Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rehearsal Dinner: Pizza, Christmas Crackers, Dinos, and School Spirit

Last night, we got back home from our week-long stay in VA, the highlight of which was our middle son's wedding on December 7.  (A Pearl wedding on Pearl Harbor Day...)  My husband and I spent  a week at a Residence Inn--from the Wednesday before the wedding to the Wednesday after--living in sort of studio apartment appointed with a kitchenette and a living area, with our oldest son and his family one door down from us in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom suite complete with a full kitchen and three flat-screen TV's.  If you ever find yourself having to stay out of town for more than a couple of days, or if you are traveling with babies and young children, I can't think of a better place to stay than at a Residence Inn by Marriott.  The beds are comfy and piled high with the kind of soft, squishy pillows I prefer, and the bedding is layer upon layer of snowy white sheets and comforters.  I love Marriott beds--that is, when I can't sleep in my own.  And just so you know, I am not being paid by Marriott to say all of this (although if they want to send me a check, I will accept it).

While we were Residence Inn residents, every single morning we anxiously awaited the "We're up!" text from my daughter-in-law, and then we'd walk next door, knock, and be greeted by happy cries of "Papa!" and "Grammy!" from the twins (2 and 1/2) and gummy smiles from Little Gal (10 months).  And every single morning, my husband and I each got to take the hand of one of our little buddies, and our whole gang trooped down to the dining room to enjoy a complimentary hot breakfast together.  We got to play with the girls constantly, to lie down with the twins at nap time, and to babysit a couple of times so their parents could have some brief getaways.  It was so much fun being next-door neighbors for a week. 

Of course, as comfortable as our digs were down there, and as much as we miss our three granddaughters now that they're back in CO and we're back here, it's always so wonderful to be home.  When my husband got into our bed last night, he let out a loud sigh of contentment. I was brushing my teeth and thought I heard a groan of pain, so I popped out of the bathroom to check on him.  "Everything okay?" I asked.  "This bed just feels so good," he explained.  Dorothy was right: there's no place like home.

Anyway, enough about our hotel accommodations!  I'm sure that's not what you're interested in hearing about--not when there's been a wedding in our family.  I'm still almost overwhelmed by the thought of trying to blog about it, because there's SO MUCH to say, and SO MANY good photos to share.  So I thought today I'd tell you about the rehearsal dinner, which--as the parents of the groom--was our most important wedding responsibility.

The dinner was held at Blue Mountain Brewery, which has a lovely event room that can be closed off from the main restaurant.  There is a long bar at one end of the room and a huge stone fireplace at the other.  Because our party was larger than the room proper could fit comfortably, they also let us use a small side porch with French doors that opened up to the event room.  This porch is open-air in the warmer months but is closed off and heated for the winter, and it made a perfect place for the 15 or so children 10-and-under to play with the toys we'd brought along to keep them amused.

Along with their specialty beers, Blue Mountain is known for their specialty brick oven pizzas.  Back when we were in the planning stages, we asked our son and his bride-to-be if it would be okay if we did a pizza buffet (which would include salad and dessert), and they were both enthusiastic about the idea.  "It'll be like our Christmas Eve pizza dinner," my son said.  And that got me so excited, because the rehearsal dinner was going to be on December 6 (the Feast of St. Nicholas!), which made it a perfect occasion to give our 70-plus guests a little taste of our family's special holiday tradition.

I've blogged about our Christmas Eve pizza-and-Christmas crackers tradition before, if you want to read about that here.  In our family, it really wouldn't seem like Christmas Eve if we didn't open those crackers, ooh and aah over the cheap trinkets inside them, and read each other the incredibly corny jokes.  It wouldn't seem like Christmas Eve if my guys didn't don those paper crowns.

2001 (Ignore '98--I never could figure out how to
program the date on that camera!)

I ordered the rehearsal dinner crackers from a company called Olde English Crackers.  They make completely empty ones you can fill yourself, completely filled ones, or semi-filled ones.  I decided to order them semi-filled, with the jokes and paper crowns inside; then I could add my own components so they'd have a more personal touch.  (The usual trinkets inside are sort of lame; when we open our Christmas Eve crackers, our kids will joke, "Oh great! Another plastic shoe horn!  I only have five already!" or "Another yo-yo that doesn't work!")  My middle son, along with his four brothers, is and always has been a huge dinosaur fanatic, and the bride loves monograms.  So our rehearsal dinner crackers were finished off with plastic dinos for the groom-to-be and Hershey's miniatures with monogrammed wrappers (it's amazing what you can find on-line!) for the bride-to-be.  I have to say, putting together these crackers, and hoping the rehearsal dinner guests would enjoy them, was the most fun part of preparing for this event.
Along with assembling these special rehearsal dinner crackers, I also had fun planning a decorating scheme that I knew would be a hit with both of the guests of honor.  These two kids are a pair of dyed-in-the-wool college football fans.  As crazy as my son (and the entire Pearl family) is about Notre Dame football, my new daughter-in-law is the very same way about her alma mater's team.  I already had plenty of Notre Dame-themed fabric lying around, but I asked my sister-in-law who lives in Florida if she could pick me up four yards or so of Florida State fabric, if she happened to run across any.  The décor came together very easily after I got my hands on that FSU material; I used it to make a bunting to hang on the fireplace mantle and also to make some of the components of the table centerpieces.  I used gold charger plates that I already had on hand, and I cut out a circle of  Notre Dame fabric to put in the centers, then topped them off with battery-operated pillar candles.  I made placemats to put under the chargers out of the FSU fabric.  Along with the gold crackers, this was just enough to make the square tables of eight look fun and festive.  For the two longer tables, I put the chargers on draped fabric instead of small placemats, to give them a more dramatic effect.

