we got married

It’s been a month and a half since Marvin and I tied the knot on a beautiful September day in Detroit. I’ve been meaning to share, but it was such an overwhelming experience that I needed to process and digest the day first; to savor and keep it to myself for a little while. Besides, the hardest posts to write are the ones where I have the most to say… where to begin, where to end, what to edit in and out.

Challenging as it may be to distill the event into a handful of photos and words, this blog is about the role of food in all parts of my life, and there are few food-related occasions more important than a wedding feast! Sharing a meal, your first as husband and wife, with all of your closest friends and family members… quite a few of whom happen to be pretty particular in the food and drink department. Add to that our reputation as bon vivants and aficionados of good eats, and the bar was set pretty high.

I knew from the get-go that I didn’t want a standard catered meal with a choice of “chicken or beef”. Most of the reception venues around town had in-house caterers or required you to work with a certain caterer, so those were out. We wanted to do a pig roast, but where? The answer presented itself when we went to the Ford Piquette Plant (T-Plex), now a museum, to do a group photo for Gourmet Underground Detroit. I started chatting with Pat, a full-time volunteer, who told me about some of the other weddings and events they’d held. I knew right away from her attitude that this was the right place- she was pretty much willing to let us do whatever we wanted with the space, and the price was right.

We got the meat locked in- a pig roast by J&M, a farm out of Almont, MI (I’m heartbroken that no one to my knowledge took any photos of the pig- if you did, please send them my way!!), and mesquite-grilled chicken from Los Gallos in Southwest Detroit. But what to do for side dishes? I knew I didn’t want to go “barbecue” or picnic-style sides; not that I don’t like coleslaw and mac & cheese, but for this special an occasion, I wanted something a bit less ordinary. I checked with a couple caterers and the prices were ridiculous, so I approached my friend Will Branch, who owns Corridor Sausage Co. Although he doesn’t do catering on a regular basis, I knew that he had catered events here and there in the past and the food was always great. Plus, instead of picking from a set menu of items, we were able to totally customize things by meeting with him and his partner Tenley Lark a couple times to brainstorm and then refine the menu. It was really a collaborative effort, which worked out well- we wanted to contribute ideas, but trusted Will and Tenley to carry out their vision for the actual recipes. We ended up going with a slightly tropical/Latino theme, incorporating dishes like arroz con gandules (Puerto Rican rice made by Marvin’s family), black beans, chimichurri sauce, pineapple-jicama salad and corn on the cob with ancho-lime butter (which I was afraid to eat, not wanting to tempt fate with staining my dress!) along with a couple summery items like heirloom tomato salad and green bean salad, taking advantage of the local harvest.

Will and Tenley did a great job with the hors d’oeuvres as well as the side dishes- this is Will’s forte, as most of his catering gigs have been cocktail parties. They did mini Spanish tortillas de patatas which they cut into little circles and served with a dab of creme fraiche, dates stuffed with blue cheese and Corridor Sausage’s lamb merguez, and the classic combo of melon and prosciutto, using the ham that I cured earlier this year (which we affectionately began referring to as “the nuptial ham”).

If the bar was set high for food, it was even more of a challenge in the beverage department- how to do drinks on a budget for that many people without serving swill? Luckily, thanks to some friend connections, we were able to get the wine and booze at near-wholesale prices, which helped immensely. We also saved money by offering two signature cocktails (a Manhattan and a Rum Swizzle, created for us by Dave at the Sugar House) rather than a full bar with standard mixers. Jarred helped out with wine suggestions that would compliment the food and please a large cross-section of palates. For beer, we went local with Bell’s Lager of the Lakes and hard cider from Motor City Brewing Works.

The evening wasn’t without hitches- we ran out of cava (3 cases- damn, people!) in less than an hour; a couple friends (Hi Evan! Hi Dave!) had to pitch in with bartending; dinner was slightly earlier than Will had planned for because people were  wandering upstairs to their tables ahead of schedule (maybe something to do with the booze running out?); but the guests didn’t seem to notice anything amiss; luckily, the unique setting was enough to distract them from any small snags. I found it really hard to just step back and enjoy myself and not go into Hostess Mode (“We’re out of cava?!” “There’s no water on the tables!”), but once I sat down, I tried to relax, mostly successfully. Given the fact that our reception venue had no kitchen or catering facilities, I think everyone did a remarkably good job!

