It’s the final part of my wedding posts, guys. I’m sure you all have mixed emotions about that. So on to the reception…
We held the reception at my parents’ house, in their garden. This seemed like a really personal thing to do, and it meant a lot to a lot of people to do it this way. However, in the run up it was STRESSFUL. When you do a wedding this way you have to think about things like generators, toilets, lighting etc. My parents’ garden doesn’t normally stage large-scale social events, weirdly, so it wasn’t set up for it. Anyway! On the day obviously this had all been done so we could just relax and enjoy it.
Our guests actually arrived before us, so when we got there, there were lots of friendly faces on the lawn. We had fizz and Pimm’s plus the essential part of a drinks reception: truckloads of canapés. I’d also made a massive vat of homemade lemonade, which was in a Kilner dispenser for people to help themselves to (to be drunk out of jam jars with paper straws, natch).
I’d decided that I didn’t want to wear my Cathedral-length veil all day (it’s quite a lot of effort, and I didn’t want to ruin it as it was my friend’s), so I had a flower crown made which I switched into before going into the reception. My bridesmaids were pros and were waiting for me with it as I got out of the car. THOSE GUYS WERE SUCH AMAZING BRIDESMAIDS! “A+++. Would use again”.
We had decorated the garden a bit. We hired huge lengths of festoon lights, which we strung up on either side of the lawn, and we’d made a sign with places where people had travelled from for our wedding (we’ve kept this to put up in a garden when we eventually own a place that has a garden).
It was raining a bit at this point, so people could go into the marquee and mill about, or they could walk through to the other side and hang out in the rose garden. We’d gone for a marquee with two sides that were pretty much totally transparent, to make it feel like we were outside still – my parents’ garden was looking so spectacular, and we didn’t want to hide it away.
We’d also spent a long time decorating the marquee. Andrew and I made 1,000 origami paper cranes over the course of six months, which we then threaded and strung up from the ceiling of the marquee (the latter part of this was done with a lot of help – and some swearing – from friends in the days before the wedding). We’d decided to only use paper that was pastel coloured, to sort of tie in with the tone of the wedding, and we did more mint and pink than other colours. This didn’t actually notice on the day though, so OH WELL.
My Mum had grown from seed all the flowers in the centerpieces, and her, Andrew’s Mum and Andrew’s sister-in-law spent the day before the wedding going around the garden cutting them and arranging them in the THOUSANDS of bottles I’d collected over the year in the run up. We put these on slices of wood, which were taken from trees felled in my parents’ garden, which Andrew had sanded and then I varnished.
Around the centerpieces we’d sprinkled heart-shaped confetti that was cut from atlases (done by my amazing bridesmaid, Amy) to tie in with the loose travel theme.
The name tags on the table were created by the amazing Nikki Swift. We put these in tiny flower pots that held the favours – succulents grown over the course of a year by my Mum. My mum’s greenhouse was a busy place in 2015! Most people seemed to really love the idea of taking the plants home. I created tiny luggage tags for them with care instructions for the succulents on.
I also decided to make a booklet for each table with a little bio about each person on that table. So I wrote 85 descriptions, one about everyone at the wedding. It took some time. On our RSVPs we asked everyone to include a fact about themselves and send it back to us. I put the blurbs in the centre of the book and then the facts on the back, plus one fact about Andrew and I, and then people had to work out which fact was about whom on their table. The tables were named after places we’d travelled to, so I designed the booklets to look like Rough Guides, with images of the place on the cover.
Lastly for the table, I got vintage PanAm-style artwork for each table of the place it was named after (also took ages) and made them into postcards. On the back we wrote what we had done when we visited the place the table was named after, and we put these on little place-card holder things. PHEW!
We had a table with a vintage suitcase for cards, and then we got our parents’ and grandparents’ wedding photos (or just photos of them) framed and put those around it. We wanted to have a nod to our grandparents, who we were both really close to.
During the drinks reception my bridesmaids presented me with this amazing book they’d put together, with lots of “advice for new wives” written by my friends. Most of it was like “A wife DOES NOT DO THE IRONING. A wife drinks wine”. Haha. They know me so well. It made me a bit emotional, I’ve got to say. It was nice to have a moment with my bridesmaids at that point, as I had calmed down enough and, well, friends are good aren’t they? And they’re the God damn best (if you’re reading this Josie, Jo, Phoebe and Amy: please can you all stop emigrating or moving to Manchester though? THANKS!).
After the drinks reception we all sat down to eat. Our caterers served us family style, as Andrew and I liked the fact it got people talking on the table and meant everyone could help themselves to what they wanted. We had corn-fed chicken in a garlic and honey sauce with Dauphinoise potatoes and a chef’s summer salad. For dessert we had huge platters of brownies with meringue, fresh fruit and cream that people could dig into.
Our main priority for the wedding was to had an open bar all day and night, so there was plenty of red and white wine flowing (we did a wine tasting with our parents in early 2015 and then Andrew and my Dad did a booze cruise to France to pick up all the wine). By the speeches I think everyone was pretty well oiled.
My Dad, Andrew and Andrew’s best man, James did speeches. Having vowed he’d not get emotional or cry on the day, Andrew did get a teeny bit emotional during the speeches (when thanking my family and his friends – then he went on to say my dress was stupid). James on the other hand got pretty emotional at the end of his speech and made a lot of other people cry too. What a cutie!
After speeches we cut the cake, which my friend Isabel made. It was a layer of chocolate with mascarpone cream and raspberries, a layer of lemon and a layer of carrot with a buttercream icing. It was absolutely delicious, of course.
Suddenly it was time for our first dance. We hadn’t told anyone what the song was, and had gone to a few dance classes in the month before the wedding so we didn’t do the awkward shuffle. We were still a long way off a slick routine, but we had a few moves and man, it was so fun. We danced to Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac, and got our friends to join us half way through (no one needs to stand and watch us dance for a full three minutes!).
Then the bar opened, a photobooth opened and all hell broke loose. We had three of our friends do guest DJ slots and the rest of the time we played songs off a Spotify playlist we created (with requests from everyone at the wedding, which they also put on their RSVPs). We hired proper DJ equipment (complete with lights and dry ice – haha!) from a friend, and it was perfect for us as we really didn’t want a band.
The rest of the night was spent dancing and chatting to my nearest and dearest, and managing to avoid all responsibility for anyone who was too drunk. It was amazing. Soon enough 1am rolled around and it was time to leave for the hotel. My best friend from uni stole my taxi, so we hitched a ride in the van that was carrying the DJ equipment to the hotel. Classy!