Okay, I know what you're thinking—What does a wedding reception have to do with a sacramental marriage? Well, actually, a lot.
The Catholic Church describes, "In a sacramental marriage, God's love becomes present to the spouses in their total union and also flows through them to their family and community." Essentially, a sacramental marriage is not just about the couple getting married, but also, importantly, how they show up for their family and community. The absolute joy and ecstasy that we felt from everyone when we walked into our wedding reception embodied how God's love was not only present to Anthony and me in this sacramental union, but it also flowed through us to all our loved ones. I don't know how to describe that contagious feeling other than it felt like everyone was high on love. I truly believe we were a symbol of God's love to all our guests, and they felt that—not just our love for each other, but God's love for each one of us and them.
By now, you also all know of my love for Fr. Mike Schmitz podcasts (but if you're new here, do yourself a favor and click that link—GAME. CHANGER.). Fr. Mike acknowledges that Catholic couples should still celebrate their wedding with their community—despite the craze of the wedding industry, which unfortunately often encourages couples to focus more on their wedding than on their marriage. He explains, "Your wedding actually belongs to the whole church, so it's really good to celebrate with the whole church... Saying, Come over to the chapel and we'll have sandwiches afterwards, isn't really celebrating the wedding." I'm sure Fr. Mike would not encourage couples to spend exorbitant amounts of money or put undue focus on their wedding reception, but adequately (read: not excessively) celebrating actually honors the sacrament of marriage. It shows us that a monumental change has just taken place here, two have become one, through God's grace!
With all that said, I hope you enjoy the story of our wedding reception, interspersed with little tips (and lots of photos!) that you or someone you know might enjoy if and when the big day comes.
My mom, dad, Anthony and I pulled up at the Perry Hotel in Petoskey, Michigan as my dad finished maybe his 30th iteration of "Going to the chapel..." :) While we were taking wedding party portraits in Harbor Springs (where our ceremony was), our guests mingled at cocktail hour across Little Traverse Bay, in Petoskey, Michigan. Our reception was held on an outdoor terrace, the Rose Garden at the Perry Hotel, overlooking Lake Michigan. The weather and location were perfect, and the staff at this historic hotel could not be any more wonderful!
We didn't do a formal exit from the church after our ceremony, so our entrance would be the first time we saw our guests since the ceremony. Giddy with excitement, we eagerly waited to be introduced, as all our loved ones gathered around the dance floor.
Our family and bridal party danced into the reception to Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual" thanks to Davis' (my sister Molly's boyfriend) hilarious dance skills at the Carlton. (I know there are a lot of pictures in this post, but I just can't resist sharing the pure joy on all our family members faces!)
After they all were introduced, the music changed to Natalie Cole's upbeat and appropriately-titled "Everlasting Love"—the song Anthony and I had picked for our entrance. When I heard the music start, I was so excited that Anthony had to stop me from entering the reception prematurely, and we both burst out laughing. Finally, we heard, "Ladies and gentlemen... Mr. & Mrs. Anthony Chun!"
We walked in, and it literally felt like we had just walked through the pearly gates. I maintain that that moment, as brand-newlyweds, with all our loved ones lining our path, cheering and clapping for us, is what it will feel like to walk into heaven, by God's grace. Hearing our guests erupt in cheers, our hands shot up in celebration and our unceasing smiles conveyed our absolute joy. Before I knew it, Anthony swept me off my feet and spun me around, carrying me like a princess. With a little dip, he set me down in front of our cake, and we sealed it with a kiss (or two...). Peep the iPhone video of our entrance—one of my favorite moments of the reception and our entire day—thanks to our beloved family friend, Allison Ward!
As you can see in the video, our wedding cake was waiting for us at the middle of the dance floor. In planning the sequence of events for a reception (cake, dinner, dances, speeches...) consider using the time when all guests are already gathered (like after the entrance) to cut the cake or do the first dance (or both!). With all eyes on us, we cut our delectable, homemade lemon cake by our dear friend from Harbor Springs and consummate chef Maureen Abood, of cookbook fame, Rosewater & Orange Blossoms. Maureen so generously gifted this gorgeous wedding cake to us—and posted the recipe that she tested and re-tested on her award-winning blog!
Since we were having a dessert table, featuring yummy treats from various shops in Harbor Springs, I wanted a simple wedding cake mostly for the cutting tradition. In fact, I figured I would just make the cake with my sisters, as you can read the backstory in this post. Thankfully, my dad helped me come to my senses and Maureen so graciously offered to make our wedding cake (her first ever!). This simple, personalized, tandem bike cake topper was the perfect complement to our simple and beautiful wedding cake.
