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A WEDDING IN THE CITY WITH THIRTY CLOSE FRIENDS
ERIN MALLOY AND DUTCH EDWARDS
Erin Malloy and Dutch Edwards, a couple whom I had known for several years, asked for my help in creating an unusual wedding celebration for a group of close friends. Erin and Dutch were adamant that they didn't want a typical "catered affair" in a hotel, club, or restaurant. Their own apartment was too small for the group they had in mind. But in a stroke of good fortune, dear friends had just finalized the purchase of a spacious loft apartment in the heart of the city, which they planned to renovate. Since the space was temporarily empty, they offered it for the celebration. What could be better?
The apartment was only available for a month before the construction crews were to begin work, so Erin and Dutch had to move quickly. They decided to limit the wedding to just twenty-eight of their closest friends. They planned to schedule a party with their families, both of which lived out of state, at a later date.
The apartment had been vacant for several years and needed renovation, but it was an ideal space for entertaining, with a large living dining room, expansive city views, hardwood floors, and high ceilings. Erin and Dutch both loved the apartment's dilapidated but grand atmosphere and knew it would be perfect for the celebration they envisioned. Tables and chairs could he rented easily and the bride and groom planned to bring over a few furnishings from their home to give the space a lived-in look. Because the reception was for such a small group, we determined that we could use many of the beautiful thingsthat the bride and groom collected, including vintage linens, antique glassware, and a wealth of mismatched fine Lenox china place settings that the bride had inherited from her mother and grandmother.
One feature of the apartment was a massive fireplace with a wooden mantel painted powder blue, a shade Erin loved. We decided to play off that color for many aspects of the wedding celebration. It seemed serendipitous-something borrowed (the apartment), something blue!
The invitations were informal, as befits a gathering of thirty people. A calligrapher friend of Erin's wrote them out in sable ink on heavy powder blue cards bordered in gold. "Dear," the invitations read. "We are getting married on Saturday, the third of May and would love for you to share in our celebration. The ceremony will be held at 1 I East 68th Street at 7 o'clock in the evening, with an intimate dinner to follow We hope you can join us. Much love, Erin and Dutch."
Advance preparations were uncomplicated. For the reception dinner, Erin and Dutch envisioned all their guests sitting at one long table, so we rented several rectangular folding tables, along with pads, covering the long table with several mismatched vintage linen and lace cloths. From the florist, we rented a pair of silver trumpet vases, candelabra, and other small containers to hold spring flowers. In several trips the week before the event, Dutch and Erin brought over cartons of things that would be used for the ceremony and reception, including her antique china, three dozen vintage linen napkins, and the couple's silver plate service for twelve and two other sets borrowed from friends. The bride and groom combined their collections of vintage and new stemware to make a service for thirty. We purchased dozens of candles to provide an Old World style of lighting for the evening celebration, and dribbles tapers for guests to hold during the ceremony.
The groom raided his wine cellar, choosing to serve his guests from his collection of large-format bottles of white and red wines from France, Italy, and California. For the champagne, he decided to sacrifice a jeroboam (the equivalent of four bottles) of Veuve Clicquot, which he had recently won in a sculling race. As he put it, "This is the most special day in my life-what better occasion for this bottle?"
For the final touch, the couple brought over a pair of large, beautifully framed oil paintings of pastoral landscapes that they had recently bought at auction. The antique paintings instantly placed the couple's personal stamp on this long- vacant apartment.
We developed a simple but delicious menu that would be easy to serve from the apartment kitchen and took into account the minimal facilities-a small stove with functioning broiler, a sink, a tiny refrigerator, and almost no food preparation space. Erin and I visited my celebrated cake-baker friend, Sylvia Weinstock, and placed an order for a very special and unusual dessert. We arranged for the apartment to be cleaned on Thursday and had everything but the flowers delivered and set up on Friday, leaving only a few last-minute preparations for the day of the wedding.
The afternoon of the wedding, I cooked at my apartment, ten blocks away, while Erin and Dutch got ready. We taxied over at four PM., in time to complete the setup. The table had been set the evening before with the mismatched antique plates, stemware, and vintage linens. After an hour's work with the flowers, the apartment looked gorgeous. We filled the trumpet vases with lavish arrangements of delphiniums, bells of Ireland, and mauve hydrangeas. Between the tall arrangements, we placed low, tightly packed containers of Sterling roses, hydrangeas, and table smilax, alternating these with candelabra cascading with roses, smilax, and hunches of green grapes. We placed the candles around the room, set the champagne and the magnums of white wine on ice, and I busied myself with last-minute preparations in the kitchen and briefed the kitchen staff and two waiters. Instead of a sign-in book, we placed a stack of little cards next to a sterling silver box for guests to write messages of felicitation to the bride and groom.
