OOT Gift Bags

One of the first things I knew for sure when I got engaged was that I wanted to make OOT (out-of-town) gift bags for our guests staying at the Stirling Guest Hotel (reception venue) or the hotel where we have a block of rooms.  I started planning what to include in the bags very early on.  At this point, about 2 1/2 months from the wedding, I have them almost ready to assemble!

First I bought the actual bags.

Gift Bags

Gift Bags

Next I got local maps and a city guide put out by the local chamber of commerce.  I think our guests will find those things helpful during the wedding weekend!  One day, as I was exploring the amazing website that is Etsy, I found a seller who made custom labels for water bottles.  My  mom loved them so much she offered to pay for them, so they went into my shopping cart! I also found cute door hangers on Etsy and purchased them.

Door Hanger

Door Hanger

Aren’t they adorable?

I then put some local chocolates in little cellophane bags tied with ribbon.  And I purchased small bags of pretzels, individual-serving Pringles containers, and granola bars.  Finally, I created a welcome letter….well I actually made three different versions of a welcome letter, depending on whether or not the guest was invited to the rehearsal dinner and whether they were staying at the Stirling or at the hotel.

All that’s left to do is assemble the bags and deliver them to the hotels to hand out as our guests check in!  I’m so excited for everyone to get their goodie bags and think it’s a great little gift for all the family and friends who are traveling to attend our wedding.

What do you think?  Am I missing anything in my OOT bags?


Mothers’ Dresses

One more thing is checked off the wedding to-do list….both my mom and Scott’s mom got their dresses!

First to shop was my mom.

We started at the mall and found a few nice dresses.  I didn’t take photos of the first few.  Then we found this one.

Option 1 Front

Option 1 Front

Option 1 Back

Option 1 Back

We all liked it but Mom wasn’t convinced it was the one so we went to Alfred Angelo, where I got my dress.  She tried this on.

Option 2 with Long Skirt

Option 2 with Long Skirt

We loved the fabric and the color, but that skirt just wasn’t cutting it.  It was too frumpy!  Then the sales lady found a pencil skirt.

Option 2 with Short Skirt

Option 2 with Short Skirt

Isn’t that pretty?  She decided this was the one, only in a slightly lighter color.  It’s called Wild Orchid and is just a tad more lavender than burgundy.  It’s more of a spring color than this darker purple.  (I think the collar part of the jacket needs to be folded out a bit more than in this pic.)  She placed the order and now we wait for it to come in!  Luckily it doesn’t need much in the way of alterations because it’s going to get here with not much time to spare!

Next was a shopping trip with my future mother-in-law, Scott’s mom.  A posse including me, Scott, his mom, Scott’s sister Karla and her partner Kira started at David’s Bridal.  After a few nos, she tried this one on.

Dotte's Dress

Dottie's Dress

We all just loved it and knew it was the one!  Dottie needed some convincing but eventually realized it was perfect.  Look at that smile!

So the two moms will be in complementary colors and both are in flattering styles for each of them.  Success!  I’m so thrilled that this was pretty painless for all parties and that both moms will be comfortable and beautiful at the wedding.

Eight-Course Dinner

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know my fiance and I will be getting married in May 2012.  Our reception is being held at a gorgeous old mansion called the Stirling Guest Hotel.

Reception Venue - Stirling Guest Hotel

This place started life in 1892 as a home for the Sternbergh family.  Mr. Sternbergh was an iron and steel magnate in Reading, PA.  The home was a private residence for the family for over 100 years.  After the last Sternbergh daughter passed away, the home was sold to a hotel entrepreneur who turned it into a 15-suite guest house.

Stirling - Another View

Events at the Stirling are catered in house, so Scott and I were anxious to taste the food and decide what we want to serve at the reception.  The only problem is, they don’t do tastings.  If you want to sample their food, you have to pay to attend a special dinner there.  They have these 2 or 3 times a year so Scott and I signed up for the November 8-course dinner and I wanted to share the deliciousness with you all so here goes!  Hope you’re ready for lots of pics and descriptions!

Scott at the Stirling

Of course the place looked beautiful.  There were lots of candles and we had a small table to ourselves overlooking the porch  There was also a trio playing music for the 100 guests.  Very fancy!

Course 1: Amuse-Bouche

We started with an amuse-bouche.  In case you aren’t as obsessed with Top Chef and those sorts of shows as I am, that is French for “mouth amuser” and is a single, bite-sized hors d’oeuvre.  According to Wikipedia, it is a “little tingler for the taste buds both to prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach to cooking.”  Our amuse-bouche was a piece of seared ahi tuna with lemon caper sauce on a crostini.  Now I am not a seafood eater.  I just never learned to like much fish or shellfish.  So I was a tad afraid to try this but I had made myself a promise that I would try everything we were served.  And surprise, this was really good!  We were off to a good start.  Next!

Course 2: Egg Cocotte

Next came an appetizer.  Our server called it an egg cocotte.  (I’m not positive about that spelling!)  It was a poached egg with a little pancetta and some leek sauce or soup.  I can’t quite remember which.  It sounded odd but it was probably my favorite course as a whole.  It was quite breakfast-y, especially because pancetta is just Italian bacon, but it was simply delicious.  I could have eaten three of these!

