orlando – days 2 & 3

i know you’ve been on the edge of your seat to hear about the rest of our time in orlando, so here we go!

our saturday proved to be just as fun as our friday, and it all began at the winter garden farmers market.  we have these sorts of things in atlanta but never seem to make the time to go, which means we enjoyed ourselves even more.

things at the market were already pretty lively by the time we arrived, which made for excellent people watching.  there were couples of all ages, families with little ones, ladies with big sun hats and bigger bags full of fresh produce and fragrant baguettes.  it was a feast for the senses, indeed!

since we had forgone breakfast at the house, we were definitely in the mood for a little snack.  considering the heat of the already sweltering florida morning, lisa led us straight to enzo’s acai bar.  the line wasn’t long, the people were friendly, and the service was fast.  i don’t remember exactly what we had, but i do remember the cool sorbet, crunchy granola, and sweet fruit in every bite.  the perfect start to the morning!  as we munched, we moseyed from booth to booth, admiring the quality and beauty of the local craftsmen.  if we’d had any extra space in our suitcase, i’m certain i would have come home with a bundle of treasures, but i’m betting phillip is grateful that wasn’t the case.  🙂

one stand we stopped by caught lisa’s eye as she turned the corner:  the allisons’ apiaries honey stand.  lisa admitted to us that she was on a big honey kick these days and just could not resist.  the gentleman who assisted us was quite welcoming and helpful and generous with samples.  we tasted wild flower honey, blackberry honey, honey whose names i cannot recall, and they were all so scrumptious.  lisa’s honey infatuation was so darling that phillip and i insisted we treat her to some as a thank-you for hosting us that weekend.  at first she couldn’t accept but then quickly warmed up to the idea and picked out a couple jars and even a beeswax gator candle.  i’d say they were worth every penny.

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orlando – day 1

last weekend phillip and i took a barely hour-long flight south to visit our friends kyle and lisa in orlando, fl.  they’ve been there for a couple of years now and our trip was long overdue, so with some handy delta skymiles and some pto, off we were!

friday started out with a bit of sleeping in, some bagels, large mugs of coffee, and a little catching up.  i’ve known kyle and lisa since our days at uga, and it’s always fun to reminisce on what was but even better to hear about adult life and what’s going on these days.  i personally think some of the best friendships are the ones where you can fall right back into conversation, no matter how much time has passed, and that is much of how our weekend went.

kyle (a middle school band teacher) had to work that day, so after lisa, phillip, and i freshened up, we made our way to the happiest place on earth and started out at magic kingdom.  neither phillip or i have been to disney world since we were kids, so it was as though we were seeing everything for the first time.  and, if i am being honest, i almost had more fun all weekend watching phillip because it was like he was a carefree kid again, and it made me smile from ear to ear.  🙂

we swiped our passes, took a few steps, and were in the middle of it all with everyone else right there on main street.  the bright blue skies and puffy white clouds made for quite an entrance, as did google photos for making a good picture even better.

we even were lucky enough to be greeted by an energetic, fabulous character parade!

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but you know what put it all over the top?  the fact that the whole park was decorated for the fall season.  i about died from a cuteness overload when i saw this autumn-themed mickey.

now, lisa had us all set with some fast passes at some quintessential attractions, and we started things off with the classic pirates of the caribbean ride.  with the hot florida sun beating down on us, it was a great idea to be inside the cool attraction, watching as jack sparrow snuck from one scene to the next.  and, because we’re all kids at heart, we got our yo-ho on as well.  aarh, matey!

next up was, yes, it’s a small world after all.  i’d imagine it’s law that you can’t go to magic kingdom without riding this ride, and i mean it when i say it was just as charming (and repetitive, lol) as i recall.

now, our next stop was the haunted mansion, and i myself have zero recollection of this ride at all.  phillip and lisa were a bit aghast, but i’m guessing that when we went as a family, mom and dad probably thought it would be too spooky for us kids, and i wouldn’t have a hard time believing it at all.  regardless, all that matters is that we rode it this time when we were there, and i actually thought it was quite wonderful!  i loved all the animations and special effects and was giggling beside lisa throughout the entire ride.  honestly, as we exited the mansion i couldn’t stop telling everyone how thoroughly i enjoyed it.  the day we have kids who are ready for the haunted mansion experience, you better believe i’ll be dragging them through myself!

