I suppose I should start by saying that I have never been into weddings, never really wanted my own, and have only ever been to one or two that have been truly special and representative of the couple that was being celebrated. (Hey, I have a low cheesiness threshold.) But it was, however, a completely different story when my brother and Mari asked me to plan their wedding back in February. They were in the midst of moving down to San Francisco, and gave me free reign to do whatever I wanted! So yes, the best wedding I ever attended was the one I planned for my brother.
The only criteria we decided on was that it be small, meaningful, and very us…which essentially meant good food and hospitality for our friends and family. I was lucky enough to be able to use our restaurant as the venue for the reception, and the talents of our chef for the menu planning. Outside of that it was all about transforming the restaurant into a magical evening.
Here’s the story of how, with some great help, I planned a wedding reception for 75 of the couple’s closest friends and family IN JUST 2 MONTHS:
Poms and streamers
The first thing we did was settle on colors and decorations. Since many of our friends (and us) come often to the restaurant I wanted to be sure they felt like they were walking into a party and not the dining room they were all so familiar with. The best way to achieve the biggest transformation was to create a series of tissue paper poms to be suspended from the ceiling. There are tons of shops on Etsy that sell them, but we settled on a peacock scheme and ordered 5 different colors of tissue paper so we could make our own. With an assembly line of people to fold and fluff it was not a bad undertaking. The hardest part was rigging a system with our high, open ceilings, but that’s what my guy was for. 270-ish poms later the ceiling was filled and the doorways were lined. I also created a cozy space in the bar with a crepe paper and tinsel curtain. The goal was to stay away from prom decor, and I admit there were times I was a bit nervous about this, but in the end I assure you the poms were anything but cheesy prom. They really are beautiful.
The dining room just before guests arrived
As a takeaway for the guests I ordered custom M&M’s and filled large candy tubes. The other finishing touches were huge white 36-inch balloons, large white tablecloths, and lots of candlelight from basic tea light holders.
I also rearranged the dining room and bought some small tables to create a more casual lounge seating area with the booths. So with some tall tables for standing and mingling there were also basic table settings and the cocktail tables to break-up the room, making it easy for people to mingle.
Mari just before the ceremony and her bouquet I threw together.
I was probably most apprehensive about doing the flowers. I’ve practiced arrangements here and there at home, but nothing like creating a cohesive set. My strategy here was to buy as many of the most beautiful flowers I could find, so all I really had to do was place them together. We used mason jars as vases which is a sweet, inexpensive, and on-trend option. Also great because now I have lots of jars for canning this summer.
Our flower cart and bouquets
I was actually getting nervous because my guy and I had this unbelievable collection of flowers and there were some other (legit) wedding planners that were eyeing our stash. I couldn’t really blame them though, we killed it with the shopping!
Of course the thing I was most excited about was planning the menu. I’m not afraid to say that I am an appetizer aficionado, seriously. So I set out to create a menu with a series of smaller bites that was substantial enough to serve as a full meal. My favorite part of any wedding are the appetizers as dinner is always short on execution. Here we had all of our favorite Thai dishes in smaller sizes.
After the menu was settled it was all about the flatware. I found Crate & Barrel to be the best spot for basic pieces. The key here was to plan: lots of post-its, lists, plating and arrangement testing, and multiple trips to the store.
Here are some of my favorite dishes from the reception:
Noodles with crab and wontons in mini to-go boxes (duck pastry above)
Ba Mee Hang is an egg noodle dish that we served with crab and hand rolled won tons. It’s always hard to decide how to serve noodles so instead of trying to make a giant bowl look appetizing (and easy to serve) I decided to pre-serve them in mini Chinese take-away boxes with small chopsticks. The presentation was perfect, and so easy to grab and eat while mingling.
Tom Kah shots with grilled prawns
Tom Kah soup is a popular Thai soup with lemongrass and coconut, which is another dish that can be difficult to serve to large groups, so instead of a heated tray I thought a small shot with a grilled prawn would be much better. These were a hit!
Thai Iced Tea we bottled
A wine and Thai Iced Tea station was set up for people to serve themselves in the bar. We also had mini bottles of champagne on ice with striped straws which eliminated the need for a ton of champagne glasses.
Here’s a quick glance at the table with lots of familiar and more traditional Thai bites. The other end had some larger dishes (a curry station, pork belly salad, rice, etc).
After the party had come and gone I came to realize the DIY aspect is what made the wedding for everyone, and really, there’s no need for over-the-top extravagances that can’t be afforded. For us, it was about planning the best party we could to celebrate with the closest of friends. So, restaurant resources aside, I hope you feel inspired to plan, decorate, flower, eat, and drink your way through your big celebration!
More fun party and entertaining help from my Lucky Valentine party.
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