So, funny thing. When we were a little less than a year away from the wedding, we decided to sign our contract for our rehearsal dinner venue. Why so early, you might ask?
I knew our rehearsal dinner venue before I even knew we were getting engaged. It wasn’t even a question for me, so when we were engaged, I asked Sparky if he was on board and he was.
Farestart Restaurant—good food, great charity via Seattle Dining
There is a local restaurant that serves great food, has a wonderful atmosphere, and, amazingly enough, is a charity. I love to go to the restaurant for lunch when I can, and every Thursday night they have a guest chef night. The reason I love this place so much is that they use the money they make to do something I am very passionate about: help people.
Thus, it is probably no surprise that I sent out rehearsal dinner invitations a few days back.
Our wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner are in two different locations/towns, and we are also scheduled for them to be three hours apart. This time gap was due to the time block in which our venue would let us get into the space. I’m not too concerned about having the gap, just that people are aware of the gap. We are after all close to Boston Commons and other historic Boston landmarks. I’m sure people can keep busy as long as they are aware of the gap.
Thus, the need for an invitation that explained the logistics of the situation. I found very few invitations that seemed to address the rehearsal itself, and so I thought I would put something together myself.
I’m going to take a shot in the dark and assume this is more common than you may think. But hey, I also could be very very wrong. We had every intention of having a full-blown wedding rehearsal. We had never even fully done our handfasting ceremony in its entirety, nor had anyone else been to the ceremony site to see where everything would take place. A rehearsal was definitely a must. But then something funny happened: people were late, I was tired, all of a sudden people started showing up for the rehearsal dinner, and then somehow the actual rehearsal seemed less and less important. In fact, it seemed unnecessary. I’ll let you in on a little secret: by the time we had arrived at the venue the day before, I had given up on being a neurotic, stressed-out bride, and had just come to the conclusion that the best thing for me to do was just go with the flow. (I may or may not have revoked this opinion the next morning during setup, but that’s a story for another post.)
Since rehearsing the actual wedding ceremony had been scrapped, we moved on to bigger and better things: rehearsing the RECEPTION. Originally, we had a bit of trouble deciding how we wanted to go about our rehearsal dinner, mainly because of the seclusion of our venue. But in the end we decided on a laid-back BBQ with our immediate family, wedding party, and guests who were already on the mountain the night before. I let Mr. B pick out the food, and I have to admit he did an excellent job. He opted for us to have carne asada tacos, Coronas, margaritas, and even decided to man the grill! I know a lot of you bees would not want your grooms to be “working” at your rehearsal dinner, but I know that manning the grill with his groomsmen was one of Mr. B’s favorite parts of the night!
BM N, GM R & B, and Mr. B manning the grill
In addition to Mr. B and the groomsmen at the grill, most of our wedding party had helped us set up the multi-purpose room for the event that day, and MOH S was in charge of warming the tortillas. (Have I mentioned we have AWESOME friends?)
The day before our wedding day looked something like this:
So, I figured the day before our wedding was probably going to be pretty hectic. I imagined it would be something like being the director of a musical production being put on by our local community theater and the feeling one gets on opening night (I’ve directed many a production in the past and it’s a crazy mad dash to get everything finished up before people start walking in to see the show.). But you guys, the day before the wedding was like that feeling times a million. Nothing, NOT A THING, could prepare me for the craziness of the day before our wedding day; I was running around non-stop that entire morning and afternoon to try and take care of last minute things, and then 3:30 in the afternoon hit. Mama Dillo called to tell me that the 50 cupcakes I had baked from scratch a few days before were now completely pulling apart from their liners, and I totally lost it. Not because I was bummed about the cupcakes necessarily, I was just so stressed out and pressed for time as it was and there was NO WAY I would have time to make another 50 before the wedding day. The minute she heard me start to cry on the phone, however, she went into “taking care of business” mode, told me not to worry, and that it would be taken care of. I trusted her. (Spoiler alert: Mama Dillo came through and baked 50 more before our rehearsal dinner. She’s a machine!)
Planning the rehearsal dinner was a huge headache for us. I figured it would be a piece of cake compared to the complicated reception with twice as many people. Definitely not.
I don’t want to drag out the pain so here’s the short version:
Mr. Squirrel and I kept going back and forth between having a casual “welcome picnic” with all the guests or a fancier sit down dinner with only immediate family and wedding party. I was rooting for the welcome party for a long time. I loved the idea of seeing all the guests as much as possible. It was great in theory, but a logistical nightmare. We couldn’t find a venue (who knew parks were $500 to rent for the evening?) and without any family or close friends in town to help, a DIY dinner for 90 people was a scary thought.
