From Scott Thompson. Follow Scott on Twitter @foureyedblond or email him at thompson[AT]@borderstan.com.
One month from today, my sister Anne’s wedding kicks off in Louisville, Kentucky.
In the 11 months since my sister emailed a photo of her wedding ring and my father said “Am I the only one who thinks that a small destination wedding is a good idea?… Anyone?” I have learned quite a few things about marriage, family, and the definition of black bean muneta. Given the rash of weddings taking place across the United States this fall, I wanted to share 12 before-and-after lessons and best practices – specifically targeted at brothers and sisters of the bride who find themselves in the eye of the organza hurricane.
Part One: What to Expect While They’re Projecting
1) The film Father of the Bride will no longer be seen as a romantic comedy to be enjoyed.
It is a documentary to be studied.
2) Throwing the phrase “Well, the Wedding Planner said…” into a conversation is the equivalent of throwing a Molotov cocktail.
In your mother’s mind, the wedding planner is a welcome goddess of ideas, innovation, and trusted experience. In your sister’s mind, she is Rasputin.
3) The acronym “DJ” = “Diplomatic Jockeying.”
You mother will want a band. Your sister may/will choose a DJ. Your sister’s fiance will demand Paul Oakenfold. Your father will demand Paul Simon. All attempts by a sibling to enter the fray and propose a diplomatic solution will fail — crushed beneath the weight of “Do you know who is paying for this wedding? Do you?” and “We are NOT playing ‘Nights in White Satin’ by the Moody Blues at my wedding! Is this a joke?”
4) You will know every detail of every wedding you did not attend.
Odds are you turned down numerous invitations to weddings of your parents’ friends’ children due to prohibitive travel costs. Fret not. By the time your sister walks down her own aisle, you will know every detail of every decision behind every passed appetizer and floral arrangement at each of those weddings.
5) Your mother will become a meteorologist.
The moment your sister decides to have an outdoor garden wedding, your mother will become a full-time weather barometer. Every day, for at least six months, you will know precisely what the weather is like in your home town and how it bodes for your sister’s wedding. In most instances, your mother’s phone calls will mirror either Al Roker (“Hi! I don’t know about you guys, but we are having SUCH a gorgeous day — I hope it’s like this on your sister’s wedding day) or Tyra Banks. (“You have no idea what I’ve been through!!”)
6) Your father will become an ostrich.
“How’s the wedding planning going, Dad?” “Everything is fine.” “But what about the fight over the bridesmaids dresses and groomsmen outfits?” “Everything is fine.” “Are they speaking to each other?” “Everything is fine.” “But I thought…” “Everything is fine…everything is fine… everything…….”
To be continued….
I’m getting married. Soon. In Borderstan. Because I love this neighborhood and I wanted to have a hyper-local wedding. And my gift to you, to this entire city, is to show you how almost your whole wedding can happen here. In case you missed it, my first piece was on the venue (see A Borderstan Bride’s Guide to the Big Day: First Step, Venue.)
As the countdown to our DC wedding moves into the territory of mere days, I’ve been thinking a lot about how happy I am to have worked with so many local vendors. Nearly all of our wedding is being sourced locally–from the favors, to the food, to even the bridesmaids gifts!
We knew instantly that we wanted to support Fresh Start Catering, the social enterprise project of DC Central Kitchen. Not only is the food delicious and locally sourced, but we also felt good about working with an organization that literally provides a fresh start for its culinary graduates.
If we hadn’t decided on Fresh Start, we would have asked Amit and Raj over at Spilled Milk Catering to be part of our big day. Friends, their food is legit; if you’re getting married in the District and want a fabulously bold dining experience, these are your guys. I still dream about their spicy tuna in wonton cones and lamb “lollypops.”
Bakeries and Sweets
Which brings me to dessert. If you’ve been to the 14th and U Street Farmer’s Market you already know Jenna from Whisked. What you may not know is that Jenna makes a mean wedding cake too. We picked three flavors to test with Jenna and although her carrot cake and red velvet were perfectly moist, we ultimately decided on an elegant chocolate ganache.
Our wedding favors symbolized one of my favorite things about DC: breakfast. We scooped coffee from Filter Coffeehouse into mini-paper bags and will pair that with a lovely lemon blueberry scone from our new friends at BakeHouse; guests now have instant breakfast or a really great midnight snack. Although BakeHouse will be opening their storefront at 14th and T later this fall, they’re presently taking catering orders and I’m excited to share that menu with you here.
