Wedding Wrap-Up, Part 2

September 16, 2011

Casual Dress. Local Food. Good Times.

When our event designer saw the venue for our wedding celebration, he said, “I feel like I’m at summer camp.” I know this is not the mood everyone wants to set for their wedding reception, but for us, it was perfect.

We chose the Walker Nature Center as the venue for our party primarily because it felt like Reston—nestled in trees off Glade Drive and walking distance from our house. It also reflects our values. According to its website, the center’s mission is “to foster good environmental stewardship through the use of direct experiences and interpretive media. The center enhances people’s awareness, knowledge, appreciation, and enjoyment of the environment.” Right on!

The Nature House, which opened in November 2009, is a LEED Gold–certified building with a ground-source geothermal heat pump system for heating and cooling, regionally and sustainably harvested cypress siding, and low-flow and dual-flow plumbing fixtures. The porch posts are made from wood salvaged from a nearby construction site and the flooring is natural marmoleum and recycled carpet. We rented not only the multipurpose room in the Nature House but also the picnic pavilion just outside. Guests were able to walk outdoors to enjoy the landscaping (primarily native plants), the trees, a few raindrops now and again, and of course, the second bar.

That bar and the bar in the multipurpose room were stocked and manned by Main Event Caterers, who provided what was by all accounts a downright delicious buffet of food and beverage.* Our event designer, Spencer, won us over with his attention to detail and some freaking amazing chocolate truffles. Because Spencer knew highlighting regional meat and produce was important to me, he included a list of local sources in his initial menu proposal. We had meat from Polyface, dairy from Trickling Springs Creamery, and produce from Virginia Green Grocer, to name only a few on the list. We also had some delectable short-smoked salmon (served with peach chutney—oh my!), which, though not locally caught, came from a sustainable source—or at least a source more environmentally responsible than unregulated ocean aquaculture.

But it wasn’t the menu that set Main Event apart—in fact, our second-choice caterer also proposed a mouth-watering menu full of local foods. Rather it was their commitment to doing business in an eco-friendly way. Main Event Caterers purchases electricity from Dominion Power, but offsets their usage by purchasing an equal amount of energy from a wind farm. This energy is then funneled to the electric grid to reduce reliance on unsustainable power sources. Over the past few years, the company has reduced its landfilled waste by 70 percent by recycling plastics, aluminum, glass, and cardboard; composting food waste; and using only biodegradable, compostable disposables made with corn, palm, balsa, and bagasse. Most recently, the catering company installed a water purification and filtration system that allows them to bottle their own still and sparkling water in handsome, reusable glass vessels, so they no longer rely on water from plastic bottles. Heck, even Main Event’s website is hosted by a green web-hosting company, AISO.

As a sort-of side note, I’ll mention one of the biggest perks of working with Spencer and Main Event. Two or three weeks before the party date, I approached Spencer with a request that the bars serve only craft beers, not just because they generally taste better than the domestic standards but also because I would feel better supporting, say, Starr Hill than, say, Budweiser. Neither Channing nor I had any specific beers in mind when I made this request, so Spencer took it upon himself to consult Main Event’s beverage director. The two of them came up with a fantastic idea. Main Event had in storage a whole variety of cases and half cases of microbrews that other parties had requested. For the same price it would have cost us to serve their usual trio (one domestic, one import, one craft), we could serve a grab bag of eight to ten different varieties of beer. Make use of leftovers and offer our friends and family more options? Yes, please! (Of course, I drank bellinis all night—but, hey, it was August and peach season is only so long.)

For dessert we had fresh-baked blueberry, cherry, and peach pies from Albemarle Baking Company, thanks to my generous friend Nan. And then there was the cake: three tiers of greatness brought to us by Buzz Bakery. Buzz is a member of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG), which, for the benefit of the locals out there, includes Vermilion, Rustico, Tallula, and Evening Star Café, among others. Last fall NRG launched the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture at Woodlawn Plantation in Alexandria. The center’s programs include an educational farm, a wholesale local food outlet, a mobile market, and the D.C. Farm to School Network, all with the mission to “improve the health of our community, the viability of local farmers, and preserve our environment for future generations by combining education about healthy food and its sources with better logistical connections between local farmers and the urban and suburban core of the region.” Clearly Buzz is part of a happy, well-meaning family.

Buzz itself doesn’t claim to use local or sustainable ingredients, but they do have “reverence for great ingredients, a passion for careful baking, and a steadfast dedication to serving only the freshest items.” Hear, hear! Our cake coordinator, Dawn, insisted on seasonally inspired tiers, which was obviously fine with me. I chose lemon cake filled with lemon curd, almond cake filled with cherry curd, and vanilla cake with both lemon and cherry. The whole thing was covered in buttercream and studded with fresh, organic flowers (the same flowers I picked up from Potomac Vegetable Farms). Stunning.

And that, my friends, ends the story of our low-stuff wedding. It goes to show you can get hitched in style without fancy dresses and multiple fittings, pricey photographers, florists, DJs, inspiration notebooks, wedding websites, gift registries, bridesmaids and groomsmen, save-the-date cards, reply cards, place cards, tents, programs, limousines, rehearsals, churches, speeches, and jordan almonds. I know this kind of casual affair does not appeal to everyone, and that’s OK by me (I like formal events as much as anyone else does). Still, I think a traditional wedding could take some environmentally minded cues from our more simple celebration. The focus of our event was on what was most important to us: gathering our family and friends, all together in one place at one time, to celebrate the start of our new life together.

*And I mean seriously delicious. We have a ton of positive feedback about the food. Thank you so much, Main Event!

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