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flower child – atlanta, ga

last weekend tori was in town for some baby andrich festivities, and if anyone knows our family, they love going out to their favorite atlanta restaurants when in town.  don’t get me wrong:  birmingham has a buzzing food scene that is making waves these days, but we all have those must-have or must-try spots when we go to a new city or visit a familiar one.

well, last sunday we decided to take her to flower child, a new restaurant around lenox.  i’d noticed it when we were eating at another restaurant near there last month, and after taking a look at the menu online, i knew it would be the perfect spot for a delicious lunch on a hot summer afternoon.

we arrived right at noon on a sunday, hoping to beat the out-pouring of church crowds.  however, it seems that everyone else in buckhead had the same idea.  our wait wasn’t too long, thank goodness, but the restaurant was already full of folks and looked like it had been busy since open.  flower child is a “fast-casual” restaurant, where you order at the register and they bring your food to you.  don’t worry, though, with a long line you’ll have plenty of time to decide on what to eat.  plus, they had infused water available to help keep you hydrated in that lovely august heat.

to no one’s surprise, we all had trouble deciding what to have, as nearly everything on the menu made our mouths water!  we eventually made our selections, paid, and found a table right next to their charming and colorful “choose happy” wall.  if that doesn’t make you smile, i don’t know what will!

already excited about this new restaurant experience, our minds were blown when the bowls and plates started to arrive.  i’m not going to go through each dish one-by-one (mainly because all you need to know is that everyone loved what they ordered), so what i will say is that everyone was in the clean plate club that afternoon.  i kid you not when i say not a single morsel remained!

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can you find me back at flower child again?  most certainly!  and most likely after a sweaty soulcycle class.  further, do i recommend you yourself try flower child?  absolutely!  i already mentioned it to my friend marty and insisted he invite us when he wants to go.  🙂  if you are looking for fresh, fun fare that gets you excited to put aside your typical greasy meal out, please do yourself a favor and try flower child.  and tell me when you go.  cause imma wanna be there.

rice flour and tapioca flour and xantham gum, oh my!

many of you know how much i love to bake, and some of you have even been lucky enough to enjoy some of my treats.  now, since i no longer have an office to go into, i had to figure out what to do with all my baked goods, because keeping a whole cake or tray of cookies in the condo with just phillip and me is out of the question.  we’d be too tempted to eat it all ourselves!  so, i started baking things phillip could take to his coworkers.  he’s relatively new at his job as well, and there’s almost no better way to make friends in a new place than coming in with something tasty to share with everyone.

the first recipe i sent to the office with him were those classic and delicious peanut butter, sugar-rolled cookies with a hershey’s kiss on top.  they are almost always a crowd-pleaser!  but when phillip returned at the end of the day with nearly half the cookies still in the tin, i was a wreck!  “phillip, what happened?  did people not like them?  we tried them last night and they were perfect!”  after taking a moment to catch my breath, phillip responded, “well, it turns out that a lot of people in the office are gluten-free and couldn’t eat them.  but those who did have one loved them!”  such a great cheerleader.  🙂

“well, i guess i need to find some gluten-free recipes, then!”  so, discouraged not and determined much, i was on the hunt, and since i know nothing about gluten-free baking, i took my search to social media and relied on my trusty facebook friends to lend a hand.  luckily, within what seemed like just minutes, several folks responded with suggestions – what great people!  after perusing the suggestions, we finally decided that this gluten-free chocolate chip recipe would be the way to go.  it is a classic and cookies are easy to share, so it seemed like it had potential to be a winner.

nothing about the recipe itself scared me away; however, i had to be sure we had the right gluten-free ingredients on hand, so off to whole foods i went!  i made a beeline to the baking aisle and was astounded at the variety and number of alternative baking ingredients out there.  who knew such a world existed!  after checking the shelves, checking my shopping list, and checking my shopping cart again, i was ready to go.

back at the condo with the necessary supplies flung around the kitchen, it was time to get to work.  step by step everything came together nicely, and phillip can confirm that the batter itself tasted as delicious as any one of your favorite gluten-full chocolate chip cookie recipe batters.  that’s got to be a good sign!