Favors and Gifts
We used Etsy Weddings extensively–always turning on the local filters first to see if we could locate a vendor in the community. It wasn’t DC, but I ended up finding personalized handmade clutches for my bridesmaids from Emily Barron Gifts in Baltimore.
Flowers and Arrangements
One of the few things we are not getting locally are our flowers, but I had a great opportunity to chat with some of the area florists and am happy to share. I called Flowers on Fourteenth when our initial florist backed out at the last minute. Lisa asked me to send her pictures of the bouquets I had in mind and got back to me within hours with an estimate on cost. By DC standards, it was a great deal.
If you’re on a budget, consider visiting Whole Foods on P Street–you can walk through their floral department, make selections from their loose flowers and work with the team there to make your special day bouquets. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to DIY your bouquets, Trader Joe’s has a great selection of flowers from which to choose.
The one thing I won’t share publicly is the brilliant seamstress I discovered during this journey. If you’re serious about wanting to have your dress altered correctly and are willing to get in a car and drive, email me at [email protected] and I’ll give you the info of this coveted woman.
I’m really proud that our wedding will feature so many local flavors and in the end, it actually meant less work for me. We met with all of our vendors directly, and it allowed me to form relationships with people in my neighborhood that will last long after the last piece of wedding cake is gone.
I’m getting married. In Borderstan. Because I love this neighborhood and I wanted to have a hyper-local wedding. And my gift to you, to this entire city, is to show you how almost your whole wedding can happen here. Today we’ll kick off with several places in our neighborhood where you can hold a righteous reception (and ceremony too!).
TIP: Unless your guests are taking public transportation, you’ll probably want to look at hiring a valet service for your big day. You’ll also want to check in with the National Park Service to make note of any special permits you’ll need to get married on public lands.
Here’s a breakdown of locations in the Dupont, Logan and U Street areas.
Dupont Circle Locations
The Whitmore House. Home to the Women’s Democratic National Party, this location has an aura of history; it was, after all, the place where Eleanor Roosevelt gave her weekly radio addresses to the nation. You can have both your wedding and reception in this grand house, plus they’re pals with some great local caterers. This location at Whitmore House is key — it is just a few blocks from the Dupont Circle metro stop.
Hillyer Art Space. This is a fun place for a small, eclectic wedding–and you can guarantee that your wedding will be unlike any other because the art in this space shifts monthly. The location hosts about 75 people sitting and is a short walk from the Dupont Circle Metro.
Tabard Inn. Choosing The Tabard Inn for your event makes picking a reception menu so easy. Event Rooms can accommodate a maximum of 56 people for a seated, plated function and a maximum of 100 people for a standing reception style.
Dupont Circle Hotel. The Dupont Circle Hotel can host weddings from 20 to 250 guests in one of their grand ballrooms, or can accommodate your rehearsal dinner at Café Dupont. A look at their wedding packages has prices that start at $120 per person.
Textile Museum. The Textile Museum has a beautiful outdoor venue, that frankly, isn’t going to need many additional decorations. The venue starts at $3,500, which is a steal, but forget the BBQ — this location does not allow red food or red wine.
There are several restaurants in the neighborhood that accommodate private events like wedding receptions, but know that you’ll be paying top dollar for these locations to close their doors to the public during high traffic time.
- Darlington House
- One Lounge
- Beacon Bar and Grille
- Restaurant Nora (Source: Open Table)
Logan Circle Locations
Hotel Rouge. For a wedding that shows off your urban savvy, but leaves the details to the professionals, consider Hotel Rouge.
Fathom Gallery. If you knew that this space existed, you’ve got one over on me. This beautiful gallery has the one commodity that you can’t find at any of the other locations on this: a roof. deck. Sign on the dotted line with your fiancé, immediately.
Carnegie Institution for Science. If you have a lot of extra cash lying around, my bet for an elegant DC wedding is the Carnegie Institution for Science. This historic building can accommodate up to 160 people for your wedding and ceremony. Rental costs start at $5,200.
Busboys & Poets. Hands down, one of the most authentic places to have your reception or rehearsal dinner is Busboys & Poets. Their socially conscious murals provide an interesting backdrop when your Dad hops up on the mini-stage and recites “Butterfly Kisses” by heart.
Meridian House. This location, just across from Meridian Hill Park, can host 200 people and still have room for a dance floor. One of the most expensive locations I’ve found in all of the District, it’s going to cost you $12,000 to have your wedding here in the high season and a mere $8,000 in the dead of winter.
For smaller private parties (such as rehearsal dinner), check out Marvin, Vinoteca or Policy.