Our reception was the most fun. Hands down. Everyone loved the food, the music, the dancing, the cake. That’s all wedding receptions are really about.
But we did add a few details to make our party more special and more meaningful to us.
We had our wedding reception at Park Country Club, the country club that Jim’s parents belong to and where they also had celebrated their own wedding. The club basically looks like a page out of Hogwarts, some kind of medieval castle, or gorgeous ancient mansion. It’s beautiful inside and out. The back terrace where we had our cocktail hour looks out over the lush green of hole 18. The inside of the great banquet hall is all dark soaring archways and tall windows and huge fireplaces. Obviously, we had a summer wedding, so to brighten up the space, we made use of white tablecloths and chair covers and opened the windows and doors to let the sunlight and breeze in (sorry guys, double duty on the no air conditioning that day).
I wanted to make sure that we incorporated as much of my hometown as we could. I grew up in Pittsburgh, we live in Pittsburgh, I originally wanted to have the wedding in Pittsburgh, and a lot of my family is from Pittsburgh. So to add a bit of the Burgh to Williamsville, NY, we named our tables after some of our favorite places in the city, instead of traditional table numbers. Some of those included Mt. Washington, the Pittsburgh Zoo, the Gateway Clipper, Consol Energy Center, Point State Park and 12 more. For each of our tables, we also had a picture of the two of us that we had taken at that location in the past.
For our centerpieces, I wanted to make sure we didn’t go broke trying to pay for copious amounts of flowers. Since we both love wine (maybe me more than anyone), we decided to use all our empty wine bottles and spray paint them. We also used the wine corks from those bottles as place card holders. We needed 60 bottles and 144 corks, so we had a little help collecting those from our friends and family. So every bottle or cork you saw at the wedding came from wine that had been consumed by someone in that room. To us, that was special.
Right before the dancing began, we rounded up every single one of our guests for a group photo. I’m sure they were not entirely amused, but I’m sorry I’m not sorry. It was amazing in the best way possible to have everyone we know and love all in the same room together and it will never ever happen again. So I wanted a beautiful picture to remember that moment, when we surrounded by the love of friends and family.
For our first dance song, we decided to go a little obscure. We had debated for weeks, if not months, about what the song should be. I had so many great options that Jim kept turning down because he was trying to be super literal with the lyrics. We also didn’t want it to feel cliche, like a song that everyone does for their first dance. Eventually, somehow, I stumbled across a video with the perfect song in it. It’s not a song you’ll hear on the radio and it’s not an artist you’ll see in concert. We chose “So in Love With You” by Jake Etheridge. This song says everything we wanted to say in that moment, and it was the most perfect two minutes and fifty three seconds of my life.
After the first dance, I danced with my dad to “I Loved Her First” by Heartland. It had been “our” song since we first heard it on the radio when I was sixteen. As the first child, first daughter, first one to get married, this song fit us perfectly. That dance with my dad was so heartfelt and special and something I’ll never forget.
Jim danced with his mom to “Just The Way You Are” by Billy Joel, a song that really meant a lot to Jim’s mom. They were tearing up before they even got on the dance floor and it was so sweet to watch them together.
We decided to do an anniversary couples dance right after those three main dances because we knew that some of the older folks would start to get tired, and we wanted to get everyone up and ready to party. If you have not had the pleasure of experiencing an anniversary dance at a wedding, it goes like this: it’s a slow song (we chose “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” by Rod Stewart) where all the married couples get up to dance. The DJ then asks couples to leave the dance floor if they’ve been married for less than a certain number of years, starting with one. Obviously the bride and groom are the first to leave the dance floor, but Jim and I chose to stay on to watch our family continue to dance, and to be able to dance with those married longest at the end. The couples at our wedding were slow to drop off. Since Jim and I are closer to the first of our friends and cousins to get married, the rest of the married couples were aunts and uncles who’d been married 30 years or longer. The last remaining couple were my grandparents, married 58 years. We went over and I danced with my grandfather and Jim danced with my grandmother. The newest marriage with the oldest. It was very sweet and sentimental, to get to dance with them.
After that, we partied nonstop till the music shut off. We had an amazing DJ who played everything we wanted, and more that we didn’t know we wanted, and nothing that we didn’t. He kept people dancing all night and wasn’t too overbearing or talkative or intrusive. He played an appropriate number of slow songs, and everyone loved it the whole night.
In the middle of all the dancing, we paused to do the bouquet and garter toss. Pretty standard, however I will say that throwing a bouquet is harder than it looks and I apologize to all the brides I’ve judged in the past when they have a crappy throw. I had to do re-do when the bouquet hit the ceiling and landed just three feet behind me. I guess there’s no way to really practice that, but if I could have I would have.
For the garter toss, I had a little surprise for Jim. I had two garters on (because you need both a toss and a keepsake?) The one that Jim pulled off was a Buffalo Bills garter. The other was Pittsburgh Steelers. Cute, I know.
Then we resumed dancing. And when the DJ said it was the last song, we disagreed, so he played about three or four more. Our reception was just that good.
The whole day went by so quickly and all I want to do is relive it again and again. I am so glad we decided to spend the money on a videographer and two photographers. While they haven’t sent me anything yet, I’m sure they did a great job capturing every moment. And I’ll be sure to share a few favorites with you here when I get them.
Cheers to the start of a long, happy marriage!