but, the real test would be when the cookies were baked, cooled, and ready to eat.  as stated in the recipe, i tried baking them for 14 minutes per sheet, rotating halfway through, but those batches were a little more golden than we prefer, likely due to our oven running a little hot.

so, we bumped it down to 12 minutes total and ended up with a pretty delicious result.  i mean, we just had to taste test a couple of cookies each, washing them down with an ice-cold glass of milk.

with new-found gluten-free confidence, we packaged the cookies up, wrote up a little note and ingredient list, and phillip took them to the office the next day.  i almost couldn’t concentrate on my own work, i was so eager to hear if they were liked!  i got a text from phillip in the afternoon that people were loving the cookies and were appreciative that we took the time and money to go out of our way and make a gluten-free recipe.  ah!  success is ours!

now, we could have stopped there, content with the joy our cookies brought phillip’s co-workers.  however, the baker in me was too intrigued and had to keep going.  one of my own colleagues recommended to me a book called alternative baker, and i have been conquering it like there is no tomorrow!  from the corn meal blueberry muffins to the no-bake oat bars, everything we have made so far has been a hit and there is only more to explore and create.  what more could a baker ask for, right?  right!  if you’re someone out there who has a sweet tooth like us but has some dietary restrictions, i highly recommend giving this particular recipe and this book a try.  the baking world is full of so many creative options, and who knows, maybe you’ll surprise yourself with a new favorite.  🙂  enjoy!

nrw – the imperial

earlier this month we finally got around to resurrecting nrw after a brief hiatus and kicked things back off at the imperial in decatur.  eric, claire, kari, phillip, and i met up at this local spot after being inspired by good day atlanta’s coverage of the restaurant during atlanta burger week.  buck langford was lucky enough to get to meet with owner aj and try the winning mac attack burger live on camera, and it was then i knew we just had to be there.

the imperial is located in what appears to be a somewhat tucked away and quiet part of town, but when we actually got to the restaurant, it was quite alive with customers of all kinds, from families with kiddos and dogs to singles enjoying half-priced bottles of wine to friends just catching up over good food.  it really feels like a “come as you are” place.

our group was seated just inside the main entrance, which gave us a great view of each other and our surroundings.  the imperial is nice and open both inside and out on its patio.  the bar is well-stocked and would be a perfect place to belly-up for a beer, some eats, and tv watching.

after being served a few pints of local drafts, the poutine eric and claire ordered for the table arrived.  now, i don’t know about you, but i’ve never in my life heard of poutine, and to the ears it first sounds like maybe a fancy french dish, right?  wrong, lol!  no joke, i looked up what poutine is and the definition i found was “a dish of french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy.”  not so fancy after all!  😀  however, a dish doesn’t have to be fancy to be delicious, and that could not have been more true of the imperial’s take on this dish.  their poutine actually has pimento cheese in place of cheese curds because, you know, in the south pimento cheese is quite the staple.  and our order of poutine was even more delectable because we opted to add the diced up bacon because if you’re going to be bad, why not go all the way?

POUTINE.

in fact, eric and claire were so happy with the poutine that they ranked it first out of everything they ate that night!  in their words it was simply “AMAZING.”

claire & eric.

we hungry kids scarfed up that poutine in no time, leaving some room for our actual dinners.  making the rounds, we’ll start with kari who ordered the plain burger and topped it with cheddar cheese and bacon.  as far as a basic burger goes, she said it was very good and a “SOLID” choice for those of you who prefer to build your own burger.  all in all, she enjoyed a great meal that night.

