So why was everything so rushed? Well, we got engaged around Memorial Day and decided to get married straight away so I could move to London. At first, we planned on having an island wedding with just immediate family, so I spent the better part of June making spreadsheets about every resort in St. John and Turks & Caicos. (If anyone wants that info, please let me make some use of it.) But then we realized it didn't make sense for us to cut out our relatives and friends, so we decided to have a more traditional wedding with guests and stuff. So, really, we planned this shit in like 6-7 weeks. How is this possible? I set about contacting every smaller venue in the Philadelphia area to see if anyone had availability at all during summer, prime wedding season. Also caterers. Also photographers. Also musicians. Also cake (Vegan Treats, never a question). Let's take it category by category.
Shofuso Japanese House & Garden, Fairmount Park
Shofuso was my #1 hope from the start. It's the most perfect wedding spot, at least for me. It's shockingly inexpensive, it doesn't require you to use an exclusive caterer (though their suggestion was perfect; we'll get to that), and it's the most beautiful place in the region. I prepared myself for bad news considering the short notice, but luck won. Apparently people weren't itching to get married outdoors in a place with no A/C in August, so win! We had a date. So awesome.
Shofuso is based on a traditional Japanese house and garden. In fact, it was originally part of an art exhibition at the MOMA. The house itself was actually built in Nagoya using only traditional materials and methods. It was shipped over here in pieces and reassembled I think in the 1950s. Despite being near City Line Avenue and all the bustle of Fairmount Park, the site is quiet, serene, tranquil, all those words you can think of. Just incredible.
What are the drawbacks? Well, it's pretty barebones. Aside from the gorgeous, too perfect setting, there's no electricity, no bathrooms, and no kitchen for a caterer to set up. It makes some things a little tricky. For instance, my first wish was to get Cinnamon Snail to drive the truck down and cater, but we couldn't accommodate their needs - the very expected needs of a caterer to have electricity and, ya know, space to set up. Luckily, Vince Joseph of Zento Catering in Old City, Shofuso's recommended caterer, already knew how to work with the space. In addition to the food, Vince also gladly took control of the lights, the tables, the staff, the linens, the bathrooms...pretty much everything. So how do you plan a wedding on such short notice? Hire him. Seriously, those bathroom-trailers were nice. Everything was perfect. And still, shockingly inexpensive. Our budget was about 1/4 of what most crazy people spend on a wedding and ours was the best. I mean I'm biased but it was the best.
Who else can make the whole process a lot easier? Genevieve Geer, the events coordinator at Shofuso. She pretty much held my hand through the entire process, answering all the stupid questions, making lots and lots of lists and schedules and making sure everything was going to be timed right, that we had everything we needed, &c. Okay, so hire her too. (Well she comes with Shofuso.) Her excellent staff the night of made sure everything went so smoothly, from helping carry the harp to making sure guests took off their shoes in the house (my favorite part; it really brings everyone down to the same level to be in socks). I can never have thanked them enough.
While there is lots of park space behind the little house for a tent and tables (and a dance floor, I guess), if that's what you want, we thought that would be wasting this beautiful space. It's too pretty to leave for any portion of the wedding! So we planned for a kind of prolonged cocktail hour - no tables with assigned seating (there were a few tables out back for tireds, along with plenty of cushions to sit on the floor!), just everyone milling about through the open plan house and the grounds, socializing and eating. Everyone said this set up was so much better, because they actually got to talk to all the people they wanted to and not just the people assigned to the same table or something. Also, no dancing because oy.
These decisions made everything in the planning so much easier: no band to worry about, no table decor, no seating arrangements, none of that crap. ALSO- choosing a naturally gorgeous setting means you don't have to worry about flowers. They are so wasteful (and sooo expensive!) anyway, so it was so great to not have to even think about flowers or really ANY decor at all. I did get a bouquet though (below). We also didn't have a bridal party. So easy!
The weather was a big issue, considering the house's open plan and how we were going to be mostly outdoors. It was going to be extremely hot in Philly in August, and that's only if it didn't rain. Well, here's where more luck came into play. That's really all I can say. It was the most beautiful day EVER. So grateful, so lucky.
Vince Joseph (of Zento)
So here it is!
