Here's Mariko with one last guest post reviewing their vendors...
Irvine Nature Center
We decided to visit Irvine after we saw this post. How funny that over a year later, I’m now writing this post! As we were walking around Irvine before meeting with the events coordinator, we saw a little girl with her hands clasped gently together exclaiming, "I held a toad!!!" Minutes later, as the coordinator was showing us around, she put a tiny toad in my hands...and I reacted in the exact same way: "I held a toad!!!" (I love frogs and toads.)
It was important to us that we be married somewhere meaningful to us. Neither of us are religious, so we explored options like the Maryland Science Center (we’re both researchers) and Irvine (we love to hike). Irvine “felt right” in many ways – the fact that we were able to support a non-profit and that it fit within our budget made it perfect.
I had the sense that Irvine hasn’t hosted that many wedding ceremonies. As a result, they’re not always the most organized, decisive people to work with (i.e. Will we have signs directing guests to the gazebo for cocktail hour? Umm…). On the flip side, however, they have a very small community feel, where everybody is willing to make accommodations to make you happy and to make things work in the end. Despite some small frustrations, ultimately, we were overjoyed to be married at Irvine.
We stumbled across Linwoods on a listing on the back of a wedding magazine before we found Irvine - we were lucky that they turned out to be less than 10 minutes apart.
I should first say that food was one of our utmost priorities in planning this wedding. We both love to eat, and so do most of our friends and family – it was important to us that we serve absolutely fantastic food at our wedding.
Linwoods not only made this possible; they made it astoundingly easy. Jeff is vegetarian, and so were quite a few of our guests. We asked for multiple, interesting vegetarian options that would also be enjoyed by meat-eaters. Done. We asked about organic meat. Done. We wanted people to have options, options, options. Done (about 4 or 5 main dishes). Our guests raved about the food!! Linwoods also allowed us to add a couple of local beers to their already fairly extensive beer list (we served Resurrection, a Baltimore favourite).
In addition to the phenomenal food, the service at Linwoods was impeccable. Their on-site catering coordinator, Rachel, was in constant contact with us from the very beginning until after the reception. Having her around made us feel comfortable and confident in our decisions, and she made sure everything ran smoothly during the actual reception. We honestly could not have asked for a better coordinator.
Oh, and I suppose I should also mention that Linwoods was one of the most affordable options we came across. While some catering companies wouldn’t give us the time of day when we disclosed our (graduate student) budget, Linwoods made it work for us. Part of the reason it was cheaper than on-site catering at Irvine was the rentals and fees – renting wine glasses and forks, an on-site oven, fuel charges – these all added up quickly! Having the reception at a restaurant cut down on many of these charges, and for us, worked very well.
If you are interested, here was our menu:
Passed Hors D’oeuvres:
Assorted bite-size pizzas: pugliese, margherita, vegetable primavera
Parmesan and rosemary shortbreads with roasted cherry tomatoes and feta cheese
Carmaelized onion & gruyere puff pastry
Mushroom sautéed wth shallots & cream, in a flaky pastry case
Tenderloin bites with béarnaise sauce
Market salad, red wine vinaigrette
Almond crusted organic chicken with mango salsa
Fried green tomatoes with remoulade
Mediterranean Israeli cous cous salad
Baby spinach salad with berries and sugared pecans, light vinaigrette
Spinach and ricotta cheese ravioli, browned butter and pine nuts
Eggplant napoleon with goat cheese fondue
Assorted bread: toasted garlic bread, walnut raisin bread, ciabatta, rosemary focaccia
Miniature crème brûlée
Fresh fresh and berries
Late Night Snack:
Petits Fours and shot glasses of milk
Hyatt Place Owings Mills
We booked 2 hotels for our out-of-town guests (about 70% of our guest list) – one was the Hyatt Place in Owings Mills, about a 5 minute drive from Irvine and Linwoods. The other was the Tremont Plaza, in Mt. Vernon. We wanted our guests to at least have the option of exploring Baltimore while they were in town. (I should say, in writing these reviews, that Jeff and I stayed at neither hotel – we stayed in our own apartment.)
