Weekends are for Weddings: The Welcome Reception

Weekends are for weddings!  If you’re like me, with 9 weddings each year, the weekends are, quite literally, for weddings (attending them, that is).  Also if you’re like me, the weekend is a time to think about planning your own wedding.  Lots of people carve out a certain time each week for wedding planning (Wedding Wednesday seems to be very popular).  It ensures the wedding doesn’t take over their whole lives; however, I find that confining wedding planning to a specific time is too pressure-filled and bicker-prone.   I planned my wedding when inspiration struck.  Weekends, in particular, offer the time to let my mind roam and plan my own wedding in a stress-free environment.  In this series, I’ll take you through some of my major planning steps – hopefully this will help you plan your own wedding!

I am the first to admit that I stand on tradition and etiquette.  In the case of weddings, that means wedding party, immediate family, and all out of towners should be invited to the rehearsal dinner.  BUT.  Let’s be honest, in 2017, people are all spread out.  We no longer grow up, go to college nearby, and return to our hometown with all college friends for the rest of our lives.  That means there may be a ton of out of towners at your wedding.  In the case of our wedding, if we followed that rule, there would have been around 160 people at our rehearsal dinner.  That’s actually larger than some weddings I’ve attended – and we haven’t even gotten to the main event!  Having all those people seemed crazy, not too mention expensive.

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Photo courtesy of my friend Patricia

I was more than happy to cut our rehearsal dinner list down to just wedding party and immediate family (which, in our case, was still a sizable 69 people).  However, one thing I felt VERY STRONGLY about was still doing something for the out of towners.  A lot of people eschew this idea, feeling it’s unnecessary.  But here’s the thing: these folks have traveled a good distance to celebrate with you AND bought you a gift.  For our New York friends, the weekend (flights + hotel + some lunches) could cost as much as $800.  Even if they’re driving distance, they may have spent 5 long hours in the car after work and are still paying for two nights at a hotel.  That’s a lot of time, energy, and money…all being spent on YOU.  The least you can do is entertain them while they’re there.

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The best man was so relieved to be done with his speech duties and was ready to PARTY so he actually changed into more comfortable clothes for the welcome reception. (Photo courtesy of my friend Lindsay)

That’s why, after the rehearsal dinner, Albert and I hosted a dessert and cocktail reception (read: open bar) for everyone who was at the dinner, plus all out of towners.  It was still expensive, but it cut the cost in half vs. having all those people to the dinner.  People don’t care about the meal, they just want the chance to mingle and feel like the whole weekend is an event.  In our case, I think our out of town guests liked the opportunity to explore a fun town like Savannah on their own for dinner.  I mean, I hope that’s how everyone felt about it.

For the cocktail reception, we walked one block over to Moon River Brewing Company.  It was a more casual venue so everyone could laugh and enjoy each others’ company.  It’s a space that has a ton of Savannah history and, most importantly, was a nod to Albert’s love of beer.  They have a great beer garden with strung lights and picnic tables that we decorated with framed photos from our engagement shoot.  Other than that, we didn’t feel like we didn’t need to do anything to the space.

While our guests may have gone to dinner on their own, we had them covered when it came to drinks and desserts.  We used this time to set out the groom’s cake as well as platters of cookies and pastries.  Here’s the thing about the groom’s cake: my groom doesn’t actually like cake.  That said, I felt like I couldn’t NOT have one.  It’s not about the cake so much as it is showcasing the groom’s hobbies and making sure he gets the spotlight for some of the weekend.  Since Albert isn’t a huge cake lover, I didn’t feel the need to get some crazy, expensive fondant confection.  Instead, I went with a sheet cake from Baker’s Pride, a local bakery near my house that’s not fancy but that makes delicious cake.  Yes, I wanted it to look good, but it was the primary dessert for 160 people – it needed to taste good more than anything else.  I ordered hummingbird cake (a Lowcountry specialty) with traditional cream cheese frosting because it was Albert’s second favorite flavor at our wedding cake tasting.  I had the cake decorated like a Notre Dame football field, with UGA in the opposite end zone.  Albert is a huge ND fan, and I’m very big into UGA football – it was never a problem because our teams never played each other.  I always said that if we ever faced off, that’s when we’d break up.  Well, right after Albert proposed, they announced a set of games between our two teams.  We’ll be heading to the game in September, and this cake was our first taste of true rivalry.

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In another homage to Albert’s love of Notre Dame, I had cookies made that played on the famous “Play Like A Champion Today” sign that hangs in the Notre Dame locker room.  I had a designer at work recreate the font and create the “Marry Like A Champion Today” logo that we screened onto the cookies in the same color scheme.  There were a lot of Notre Dame fans there who really appreciated this small touch.

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This portion of the evening felt like a rowdy event.  Everybody could join in the fun, which was the most important thing.  As a bride and groom, you spend so much time with your wedding party during the weekend.  Before the ceremony even starts, you’ll have been with them for a minimum of 5 hours that day.  Then all of a sudden, the reception will go by in one VERY fast blur.  There is most definitely not enough time to talk to all those people who came to see you, so a welcome reception like this gives you an extra opportunity.  Shake hands and kiss babies on Friday night so you can plant yourself solidly on the dance floor on Saturday night.