As important as the ceremony was (you know: the vows, the rings, the I Dos, and that whole "I now pronounce you man and wife" part), the main emphasis of my planning definitely went into the reception. I wanted our guests to have a night they wouldn't forget, complete with lots of dancing, plenty of details, and delicious food.
As I mentioned in a previous post, we decided to use Apres to construct a tent on the premises of our country club. The plan was for guests to enjoy cocktails and appetizers in the club, head outside into the tent for dinner and dancing, and once the band was finished, head back into the club for an afterparty, complete with late-night snacks, fireworks, and a DJ. The tent was definitely my wild card (well that and the weather). When you're constructing a space from scratch, it's hard to envision precisely what it will look like, so I wanted to be sure that it was on the right track, but I also wanted to be surprised when I saw it on the day-of. The Minneapolis-based crew traveled to Green Bay on Sunday and began constructing the tent nearly a week before the big day. I stopped by on both Wednesday and Thursday, just to make sure everything was at least moving in the direction I envisioned, but after Thursday, I, like our guests, hoped to be wowed by the final product (so I let the two people I trusted most take over the execution: my mom and the planner).
When we pulled up to the club on the wedding day, everything looked perfect to me. The walkway to the tent was lined with lanterns and tall candle pillars, and the doors to the club were adorned with rose balls, while the entryway to the tent was lit with a chandelier and an arrangement that gave our guests an idea of what to expect within. (Think tall candelabras with circle balls of roses, lots of candlelight, rich silver linens, and my favorite touch: luggage tags with calligraphy by Rosann Konieczny at each place.) The Hubby and I bypassed the cocktail hour to head right out to the golf course for more pictures. We asked our extended families to meet on the first tee for group pictures (I highly suggest doing group pictures at the reception as opposed to the church), and once those were complete, just The Hubby, our photographer, our videographer, and I went out onto the course for pictures of the two of us. Because he and I both love to golf, we thought it would be fun to grab a couple pictures with golf shoes, clubs, and even one picture with us both attempting to tee off.
Another nice element about grabbing these few minutes together on the course was that we were able to have some solitude before the madness of the reception began.
It's so overwhelming to know that there are so many people who are all there to celebrate you; you want to talk to all of them and thank them all for being there, but trying to make time to connect with every guest, have fun with your friends, yet still spend time with your new spouse is no easy feat, so finding a balance is important. The Hubby and I were also able to grab our cake mid-reception and sneak away so just the two of us could enjoy it together, and that really was one of my favorite parts of the night. (It was also nice to kick my feet up after prancing around in heels all night for a few minutes!)
After our fun on the golf course, we quickly made our way into the final 20 minutes of the cocktail hour. We were famished, so we grabbed a few quick snacks in a room we had designated for just the wedding party, and then we began to mingle. Try as we might, it was impossible for us to stick together, but I knew once we guests were called into the tent, we would have a few moments with just our wedding party. Our wedding planner, Amy Red from MiMi Design, was clutch in keeping the whole evening flowing according to our very rigid timeline. Because our dinner had to go from the kitchen to the catering tents to the guests' plates, there was very little room for error.
Upon the guests' arrival into the tent, the band was playing and our intention was for everyone to head straight to the dance floor. I realize this is a bit unusual, but we wanted our wedding to be fun for everyone, and often times, after sitting through a long dinner, people aren't in the mood for dancing. By kicking off the tent environment with dancing, we thought this might help in keeping the energy high all night. Though we weren't in there for this first part of dancing (we were still in the club enjoying a final drink with just our wedding party before they announced us), everyone we saw said the tent was hopping.
After about 25 minutes of dancing, the wedding planner cued us for our grand entrance. The Hubby and I headed straight for the dance floor when we were announced to tackle our first dance. After months of lessons at Arthur Murray, we were ready to wow the crowd. (Another tip: Practice your dance in your dress with your man if you can before you take to the dance floor. It was definitely a little trickier than we intended to do some of the spins, and I even practiced at Arthur Murray in a petticoat, so I'm glad we had that little trial run to adjust our footing.) The band played "You Make it Real" by James Morrison, and The Hubby twirled me around the floor, while we talked about how we couldn't believe the day was finally here!
Once we made our final dip, we headed straight to the cake to cut our first slice. Robin from Gateaux, Inc. here in Minneapolis created not one, but TWO masterpieces for our guests. The first cake was the cake we cut at the reception, and it was delicious. The cake actually mimicked my dress precisely.
The lace detailing on the cake was inspired by the lace detailing on my dress, so where there was embellished lace on my dress (the bust, the waist, and the hem) there was also embellished lace on the cake. Our table numbers were glass cylinders with the number etched onto them, so the accent piece on the cake was a corresponding glass cylinder with our initials on it.
The cake we had at the afterparty was considered a groom's cake, and it was a bit more fun. Because we met on an airplane, Robin created a suitcase with a Notre Dame inspiration (our alma mater) and then she incorporated aspects of our life together: our dog's collar, golf balls, a hockey puck, a signed hat by Lou Holtz that The Hubby gave to my dad early in our relationship, and she even recreated the boarding passes from the flight that we met on. People were so awestruck by the second cake that we saw many guests touch it just to see if it was real. (It was and it tasted DELICIOUS!)