Right at seven PM., the first guests, including the justice of the peace, arrived. The bridal couple greeted everyone at the door, Erin attired in a powder blue dupioni silk full-length gown with bell sleeves, Dutch in a black crepe suit with a white shirt and powder blue silk tie. Guests-an eclectic group of longtime friends-wore a range of outfits, from casual to elegant, since Erin and Dutch wanted everyone to dress for comfort.
When all had arrived, we assembled and the ceremony began. Erin and Dutch positioned themselves in front of the apartment window as the sun was just beginning to set and the lights of the city were coming on. Their guests stood in an informal semicircle, each holding an unlit candle. The ceremony began with Erin and Dutch together lighting a community candle, then stepping forward and lighting the guests' tapers. Illuminated only by the flickering candles, the justice led the bride and groom through the words of the civil ceremony.
It was a solemn moment-but the solemnity didn't last long. As Dutch kissed his bride, a loud pop could be heard in the background, and a pair of waiters stepped forward holding together the opened jeroboam of champagne. Everyone cheered and quickly looked for a spot to deposit their candles-we had placed several shallow terra-cotta pots filled with sand on the windowsills just for that purpose, so that the candlelight would be reflected in the panes of glass. Soon, each guest was holding a flute of champagne and raising it in a spontaneous toast to the newlyweds. Waiters supplemented the jeroboam with a seemingly endless supply of regular 750-milliliter bottles of Veuve Clicquot, and passed appetizers as guests became acquainted. A strolling violinist provided background music.
After cocktails, the candles on the dining table were lit and Erin and Dutch invited their guests to the table, where pale blue place cards laid out the seating. The first course was the couple's favorite dish from a local bistro, baby frisee (curly lettuce) with a piquant mustard dressing and bits of crisp- fried gammon, or bacon. The rest of the menu was served family-style, with platters set down in the center of the table, to keep the need for servers to a minimum. Baguettes of crusty French bread were placed right on the tablecloth along with shallow dishes of fragrant olive oil for dipping. Guests washed down the salad with magnums of chilled Sancerre, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, and Tocai Friulano, delicious white wines that complemented the dish beautifully.
When the first-course plates had been cleared, the waiters brought out four oversized platters of herb-roasted rack of lamb, garnished with fresh rosemary and set around a mound of roasted new potatoes and a heap of spring vegetables. Bordelaise sauce, brightened with chopped fresh tomato, was set out in a pair of antique gravy boats. As guests helped themselves to the food, waiters brought out magnums of red wine from the groom's collection, including Clos de l'Oratoire 1982 and Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon 1986, which were placed on the table for guests to sample as they pleased. Between courses, guests stood up to make impromptu toasts. Night having fallen, the long table, lit only with candles and strewn with a still life of delicious food and wine, looked like a medieval banquet scene.
After dinner, the waiters refilled everyone's champagne glass for the traditional toast to the bride and groom with the cutting of the cake. But no grand, oversized cake emerged from the kitchen. Instead, the waiters brought out thirty antique dessert plates, each holding a miniature wedding cake, just right for one generous portion and each decorated to match the pattern of the china. As the cakes were set down in front of each guest, everyone stood up and spontaneously applauded. Dutch's best friend made a touching toast to the bride and groom, who reciprocated with speeches of thanks to their friends for sharing in the celebration.
When the last of the cake had been eaten, the groom stepped over to the stereo, inserted a tape of the couple's favorite 1970s dance music, and turned up the volume to get everyone into the dancing spirit. The upbeat music was interspersed with old standards from the forties, slow dances in a romantic mood. Guests who didn't care to dance stepped over to a small table lit by a candelabra where imported cheeses and decanters of vintage Port, single-malt Scotch, and Armagnac were set out.
Close to midnight, the groom decided everyone needed a bit of fresh air. He enlisted several guests to carry trays of Port and spirits, glasses, a bunch of candles, and a cigar humidor upstairs to the rooftop patio. Earlier in the day, Erin and Dutch had set out several folding chairs and side tables. The evening ended on a reflective note as guests enjoyed quiet chats, mellow cigars, and snifters of Armagnac while the lights of the city sparkled far below.
Crudites with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Smoked Salmon Canapes
Champagne Veuve Clicquot Brut
Baby Frisee with Mustard Dressing and Crispy Gammon
Magnums of Sancerre, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, and Tocai Friulano
Herb-Roasted Rack of Lamb with a Tomato Bordelaise
Roasted Potatoes, Shallots, and Garlic
Spring Vegetables Magnums of Clos de l'Oratoire 1982 and Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon 1986
Individual Chocolate Wedding Cakes
Lemon Cream and Berries
Champagne Veuve Clicquot Brut
Imported Cheeses, Including St. Agur, Montrachet, and Tomme de Savoie