Passed hors d'oeuvres:
- Crispy bean sprout spring roll with avocado & agave nectar
- Mango Asian pear gobo maki roll with wasabi cilantro soy
- Lettuce cups with shiitake ragu and Vietnamese sticky rice
- Japanese cucumber gazpacho shooters
- Tempura veggies with ponzu glaze
- Edamame hummus on pita with Japanese baby heirloom crudites
- Soba noodles with mushrooms, yuzu, soy, garlic flowers
- Tofu chawanmushi with local vegetables & soy bouillon
It was the perfect amount and variety of food, and everything was unbelievably delicious. Like really, unbelievable. I especially loved the lettuce cups. I was most excited about serving the chawanmushi, a traditional egg custard but here made with soft homemade tofu, to people who usually don't eat tofu. Everyone loved it! Everyone loved everything!!
Venue, check. Food, check. Now we needed music, a photographer, and an officiant to make it all happen!
Music: In another stroke of good fortune, my mom had recently seen a harpist perform who primarily played showtunes and famous pop songs. I mean. That's the most perfect thing I've ever heard. A single, simple harp would be the most appropriate kind of music for this space, and that type of repertoire is my jam! Nichole Rohrbach of Harp N Soul was thankfully available and was so wonderful. She already knew music that I wanted at various moments, including the theme from Forrest Gump, "All I Ask Of You" from Phantom, "La Vie en Rose", and "Sun & Moon" from Miss Saigon. It was awesome. I loved when I would be talking to a few of my friends and then someone would go, "Wait, is this the song from Twilight?" Yes, yes it was. (The good one by Christina Perri.)
Photographer: This one was almost tricky, because big wedding photographers get booked up like years in advance. It's insane. Luckily, we thought outside the box and hired someone primarily known for travel photography, which I think is really helpful in making interesting wedding photos. I recommend Jessica Miller at this address - there are a few Jessica Miller photographers so get this one! Or order her travel prints. Our pictures are amazing.
Officiant: One of the best aspects of this wedding was our officiant situation. My brother (who you can find @millytweet) happens to moonlight as the funniest wedding officiant on the planet, so of course it was preordained that he would be ours. We also had a family friend who is a Jewish spiritual leader assist with the few religious parts, though it was a secular ceremony. (Husband just wanted to break a glass, really.) It was so perfect. And so funny. Everyone was hysterically laughing which is exactly how it should have been. Seriously, if you need an officiant, call him. He does strangers' weddings not just sister's.
What did I end up doing? I ordered a bunch online from Beholden and from Nordstrom that did free returns, tried them on in my own bedroom, chose one, and sent back the others. So freaking easy, no stress even with the time crunch, just fun. (No fun: trying to keep the puppy from running on the gowns and jumping on me!!) It was never really a question, though, because I found a light pink Monique Lhullier gown (it was actually billed as a bridemaids dress, which is a really good way to find non-froofy but still fancy things) at Nordstrom that looked almost exactly like a gown I fell in love with like 7 years ago. And, it only cost about what I bet just the tailoring of the fancy ones would have been. Awesomeeee!
For my bouquet and the necessary boutonnieres, we found the most perfect flower shop in Havertown, called Envy Floral Affairs, which was actually owned by a guy I went to high school with! We walked in to see if they could help, and we were like, oh HELLO! Such a good sign. They created the best calla lily bouquet for me and single calla lily boutonnieres. So pretty!
We decided on Japanese-style folding fans as little favors for the guests, but they came in handy during the ceremony to keep everyone warm! We just ordered these online and got our names and the date printed on them!
Oh and if you are planning in a condensed time frame, online invitations are the best! I paid just a few dollars and used paperlesspost.com to send the most beautiful email invites, with a cherry blossom design! It was so easy.
Dress: Monique Lhullier at Nordstrom.com
Shoes: Betsey Johnson Blue line, amazon.com (all man-made materials in I think the entire line!)
Jewelry: Etsy! All I wore were fake emerald drop earrings (clip ons!) and a fancy hair clip from independent sellers.
Flowers: Envy Floral Affairs, Havertown
Makeup: Elizabeth Terenchin, South Philly - amaaazing.
Hair: Dina Alon at Dina Alon salon in Center City - thanks to the PPKer who told me to contact her!
Vegan Treats, Bethlehem, PA
After the cake, we also brought in cases of soft pretzels! HELLOOO, this was Philly! It was the most genius addition to the menu and a great way to end the perfect night.
I hope you enjoyed this little recap 1/4 as much as my mom will!