After we were announced, we decided to cut the cake and do the first dances right away to buy Will and Tenley a little more time to set up the buffet. Dick, a volunteer at the museum, had the cool idea to wheel our cake out on the back of an antique flatbed truck. It was positioned in the back of the room and as soon as we walked in, they brought it to the center of the dance floor for us to cut. My mom had decorated the truck with “Just Married” signs and streamers… very cute! Our cake was from Pinwheel Bakery in Ferndale and we did two flavors, coconut cake with lime cream (like a curd but not quite as intense), and pistachio with chocolate and dulce de leche. I told Ann, the baker, to do whatever she wanted with the design of the cake since I was suffering from decision fatigue at that point and didn’t really care what it looked like. I was pretty happy with the result- to go with our “vintage travel” theme, she created little postcards to decorate the cake- although it was kind of funny because all night I had people asking about our trip to Hawaii (we’re actually going to Spain, but Hawaii would have been nice too). I didn’t get a chance to have a piece of cake, but all of the guests were raving about it; based on our tastings prior to the wedding, I have no doubt it was fabulous.

As most married couples will probably tell you, the evening was a blur. By the time we made the rounds of all the tables, it was probably 10:00 or 10:30- time to finally let loose a bit! My sympathies go out to brides like my friend Diane, who said she was so busy talking to her guests during her reception that she never got to dance at all. I don’t think that would have even been an option for me, since people kept dragging me onto the dance floor. Even Marvin, who “doesn’t dance”, was out there most of the latter part of the evening. A couple of those Manhattans may have had something to do with it! I was happy to see our guests working up their appetites for the taco bar we put out as a snack, pairing the leftover roast pork with some salsa and guacamole from Mexicantown’s Honeybee Market.

I don’t think there’s any other event in life that you prepare for so much in proportion to its actual duration. I wish I could have slowed down time to be able to remember more details. Instead, I mostly remember a series of impressions rather than distinct moments. Luckily, the photographs (taken by our talented friend Elizabeth Conley) help to recall specific points in time. But even watching short video clips, it still seems dream-like, as if I’m watching someone else and not us.

Now that the wedding is over, I thought I would have so much more free time, but I’m just as busy as ever, mostly with planning this year’s Detroit Holiday Food Bazaar. Life marches on! I also have our honeymoon to plan, which I strategically booked for April so that I could have something else to look forward to after the wedding was over. Besides, I actually enjoy travel planning, and wanted to savor that experience without it being all mixed up with wedding stress and deadlines.

In addition to menu planning/ overseeing the food and drinks, I also designed my own dress, tea-stained the lace and my shoes, made about 100 jars of jam (with help from Molly) for the favors, made the place cards and table signs (names of French streets in Detroit), got old family wedding photos together for a display, and took care of several more details I can’t even remember anymore. Although going the DIY route was more work than I could ever have imagined, in retrospect I don’t think I could have done it any other way (ahem… control freak… ahem). I’m actually glad that I didn’t realize how much work it would be when I started, because I probably wouldn’t have gone through with it! In the end, though, it was worth it for all the people who told me it was one of the most memorable and unique weddings they had ever been to. Unless you’re a super-organized Type A person and you start way ahead of time, I wouldn’t recommend doing this type of wedding or event without at least some help- I hired MeMe Design & Events to assist with some of the design and decor elements. She was mainly in charge of the room layout/ draping and put the tables together, but did so much more, coordinating vendors and taking care of lots of little details I may not have thought of. I also had help from many family members and friends- you know who you are, and thank you all from the bottom of my heart! I very literally could not have pulled it off without you.

There’s so much more I could say about the day, the planning, what worked and what didn’t, but this post is already running long- if anyone has questions or wants advice on planning a wedding or event, though, please ask away in the comments, I’m more than happy to share my trial-and-error experiences!

All photographs in this post courtesy of EGC Photography.

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26 responses to “we got married

  1. Sounds like a lovely event, and even though it goes by so fast, these photo’s really capture the day! Congrats!

  2. It looks like you had an absolutely beautiful day! Congratulations to you and your husband.

    I’m hoping to make it to the Holiday Food Baazar – hope to meet you then!

  3. That looks/sounds fantastic, nice work!

  4. gorgeous! and OMG THOSE SHOES!! congrats you two!!

  5. David (Noelle’s stepdad) took pictures of the pig roast, which I will send to you. Also, it was his idea to put the cake on the truck and wheel it out – he is the one who talked with Dick about doing this, and Dick was fine with it.

    • Ahh ok… you know I am bad with details, especially since there was so much going on! Thanks to David then. Please send whatever pics you have, I would love to put a pic of the pig up here.