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the wedding chronicles | decisions #25 – #32

for those of you who over the past year have been keeping up with the wedding chronicles, you might have wondered where i went for the past couple of months.  well, i went right into the busiest part of wedding planning, that’s where i was!  as such i neglected my posts but am choosing to catch up now.  and even though we are now happily married (for two whole weeks in fact – wooh!), better late than never.  🙂  thank you for joining us on this journey!

decision #25 – the engagement session

after we decided on our photographers for the wedding, the next step with them was to schedule our engagement session.  now, i originally had no desire whatsoever to do an engagement photo shoot, and many of you probably are asking “why?”  well, i personally have never loved getting my photo taken, and the thought of being dragged around for hours and being placed and posed for lovey-dovey photos by someone we don’t know sounded quite undesirable in all honesty.  however, many former brides in my life told me that my reasons for not wanting an engagement session are the reasons exactly why we should have an engagement session.  come again?

see, everyone’s logic (that i ended up accepting as truth after going through it all myself) was that the engagement session is an opportunity to get comfortable with your photographers and start getting to know them.  after all, they do follow you around your entire wedding day, so developing a relationship with them isn’t a bad idea.  another reason an engagement session is worth the while is because it provides a chance for you and your significant other to get used to being all “lovey-dovey” in front of a camera and having someone there to capture that moment.  okay, i guess i can get on board with that reason as well.  and the final reason?  well, for us it was included in the cost, so why the heck not.

so back in november one early saturday morning we met up with our main photographer lisa at ponce city market.  pcm wasn’t too crowded just yet, so lisa worked with us quickly to take advantage of the typically busy and bustling scenery.  the first several photos on the staircase, as it would turn out, were a bit awkward.  i more so than phillip really didn’t understand how to pose and be cuddly with someone else there, and i wasn’t crazy about the first probably 20 photos in the portfolio, which is exactly what worried me in the first place.

thankfully, though, i’d say we hit a better spot as we walked along the beltline and acted more naturally towards each other.  those photos i could look at all day.

and then we had some more close-up, intimate shots now that we were in a bit of a groove.  i think phillip favored these more than me, but i’ll admit there are several i do like.

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my absolute favorites are from when after we had an outfit change and were now really enjoying ourselves.  mm, what a good looking pair!

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all in all, i’d say that even though i was first very skeptical about the engagement session, phillip and our photographer helped me see the value and fun in it.  and even though i wasn’t too sure about the results at first, i have come to love these high quality results and the sweet moments they captured.

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the wedding chronicles | decisions #23 and #24

THE REGISTRY & THE WEBSITE

as you may already know, phillip and i have big plans for our honeymoon in punta cana, and considering we are in major crunch mode (only twelve days to go!), the thought of being on a beach with a margarita and guacamole within reach is sounding utterly divine.  now, although all our family and friends won’t necessarily be joining us on the honeymoon, many of you are still a part of it because of your generous contributions to our honeyfund, and we cannot thank you enough!

now, there may be some folks out there who are unfamiliar with exactly what a honeyfund is.  well, a honeyfund is a great traditional registry alternative for those couples who either already have everything they need or simply want to be a bit unique.  i first heard about a honeyfund when my cousin kate married kenny last year, and what you can do is donate funds to their dream honeymoon.  kenny and kate are currently on a northwestern roadtrip of california, oregon, and washington and, as i understand, are having a fabulous time.  so, instead of needing new pots or pans or plates, for example, guests could donate money to, say, their gas fund for the trip or maybe a night in a nice hotel.  kinda make sense?

well, if any of you know phillip and me, you know that our condo is pretty much filled to the brim with everything we need.  as a couple in their late 20s and having lived together for over two years, we’ve acquired many of the home goods that are necessary in our lives.  as such, i was quite hesitant to get the price gun out and start shooting up all sorts of random knick knacks and kitchen tools at the local department store.  now, the wedding, the registry, and certainly the marriage are not only all about me, so phillip and i had several discussions and eventually were able to compromise in this regard.

first, he was fond of the idea of still registering for some actual gifts.  so, we took two sundays to visit the local bed bath & beyond store and build a registry that i think and hope is not too demanding or over-the-top.  we tried very hard to be practical but also kept in mind that certain items could be added to the list since we hope to be a growing family sometime in the future.  and even though it isn’t easy for me to ask people for gifts, eventually i was able to agree that a registry is a convenient opportunity to upgrade some older items.

after completing our traditional registry, phillip also spun up our honeyfund site where our guests, if they feel so inclined, can contribute any amount to our honeymoon in the dominican republic.  although “writing a check” may not feel as personal to our guests, believe me when i say phillip and i are just as appreciative of this kind of gift.  we will certainly be in desperate need of fun and relaxation after all the planning and preparation, and we couldn’t do it without you all.

