When we started planning our wedding and decided upon a small celebration, I knew that I wanted to have a winter dinner wedding party rather than a traditional reception with a band and dancing. It seemed to me that it would be awkward to have a dance floor with only 37 people, and our venue, the Farmhouse at Veritas, didn’t lend itself to having a dance floor if we were to do the dinner in the garden house, which we did.
As we know, dinner party weddings aren’t the norm, and I’m sure many of you are wondering how the night unfolded, so I’m here to walk you through our planning process and how it turned out!
Apologies in advance for photo overload! As all my wedding photos are, these are by the talented Lauren Miller.
A WINTER DINNER PARTY WEDDING
When it became clear that we were doing a small wedding, I knew that a winter dinner party wedding was exactly what I wanted. If we had done a large wedding with dancing and 200 guests, then I would have liked a gorgeous outdoor springtime affair, but, with a dinner party, a cozy, candlelit, wintery ambiance seemed like the right mood.
As I searched for inspiration, I realized that there’s not a ton of precedent out there for a dinner party wedding. You’ll find tiny elopements and grand affairs, but I had to write this story myself. And that’s why I want to present this as an option for everyone out there who has realized that a more intimate experience may be right for them.
WHY WE DECIDED ON A WINTER DINNER PARTY WEDDING
As I mentioned in the intro, a dinner party wedding seemed like the right fit for a few reasons. First, we only had 35 guests and ourselves. A dance floor is wonderful, but with only 37 people total, it didn’t seem like the right vibe.
Second, we’re big food people and that was one of the biggest priorities for the experience we wanted to create at our wedding. We love finding restaurants with incredible tasting menus when we travel, we love cooking, we love eating. We are all about the food. So, a multi-course dinner party made sense for us!
Lastly, part of why we had a small wedding was that we wanted to spend time with those closest to us. We wanted it to be an evening filled with lots of laughter and fun, and we didn’t want to feel rushed to just say our hello’s and move on to the next person.
DEVELOPING OUR MENU WITH THE FARMHOUSE AT VERITAS
If you’re having a dinner party wedding, it’s no surprise that the focus is on the food. We chose our venue based, in large part, on the rave reviews we’d heard about the food. We visited the Farmhouse at Veritas on our way out to the Greenbrier in fall of 2017, and booked it immediately, so we didn’t even have a chance to try the food. We just trusted it would live up to the hype – it was a gamble that worked out!
To develop our menu, I spent a year, literally, taking screenshots every Monday when the Farmhouse’s menu for the week was released. I wanted to have an idea of every dish and flavor in their itinerary, so that when we began discussions about our wedding menu, I could go in fully informed. I ended up making a spreadsheet of the dishes for each course that appealed to us, sent them to the coordinator at the Farmhouse, and she worked with the chef to develop a wintery four-course menu. Two months before the wedding we went out to the Farmhouse for dinner, they tailored the menu that evening to our tentative selections, and we tweaked it for the big day. The menu below is what we landed on (I still dream about that soup!):
New England Scallops, Guanciale-Parm Broth,
Focaccia, Burnt Lemon Juice
Smoked Berkabaw Sausage, Cheese Grits,
Herb Oil, Kraut, Red Pepper Juice
Sweet Potato-Guajillo Bisque, Maple Gastrique
Pearls, Spiced Creme Fraiche, Pecans
7 Hills Strip Steak, Mashed Potatoes,
Typically, the Farmhouse does a dessert course as the fourth course, but we chose to bypass sweets in lieu of a wedding cake from my favorite bakery in Richmond, Ukrop’s, which I DIY’d a bit with chocolate almond pinecones.
CREATING INTIMATE AMBIANCE
With a winter dinner party wedding, we wanted the ambiance to be warm, cozy, intimate, and twinkly. And, honestly, we just got really, really, really lucky days before the wedding. Our wedding would have been beautiful no matter what because I loved our flowers, place settings, and the two long tables.
BUT on Wednesday prior to the wedding, I received an email from the venue. They let me know that there had been a wedding the previous weekend and they were about to load out all of the draping and a chandelier made of grape branches, but wanted to check with me first to see if I wanted to use them.