Course 3: Soup Duo

Course three was a soup duo.  I am still not sure how they created this moon shape with no dividers in the bowl but it was so cute!  On the right was curried crab and on the left butternut squash.  I tried the crab soup and just didn’t care for it.  I am not a crab fan.  However the butternut squash was amazing!  I scooped that right up and then passed the crab to Scott who said it was yummy.

Course 4: Salad

Next up was the salad course.  It was probably the least exotic of all the dishes.  It was some baby arugula, candied walnuts, grapefruit and gorgonzola drizzled with a white balsamic vinaigrette.   It was fine.  This was nothing special in my book.  At that, we were halfway done!


We were then each brought a warm roll fresh out of the oven.  While not technically one of the eight courses, it was wonderful!

Course 5: First Entree

Course 5 was the first entree.  Yes, I said FIRST entree.  There was another one coming but you’ll have to wait for that one.  This entree was a duck ragu over a black garlic and rice cake, a pierogi with Yukon Gold potatoes and roasted shallots over bok choy and a little truffle oil, and a gooseberry compote.  I love duck so I was excited to try this.  It was pretty great, as was the pierogi.  The bok choy was just – meh.  And the compote was good but we weren’t sure what we were supposed to dip in it!

Course 6: Intermezzo

The Intermezzo came next – an orange cranberry sorbet to cleanse our palates.  This sounds great, right?  Not so much.  Neither one of us were fans.  There were tiny pieces of orange zest in the sorbet which made for a weird texture.  This was our least favorite course of the night.

Course 7: Second Entree

Next came the second entree.  This looked so delicious that I was partway in before I realized I hadn’t taken a pic!  So I’m sorry for the not perfect photo!  This was a roasted beef tenderloin with some fancy onions and wild mushrooms in a sauce that I later learned was a veal sauce, a diver scallop with white grape sauce, and a roasted mini zucchini, starburst squash and another mini thing in pepper sauce.  Let me tell you, that beef was out of this world!  It melted in our mouths and the sauce was amazeballs!  I don’t eat mushrooms so I just scraped them to the side.  The scallop was ok but I knew Scott would appreciate it more so I let him have what was left after I tasted it.

Course 8 - Dessert Sampler

And last came the dessert sampler.  I won’t lie – I had been looking forward to dessert since we had signed up for this meal!  We had three desserts to sample – a Kahlua creme brulee, a crepe stuffed with goat cheese and cherries, and warm bread pudding with chocolate ice cream.  I’ll start with my least favorite here – the crepe.  It was a bit chewy and goat cheese just isn’t my idea of dessert.  So I took a bite and left the rest.  I am a huge bread pudding fan so this was wonderful!  I just loved it.  But the best thing we had that whole night was this creme brulee.  I swear I had died and gone to heaven.  It was the best creme brulee I have ever had in my life.

And we were done!  We were stuffed but not painfully so.  Each course had been small so we had room for it all.  And after three hours we were both exhausted and so pleased with the results!  While we didn’t love everything we had, we left there knowing the chef certainly has skills and that whatever we choose to serve our guests will be great and served with class and style.  The night was a success!

The Great Tent Debate

Scott and I are getting married in a beautiful stone church built in 1889.

The Church

Our reception will be at a gorgeous mansion just down the street.

The Reception Locale

I’m thrilled with both locations.  Here’s the dilemma.  We can eat inside the mansion in five different rooms on the first floor.  The main, largest room will have a huge table for us and our immediate family members – about 22 of us.  The four other rooms will have tables for all our other guests.  After eating, we could either go outside to a tent for dancing, toasts, cake, etc.  Or we could have the Music Room inside turned around very quickly after dinner and make that the dancing room.

The benefits of the tent include:

– It would look amazing! I’m picturing round tables, cocktail hi-top tables, couches, end tables, ottomans, candles, round paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling, pretty uplighting, etc.

Decor Idea 1

Decor Idea 2

Decor Idea 3

You get the picture.
– Guests not into the music and dancing could stay inside the house and relax.

– The weather in May should be nice so we’d be outside enjoying the evening.

The down side of the tent includes:

– cost



– It will cost over $5000 by the time we rent the tent, the sidewalls (in case of rain), the dance floor, the tables, the chairs, the lounge furniture, the linens, and pay the site’s $500 tent fee!  (Everything inside the mansion is included in my site fee – the tables, chairs linens, china, glassware, etc.)

Various Federal Reserve Notes, c.1995. Only th...

Image via Wikipedia

I would LOVE to have the tent but $5000 is a LOT of money.  We could use that towards a down payment on a house after the wedding!  The rational part of my brain says it’s insane to spend this on something that’s not necessary to have a great wedding.  The irrational, “bride” part of my brain says it’s my wedding day!  I want it to be perfect, amazing and wonderful!

Will the guests seated in the Music Room be put off that they have to rush through dinner and leave so we can turn it into the dance floor?  Will the dancers be crowded in there with the DJ table and equipment?  Will it be too loud for those not into the dancing?

So please help me here.  What would you do?