ question: Faith or Mike, if you’re reading this, what orientation did you order your embosser in, top or bottom? I’m trying to figure out which one I could get the most wedding-y use out of. Thanks!

  • Thanks everybody for your sweet comments! It’s such a treat to get to look at wedding photos again here; I love APW so much.

    @Heather, your cake sounds amazing! @Pluis, no, it was just a straight-up chocolate cake, with whipped cream between the layers. And our venue is an old converted factory in Columbus. I loved the brick and salvaged industrial elements. @Katie thank you so much, you’re so sweet. @Zan, I don’t remember where I heard that quote; it didn’t originate with me, though. So glad it was shared and passed along!

    @RIS, I looked back at my records, and we actually got two embossers. One was for our return address, and this was BOTTOM-oriented. I used it for the flaps of our envelopes, and I actually still use it for all my correspondence. The “logo/motif” embosser I got in the TOP-orientation, which made it easy to stamp the tops of our menus, thank you notes, programs, etc.

    • Ris

      Thanks so much!

  • I love every detail in your wedding – it was so gorgeous and sounds unbelievably delicious! Serving your guests is such a personal and beautiful detail. My biggest regret is that I wasn’t able to talk to everyone at our wedding and you were able to do exactly that! Such a wonderful idea.

    Also – an imperfect, beautiful, meaningful wedding as the kickoff to an imperfect, beautiful, meaningful marriage? One of the best comparison’s I’ve seen here on APW. So true.

  • I am so excited to hear such wonderful things about Jon, the caterer! He is catering our wedding in July (he now works w/Weilands) and it has been such a pleasure. I can’t recommend him or his work enough! Thanks for sharing your good experiences w/Columbus area vendors!

  • Pingback: Hospitality & Weddings | Corrie Anne()

  • V

    Oh, I’m so happy to see this post here today. I loved it the first time (also an archive reader), and this time it nearly made me cry. We’ve been having a very bad week in wedding planning world in part because we’ve been struggling to keep touch with what we really want from the day. I adore this post because, despite many differences between this wedding and the wedding we’re planning, so much of the “why” of weddings as described in this post resonates with me. Everything from the hospitality, to the community, to the open mic, to the value of traditional vows just reminds me why I wanted a wedding in the first place.

    Thank you Faith and Meg, you’ve really brightened my day.

  • Lauren

    How absolutely lovely.

    My fiance (officially so as of yesterday, !) grew up in Columbus, so I was drawn to this post from the first line, but I’m so glad I read it all the way through. I love Faith’s description of a wedding as a married couple’s first act of hospitality – it’s something that I hope shapes and inspires our wedding. Whatever else the day turns out to be, I would like it to be first and foremost a way of celebrating all of the relationships that make our relationship better, and of saying “thank you” to those who have supported us and strengthened us from the beginning.

    This is the kind of post that has kept me visiting APW for months despite the fact that I haven’t been officially planning my wedding until this week. (Also – the food! Oh my, the food!) Beautiful.

  • Susi-Q

    I loved this post the first time it came up and I love it still! I am struggling to find a caterer that reflects my values (local, responsible, tasty!) for our 2012 wedding in northern Wisconsin. If anyone at APW has recommendations, I would love them!