after phillip created the site with the basic information, he asked if i’d like to update it with all sorts of fun and interesting facts, like where phillip and i met, how he proposed, how i said “yes,” who our bridesmaids are, who our groomsmen are, so on and so forth.  i paused in contemplation and then as politely as i could i replied, “you know, we’ve got so much else to do for the wedding.  can we put that on the ‘b’ list of to-do items?”  i think phillip could hear what i wasn’t explicitly stating (which was that embellishing our honeyfund site was very low on my priority list), and so he thankfully took it upon himself to add a few details about the wedding, update the template to something tropical, and call it a day.  in my opinion, sometimes less is more and i am grateful i have a partner who can help me focus on the things that are most important.  🙂

the wedding chronicles | decision #22

THE TABLE & SEAT ASSIGNMENTS

now that most everyone has mailed back their rsvp cards, it’s time to get crackin’ on those table and seat assignments!  i’ve been to receptions where there have been assigned seats, assigned tables, or no assignments at all, which i think covers the entire gamut of what is available.  i personally prefer at least assigned tables, because the last thing i would want for our guests is them scrambling to save a seat or fighting to add another chair to an already full table.  no one wants that kind of animalistic discord at their reception, right?  right!  especially when it is avoidable with a few simple seating charts.

it actually is working out in our favor for the reception because the venue requires that each guest have at least a table assignment and, if we so choose, a seat assignment.  how nice when things fall into place like that!  there are a few tables that will intentionally have assigned seats, but all other guests will simply be assigned to a particular table and then can choose their seat from there.  part of the reasoning behind the assigned tables is simply to keep organized.  the other part, which i like most, is that if someone doesn’t have a table assignment card and isn’t on our guest list (aka they didn’t rsvp at all or rsvp’ed “no” and then decided to make a guest appearance), then they so nicely get to stand aside and cannot enter the reception until the “authorities” get permission to let them into the ballroom.  this is why sending your rsvp in a timely manner is important, people!  we brides and grooms have a lot on our plates in these last few weeks before the big day, and the more we can do ahead of the time, the saner we will be.  so, if you’d like a spot at the dinner table, you better let us know!

anyway, now that i’m off that soapbox, the next thing to do is figure out who is going to sit where.  our guest list naturally has certain categories like immediate family, extended family, childhood friends, college friends, work friends, family friends, so on and so forth.  for many of those groups, it makes sense to potentially sit people with people they already know.  that would be easy, right?  but don’t you think that, for example, your work people see each other all the time and might like to get to know other guests at your big day?  i think so!  i certainly think the table assignments are a great opportunity to mix things up, so don’t be surprised if we seat you with someone you might not know.  now, if this doesn’t really sound like it is up your alley, please keep two things in mind.  first, it’s our wedding and we’ll seat people wherever we like.  🙂  second, you won’t be at your table all night.  dinner is only part of the party we have planned for you, so you’ll most certainly have the opportunity to visit your friends at the bar, on the dance floor, etc…at the end of it all, what we want more than anything is for our guests to have a unique, fun experience on our wedding day, and we look forward to bringing all of that to you in just 25 days.  can’t wait to see you there!

the wedding chronicles | decision #21

THE FOOD

Hello, all!  It’s Kelsey’s dad again, back to share with you thoughts of the recent menu tasting for Kelsey and Phillip’s upcoming wedding.

First of all let me start with this:  I was honored and flattered to be invited to this event.  Since Kelsey is my only daughter I have never been to a wedding  menu tasting before.  As such I had no idea what to expect.  From my position, though, everything turned out terrifically!

Setting the Stage

As you might know, the wedding is going to be in Peachtree City, GA.  There were three of us at the tasting, Kelsey, Phillip, and me.  Prior to the actual tasting I suggested that the two of them “narrow the field” of what we would be trying, and for the sake of this post I am going to focus on the entree options.  At the beginning I believe there were approximately 20 entree options.  This is way too many options for me!  Kelsey and Phillip narrowed the entree options down to six.  Thank you, both!  Phillip designed, printed, and brought “score sheets” for us to rank the entree options.  Thank you, Phillip.  This helped me greatly to focus and stay on course.  Jena at the Manor, for lack of a better description, runs the Manor.  Jena’s dad owns the Manor.  She was at the tasting and provided descriptions of each dish, sharing various dining etiquette protocol, for example, for each sample.  Thank you, Jena.  However, I have been sworn to secrecy and will not share any specific details for any menu items you will enjoy at the reception.

