This is a story about an anniversary party, one that celebrated 50 years of love and marriage, health and happiness, children and grandchildren, and a whole community of friends. It's also a story of how one party turned into three.
When our long-time friends Geoff and Norma wanted to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary they knew they wanted to do it in their home, as they are old hands at hosting parties both large and small. But first some background: a few weeks earlier we were all having dinner with our mutual friend Karen and discovered that Geoff and Norma's New Zealand wedding festivities had not included a rehearsal dinner. Karen immediately said, "No rehearsal dinner?! I'm giving you one."
Like a true American rehearsal dinner, this five-decades-delayed one would include a few close friends, along with family -- except now the family was comprised of their four grown children and one of their daughters-in-law who would come from San Diego, Oregon, Florida and Sydney, Augstralia.
To showcase the beauty of her old California ranch home with its beamed ceiling, wood-burning fireplace and wall of windows overlooking the garden, Karen hired help to clear the furniture from her living room and replace it with long tables and seating for 20. She decorated the house with autumn leaves and flowers and a cascade of candles on tables and mantle. Sweet burlap pouches (handmade by Karen for her daughter's recent wedding) to hold the silverware and gilded mini-pumpkins were further interesting accents to the table setting. She kept the food simple and familiar, making the Octoberfest food she does so well. Good food; good conversations; sentimental toasts and a rousing version of "Get me to the church on time", sung by our friend Margit--who changed the lyrics to "Get them to the church on time."
The next day was the anniversary party--one that Geoff and Norma had decided to make a big, colorful, catered affair. This posed no problem, as three of their four children had been married at home. To accommodate so many people they had tented a portion of their garden to serve as the dining area and emptied the family room to create a dance area presided over by a DJ. We ate, drank and danced the night away and by evening's end my husband was reluctant to leave. It's not unusual for us to be the last man standing, but he was particularly sad to say goodby to some dear friends who'd moved away years ago but had come back for the party, so he decided to keep the fun going by inviting everyone still there to brunch at our house at 10:00 the next morning. REALLY, honey?
I'm usually game for last-minute entertaining but I am a tad more practical and knew that putting on brunch for 20 in less than 12 hours when some of those hours would require sleeping would not be the easiest thing imaginable. But we flew downtown and hit the grocery store doors at 11:55--five minutes before the midnight closing. "Let's separate! You go that way and get the eggs, cheese and milk. I'll go this way and get the orange juice, sausage and bell pepper!" I took off my heels and ran through the store, a bit tipsy I have to admit. There were a few other shoppers and the checker, I'm certain they thought we were crackpots. At home, we shoved everything in the refrigerator and went to bed. The alarm went off at 7 and I turned to my husband and sweetly said, "You are my slave for the next 3 hours. No ifs, ands, or buts, period. And definitely no back talk!" My husband ran to set the bar and wipe off the outdoor furniture and reported back after each task to see if there was something else he could do; my guy came though. I made two egg casseroles and fluffed up the house with flowers and shoved all the knitting debris away, there's always masses of that lying around. The brunch was complete when one friend offered to bring fruit and another offered bagels and cream cheese. I rarely refuse offered help! We set out coffee, orange juice, tomato juice, plus vodka and champagne if anyone felt like a bit of the hair of the dog. And yes, we all felt like we could use it.
|Fifty years ago, just two people start a family. Over the years, these two people turn into a large group of loving family and friends. What a thing to cherish and celebrate!|
|Karen gilds and decorates dozens of mini pumpkins to decorate the tables, then to hand out as party favors at the end of the night. I am aware of this tradition and scout the tables early on and have my pumpkin chosen before every one else!|
|Karen's inviting family room.|
|After the salad course that was waiting at the table we were invited to the buffet table for the entree.|
The color combination of persimmon, lime green with bright white hydrangeas was stunning.
|Next morning, bright and early back at our house, we set out everyday glasses for the last minute brunch. I served the food buffet style in the kitchen. On this early November morning in California, we were able to eat outside on the patio. So nice.|