Friday, May 27, 2011

Flash: M.O.B.!

Breathe, Betsy, breathe! The wedding is over. The gorilla I have been carrying on my back for eight months in now gone. It is time for some carburetor cleaner so I can start firing on all eight cylinders again! Now that it is all over, I think we should put this baby to rest!

Anyone who has ever been an M.O.B. (mother of the bride) can probably relate. To say that this was a wedding on a tight budget is to put it mildly. We started the hunt last fall for available reception space that might not bankrupt us. We found a gem with Stanton Park in Madison. Formerly a CYO camp (in ancient times, as in when I was in school), Camp Isaac Jogues offered a chapel and a hall as well as other assets, such as being right on the shores of beautiful Lake Erie.

The chapel was perfect, very rustic, but with seating for 150. Across the parking lot was the dining hall, very clean and airy with a seating capacity of 160. The price was right…but it did require that I talk the bride down from 250 guests (200 of which were her nearest and dearest friends and about 50 immediate relatives between the two families) to a total of 150.

After the Christmas holidays were behind us, we set the dates for the shower, the wedding, and the rehearsal and began the search for a caterer and supplies. In February, we discovered that the Flower Factory in Solon was going out of business and managed to acquire all the silk flowers for the bridal party and supplies for the centerpieces for less than $150.

After pricing caterers, the bride and groom decided that it would be more budget friendly to have the M.O.B. (yours truly) do all the cooking. In spite of my sweat equity, I have to believe that it would have cost less to just have it catered, but that is another story. They settled on a mid-afternoon ceremony with immediate reception of appetizers and pastries.

Since I am not a caterer by profession, and since the guest list was a potential 150 hungry bodies, I obtained a 21-cubic-foot upright freezer and began to cook. The pastries came first. I made massive quantities of kolachies and cream wafers with a little help from my mother, the bride, and a friend. This was followed by a marathon baking day to turn out 225 cupcakes that I froze unfrosted. Every weekend in March and half of April was filled with baking and cooking. Thirty pounds of meatballs became pans of sweet and sour delights and 30# of chicken became barbequed chicken chunks and joined the pastries in the freezer. Then, in April, the wedding shower was suddenly looming.

We held the shower at Your Vine or Mine in Painesville. There was no way I could accommodate the number of guests Meredith wanted to invite at my house. The Vine worked out well. Penny provided the Sangria and soda, Diane provided the coffee, and I made five, 10-inch chicken quiche, a huge bowl of fresh fruit and a mocha torte.

A few weeks later, the wedding week was upon us. Since Gary does not have much family locally, we held the rehearsal dinner at my house. This involved precooking and shredding an 11-pound pork tenderloin to make a massive amount of pulled pork with potato salad, baked beans and the rest of the picnic fixings. Fortunately, there was no rain the day of the rehearsal. Otherwise we would have been eating the rehearsal dinner on the ark Jim is building in the back yard.

The day before the wedding, I frosted 200 cupcakes and made the actual wedding cake, plus six serving pans of tortellini tossed in olive oil, butter, and fresh garlic. I had also obtained some mini quiche, mini eggrolls, and mini stuffed potato skins, as well as shrimp, and those little cream puffs and ├ęclairs they sell at GFS and Sam’s Club.

At 8:30 on Saturday morning, my wonderful friend David came to the house and fixed my hair for the wedding. When he was done, my friend Sue and my cousin Diane came to the house and, with a little male help, we loaded three vehicles with food, flowers, table ware, and everything else that we would need for the reception. I grabbed my dress for the wedding and we were off, leaving the bride’s hairdo and makeup in David’s capable hands.

After we hauled all the food stuff inside the hall, I realized that the tables were all folded up and leaning against the walls. We procrastinated for a bit, assembling the centerpieces in the kitchen, while we waited for able-bodied groomsmen to arrive and put up tables. Eventually, we set up a few serving tables so that we could get started. Once the groomsmen set up the furniture, my sister and nephew arrived and began to pitch in as well. Soon the tables were topped with black tablecloths covered with white lace, the chairs were set up, the centerpieces were on the tables filled with my lovingly frosted cupcakes, and the chafing dishes were set up on the serving tables. Trays of cookies and fruit filled the desert table, while Sue and Diane used the portable bar to stage the liquid refreshments…coffee, wine coolers, and punch.

Around 1 p.m., I carried the wedding cake out and set it in the center of the head table. I assembled the tiers, finished off the decoration, added the cake topper and stood back and admired my first ever wedding cake. Not too bad if I do say so myself!

In addition to the cupcakes that were serving as centerpieces, I had also purchased small cupcake boxes with little inserts to keep the cupcakes from falling over. My friend Terry, my mother, and I assembled all the boxes on Friday afternoon, and later, Mom, Sean, Ann, and I boxed 100 cupcakes that we presented on the take-one-home table. We also set up a table for gifts/signing the register, and a table with place cards so people would know what table they should occupy for the reception.

At 1:15, I raced into the bathroom, changed into the fancy dress, and left the heating of the food in Sue and Diane’s capable hands. I hopped into my car, which contained the runner, the ring pillow, all the flowers and the basket for the petals and drove over to the chapel. I carried the stuff in with an assist from the limo driver, and proceeded to make sure everyone had their bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres, pillow, or basket of flowers. The runner was given to the groomsmen to roll out at the appropriate time. Meredith looked beautiful. Her hair was gorgeous and her dress was simply elegant!

Judge Karen Lawson arrived to perform the ceremony. The groom made an emergency run back to his house for the marriage license that had been forgotten in the melee, but by a few minutes after 2 p.m., everyone was ready, and the ceremony began. After the groom and company placed themselves appropriately, Gary’s son walked me up the aisle. The groomsmen laid the runner. I stood up and sang Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” a cappella as the girls marched forward, ending just as Meredith reached the point where her father handed her over. I could not have timed it better if I had planned it.

In a few minutes, the deed was done. The guests made their way to the hall while the bridal party took photos.

After the toasts and other speeches, the bridal party graced the serving tables and the feasting proceeded in a happy, albeit orderly, fashion. The DJ played dinner music, everyone ate and drank, and if anyone left hungry it was not for lack of available food! The dancing and revelry lasted a couple hours, and then it was all over but the clean-up.

A have to give a huge thank you to Sue and Diane, without whom the reception would have been a dismal failure. And thanks to Ann, Sean, Joe, Flo, Chris, all the groomsmen and everyone else who stayed to help with the clean-up and tear down. It went much quicker than I anticipated, and by 8 p.m., we were home with most everything stashed back in the freezer. There was still a lot to clean-up at home, but the wedding was finished.

After we relaxed for an hour or so, Chris, Paula, and I jumped in the car and drove to Bumpers to join the after party for a while. In typical Bumpers’ fashion, there was karaoke and flowing alcohol. I only sang one song before we bid everyone a farewell and headed home to really crash.

We are still dealing with the wedding aftermath, but the stress is gone. I’ve received two requests for my catering services, one to make a wedding cake, and one to sing at a wedding. That would be definitely no, I’ll think about it, and sure, tell me where to sing and I’m yours!