When it came time to open the crackers, my husband explained the tradition to our guests, and he said that although we usually wear our crowns throughout our meal on Christmas Eve, he didn't expect them to do that--but if they could just let me go around and snap some photos before they removed them, that would be appreciated.  Well, I'll tell you, that was such a fun crowd!  Most of them kept those crowns on all night!  I love this shot of the handsome prince and his beautiful princess, along with her parents.  (Notice that the bride and groom-to-be are even dressed in their team colors!)
My husband also said that he wouldn't make our guests stand up and share their jokes with everyone, the way we do at home, but perhaps they could share them at their tables--which apparently they did!

The plastic dinosaurs inside were a hit.  (I was going to say especially with the under-10 crowd, but the over-10 crowd might have enjoyed them even more!)
Even though I knew Blue Mountain was providing a gourmet brownie assortment for dessert, I felt I just had to bring a homemade cake.  For every birthday and important occasion in my sons' lives, I have always made a cake.  I made a cake for my oldest son's rehearsal dinner four years ago; I decided I'd make one for this son, too.  And what better theme for this "groom's cake" than a T-Rex?
This cake really didn't come out the way I'd intended it to, and I almost didn't bring it because I was a little embarrassed about how amateurish it was.  It did taste a whole lot better than it looked, though, which is good.  That weird shape on the bottom is supposed to be a tail, but one guest commented that he thought it was a tank tread.  (My son is an Army captain in the Reserves, so that works, too!)  The little separate heart-shaped cake, complete with monogram, was added for the bride's benefit.  I'm so glad now that I brought this silly dinosaur cake, because when someone told my son how delicious it was, he proudly said, "That's the cake I got to have for every birthday growing up, and I've had that cake hundreds of times in my life."  It made me so happy to give my boy something, on the eve of his wedding, that brought back positive memories of growing up in our house. 

It's hard for me to describe the energy and joy that filled that event room during this party.  I think I can safely say that a good time was had by all.  The bride-to-be's family couldn't say enough nice things about it.  But most importantly, I know that we made our son and his best gal very, very happy that night, and that all the little touches--the pizza, the Christmas crackers, the dinosaur toys and dinosaur cake, and the décor celebrating FSU and ND school spirit--were very much appreciated by both of them.

Sometimes, pictures really do speak a thousand words, so I  think I'll just post a few here.  And I'll be back again...because if you think the rehearsal dinner was awesome, you should have seen the wedding.

The "Shoe Game"--have you heard of this?  It's sort of like the old "Newlywed Game" TV show.

This rehearsal dinner party was a pretty huge success for my husband and me--so I thought I'd share this post over at, where it's Small Success Thursday.


  1. I didn't exactly follow the formula for a "Small Success Thursday" post to the letter here. So besides this rehearsal dinner--which despite my silly pre-Friday night jitters was enormously successful--there were some other successes this past week. All of our travelers made it home safely from the wedding, even though there were deadly winter storms all along the East Coast on Sunday that delayed many of their flights and car trips. And here's the best success story of all: we now have another new daughter, a girl whose very pores exude love and enthusiasm, and we feel enormously blessed.

  2. Christmas Crackers are so much fun. I was introduced to them when I lived in England for 14 months.

    1. I love them! I wanted to start a Christmas tradition that was uniquely "ours" many years ago. My dad is almost 100% English and my husband is 100% Irish--so I thought a UK tradition would be a perfect one for us to adopt. :)

  3. Love the recap. What a great time it all was. (and Little Gal is actually still 9 months).

  4. I know--I don't know why I put 10! Math + me = disaster. (Sorry Little Gal. I promise I know when your birthday is!) :)

  5. I love this. Kind of makes me feel like I was there. You did a great job Laura. Can I get some ideas from you for Evan's rehearsal dinner!

    1. Hey, I'll even make Evan a groom's cake if you want. ;)

  6. I LOVE this rehearsal dinner. It is so filled with love, fun and family. I wish my in-laws would have cared enough to make our rehearsal dinner something special. Just amazing!

    1. Thanks, Madeline. It was a really terrific night. I have another son getting married in late February, so now I'm trying to figure out how to do something very different--but equally special--for his rehearsal dinner. We have only sons, so we will always have an easier job than the parents of their brides!