I asked them to send pictures because this hadn’t been in my plan and we were 4 or 5 days out from the wedding. I then received a call from a lovely British woman who gave me a few more details, said it was her daughter’s wedding that had just been held there, and texted me several pictures. I was totally perplexed as to why someone would just leave their draping (that stuff is expensive! Didn’t they need to return it?!), but, it turns out, the woman I spoke to was Patricia, who owns Veritas. She was so warm and wonderful and so kind to offer to leave everything, and I, of course, took her up on it.
The draping and the chandelier were both items that I had wanted initially, but were well out of our budget, so I couldn’t believe how fortunate we were to end up with a space this stunning. Our amazing florist, Starry Night Events, redid the chandelier to remove the flowers from the previous wedding and cover it with magnolia leaves to fit in with our decor, and my dad and Adam and our friend David hung strands bistro lights from each corner to add an extra bit of twinkle to the room.
The space was so intimate, glowy, and cozy. It was truly everything I had imagined for a winter dinner party wedding.
OUR TABLE SETTINGS AND FLOWERS
I knew from the beginning that I wanted to do 2 long tables to drive home the intimate, family-style feeling of our dinner party wedding. The washed-gray chivari chairs supplied by the venue were perfect for the feel of our wedding, so we didn’t have to rent chairs, which was ideal. I did do a bit of a switch-up last minute for our linens – originally, we had planned on navy table linens, but, just a couple months before the wedding, I decided to take navy out of our color scheme and go entirely taupe, ivory, gold, and evergreen. So, we went with a taupe tablecloth in a thick, rustic weave. Think of it as an elevated, farmhouse burlap feel! We paired that with ivory napkins with a matching taupe embroidery.
I wanted garland runners of greenery, pinecones, and white flowers down each table, with an arrangement in the middle on either table (borrowed from the wine barrels that stood at our ceremony). Unfortunately, our tables were a bit narrower than we expected, but luckily our florist was able to work around that and still came out with the same look and feel, just with less abundance of greenery. As I mentioned in the previous section, the magnolia chandelier was everything my floral dreams were made of. And, the evergreen swags on the back of my chair and Adam’s were perfect additions to the Mr. and Mrs. signs.
For the table settings, we went with the gold chargers and white china supplied by the venue, but added in gold flatware for the head table (the immediate family table) and glasses with gold rims. In full disclosure, this was an area where we encountered a bit of drama day-of. The rental company didn’t deliver the correct amount of glasses, or labeled them incorrectly, or something. So, we ended up with 4 glasses at a couple places, and then they ran out…there should have been 3 glasses each at 16 places. It was a whole ordeal and something I couldn’t and shouldn’t have dealt with while I was trying to get ready. At each place, there was a menu from Minted, a DIY watercolor place card and wine cork holder, and a matchbook from the bar/concert venue where Adam and I met in DC.
When it came to candles, I had my parents bring up a variety of brass candlesticks from Richmond, and then I scoured a vintage store in Charlottesville to find a collection of every crystal candlestick they had in stock. I think I walked out with 8 for under $30. I wanted the brass to fit in with the gold in my color scheme, and the crystal to add a bit more glitter and twinkle to the table. They were all of varied heights and shapes, and the effect was exactly what I’d wanted.
HOW OUR WINTER DINNER PARTY WEDDING UNFOLDED
So, how did our winter dinner party wedding unfold? Well, I’d been a little nervous because dinner had to start early, 5:15 PM, due to an early ceremony (the sun sets early in December!). The bus wasn’t picking up until just after 11, because we had an open bar available until 11:45 and why wouldn’t we take advantage of that? That meant we had to entertain people for 6 hours.
Dinner lasted about 2.5 to 3 hours, and we had the staff at the Farmhouse pace the courses so that people could mingle and chat between bites. Everyone drank, ate, and socialized…there was even a game of telephone at one point that ended when Adam said, “I’m sorry but I am NOT saying THAT to my dad.” After dinner ended, everyone mingled about for a little longer in the garden house, before heading inside around 9 PM for coffee (and more drinks), a late night snack, and a dance party in the living room of the Farmhouse. The party only wrapped up because the bus arrived, and we had to drag a few away from the fire pit outside at the end of the night (rumor is they had a bottle of bourbon and cigars out there).
At the end of the evening, it was the intimate vibe we wanted and I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate the beginning of our marriage with our loved ones.