September 29, 2006

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well...

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." 
- Virginia Woolf

We gave ourselves just over 3 months to plan our wedding. Bags of time. Oodles. An eternity. No problemo.

Then I started researching the food. Because, as you’d expect, that was the most important element of the day.

If we were going to put money into anything in this wedding, it was the food.

With three months to plan the wedding I wasn’t worried.

My dream wedding, when I thought about it, involved 10 people in a restaurant with the freedom to choose what they wished from the menu and winelist. And I was aghast at the number of places whose imaginations stopped at: chicken or beef. I was not inspired.

And what they charged for that creativity! They were eating our modest budget... tartare.

I was telling my friend Julia this over dinner at her house one night. The night that she and Guy met Steve for the first time. Their beautiful home had just been renovated – they looked around. “How many people are you inviting," they asked.

 “About 50,” I said.

“You could have it here.”

We laughed…and then we stopped laughing…and then we thought about it…The back room was walled by French doors that overlooked a flagstone terrace. If it was warm enough, wedding outside, if not, by the fireplace. We agreed.

So we had a venue…we also had an officiant for the ceremony. My friend Karen, of the magic nuts, had an uncle who was an officiant. Done.

Next: back to how to feed them.

Our budget bled red everytime I called a well-known wedding venue…Steve’s face looked like he was hemorrhaging. And so it went: wedding venues/restaurants/big rooms/caterers/tables/linen/cutlery/glasses/rent-a-dream wedding…and I realized the wedding industry was salivating, poised for attack, waiting for me to give in.

Suddenly the wedding was less than four weeks away.

I was walking down Yonge Street one afternoon, after lunch with a friend, and walked passed The Stork on the Roof, a restaurant I loved and had been to a few times. It was owned by Jennifer Gittins and Michael van den Winkel, friends of friends. They had just finished their lunch service, so I went in to say hi and thought it wouldn’t hurt to pick their brains on how to make dinner out of cheese and crackers for 50.

They hugged me and asked how things were going. “Well I’m getting married in a month, and looking for a way to feed people. You guys don’t do weddings do you?” I hoped I didn’t look too desperate, but I think it was too late.

Jen looked at Michael and said, “Sure! We’d love to. We’ve closed the restaurant for birthday parties I don’t see why we can’t for a wedding.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. One of my favourite restaurants available? On a Friday night? In a month?

I tripped home like the not-so-giddy bride I was, and told Steve – he trusted my instinct (part of why I love him) – so we went to meet the chefs that weekend, before they opened. They pulled out a variety of menus. My jaw dropped. They were offering a choice of 4 appetizers, 5 entrees, and 4 desserts. There would be an open bar, a choice of wine, and champagne after the main course. I nearly teared up. It was what I had dreamed of for 10, but was getting for 50 instead. Steve loved the restaurant, it was warm and friendly and unpretentious and Jen and Mike oozed the passion they have for the food…We knew we were in good hands.

Then the price. I closed my eyes. We had chosen the more expensive menu. Open bar. Wine. Champagne. It came in at $65 per person…everything except the tip.

We came in UNDER budget. Who ever heard of such a thing? I let go my giddy side.

The day before the wedding my friends the graces all gathered at Julia’s to help slice, chop, prep the hors d’oeuvres we were serving before the ceremony. Julia wanted to take care of the flowers. Steve was busy mixing dance and dining CDs.

We laughed, and talked, and rejoiced at it all. It was elegant. It was communal. It was beautiful. Cook with love…it’ll show in the food.

And the next morning…Steve and I couldn’t help marveling at how happy the day was. It was sunny and warmer than normal. We were calm and happy.

Then Steve picked me up from my hair stylist at 4pm (an hour later than I expected). We fought traffic northward to Julia’s house, me in the passenger seat with my hair held up with over 100 bobby pins, realizing as I stared at the people heading home from work that I had written my vows, memorized them and stored them somewhere in my brain where the sun don’t shine. The nerves had arrived.

Then the words flooded back to the front of my brain and I could breathe again. We arrived, the food prepping was in full swing, I went upstairs to change. Dear Jain brought us champagne, and left us alone while we just marveled at the precipice we were on.

It was a happy wedding. As 7pm rolled up to us, I finally lost it…I giggled for about five minutes as we all gathered outside on the terrace – lost it. Not mascara-smudging lost it…but almost. Steve lost it once I’d said my vows to him. He was speechless – which is something for Steve. Then when he said his vows, they came out in a whisper. At least the officiant verified he’d promised a bunch of stuff, no one else heard a thing.

Then we were off to the restaurant – and the orders were taken and the meals flowed out of that small kitchen like poetry. The room was almost silent as everyone tucked in. I chose the seared scallops, the venison and then the crumble. Cook with love…


Jen and Michael sold the restaurant last year. They closed on my birthday. So we went for one more dinner – I had my first soufflé. I know they’ve taken some deserved time off and are thinking about re-opening with a different theme…and I can’t wait. But I don’t think they realize how far beyond fulfilling my dream they went. They will always be embedded in the memory of the happiest day I’ve known. And that’s something.

Have a wonderful weekend…
Eat, love, and sleep well…

4 comments:

Julie said...

That sounds SO perfect! I'm so not a fan of the big production weddings that seem to be what everyone does nowadays. I much prefer something smaller and a little offbeat which makes it all the more personal and meaningul. Your wedding sounds like a beautiful, wonderful celebration. I enjoyed hearing about it. And you look radiantly happy in the pictures!

Nicola said...

Have you seen the budgets of those weddings? It's screwy. Absolutely screwy.

Thanks for your kind words...

Michèle said...

Nicola,
It really does sound like the perfect wedding. I am in the midst of trying to figure out my own for sometime next fall, and am leaning towards a small and intimate affair much like what you have described. It was lovely to read this post and you look stunning in your pictures!

peabody said...

Sounds similar to my wedding. We had a 7 course sit down with wine pairing and a cocktail hour...but with only 24 of the people who really mattered to us.
Congrats.