Mr. Squirrel could see my frustration, so he jumped in and took the rehearsal dinner reigns. He started making calls to restaurants all over Tampa. Some of the responses were just laughable. One manager rambled on for twenty minutes about how “of course they could accommodate our party” and there would be signature food, drinks, basically anything our little hearts could desire…all for a $5000 minimum. Hah, no.
We capped our budget for the rehearsal dinner at $1500 and we quickly realized that, in order to have it at a restaurant, we had to limit our guest count to the 45 people that made up the bridal party and immediate family. I was bummed, but we came up with a little bit of a compromise (…wait for it).
Mr. Squirrel finally found a great restaurant called Pane Rustica. (Remember, I just spared you about four months of restaurant calling.) It has your traditional American smattering of options: steak, seafood, pasta, etc. They have an in-house bakery with some insane goodies for dessert. The decor is pretty swanky and we will have our own private room for our loud obnoxious families (a requirement for us!). You see, my family historically interprets “rehearsal dinner” to mean “roast.”
As tasty as the food will be at our reception (based on our recent tasting), I’m a little (OK, a lot) more excited for the food at our rehearsal dinner. For the reception, we had a choice of a few dishes, but for the rehearsal, the possibilities are endless! Which is both a gift and a curse…
I’ve mentioned that Mr. Plane works at a country club. (Hey! Did you hear Mr. Plane works at a country club?!) We considered having the wedding at his club for a hot second, but ultimately decided he’d have more fun if our wedding wasn’t at his place of employment (and I can’t blame him). But, we still wanted to take advantage of the great scenery (and the great deal!)—so we’re going to have the rehearsal dinner there.
Now to decide on the food. The club’s chef, Renee, has pretty much told Mr. Plane that she’ll do whatever we wanted for the rehearsal dinner. And Miss Airplane wants minis!
Minis! / Collage via My Wedding Reception Ideas Blog, individual credits at source
We scheduled our wedding events quite traditionally—Saturday afternoon wedding with a Friday rehearsal/ rehearsal dinner. The rehearsal was set for 4:00 PM with our welcome BBQ starting at 6:00 PM.
And I’m glad that I planned for lots of extra time. Several people involved in the rehearsal ran late. After waiting a bit we decided to go ahead anyway. So when Best Man N & Bridesmaid E showed up, we rehearsed again. And when our youngest participants made it (due to a time mix-up), we rehearsed a third time. No chance of forgetting the important parts now!
Pastor W explaining what to do
We rehearsed in our exact ceremony spot, though it would be hard to tell. Nothing more than some lawn, leaves, and nice afternoon sunlight. The chairs and other decorations for our ceremony went up the morning of the wedding.
So before we leave on our unplugged honeymoon (more details on that to come next week), I have a few more posts to share about the Sword wedding planning process.
It’s time to divulge that there was one thing that could have been a HUGE problem but luckily turned out perfect in the end.
Truthbomb: We might have invited a few more people to our rehearsal dinner than we could actually fit in the reserved room. How much more you ask? Well since our rehearsal dinner goal was to feed anyone who came from out-of-state or out-of-country, we ended up inviting a total of 148 people.
The room on other hand? It only fit 50-70 people max. WHAT WERE WE THINKING!?!?!
We were thinking how much fun it would be see everyone twice, we were thinking feeding everyone twice was a way to thank them for making such a long trip, but in the end it was clear we were NOT thinking because it wasn’t until after the invitations had gone out that Mr. Sword turned to me and said, “How many people can we fit in that room at Cowboy Jack’s?” My response, “Oh, a hundred or so.” Wrong!
We’re having a group run as part of our rehearsal dinner festivities.
Now, before everyone freaks out, no, the run will not be required! And yes, we’re still having a dinner (we’re calling it a welcome dinner now) and a time to relax and not do strenuous things.
But we love to run. Remember when I told you about my sisters and the bond we have with running? I’m more than thrilled to have this chance for all of us to run together—a lot of sisters would go get manicures together before the wedding; we go for a run together (although maybe we’ll get manicures too).
Personal photo / The three of us after a Thanksgiving run last fall!
I can’t decide if I’m really excited about figuring out all the logistics for the wedding or completely overwhelmed. The obsessive side of me is screaming ORGANIZE ORGANIZE ORGANIZE THIS IS AWESOME. Whether that is a good thing for my sanity is yet to be determined…
Let’s talk facts. The week of the wedding is going to be insanely busy—there’s no way around it. The original plan was to hold the rehearsal dinner out at the venue. They have a number of pavilions available for rental around and near a lake and walking path.
Since we plan on having a pretty formal wedding (in terms of attire, but not in behavior!) I wanted something as casual and low maintenance as possible for our rehearsal dinner. Side note: we’re actually calling this a “Welcome Dinner” since everyone’s invited—oooh the joys of a destination wedding!
