Thursday, January 17, 2013

Southern Hospitality

One aspect of our wedding that is so important to Phil and I is our guest experience, and in particular, the atmosphere of hospitality we intend to create. It involves a lot of forethought and moving parts, but at the end of the day, what we want to remember is what it felt like to be surrounded by love and happiness on our wedding day.

We are planning a constant flow of food and drink. We are so focused on feeding our guests that our initial menu design meeting with our caterer turned into a list of about 60 must-have items! Thank goodness she is patient! We can’t help it, we just love food.

The day will begin and end with munchies. None of our guests will have to look at their watches with empty stomachs growling during the ceremony. We are inviting them to arrive at the outdoor ceremony site (in February!) 30 minutes before the processional begins to enjoy a warm beverage bar, hot soups and grilled cheeses. Casual conversations, reunions and a few relaxed moments between family and friends will provide the perfect start to a warm, full-bellied, intimate evening.

As our guests walk through the red double doors into the marbled hall of the Carillon, they will be served Prosecco with simply the cutest gold pom pom drink stirrers. (Side note: my family was thrilled when I sprung craft night on them over the holidays!). Food will be butler passed throughout the entire night – even during dinner. No one is leaving our wedding hungry.

Rather than boring, lackluster jazz or sleepy classical, the band will kick off a high energy set right at the start of cocktail hour. Our goal is to get our guests on that dance floor before dinner is served. The meal service is family style with a twist. A few options will be placed on the table for all to share while staff will continue to butler heartier portions of food. Everywhere you turn you can expect an edible surprise!

Even in the weeks leading up to our big day, we are still refining the menu. You may be saying to yourself “I totally get that” or maybe you’re floored by our food-focused wedding mentality. Maybe the thought of floor-to-ceiling, gigantic, elaborate centerpieces makes you melt the way the idea of over-the-top hospitality and our favorite gastronomic treats turn us weak in the knees. Your couple personality and wedding priorities will dictate how you choose to wow your guests – just keep their happiness and comfort foremost in your mind and your wedding, like ours, is destined to be a celebration no one will forget!

Monday, January 7, 2013

designing an event that "feels" right

It should come as no surprise that the design aspect of our wedding planning has been the easiest part for me. While I’d gladly hand off to another expert my own home design, including hanging artwork or picking out curtains, there is something about designing an event that truly excites me. Perhaps it’s because it is the departure from our everyday experience – something totally different than sitting at your own breakfast table and at your own household linen.

In fact, the “experience” is what Phil and I have chosen as our most important wedding element. It reflects our own couple culture of cherishing the experience of everyday living, and of each day together. At the end of the day, with intention, we come together to cook a meal, not just sit and eat. We do things as partners that others simply take for granted. At our wedding, we want to celebrate those intentional moments by sharing our “experience” with our guests.

{photos by PhotoLadyLove}

Phil and I can describe our wedding in one simple word: warm. In a winter month, it would be obvious and easy to do the exact opposite (for it will, in all likelihood, be COLD). So, we have chosen to go the route of intimacy, bringing in warmth from the food (will share food details soon!), the d├ęcor, and the signature hospitality. The overall aesthetic, and the comfort of our loved ones on the wedding day is far more important to us than any fancy flower arrangement or matte satin linen. We’re skipping elaborate centerpieces and custom lighting because they don’t fit the “feel” that we are trying to achieve.

We chose warm tones, such as eggplant, sage, champagne, gold, slate and navy. Huge helpings of magnolia will line the tables. Add to that candle light and a pop of sparkle! Who doesn’t love a pop of sparkle? Food is so important to Phil and I that we’re even decorating with it! Artichokes, oranges, and lemons will brighten the tables. A few arrangements of flowers, dispersed around the room and featuring hydrangea, dusty miller, more magnolia and herbs will tie the perfect wintry floral palette together.

Stepping briefly back into “Wedding Planner” mode, for the brides-to-be who are reading this, take my advice: put yourselves in your guests’ shoes. Try, as best you can, to visualize your day and do a virtual walk-through, looking for opportunities to grace your loved ones with hospitality and love. Look for potential points of tension and craft ways to eliminate them. Figure out where your guests will spend the most time, and where you want their attention focused, and spend your energy there. For you, it could be tearing up the dance floor, or marveling at the dining tables, or maybe even gorging themselves on cake. Each event dynamic is as unique as your couple personality is, so there is no “prescription” for the perfect atmosphere. However, if you look at your event from this perspective, you will certainly focus less on flashy centerpieces, and more on your own guest experience and the overall “feel” of the day.

Whether or not 100% of my guests notice the small details, this “experience” excites me the most (naturally, the FOOD excites Phil the most!). Everything from a “basket of blankets to borrow” with cozy wintry white blankets and a gold “Richmond, Virginia” embroider, to our favorite recipes handed out as favors is special and thoughtful. Sparkly pom pom toothpicks will hold our late night snack burgers together, and you know the stationery will be beautiful to boot.

Next, we’ll talk about food from the hospitality perspective (I know, I know – you want a menu!), and how service can mean so much when creating a specific guest aesthetic. More soon!