Entree Tasting

Jena brought out and shared ingredient information about each entree option.  She also shared the preparation details for each.  This was very, very helpful.

My Role

I saw my role as a sort of “tie-breaker.”  If Kelsey and Phillip were tied on an entree, then and only then would I share my vote, comments, etc…In my opinion, the menu selections were ultimately Kelsey and Phillip’s decisions.  The only point that I would have stepped forward on was the type of entree selection.  I thought options would be a good idea.  I would have said “no” to two chicken entrees.  I would have said “no” to two meat entrees, etc…As it finished, Kelsey and Phillip decided on two different types of entrees, and you will love them both!

Suggestions

I have never been part of a wedding menu tasting, so I learned a lot.  Jena had a great sense of humor that really, really helped.  If you are planning or have scheduled a wedding menu tasting I would STRONGLY suggest the following, which Kelsey and I have talked about on many occasions:  INVITE/TAKE THE FEWEST NUMBER OF PEOPLE POSSIBLE.  You don’t want an entire posse with you for the menu tasting.  The bride and groom are under enough pressure already and do not need 10 different tasting opinions to muddy the decision-making process.  The fewer people the better.  My suggestion would be the bride, groom, and father of the bride.  🙂

Speaking of father of the bride…Jena, bless her heart, during the tasting mentioned that on the wedding day the father of the bride (that would be me) “is a celebrity at the event.”  Guilty as charged, this is the last thing I needed to hear!  Kelsey has already given me very strict instructions as to what to say, what not to say, etc…And even though I will have a microphone at the wedding, I promised Kelsey that I would not do anything to offend or embarrass her.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the menu tasting and hope that this blog helps you if you are invited to a wedding menu tasting.

the wedding chronicles | decision #20

THE DRINKS

a lot of folks say there are three key things that make a great wedding:  the music, the food, and the drinks.  with the music already covered and the food chosen as well (more on that later), the beverage situation also had to be discussed with the reception venue.  now, i’m not saying that in order to have a great reception that alcoholic beverages are a must, but the general culture of our family and friends is that we like our drinks and we like to keep ’em comin’!  so the question on this one wasn’t “are we going to have drinks?” – it really was “what kind of drinks and how many shall we have?”

after deciding adult beverages were a must-have for the reception, for us it really came down to what we could afford.  now, i think we’re luckier than most in that we are getting exactly what we want as far as the drink menu goes, and the reason i say that is because alcohol can get expensive, and very quickly!  what you will find out if you haven’t already is that many venues have a drink (and also food) minimum, and that number is often higher than you’d expect.  some venues might have a reasonable beer and wine menu (which i think these days is more than enough for your guests), but the second you throw in hard liquor that cost can jump up, which is understandable if you think about it.  if your venue doesn’t offer beverage services, another option you might encounter that i think is intimidating at first but actually pretty cool is the venue that is byob.  the reason i say intimidating at first is because it might be hard to fathom how you will figure out how much booze to buy for your guests.  it’s never happened to me, but i imagine the bar running out of booze could be a quick buzzkill for any reception.  however, do not worry because there are several ways you can “calculate” how much each guest will likely drink and from there determine how much to buy in total.  i’ve even heard that if you buy, say, a case of beer from costco but don’t open it that you can return it.  well, that’s pretty awesome!

my overall suggestion in this regard to any couples planning their wedding would be to only do as much as you want and as much as is comfortable in your budget.  sure, what guest wouldn’t want top shelf this and barrel-aged that?  but if the feel of your reception is something more casual (think a backyard bbq with coolers of local brews) or unique (i’m still hoping i’ll get to go to a brunch reception with bottomless mimosas and bloody marys), then do you!  remember, your wedding day is a reflection of you and the things that make you happy, which might not necessarily jive with all your guests.  but at the end of the day, it’s not really about the drinks anyway, right?  😉