Since my house is fairly central to both families (and since we finally finished our massive patio project), my mom decided to hold the party here in our backyard. I was thrilled to have it here. Amanda and Justyn wanted something casual yet elegant, so my mom, grandma, aunt and I had a lot of fun party planning over the last few months to surprise them with something that suited their style. I was so excited to see it all come together!
To get the feel we were looking for, my mom rented tables with white chairs and flowy white tablecloths, and we set up a big white tent with twinkling white lights. It looked pretty during the day and had a beautiful warm glow at night. We set up flowers and silverware in Mason jars (my fave), little white candles in glass votive holders, and hanging white and black paper lanterns. I think the combination of glass jars, simple flowers and the outdoor setting mixed with white lights and linens made the party feel elegant yet rustic.
Amanda's wedding colors are blue and yellow, so we tried to do similar colors for the engagement party. Her shade of blue is a bit harder to come by, so we settled for yellow and white, which looked really nice for a backyard summer party.
How cute are these favors? My mom filled them with maple kettle corn from Vermont - a little taste of home for Amanda!
After a week of gorgeous weather, of course it poured like crazy the morning of the party, forcing us to change the setup we originally planned. Thankfully the rain cleared up around 2:00 just in time for the guests to arrive, grab a glass of wine and start nibbling on some hors d'oeuvres.
As for the food, I was in charge of the appetizers and after-party s'mores setup. I love making cocktail food, and put out a spread that included some fun apps as well as a few easy things I could just pull together last minute, like a big antipasto platter and pre-made bruschetta.
My mom handled the main course, which included catered Italian favorites like shrimp scampi, sausage & peppers and lemon chicken. She also set up an awesome dessert table with a chocolate fountain and my dad's homemade vanilla cake with lemon curd filling. He is one heck of a cake-maker!
Side note: To make the strawberry basket for the chocolate fountain, I just reused a basket Matt's mom received from Edible Arrangements a few weeks ago. I put two pieces of foam inside and covered them up with some kale, and then skewered the strawberries and stuck them into the foam. So easy, and a nice way to display berries rather than on a plate.
One of the snacks people seemed to buzz about the most was the pesto. I used it in two different places - as a dip for the caprese salad skewers, and in the pesto layer dip.
After the party several people asked for the recipe, to which I replied: It's seriously the easiest thing ever. I don't even use a recipe. I think the key to its deliciousness is the quality of ingredients - using sharp, nutty, fresh parmesan cheese, fresh basil from the garden and nice fruity olive oil really makes a difference.
That said, my general recipe includes:
The Best Pesto
Makes approx. 1 cup
- About 2 cups fresh basil
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup good parmesan cheese (freshly grated if possible)
- 2 cloves garlic
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste (I use about a pinch each)
- About 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients, except the olive oil, in a food processor and pulse until everything is finely ground. Then, with the machine running, drizzle in olive oil until the mixture comes together and is the consistency you desire. Taste and season with extra S &P if desired. Use right away, or place in a container and drizzle olive oil on top (this preserves the green color), and refrigerate or freeze.
I could honestly eat this stuff on just about anything. Since I have about 100 pounds of fresh basil in my garden, I've been making batches of it and freezing it for future use. It tastes just as good when thawed as it does when fresh.
I am so, so happy for Amanda and Justyn and loved being part of their special day. They're going to make a beautiful bride & groom!