Team McLeod : Rehearsal Lunch 101

This was the scene when we pulled up to the restaurant for our rehearsal lunch. Or, as we called it on the invitation, the rehearsal soiree. A patio bursting with all our favorite people waiting for us to arrive.
We had the whole place to ourselves that afternoon because we reserved the time between lunch and dinner service - a smart move. I can't tell you if they'd do this for anyone else - it may have been a favor just for us. See, this has been Collin's place of work for over a year. He started out in the kitchen and now works as a server where you can visit him almost any day of the week for either lunch or dinner. In fact, in the time since then he's served a few of the waitstaff from the catering company who worked our wedding. What a small world. We know the staff, the layout and the food; I don't know what took us so long to pick this place. We had our hearts set on having the lunch at our "date" restaurant in town but it's much smaller and they had no off hours where we could reserve the whole space. I was so happy we found ourselves at 101 Downtown in the end and that it didn't work out with the other place, they really went all out. Plus (I admit) it's much fancier here, and who doesn't like fancy?

While the staff inside was finishing the setup we said our hello's to all of those just now joining us.
The girls and I got silly on one of the big luxurious lounge chairs they have. I'll introduce the members of the bridal party more formally in a future post, but I'll sum things up by saying that these four women have been in my life forever; we've been friends for 17 years. For five very different girls to all stay friends this long speaks volumes to how amazing they are, and how amazing we are as a group. I am so truly lucky to have them in my life and was honored to have them standing with me as I said my vows.

Aren't they lovely? You'll hear me talk about how beautiful my bridesmaids all are a lot over the course of my recaps.

Everyone had fun chatting and relaxing outside but I was getting antsy. I was still kind of hungover, but no one seemed to notice. The parking situation was getting confusing and I was so thirsty!! Even with feeling like I could boot at any moment I couldn't get that big smile off my face.
The bridesmaids were tired, too.Collin's parents graciously hosted the soiree and while traditionally only members of the bridal party and immediate family of the bride and groom are invited - our list kept growing! We couldn't afford to invite all our out-of-town guests (because that's everyone except us and Collin's sister) we could however invite the people who had gone above and beyond in helping us bring this wedding together. Family friends who designed and printed our invitations, stayed up after the rehearsal to arrange flower centerpieces, threw our spectacular wedding shower back in Sarasota, and fired over a hundred tiny pottery bowls to give as favors for our guests. We couldn't not thank these people for their hard work and generosity.
Finally it was time to go inside and crack open that menu I'd been drooling over for months.

We were able to create a limited menu for our guests by mixing our favorites from the lunch and dinner dishes. This also allowed us to keep prices off the menu, helping everyone to order just what they wanted without feeling strange.

lobster macaroni and cheese
2nd Ave cheese or chicken quesadillas
arugula artichoke spinach dip

ahi tuna caesar salad
101 caesar
downtown house salad

(served with a choice of house salad, caesar salad or sweet potato fries)
kobe blues burger
buffalo burger
blackened barramundi
chicken pesto panini
lamb gyro with tzazyki sauce

blackened shrimp alfredo
chef's garden vegetable

"What should I get? What are you getting??"

Everyone was so busy still saying hello's and catching up that it took forever to get around to ordering food. This may also have been because we didn't assign seating at all and it was hard for people to get settled without direction. This is precisely why we had planned seating at the wedding. Another reason I'm thankful that this was Collin's restaurant and not just another place - I didn't feel guilty about people milling about, complicated orders or... anything really. I just had fun and tried to soak up all the love. Oh, and I tried to drink a lot more water.

Look at how cute my mom looks in this picture. I love her so much.
This photo does no justice to how amazingly tastey the lobster macaroni and cheese is. Yes, I just said "lobster" and "macaroni and cheese" in reference to the same dish, you were not hallucinating. I would eat this every day if I didn't care about my health... or weight.

101 Downtown is known for their expansive martini menu, I would have had one myself if I'd been more responsible the night before. I'll have to ask Meggan which one this was, it looks so fresh and sweet!

The food is so good here that I was worried it may upstage the food we were serving at the wedding itself. I got over this by reminding myself of two things:
1) Our caterer was awesome and her food was going to be great. Plus we had pizza on the menu, how can you beat that at a wedding?
2) So what? It's not like I want to rank our wedding guests or anything, but these really were all the guests we were closest to. Why not give them the best?
Nom Nom Nom - this was my beautiful kobe blues burger. A mix of kobe beef and sirloin topped with bleu cheese and served along side sweet potato fries. Another dish I would eat every day.

Collin went in the back to thank all the guys for their hard work in helping us pull this off. They even helped us buy a few more cases of beer at wholesale price when Sams Club had a more limited selection than we'd hoped - everyone loved the Amstel Light.
Har Har. What they wrote is almost as funny as their use of comic sans font.
Djamel captured a great shot of Ashley's phone - she'd already set a photo of her and Rachel from the bachelorette party the night before as her background.
Once most everyone had finished eating we started the toasts. We planned on limiting the toasts at the wedding to just our honor attendants, Rachel and Gabe. Reserving more personal toasts for a more intimate setting worked well for us and helped us dance even longer at the reception.

Collin's dad went first, presenting us with the McLeod family crest that has hung above his office for Collin's whole life.He is an emotional guy and tried hard not to let himself go during his toast. It didn't work. His words were so moving and heartfelt that almost everyone shed at least a few tears.
Granny Carol, his mom, looked on.
He talked about the meaning of the McLeod motto "hold fast". Sharing the story of its origin he related it to marriage so eloquently. I can't tell you now any of his exact words, but I feel a lump in my throat thinking about what "hold fast" now means to me.
We then had more and more people stand to say a few words of their own. We didn't ask anyone in particular to speak, but were so touched by everyone who did. Grandma Dora Mae, a life-long teacher, was next. She always has the right thing to say. Granny Carol stood after her and said sweet things as well. Collin and I are lucky to have 5 grandmas between us so we are never lacking in grandma love.
Harriet spoke next. She's just one of the "Betty's". Most of the adult women invited to the wedding who are not related to us by blood are Betty's - good friends of the McLeod's - many who have known Collin for his whole life. All three of her children were in our wedding party and Kevin did us the honor of choosing and reading our religious passage during the ceremony. Harriet helped us tremendously by offering up (no, demanding we accept) her design skills as a gift to us. With her help, I designed our entire stationery suite. I'm talking save-the-dates, invitations, rsvp card + envelope, reception card, rehearsal info card, rehearsal soiree invitation, programs, menus, and guestbook cards. She did so much for us and the results were just gorgeous. I will share these beauties soon.
Cheers!Harriet's son Thomas said a few funny words himself.
Love this reaction from my parents. What did he say?! I'll bet it had something to do with Collin and Kevin getting him to do something for them.

After the toasts it was time for the presents! We bought and made gifts for all of our attendants as well as the family friends who went above and beyond. That included Deb, our florist for the day. She and a big group of Betty's who were staying at the same bed and breakfast cottages got together Friday night after the rehearsal to arrange all 25+ centerpieces. At the end of all this I may make a pre-wedding photos post to share some of this behind-the-scenes work.
She was all, "A present, for me?".The ladies were each given a different clutch from louloubell on etsy. Her purses are so adorable and really well-made. I had a fabulous time ordering from her. Janie, the jr. bridesmaid, got a mini clutch in her gift bag. Other little presents for them included a mini lip gloss compact from sephora and handmade jewelry done by Collin's sister Meggan and myself. We had a lot of fun making jewelry one night and she was able to make her own piece just as she liked.
The groomsmen were given black on black slip-on Vans. Our dads wore these, too! They were so much more comfortable for everyone on the wedding day and I loved that they coordinated with our own shoes as well. These were definitely something all the attendants would use far after the wedding was over.
The family friends were given copper enameled dishes hand-crafted by yours truly. I picked out an oval shape for everyone and then decided to purchase rounds for our parents gifts. I stuck mostly to dreamy blues (because they're pretty) but there were a few in warmer tones. Erin helped me assign each piece to its potential recipient and they were a big hit. I just wanted to keep things affordable and heartfelt, nothing says that more than something crafted by you just for them.
Collin's parents pulled out another suprise here and handed out custom chocolate bars to everyone! They were delicious and hid a secret nod to Craig's job when Collin and his sister were children - as a Hershey salesman.
I could not imagine our families getting along any more wonderfully than they do. Our families just click and I already see vacations with the McLeod's spent up at my parents cabin in Tennessee.
We snapped a few shots as everyone packed up ands started to fill the patio once more. Friday night was about to begin and little did I know how much fun I would have finishing up the last details before our big day.

Friday night after the rehearsal we stayed in at the house. Deb and a few from the flower crew came by not long after we'd returned to pick up all the glass compotes and buckets of blooms waiting for them. They hurried off to the B&B to get their party started while I spent the evening finishing arranging the personal flowers. All 7 bouquets, 7 corsages, 13 boutainnieres, and the cake topper. I had help from Ashley and as the night went on the whole bridal party and a few of our local guests-to-be were chatting it up and drinking beers on our front porch. At first I was flustered, but I soon embraced the crowd. Who knows when we'd have all our closest friends at our home like this again? I'd had visions of a quiet night spent with just Collin - ordering in food and getting all romantic and smooshy about the wedding that was about to happen. Real life was so much better and all our friends actually proved useful - they made great cheap labor. Thanks for folding a few hundred pieces of paper, guys. Oh and that midnight Taco Bell run was just what I needed to keep me up until I was finished with the flowers.

I spent the last hour awake quietly hanging out and chatting with my brother and Collin. By that time I'd showered and gotten in bed declaring that, "if anyone wants to come hang out it's cool, but I'm not getting up again.". I don't remember saying I was going to bed, or anxiously trying to will myself to sleep like I thought I might have to but I knew for sure that when I woke up the next day, I would become a Mrs.


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