Truth be told, I planned this dessert table for me. We had Harbor Springs' nationally-acclaimed Tom's Mom's Cookies, Suzie's Pies, Northern Bliss brownies and mini cookies, and Johan's massive donuts. Having a majorrr sweet tooth, I saw this as a great excuse to have all my favorite treats, and I couldn't wait to stuff my married face. Well, lesson learned. I'm glad Cory Weber got these photos because by the time I got to the dessert table, it was destroyed. Long story short, the Perry coordinators wanted to set it up before cocktail hour, which I warned them against, You don't know my family, I laughed. My dear pal and wedding coordinator Erin Brede of Anchor Events and Design later told me, "I thought I could stop kids, but there were grown men double fisting Johan's donuts!" While I may not have had more than a bite of cake for dessert, the array was a hilarious hit: Mike Leoni (a Michigan football legend) applauded the dessert being so accessible and available so early in the evening, and friends of mine told tales of waking up in the middle of the night with stomachs full of Tom's Mom's cookies and regretfully running the Fourth of July 10 mile race the next day thanks to the dessert bar. I'd say it was a success.
I love all these photos of our guests throughout the evening. I printed many of these and included them in the respective loved ones' thank you notes after the wedding. In a world where our photos are trapped on our phones and computers (and many guests will never get to see wedding photos other than a few of the couple) I think this is a sweet touch.
After Anthony stuffed my face with cake, we all made our way to the tables for dinner and speeches. As we made our way to our table, we were so touched by how many people stopped us to tell us what a wonderful wedding this was. One of our family friends who shall remain unnamed even told us that it was better than his own wedding, but "don't tell my wife!" To me, the fact that people felt this way before the "party" even started just spoke to the weight of our ceremony, and how our wedding was focused on all the things we wanted it to be.
My dad's speech was everything—funny, moving, heartfelt, meaningful. I am a bit biased, but it's the best father of the bride toast I've ever heard—and I others told me so as well. He recalled coaching Anthony in basketball (and coaching against him!) when Anthony and my brother were in middle school, recounted my sickness as a child and pointed out all the friends and neighbors who stood by us then as they do now, humored everyone by sharing the summer he realized we were falling for each other, and applauded our foot washing included in the ceremony... because "Thompsons love to have their feet rubbed!" One of my favorite parts was when he said that I possess the qualities of two of his favorite women: my mom and his mom, my grandma Jeanne. Fittingly, my Irish dad finished with an Irish blessing, to which he added his own touch at the end: "...and if your children bring you half the joy you have brought us, that will be enough." Pass the tissues, please.
Next up were my "seesters" as the co-MOHs. Molly and Tess called Anthony out for giving them bloody noses in a snowball fight when we they young, shared observations of our courtship, as well as a story I had never heard exemplifying how they looked up to me as a sister. I remember hearing my aunt Kate, sitting right in front of me, say "awww" when she heard Molly and Tess narrate this, and I had the same feeling—I was so touched. They finished with a prayer for us from Phillipians, which they didn't know when they wrote their speech was actually our second reading from our Nuptial Mass!
Lastly, my older brother and #dayone, and Anthony's best friend and best man was up. Given his close connection to both of us, he deserved a little more time ;) I think the fan favorite (well, at least my favorite part) was when he recalled how Anthony professed his love for me to Bart before we ever started dating. He recalled our shenanigans and paling around as the two oldest of our brood. Most sentimentally of all, he talked about what Anthony's friendship means to him—how Anthony showed up for him more than anyone else at the most difficult times of his life.
Alright—finally time to break it down! Anthony and I danced to "What If I Loved You" made for our absolute family favorite movie, Return to Me. Now let me tell you, Anthony can dance. It was so fun being spun around by him, singing the lyrics to each other, and topping it with a dip and a kiss at the end!
The father/daughter dance was undoubtedly a highlight of the night. Growing up, Dad would always twirl us around the kitchen when music came on. I loved dancing with him at weddings or big events because he is SUCH a good dancer. So when my dad started gently swaying back and forth, I whispered, "Aren't you gonna twirl me around like you always do?!" We had specifically picked "My Girl" for its classic Motown vibes and upbeat tempo so he could do his thing! Apparently, he was worried I wouldn't be able to keep up with my heels and dress on... pshh! I remember he asked me about halfway through out dance if I was having a great day. I just looked at him, smiled, and nodded. It was perfect.
As a contrast to the two more upbeat dances, Anthony showed off his sweet and gentle side by tenderly dancing with his mom to "What a Wonderful World."
Save for taking a failed trip to the dessert table and taking sunset portraits, we spent the rest of the night on the dance floor. Both our families love to dance, so the dance floor was packed the entire night. Highlights of the night: a dance-off involving my uncle Mark doing the splits, the bouquet toss going to my SISTER Molly (!!), having Emily's Cookies passed around on the dance floor as a late night snack (dessert bar REDEMPTION!), serenading my cousin/bridesmaid Caroline to "Sweet Caroline" as she had just arrived back on U.S. soil from a year in South Africa, turning around to discover Anthony and his dad BREAK. IT. DOWN. (apparently I am completely surrounded by men who can dance!), and closing out the night to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," waving American flags, as July 3rd turned into July 4th.
If you read this whole thing, comment because you deserve a prize. And you're definitely related to me.