We’ve had a total girl crush on Jen Huang since the day she first submitted a wedding to SMP. It’s always a treat to feature her beautiful photography, so you can only imagine how insanely excited we were to get our hands on her own welcome dinner and wedding day. She pulled in a few talented industry friends like Jose Villa, Poppies And Posies plus Borrowed Blu to be a part of the welcome celebration, but this is only the beginning. We’re got the entire wedding up NEXT.
From Jen & Elihu…We hosted our welcome dinner at our home in the Lower Riviera of Santa Barbara. We wanted to have our events at private homes because being surrounded by family and friends around us during our wedding week was a big priority and having our event at home gave us the freedom to create our own schedules and host our guests.
In many ways, the welcome dinner was about family – the celebration of the love we have for our family, along with the start of a new family – my and my husbands! We had just purchased our home that year and couldn’t think of a better way to “warm” it than to have all of our family eating a delicious meal together in our back garden. We also had our Chinese tea ceremony in our living room before the dinner. These places are now sacred to us and are filled with the most wonderful memories.
During our welcome dinner, we wanted our details to feel like they came from our home. The bench was an antique we found in Santa Barbara – it was broken but my husband fixed it, and it now resides in our foyer. It was the perfect seat for two, and since it wasn’t a rental, we can sit on it together whenever we want. The antique barware was also collected throughout our trips antiquing across the country and sits on our bar. Our house guests can still use the same bar ware that we had at our welcome dinner – I feel like our details tie our present day to the past and remains meaningful beyond that one time use!
We had a very “western” and “traditional” wedding so I incorporated a little more Chinese culture into our welcome dinner. We also had a selection of Irish whiskeys to bring in Elihu’s background. The lanterns are from China – and a symbol of celebration. We hung these in our living room where we had our tea ceremony. In China, the color of weddings and happiness is red, so we selected reds, pinks and brighter shades to convey that sense of joy.
The dress I wore was a traditional Qi Pao made of silk and custom ordered in China. My mother measured me in the U.S. and sent the measurements to my aunt in China who then had it commissioned. There are lots of different Qi Pao designs now, and many brides who wear a design in white, but I wanted mine to be as traditional as possible – bright red with hand embroidered flowers.
For the food, we love tapas and family style dinners so we went in that direction – charcuterie, bacon wrapped chorizo, jicama chicken etc. Guests were also welcomed with Sangria when they entered. We wanted everyone to feel full so we had Duo create a huge tasting menu in a family style.
I had wanted to hand write all of our invitations and paper goods because I felt even if it wasn’t the most professional calligraphy, it was still heartfelt and special. I think hand written notes are so important (and so rare now-a-days) but they serve such a wonderful purpose – letting your recipient know they are loved and that you spent time on your words. For our menus, I knew that we would need boards for our charcuterie so I wanted to utilize the board as a way to introduce the menu as well. I wrote the menu myself and had it laser engraved into the sides of raw wooden boards. Then, during one of my foraging trips with my husband, when we were looking for old windows for our house renovations, I found knife and fork drawer pulls which we then attached to the boards so that they could have handles.
I also hand wrote the little envelopes which doubled as place cards, I watercolored fruits on them, to match the fruits scattered around our tables, and inside were cards with little fun and funny facts about myself and Elihu. That way, our respective families could open their envelopes, learn a little bit about us and share their cards around the table.
We had a tea ceremony prior to the welcome dinner with just our immediate family. Traditionally at a tea ceremony, you kneel and present your elders with tea and they will give you gifts for your wedding. We knelt in front our parents, served them tea and also thanked them for their sacrifices throughout the years – as you can imagine, it was a very tearful, but happy occasion.