Mr. M and I searched high and low prior to our second wedding-planning trip to Montreal back in July—we needed a venue capable of hosting at least 100 people that had inexpensive food and beverage options. It was actually quite difficult to find a place that met this criteria, so when I finally came across a large micro-brewery in Old Montreal (which is only four blocks from the hotel where we’re getting married—huge bonus points there), I reallly hoped it would work out.
The bar is called Les 3 Brasseurs (or The 3 Brewers, in English) and is deceptively larger on the inside than it looks from outside. When we met with the event director there, we learned that it was actually large enough to host over 400 people! Large venue? Check. The place is SUPER cool on the inside—they brew their own beers, so the huge brew tanks are visible all throughout the interior.
We’re quickly approaching crunch time, and lately a lot of little tasks have been popping up. Here’s what we’ve been up to…
Sent rehearsal dinner invitations
Y’all know by now I love me some paper products, and for awhile I was sort of designing rehearsal invites that would match our entire suite. I wasn’t feeling very inspired, and I counted how many we actually needed to send—just 12—and ordered some. I picked this design from Wedding Paper Divas and was pleased with the quality (and price):
(Invitation via Wedding Paper Divas)
I felt a little guilty for not matching it (crazy, I know), but I figured if anything didn’t need to match, it’d be the rehearsal invites.
Started making table numbers
Remember this inspiration post? I decided to do something like the table numbers for ours. Originally, I thought I’d use maps from the locations we’d traveled (we’ve gone to as many places as we’ll need tables), but again…I got a little lazy, and it seemed like a small detail that wouldn’t really be noticed. I got those 99 cent Ikea frames and used map paper I had left over from my invitation envelope liners.
So, things are a little out of order at this point, but I’m sure you guys won’t mind. I showed you some of my favorite guest photos from the big day, and now I want to jump back 48 hours to the beginning of our wedding weekend. See? It’s not that confusing.
We officially started our wedding weekend with the arrival of some very important people on Thursday afternoon. Namely, our officiant and MIL & FIL Coach. Following their arrival, Mr. C and I headed down to the hotel they were staying at, and FIL Coach treated us all to a delicious dinner at Truluck’s (mmm, steak and seafood!). Side note: Earlier that day, Mr. C and I actually made a reservation for dinner at the WRONG restaurant location. I was in wedding mode and handed him the phone, which was already calling another Truluck’s in downtown Dallas, not the location we were heading to. Luckily, they made room for us and everything worked out, but I do suggest letting someone else handle details like that when you have a little case of wedding brain the days before the wedding!
That’s Officiant Josh and his wife, Kim; FIL & MIL Coach; and, of course, Mr. C and me, with our huge slice of carrot cake.
Dinner was amazing, and it was so wonderful to spend some quality time with some of our favorite people before we started the wedding rush. And seriously, how much do Mr. C and FIL C look alike?! Crazy!
I have yet to share what we’ll be doing the day before our wedding day. Mostly because that had been up in the air until recently. When Mr. Ly and I first started to think about what to do for our rehearsal dinner, we looked at restaurants in both Philadelphia and South Jersey. We knew we definitely wanted to have it the day before and not on Thursday or Friday, because there would be too much space between that and the wedding, and we wanted to be able to include as many of our out of town guests as we could. Add in the factor that we’re not actually having a rehearsal until about an hour before the ceremony with a quick walk through so people know where to stand, so there was no real need for a rehearsal dinner.
We wanted to have a meal, though, with family and friends—those people coming in from far distances who we might not get to spend a ton of time with on the wedding day. And also to thank our bridal party and parents for all they’ve done for us. We ran into a few problems right off the bat. First, being a Saturday night in Philadelphia it was very difficult to get a reasonable price for a large group (we were expecting about 50 people originally), and it was looking more like a mini-wedding rather than just a nice dinner in the city. So we expanded our search to New Jersey. Since most people are local, and we could arrange for rides over the bridge, we thought dinner in New Jersey might be a more affordable option. We stuck mostly to BYO restaurants, but did consider a few restaurants with full service bars as well. The BYOs wanted us to buy out the restaurant for the entire night, which was going to be over our budget. We found some reasonable restaurants, but to add on the open bar, again was going to cost us too much.
Finally, one of the BYOs we were considering came up with a better option for us. They could open specially for lunch, when they are not open to the public, and we could have the entire space for half the price. This was perfect for us, and since we weren’t having a rehearsal that night anyway, the time was flexible. So, we decided on Bistro di Marino, a BYO Italian restaurant in Collingswood, NJ. It’s so close to the city, very easy for all our guests to get to, and we’ll have the whole place to ourselves. The food there is delicious, and one of my bridesmaids had her rehearsal dinner years ago when she got married, so I already have an idea as to what it will be like.
Bridesmaids Debbie & Alissa with me at Alissa’s rehearsal dinner at the same spot we will be having ours.