  6. You did a wonderful job Noelle on the planning . It was beautiful from the church ceremony to the reception.
    Congratulations. love you and my son.
    mom

  7. I was tearing up all over again reading this! That was such an amazing night, and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it!

  8. I just booked that venue yesterday and Im so excited! I would to pick your brain about all your vendors and your decor. Have you thought about selling any of it? Your wedding makes me absolutely excited to have mine there next year! Thanks for sharing!!!

  9. Thanks! Noelle! Our wedding is August 25,2012 🙂

  10. I am also having my wedding at the T Plex June 2, 2012! Could you let me know what decor you have for sale? 🙂

    Becky

    bamross@hotmail.com

    • Hi Becky, Congratulations! As of right now I don’t have any decor for sale, we had lights and paper lanterns but I believe I have found a buyer for those. I will let you know ASAP if that falls through or changes!

  11. Noelle,
    Just opened the jam yesterday (we got the peach-tomato) and it is wonderful! I am not much of a jam lover, but I really like this and so does David.

  12. You and the event are both gorgeous, congratulations!! I’d love to see pictures of the pig roast but will settle for more shots of your shoes instead. The shoes are f-ing awesome!

    • Haha, thanks Maggie! I only had to order about 6 pairs before finding the right ones. 🙂 They were still higher than what I wanted, but at least the heel was thicker so they had a bit more support. After my experiences wedding shoe shopping, I am fairly certain someone could make a killing selling bridal shoes in the 3-3 1/2-inch heel range, there is NOTHING out there. Everything is either flat or sky-high!

  13. Love the grafitti, love the centerpieces, I love everything! Very chic. Not to mention your dress – I can’t believe you designed it yourself and put so much work into it! It’s beautiful.

    • Thanks! I should clarify, I didn’t actually *sew* the dress myself, I had an amazing seamstress that I worked with… basically I showed her what I wanted through drawings, pictures and verbal descriptions and she made it happen!

  14. First off congrats. on your wedding and thank you again for using us to do your pig roast. Have a Happy First Thanksgiving together.
    Johnny & Maurina from J&M Farm.

  15. Some of the best wedding food I have ever had. Everything was absolutely delicious! Great job on all of the planning and hard work. The event was truly spectacular.

  16. Wow! How lucky was I to stumble across your blog when looking up “pig roast weddings”! I am newly engaged to a native from Detroit and am trying to plan a wedding from CA (we are getting married in the Big D this year). All of my research has been online and I’ve only visited Detroit once. Thank you for sharing info on your venue and vendors. I’ve emailed Patricia already! I would love to pick your brain about planning a wedding. By the way I’m also a fellow foodie! I’m a native CA (Spanish Basque/Mexican/American) marrying a Polish American from Detroit. We both LOVE food! (shopping for it, cooking it and eating it).

    • Congratulations Monica! Hope everything goes smoothly for you. Not sure if you’re using a wedding planner to assist you but I would recommend the one I used, she’s great. And obviously it’s a bonus that she’s already worked with that venue. 🙂
      Have you been to the Basque country? It’s one of my favorite spots in Europe… I actually lived nearby (in Toulouse, France) for a year and got to visit there several times.

  17. I never heard back from Patricia. 😦 We are now looking at places near St. Clair Shores & Grosse Point? My wedding planning is slow goings. How much time did you take to plan your wedding? I love your pictures from your wedding. You guys did a great job!

    • I just talked to a friend of mine and she said Piquette is booked solid through 2012, that’s probably why she didn’t get back to you. When we booked it, there were only a few other weddings, but I guess the word is out!

  18. I found this post when I googled “Piquette Plant wedding”. My fiance and I really wanted to hold our reception there. My brother hosted a party there and loved it, and your photos really inspired me. But like you found out, it is booked. 😦 So now we’re searching for something of a similar feel (that’s close enough to Belle Isle where we want to have our ceremony). We definitely don’t want your typical, generic, hotel or country club ballroom, and those seem to be the only venues that pop up when I do online searches. Were there other places you looked at in Detroit? If so, can you give some recommendations? I actually live in Houston, so this has all been on my fiance so far who’s in Detroit. Any tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks 🙂

    • How many people is it for? I was just at a party at the Albert Kahn-designed Flynn Pavilion on Belle Isle, it would be great for a small wedding. And you probably already know about Belle Isle Casino. Other than that, not sure what’s in that area except the yacht club, but that’s a totally different vibe.

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