After we were married, we walked down the aisle and out the door our guests came in. Then we went in another door of the building, into the ceremony side. Our venue was essentially two large empty rooms side-by-side, with a big sliding wall in the middle that you can open to connect the two of them. I just couldn’t figure out a plan for how to get the guests nicely into the other room, and eventually my mum suggested that as we’d already done our photos and everything, we just zip around and welcome the guests into the reception half of the building, like a receiving line. It worked so well! We opened two panels of the sliding wall, and everyone filed past and gave Cinnamon Buns and me a hug and some well-wishes, so we were certain we got to talk to everyone there at least once that night.
(guest photo above)
Above you can see what I mean about the sliding wall. The platform where we got married is to the far left in this photo—you can just see one of our orchids.
The guests’ first view of the reception room, complete with big orange wall covered in opera photos. That wall made a perfect backdrop for our bar and main food stations.
You can see the chairs where everyone had been sitting for the ceremony in this photo. And a food table right behind us! When everyone was through, we closed the big panels so our DOC (and some cousins for brute strength) could move all the chairs and get the ceremony room ready to become the dance floor.
One of the first surprises of the night was finding these little jingle bells everywhere – someone had taken the ‘with bells on’ RSVP cards literally, and put bells on all our tables. They’d obviously been in touch with the groomsmen (our MCs), because they announced that when people wanted us to kiss, they’d ring the bells. Oh darn. (Note – while reading over my shoulder just now, Cinnamon Buns informed me that the mystery bell-er was his mum!)
Being married and forced to kiss your new husband is a tough job.
Then we left some time before the speeches and such for guests to get drinks and food. We had the caterers pre-pour glasses of wine, so those who wanted wine could easily grab one as they came in to the room. We chose to have one red wine and one white wine, two types of beer, and a few hard alcohols for mixed drinks. As our venue was basically an empty hall, we bought all the alcohol and our caterers provided the bar unit, mix, bar accessories, and bartender.
The bridal party headed to the bar for some well-deserved drinks.
We decided to take a suggestion from a caterer we met with but ended up not hiring, and do a “bar by donation.” We instructed our stage manager friend we’d asked to DOC to put up a sign on the bar partway through the night that said “Bar By Donation – Help us honeymoon with the sloths!” At that point people could feel free to donate (or not) as they drank. Mum had instructed family not to pay, but we did end up with a nice amount to give to the sloth sanctuary when we get there. The bar was a bit of a contentious point—my parents suggested just beer and wine so people “don’t get smashed,” and it being a host bar. I wanted at least some vodka and mix there because that’s what I generally drink. We ended up doing it our way, and it worked. I think the caterers got a hefty tip as well, because for a while there was a tip jar out near our jar.
(guest photo above)
The food was delicious, and a huge success! Our whole vision for the reception was people mingling and chatting and moving around a lot. To encourage this, we had small 4-person cafe tables everywhere, and no seating plan. We reserved a larger table for our parents near the front of the room, but otherwise it was open season. We also did not have a sit-down plated meal. There were lots of appetizers on food tables all around the room, and the main cooking station at the back by the bar. The idea was that guests would wander around to all the food tables (“Where did you get those meatballs?” “Oh, they’re on the table on the left side over there!”), meeting people in line, chatting as they went by. There were enough seats for everyone in the room to sit down at once, so everyone also had a home base for purses/sweaters/drinks/sitting when their feet were tired. I think it worked very well—no one was sitting alone, people would pull up an extra chair to a table if needed. There was lots of chatting and wandering around, which made it very easy for us to mingle. Did my friend MJ suddenly become best friends with Cinnamon Buns’ cousins? No, people mainly sat with other people they knew, but I still don’t feel there was any awkwardness in the whole evening. Score 1 for the “tapas-style reception with no seating plan!” (The “no seating plan” was also a bone of contention with my parents.)
(guest photo above)
And here is proof that we even got to eat! I have a baby baked potato in my hand—delicious. That was part of the cooking station, as were some delicious fish cakes.
The lady with the clipboard was our awesome stage manager friend who we asked to be our Day-of-Coordinator. Can I just say how well-suited stage managers are for the job of a DOC? It’s like we’re trained for it. (Full disclosure: I am a stage manager, one of 3 stage managers in the bridal party, and one of 8 or 9 SMs in attendance at our wedding.)
People admired my ring, which I was all-too-ready to show off.
(guest photo above)
People also admired my dress, which I was apparently also very eager to show off, even the under-layers! The big wide band I’m holding there is the horsehair hem of the satin layer. The horsehair encased at the bottom of it (you can see the bit I’m holding is a few inches wide and stiffer than the rest of the fabric) helps the bottom of the dress keep its shape. The wardrobe friend I got to alter the dress has made and altered wedding dresses for years, and said that that was a sign of the amazing quality of the dress, as was the fact that the tulle layers were hemmed as well, not just cut and left. She said it was one of the most well-made dresses she has ever seen, and said it was worth every penny paid for it, which was gratifying, even though the price still makes me choke a bit when I think about it. Watters, you impressed a lady who has seen it all! (My dress was Watters Lasara.)
The ‘groomhandles’ as Cinnamon Buns liked to call them were also our MCs. They took care of various announcements throughout the night as well as cueing people for speeches. My dad and Cinnamon Buns’ step-dad both spoke, and as we only had a 2-person bridal party each, they did joint speeches. Neither of my bridesmaids are big on public speaking (just like me! BFFs!) so they really wanted to go together. The groomsmen on the other hand, were a pretty good comedy double-act. Groomsman L ended his speech with an ancient Chinese proverb:
Baochí gundòng èr shí ji suì.
Which, roughly translated, means: “Keep rolling twenties.” We (and our friends) are geeks.
We spent very little time at the head table, so there are actually very few photos of it. We used two long tables that ended up not being the same height, but managed to disguise it with a cunning pile of books where the two joined. I also made sure there was a jar to put my bouquet in, plus a couple fanned books. This was something I didn’t plan beforehand. I knew we had extra books, that ‘LOVE’ sign, and some candleholders, and threw it together the day before. The wall behind us could have had some decor on it… it normally holds photos of all the former chairs of the board for the building, but I didn’t want ‘the old dudes’ looking over our shoulders so we very carefully took them down and packed them away, making sure to take some cellphone photos first so we could put them back again. The bare hooks really bothered mum, but I knew we’d spend very little time at the head table (literally just the speeches) so we didn’t bother doing anything with the hooks.
We had put a small platform in this room for the speechifying to happen on, and at the last minute decided to buy another green shag rug from IKEA for that platform too, to tie it in. We took our turn on the rug – I wasn’t planning on saying anything in case I started crying again, so I let Cinnamon Buns thank everyone. When he was done I decided that I could say something funny and not cry, so I told everyone the “Always argue naked” policeman story from earlier in the day. People laughed! I could be an actor yet! (No, I really really couldn’t.)
I’m not sure who is dipping who in this photo, but it sure looks awkward!
This bird’s eye view photo gives you an idea of the size of the tables, plus you can see both our types of centrepieces – the book piles with candle and the fanned-out books.
That’s what our reception looked like. Fun, informal, lots of standing, mingling, talking, moving, eating (small portions, but lots of them!), drinking. I think it was a success. I did have some doubts going in to it, because we’re bombarded with photos and writing about the ‘norm’ for weddings – escort cards and table numbers and seating charts and plated meals… but our reception had none of those things and was just as awesome as the weddings that do have all that.
Do you think we bucked the reception trend in a good way, or a bad way?
Unless otherwise noted, all photos in this post are by Fotograffika.
The Cinnamon Bun Recaps: