Valentine’s Week: Wedding Design Part 2

So, I know that Valentine’s Week is over, but I wanted to follow up my last Wedding Design post with a few details from our reception.

After our ceremony, we took a few group shots in the church and then Alex and I headed outside to one of my favorite spots at the University of Virginia, the Dell Pond.

We took quite a few shots in several different areas, including by this beautiful doorway — one of the few remnants of the house that used to stand on this site.  One trend I had observed in my blog research prior to the wedding is the use of initials or ampersands as props.  I bought this “C” for “Chapin” at Michael’s and my sister decoupaged it with a piece of scrapbook paper that matched our color scheme.

We rushed through all of our photos in about 30 minutes and sped over to McGuffey Art Center in Downtown Charlottesville for our reception.  On the way over, we were incredibly surprised to see that our wonderful friends at the Wesley Foundation painted a message for us on UVA’s famous Beta Bridge.

When we finally arrived at McGuffey, we were hoping to make our grand entrance and kick start the party as soon as possible.  We only had the space rented until 6 pm, our guests had been there since 3 pm and at this point it was probably 3:35 or so.  Oh, and did I mention that it was literally 105 degrees and the all time hottest day of the summer?  Unfortunately, we found out that all of the groomsmen were missing in action and had not yet arrived (though they had left the church around 3:15).  The picture above was the scene for about 25 minutes (at one point I started angrily, and rather comically, shaking my bouquet at the missing members of the wedding party) until they returned from an impromptu trip to Michael’s to buy decorations for our getaway car.  After having a slight bridezilla moment, we finally made our entrance.

As I described in my green wedding elements post, our reception venue, McGuffey Art Center, in its former life was an elementary school constructed in 1916.  It has since been converted into an art gallery and studio space for local artists.  Because of its former program, the main floor is subdivided into classrooms/studios connected by a wide hallway.   In order to stay mindful of our budget, we decided early on to have an afternoon wedding with an hors d’oeuvres reception rather than a sit down dinner.  Because we were only serving finger food, the space suited our needs since we didn’t have to worry about renting tables to seat 150 guests or finding space to arrange them.  We also loved the idea of having artwork on the wall for our guests to browse though, converse about, and enjoy in between cake cutting, etc.  Before the wedding day, I designed a layout and asked my wonderful friend and fellow architecture student, Fatima, and a few other amazing friends to help coordinate set-up on the day of.  In terms of program, we put all of the food and drinks on long tables in the hallway.  We also added a few cocktail tables at the ends of the hallway for our guests to rest their plates on.  On each of the tables, we had bud vases filled with local flowers.

Off of the hallway, there was a large gallery space which we filled with a few large round tables and extra chairs for our guests that needed a place to rest or for our younger guests who are not yet so skilled at standing and eating.  On the tables, we had larger vases with floral arrangements and black and white family photographs in recycled frames.  My bridesmaid, Elizabeth, also made table toppers out of unbleached muslin for all of the tables.

For dancing, we paid a little extra to rent a dance studio at the end of the hall.  It was a little difficult (and warm) having to cram everyone in one space for our first dances, but it worked out fine.  For music, we borrowed some sound equipment from a friend and hooked up an ipod.  To add our own touch in the space, we hung a burlap and twine banner that my sister, Jennifer, made us for one of our wedding showers.  The burlap in that banner inspired the use of burlap in other wedding day decorations.

On the opposite wall, friends of mine helped set up a clothesline and used miniature clothespins to hang baby photos of Alex and I.

One of my favorite parts of the day (and one of our splurge purchases) was a photobooth, provided by Freeze Frame in Richmond.  For $1200, we got 4 hours of time with unlimited photo strips for our guests and a custom scrapbook with photos of our guests.  We also had an attendant there throughout the reception to make sure everything ran smoothly.  We decided that this would be a fun treat for our guests and it was also a fun tie-in to our save-the-dates.

I borrowed this idea from one of my favorite blogs,, based in Richmond.  Young House Love’s John & Sherry also had a Freeze Frame photobooth at their wedding.  To make the save the dates, I used the automatic timer on my Nikon D60 to take photos of us in my college apartment holding a blank sign.  I used photoshop to add the text and arrange the photographs in photobooth format.

At the wedding, we also provided a basket of props from the dollar store which resulted in some pretty hilarious and precious photographs of our friends and relatives.

Our guests could keep their photostrips as favors from the wedding (they had our names and wedding date on them) and they could also clip off pieces for us to have in our scrapbook.

In addition to the photostrips, we burned mixes of our favorite love songs (including the songs we used for our first dance and dances with our mothers) and packaged them in recycled paperback sleeves to give out as favors.  With a lot of help from our friends, we lightscribed birds onto the CDs inside and stamped the sleeves with our initials and a dandelion silhouette stamp.  The dandelion silhouette had been part of our wedding website theme on the carbon neutral wedding website host,

I also made several signs and placed them in recycled frames to help relay messages to our guests.  The bird design on the signs matched the design on our programs.

For our cake, we decided to purchase a very small display cake and supplement with two extra large round cakes which our caterer could cut ahead of time.  The cake was simply decorated with brown ribbon to match the bridemaids’ bouquets and a single coral zinnia.  For cake toppers, I continued the bird theme and used 99 c. bird ornaments from Target with the string cut off (by the way, I love that cow painting behind us).

My sister, Jennifer, made the groom’s cake in honor of Alex’s lifelong love of pizza.  It’s funfetti cake (Alex’s favorite) topped with red icing, green sour straw green peppers, fruit leather pepperoni, and marshmallow mushrooms.  She even went to Papa John’s and got a fresh pizza box to put it in.

By 6 o’clock, we had danced, cut the cake, greeted most of our guests, eaten a few bites of food and cake, thrown the bouquet and the garter, changed into our coral-inspired getaway outfits, and said our goodbyes.  Only a few of our most loyal friends remained as the heat had driven the majority of our guests away after about an hour and half, so everyone grabbed the bubbles we provided and lined up on the steps of McGuffey.  We waved and happily got into our air-conditioned vehicle…

…decorated with recycled cans, “carbon footprints,” and lovebirds.  We headed off to Alexandria, Virginia for the night and then up to Massachusetts for a week in the Berkshires courtesy of Alex’s parents.  And we lived happily ever after.

All photos courtesy of Ben Hallissy.


One thought on “Valentine’s Week: Wedding Design Part 2

  1. I love the “behind the scenes” of your wedding :) I’m so sad Caitlin and I couldn’t make it to your reception; it looks so great! love it!

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