Probably from the moment we announced we were getting married at Walt Disney World, we planned to have a reception back home for those who couldn’t be at the wedding. I think they are a great idea and free you to have the kind of wedding you want while still giving all your friends and family a chance to celebrate with you.
Ours was held in Patrick’s hometown in the Bay Area of California. He has a huge family, and most of them live in Northern California, so the party was basically for them. I know some couples do a full-on reception with bridal attire, catering and a DJ, but after planning our spectacle of a wedding in about 5 months, I was completely uninterested in planning anything else.
So when Patrick’s parents offered to host it as our wedding gift, we let them do what they wanted – which turned out to be an open house with a sort of potluck. I wore my wedding necklace because so many people had asked to see it, but otherwise it was extremely casual, which was perfect!
The party ran from 1pm to 6pm on a Saturday about 2 months after our wedding, and we sent out combo wedding announcement/reception invites on the day after we got married (a huge etiquette no-no, but man was it convenient!).
We encouraged people to drop in whenever they wanted and stay however long they wanted, so we didn’t really have a schedule other than cutting the cake at some point. It was quite convivial and felt easy and fun rather than “let’s meet the entire fambly” scary!
We had our wedding video playing on a loop in one room, and I was surprised how many people who arrived in the middle sat through the cycle to see the whole thing.
Even more popular were the softcover Blurb books I’d made of our wedding photos. We made one for each grandma and passed them around during the party. Tthe grandmas got their books at the end of the night and proceeded to share them with anyone who crossed their paths: bridge partners, hair dressers, the meter reader… People seemed to love being able to look at actual printed photos instead of the ones we had in a slideshow on Patrick’s laptop, and we had several people ask us how to get started using Blurb.
Patrick’s parents made a few crockpot dishes and put out sandwich fixings, and people brought desserts. We used leftover paper goods from our engagement party, which the hostess bought in our wedding colors – awwww!
My contribution was an attempt at re-creating my parents’ wedding cake, which my aunt made for them as a three-tiered version of the popular family birthday cake (a Ghirardelli milk chocolate cake with milk chocolate frosting). I watched a video about making tiered cakes on YouTube, bought a Martha Stewart cake turntable, ordered all the other supplies I’d need from a professional cake-baking website, and thought I knew all I needed to know…
Except, as it turns out, you have to be REEEEEEALLY precise when you cut the cake into layers and stack them, or else you get this:
So… maybe some of you know how it feels to try to draw a pretty picture you have in your mind when you have absolutely no artistic ability..? It was pretty much just like that.
This was the inspiration…
And this was the cold, harsh reality….
To add insult to injury, the dang thing actually started collapsing before the party started! We had to spackle over the Grand Canyon with extra frosting… I guess drinking straws really aren’t a good substitute for wooden dowels when you’re making a layer cake. Fortunately, it tasted really good!
At the party, we used our special wedding cake knife for the cake-cutting and displayed pictures of our parents’ cake-cuttings and the one from our wedding.
One of the really nice things about the party was getting to meet all the family and friends I’d heard Patrick talk about over the years, including some of his former teachers and even the school librarian! They had such glowing things to say about him.
We were shocked, too, by how generous everyone was. In fact, his grandma decided we needed to open gifts right then and there because so many people had brought them. It was really fun, and quite touching to be shown so much love by people I’d never met!
I admit I was a little scared how the at-home reception would turn out without me micromanaging everything, but in the end it was just perfect – a fun, relaxed opportunity to get to know people and share our excitement with them. I highly recommend the idea to anyone having a destination wedding.