Tales of Tying the Knot: Making the Reception

17 Mar

Our reception space was…hmmm…not simple.

Elaborate just isn’t the word. But it wasn’t simple either.

It was complete. I like that. I felt like the space looked complete.

It goes without saying that I put a lot of creative energy into designing our reception. I looked and I looked and I looked for ideas. Online, in books and magazines. And in unusual places like the pumpkin patch, antique stores and flea markets. For literally years leading up to the wedding my eyes were always open to what could be reception decor. Or what could be twisted this way and that and made into reception decor!

I will say the hardest part of this and probably due to the length of our planning time, was sticking to our “theme.” I use ” ” on theme because I don’t like to think of our wedding as having had a theme, so much as just a feeling.

Eventually, after spending money on one too many things that just didn’t go with our vision, I created an inspiration board which is a basically a bunch of small photos collaged together to guide the decisions of planning a reception (or a party or the redecorating of a room for that matter).

This was my finished inspiration board:

I still feel like it showcases both the feeling and the look I wanted. We wanted. Sorry. We.

We wanted our whole wedding to feel comfortable for our guests. Relaxed, comforting and warm, homey even, and most certainly personal. Fall was a big help in that! Though we find ourselves living in suburbia we are country were it counts and bringing those rustic, country details was important to us.

There were areas that were harder to put a rustic or country spin on – like bridesmaids dresses for example – so in those areas, we stuck with simple and chic.

In other areas…well…we just forced the country on to it. If it held still, we tied twine on it. If it was a flat surface, we put some burlap and a mason jar on it. But what went the furthest in creating the atmosphere, I think, were the bigger pieces. With just the right number of bigger, more in your face items paired with smaller touches the feeling came through without seeming in your face.

The whiskey barrel for example…

Obviously, the giant haybale/pumpkin lantern/mum display…

The mass of wooden crates for the cupcake table…

Those were the big, defining items that pulled all the little items together.

Once all those decisions had been made, the hardest part was physically setting everything up in a small amount of time.

By the time we arrived in Galena and unloaded our countless rubbermaid totes, everyone on the wedding team had a clear vision of what was to be and that was the key.

Set up started literally the second we finished hauling things from the caravan to the reception space and let me tell you, in this situation, there couldn’t have been too many hands stirring the pot!! Everyone was doing something!

We layed out huge pieces of plastic drop cloth to catch stray bits of straw and twine. We staged the pumpkins. Set up the cupcake table. Put out linens and burlap squares.

Tied up 130 napkins with tiny pieces of twine:

(Side story about those napkins. To get them early enough to tie on our own twine, we drove to Dubuque to pick them up from the cater. We went mid-day Friday between the flower arranging and afternoon ballroom set up. It wasn’t until we’d driven 20 minutes, walked through the parking lot and all the way through HyVee that I realized I wasn’t wearing shoes. Seriously. Talk about being in the moment.)

Because we were using a portion of the ballroom for the Pizza Party we had to leave a lot of decorating until Friday night. Everyone on the very exclusive Wedding Team – basically only immediate family members and bridal party members – knew Friday post-pizza was go time. And they got to work:

Notice that no one is laughing. No one is smiling. No one appears to be having any fun.
That’s just the way I intended it. This, my friends, was business.

Not even the children were spared from the back breaking labor.

In the photo below you’ll notice my mom, gripping her copies of the spreadsheet, room layout, table layout and written instructions. As you can see by the way she’s passing directions to Shelsey, she was our Foreman. You can also see that Eric, by the way he directs the rest of the workers, is our Sub-Foreman. And me. Well. I’m the one who tells everyone else what to do, so stopping worrying about my job and go do yours.

Sound about right to everyone?

At one point I stepped back and watched everyone work and to be honest I felt like a queen. Everyone was scrambling here and there setting things out, straightening and perfecting this or that. It was like a well oiled machine and I was the…err…machine operator. It was a good moment for me : ) And not just because I like to be the boss but because it was a good good feeling to think we have so many people on our side.

See how Zac is standing to the side, not doing anything? Its because he’s thinking, “I’m the king!”

And then it was frightening to count them and realize how many favors we owe people. Crimony.

This guy worked his tail off! If you want to see initiative, look no farther:

Two of a kind, I tell you.
Always ready to work and they both get straight As.

When it was all set up and I released my minions to their beds for the night, Zac and I stayed behind and looked at every thing. It was so far beyond what I had in my head that even I was surprised by it. Very rarely do things turn out the way you envision them, in this case, it did.

And it was so cool that everything I looked at reminded me of someone…

Kate, Lys, Zac and I carving away…

My dad’s work on the centerpiece boxes…

Kate’s dad Jim’s work on the table numbers…

Shooting the breeze around the kitchen table while I wrote names on tiny paper sacks…

My dad and Zac scratching their heads over how to make this hang right…

My mom covered in tiny bits of burlap as she cut these squares…

Driving home from Memphis and getting a call from my mom that she’s just scored an awesome mason jar holder from the Third Sunday Market in Bloomington…

An entire 8-hour day spent designing matching signage for anything and everything that could be labeled…

There are so many cool memories wrapped up in the photos of the centerpieces and decorations that when I look at them I see so much more than just our wedding decorations. That is the best part and the biggest payoff for all the time we all poured into making these things ourselves.

So back to where we were! We’d sent the Wedding Team to bed. We surveyed our reception space, imagining it with the lights down, the candles lit, the guests laughing.

And then…

in our stocking feet…

we danced.

And not some romantic, swaying dance in which we reflected or looked ahead.

Oh no.

We danced.

We spun. We dipped. We practiced the sexy move in the middle.

It was the one and only chance we had to see if our carefully crafted and copied dance moves would work on the dance floor.

They did.

We high-fived, grabbed our shoes and walked back to our room as tired as ever, with a contented excitement and one excellent little secret.

Stay tuned! Still to come on Tales of Tying the Knot…The Morning Of, The Ceremony, The Photo Shoot, The Dance and more!


One Response to “Tales of Tying the Knot: Making the Reception”

  1. klmphotos March 17, 2010 at 9:30 pm #

    You should have heard Joel’s jolly laugh when we read you weren’t wearing shoes. HA! So you…My palms may still be bruised from hole punching those programs. And yes … you owe me … some day there will be retribution!

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