Guests were happy at both hotels, and I was happy with their service. The Hyatt Place offers a free shuttle service within a 5 mile radius, so we thoroughly took advantage of this and had our guests shuttled from the hotel to Irvine (2 trips, about 30 minutes apart), from Irvine to Linwoods (2 trips), and from Linwoods back to the hotel (2 trips, about 1 hour apart). Guests just need to sign up for a particular shuttle time when they checked in. (See Freedom Services below for how we provided shuttles for our guests staying at the Tremont).
I’ve loved the community created through A Practical Wedding, so I jumped at the chance of being able to work with one of their sponsors. Jeff and I did meet with a couple of other photographers, but we loved Jocelyn’s work, and we loved her. Genuinely enthusiastic, Jocelyn infuses each moment with such joy, and it was great to have someone like her with us on our wedding day. She made us comfortable in front of the camera and at the same time, managed to capture all of the small moments of the day we’ll remember fondly (e.g. my mom helping Jeff’s father with his boutonniere, my dad taking pictures of me and Jeff on his point and shoot even though there were 2 professional photographers around, me laughing as Jeff’s father made fun of my board game negotiating tactics during the ceremony, the crazy dancing). We couldn’t have been happier with Jocelyn and her work.
Local Color Flowers
I can’t remember where I heard about Locoflo (maybe through Jocelyn’s blog?). We didn’t meet with anybody else – we liked that they were a local business selling local things. Ellen only works with farmers that are nearby. While this means that you generally are a little restricted in your options, Jeff and I loved the idea behind Ellen’s business. We gave Ellen a general impression of what we were looking for, and she delivered beautiful, beautiful flowers and herbs for the wedding. We had potted herbs for centerpieces, and we requested white and green bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages.
To whatever extent possible, we tried to make it easy for people to have fun at the wedding (good food, good music, open bar). For a lot of people, that also means not having to worry about driving home after the reception – so we provided shuttles for our out of town guests. The Hyatt Place took care of the guests staying with them, making multiple runs throughout the night, and Freedom Services took care of the wedding party and the guests staying at the Tremont (all in 14 person vans). They were professional and friendly, and surprisingly affordable, especially compared to a limo for the wedding party.
Ze Mean Bean Café
It took us a very long time to find a rehearsal dinner venue that would be able to host about 50 people and wouldn’t break the bank. It was only a month or so before the wedding when we finally found Ze Mean Bean Café, and everything worked out wonderfully! They have a space next to the restaurant where they set up a delicious buffet with lots of Polish food, alongside some beers and wines. At times, they were a little slow to get back to us, but on the night of the rehearsal dinner, the service was great.
We also depended on so many of our kind friends to help us out during the wedding day. People helped us with: setting up the speakers and microphones at the ceremony and reception sites; making tasty and fun wedding cakes and transporting them; making a few announcements during the reception (we used an ipod for music); picking up food for our Sunday brunch which we had back at our apartment and was open to everybody; making sure everybody had a ride from the ceremony to the reception, etc., etc…I’m sure that many others pitched in without us even being aware of it. We were extremely fortunate to be surrounded by so many people who were willing to help.
A word about vendors / friendors
I believe that Jeff and I were lucky to have worked with so many vendors who were all professional and kind. Your wedding day is busy. Surround yourself with people you trust so you can let go and stop worrying – and that goes for vendors, too. We were able to relax and enjoy ourselves because we knew that our day was in good hands. How well you get along personally with potential vendors at the initial meetings may provide an indication of how comfortable you will be with them on the wedding day.
Thanks so much, Mariko and Jeff for sharing your beautiful wedding with us!!!!
Thanks so much, Mariko and Jeff for sharing your beautiful wedding with us!!!!