After the cutting of the cake, The Hubby and I began to mingle between tables while the rest of our guests enjoyed their salad. We worked my father's toast (which was a definite tear jerker), the father/ daughter dance (our lessons paid off as well!), and the mother/ son dance ("Never Alone" is a phenomenal song for this occasion) in between courses, and then we asked guests to join The Hubby and his mom on the dance floor for another bout of dancing.
We wanted to keep the guests engaged with the band, and we didn't want a dull moment all night! (I also can't stand the clinking of the glasses to get us to kiss, and because people were constantly dancing, and while people were eating The Hubby and I were mingling, no one ever had the opportunity to clink. Score!)
Toward the end of dinner The Hubby and I got up to thank our guests. We tried to make it around to every table (we missed the last three of our friends, but we got to dance the night away with them at the late-night party, so it was okay). My groom surprised me (I didn't think it was possible to surprise me on this day I so carefully planned), but he stood in front of all our guests and thanked me for all my efforts to make the day what it was (I thought he was going to thank our parents). It was beautiful and so considerate . . . well done, Hubby. Well done.
Following our thanks, my matron of honor got up and gave a wonderful toast that started with my husband's advice to her a day earlier. He told her, "Seventy-five percent of all bridesmaids' toasts aren't good, so just don't cry or tell any inside jokes and you'll do better than most." Her advice to me at the start of the toast after recounting this story: Leave our future children's pep talks to me (which received a hearty round of laughter from the crowd). Nonethless, she didn't cry and even The Hubby was impressed, so the toasts were off to a strong start. Then our best man got up to give his toast, and this was the moment we'd all been waiting for. You see, about two months ago, our best man thought it might be fun to do a flash mob at the wedding. We all joked about it, but after awhile I thought, why not? So The Hubby and I had our dance instructor put together a video for a select number of our guests, and we sent it out about a month before. The plan was to have the BM give his toast and then invite the Father of the Groom up to the dance floor to add a little something. They broke into dance, and the rest of us joined in (both sets of parents included). I don't want to give away too much; you just need to see for yourself, so click here.
The night started to whirl by after the flash mob. Dancing continued in the tent until the band announced it was time to go back into the club and onto the back terrace for fireworks. The was my dad's second favorite task (after finding the car) and I must say, he did a phenomenal job! The show, which lasted about 15 minutes, was the perfect end-cap for some people's evenings, and for others, it was the perfect foray into the late-night party. By the time the grand finale was complete, the DJ was rocking back in the club, which was converted into a lounge-like atmosphere.
We had sleek couches and funky lighting to keep people relaxed and wanting to party. We also had a photobooth (which made for some VERY entertaining pictures the next day), and snacks (that included McDonald's French fries, Juicy Lucy's, cheese curds, mini hot dogs, and donuts and coffee for the wee hours of the morning) to keep people full while they continued to drink. My mom put together an arrangement of wedding pictures from my and The Hubby's families. We had pictures dating all the way back to the early 1900's of weddings from our relatives. As an extra special touch, my mom blew up the photo from my grandma's wedding that took place on the very altar that The Hubby and I said our vows only a few hours earlier.
We also had a candy bar, a cigar bar, a guest book of our engagement pictures with white space for people to sign, signature cocktails (the Mr. S and the Mrs. S), and a smattering of other little details that rounded out the day. The funny thing about the details is that I put all my time and energy during the planning process into making sure I had every detail covered, but throughout the day, I was so busy I wasn't able to take much, if any, of it in. As a guest of a wedding, the details are all I notice, but as a bride, the details were the furthest thing from my mind. (Fortunately a number of our guests recognized the details, so I know all the extra touches didn't go unnoticed!)
The party extended into the wee hours of the morning, and we ended the night with the same song we started the night with: "Good Feeling." (It seemed more appropriate than "Call Me, Maybe" even though that was also a big hit of the night.) And after a number of hugs and thank yous, we ushered our final guests onto the last bus to the hotels, which meant the only individuals who were left were my parents, my planner, and my guy—the very people who were so instrumental in making the day the best day of my life. There aren't enough thank yous in the world to express my gratitude to each of them, but lucky for all of us, I have the rest of my life to try.
With the end of the night closing in on me, I looked around at the end result of more than a year of planning. Even though my feet were aching and my dress was dirty, I knew I would never forget how I felt in that very moment. I was proud of myself, my parents, my guy, and everyone who poured their heart and soul into making the day a reality; I was exhausted from the emotional roller coaster of saying goodbye to my former life (and life as a bride) and embracing my new one as a wife; I was happy that everything went seemingly without a hitch (and that a bed was a mere minutes away); I was sad that it was over and I wasn't able to spend even more time with all of our amazing guests, but most importantly, I was excited. Excited that the day was so much fun; excited for our upcoming honeymoon that would be free of timelines and to-do lists; excited to be starting a new life with my best friend; and excited to have my free time back . . . well, until the thank you-notes begin.