Weddings, right? There simply cannot be a more endearing, maddening, heart-warming, nerve-wracking, and overwhelming event in our lives. On top of everything else, I decided to have mine outside when we’re in the midst of a series of very wet autumns. There were a lot of decisions, negotiations, and praying. And my wedding wasn’t even that big! I never had a chance to count the guests and we didn’t ask for RSVPs since we were under the minimum number for our caterer anyways.
Photography by our good friend, Sam Bennett. Check out more of his work on Flickr!
Both the Saturday wedding and the Friday dinner for our out of town guests were held at my parent’s house and I left it to them to handle most of the details (which they were happy to do). I had very few requests: it would be casual (ever try wearing a long dress and heels in a backyard?), it would be small and low-key, and the food would be paleo.
With a bit of negotiation, we invited about 50 people and had 30-40 show up. The ceremony was under 15 minutes. Adam wore jeans, a vest, and a button down while I wore a short dress. All the food was paleo so I felt great, wasn’t ill on the plane the next morning (bonus!), and everyone was super impressed at how rich the options were.
The plan going into it was fairly simple. First, we would have the Friday dinner open to anyone who wanted to come, but mostly for out-of-town guests who would be arriving the night before the wedding. That ended up being a small enough number that my mom could set us up with French potato salad and a veggie salad while my dad fired up the grill for some steaks and chicken. We had a diy sundae bar for dessert with a coconut ice cream option for anyone avoiding dairy. (I must say I indulged!)
The food for the wedding was a little more complicated. After spending hours searching through affordable (and unaffordable) catering options, my mom found that pretty much every option was extremely starchy, extremely expensive, or both. I had requested that we not have a formal sit-down meal but a buffet style with long tables was right up our alley. A friend of my parents who attends church with them has made a hobby out of catering and his BBQ and salmon are out of this world! We had salmon appetizers, BBQ, and brisket available along with a couple sides for our guests and the food was a huge hit! It helped having a friend cater the wedding because he was enthusiastic about supporting us and was more open to discussing the menu in depth. A new BBQ place called Picnic had opened up down the road from my parents and would have been our second choice. BBQ at a southern wedding is always a good way to go!
Our cake was also pretty complicated. Paleo baking doesn’t lend itself to large, layered cakes or fondant frosting. A friend of mine who has experimented with paleo in the past is also a passionate amateur baker. I reached out to him to see if he’d be up for the challenge and he was thrilled. I lent him recipes for paleo “occasion” cakes from cookbooks I’d collected as a starting point along with some economy size bags of coconut, almond, and tapioca flours so he could get started experimenting.
As fate would have it, less than two weeks before the wedding he fell ill and was taken to the ER. No condition to be baking in! When Adam and I went to visit him as he was recovering, we took back the books and ingredients and I called my mom to discuss a plan b.
After a bit of deliberation, we settled on creating one 6 inch tiered bridal cake and…pound cakes! Since it was a casual southern we decided a citrus pound cakes following the BBQ would be very welcome. My mom baked 3 pound cakes, I baked 2, we bought (canned!) whip cream from Trader Joe’s that was shockingly free of weird additives, and set it up on a fancy serving platter.
I took charge of the bridal cake. I used the nut free vanilla cake recipe from My Paleo Patisserie and baked a double batch on Thursday in adorable tiered pans from 6 inches down. My bff arrived Friday and we transported it to my parents for safe keeping. Saturday morning, with my nails and hair fully done (didn’t plan that out well!) I started experimenting with frosting. With a palm shortening base, we got it pliable then started adding color and sweetness! The wedding color was (loosely) burgundy. Adam’s shirt was burgundy which set the tone for everything else: my shoes, my mom’s dress, my bff’s dress, the flowers… I thought a burgundy cake would be wonderful. We started with freeze dried strawberries (pink) and cherry juice (redish) and then added maple syrup until we had a beautiful burgundy. At that point I added a little maple sugar to get the sweetness right and then started frosting.
The one thing I forgot–which I always seem to forget with layered cakes–was the frosting between the layers. But the cake held together and I don’t think anyone noticed the oddity.
When I had finished frosting, my bff took up decorating with our birds, flowers, butterflies, and pearls. We had it on the stand and ready to go! Since it was rather warm out (September 17th in NC, anyone?), we put it in the fridge to keep.
The ceremony was short and sweet, and the one time my pulse shot through the roof. We danced to a live band, The Duke Street Dogs. Everyone loved the catered food, seconds were encouraged. Though we had enough to feed 50, there weren’t many leftovers! The salmon appetizers were an incredible smoked salmon shredded and combined with cream cheese and our friend’s spice blend then scooped into hollowed-out cucumbers in lieu of serving it on crackers. It was so good I went back and grabbed some out of the extra dip out of the bowl to eat with a fork! The BBQ had been wood smoked and had the flavor in every bite. I choose the eastern style sauce–NC eastern and western BBQ is a deep divide–and it was tart and tangy, brightening the smoky, savory pork. The brisket was also smoked, rich and tender–falling apart at every bite. I’m not surprised the food went so quickly!
We had beer for those indulging, wine, and a punch that was probably 90% alcohol with a little cane sugar and lemon juice. Adam and I had “Bride” and “Groom” glasses we’d found at a thrift shop while looking for bottles and glasses for the tables. Mine held Conniption gin and his a chocolate martini. No, I’m not kidding. The gin and the liquors were from the local Durham Distillery which makes my favorite spirits. They were out of this world!
We laid out the sliced pound cake and I brought out the tiered cake so Adam and I could slice the first piece. NO we did not shove it in each others faces, we nicely held out a fork full. It was fantastic! The fruit flavor in the frosting was light enough to complement vanilla of the cake, not overwhelm it, and counterbalance the often heavy maple syrup. We expected most people to grab some pound cake but in a flash the “bridal” cake was gone! It was definitely enjoyed and the pound cake certainly wasn’t unappreciated. My dad had been snacking on my mom’s less-than-perfect cakes and he vouched for the beautifully baked ones we displayed. I’m pretty sure at least half the guests were unaware the cakes was made without any type of grain flour!
The wedding was everything I imagined. I had time to spend with each friend and relative, time to show off our country swing dancing, time to sit back and enjoy the good food and drink. I think our dog, Lily is in at least 75% of the pictures that were taken and she was in the caricature an artist my dad hired for our guests created for Adam and myself. I was very happy that she behaved and was able to run around with the guests.
The food was memorable and also nourishing. I felt good about not only what I ate, but also that we were able to provide that experience for our loved ones.