Now that we’ve gotten to drool over their engagement session, we’re stepping into Katie and Ryan’s clambake dinner that welcomed guests to Charlottesville for an unforgettable weekend. Held the night before their big day, Katie and Ryan took the opportunity to mingle with their loved ones who traveled from the East and West coasts, and paid homage to their both their home states with playful design choices by Jacin Fitzgerald throughout. Take a stroll through the gallery by Ryan Ray and stayed tuned for their big wedding day reveal!
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From the bride… Ryan is from California and I’m from Massachusetts, but it was important to us to get married someplace that held special meaning to both of us. Charlottesville was an easy choice for us to make. We fell in love with the town during our three years of law school there and knew our families and friends would also adore its incredible small town charm. We wanted to find a way to show our appreciation for everyone traveling such great distances to celebrate with us on our special day, so we decided to invite everyone to a Welcome Dinner the night before our wedding. We were so fortunate that so many of our family and friends decided to make long weekends out of our wedding, so much so that almost every single guest decided to come to our Welcome Dinner!
Ryan and I traveled throughout the French countryside in a special trip we took after taking the bar exam, and we absolutely fell (even more) in love with the country. We worked with Jacin to bring the same feelings and imagery from the French countryside into the décor at our wedding, and she absolutely hit the ball out of the park. For our Welcome Dinner, we wanted a much more relaxed atmosphere that felt more like “home” to us. Both being from the coasts, “home” for us involves amazing seafood, being with family and friends, and a beachy relaxed atmosphere. Those are always our favorite nights. We decided, therefore, to do our take on an East coast meets West coast clam bake for our Welcome Dinner. We wanted it to be a fun, relaxed time, just like clam bakes on the beach are. We asked everyone to dress “Nantucket casual”—and our guests really took this theme to heart, coming out in droves in Vineyard Vines and Lilly Pulitzer. Ryan and I also built and painted our own cornhole set to be used at our Welcome Dinner, which had a California side and a Massachusetts side, as an ode to our roots.
Ryan and I really wanted to make sure we had a chance to truly thank everyone for coming so far to celebrate with us, so we decided to write out individualized letters on custom vintage postcards to every guest, which were placed on each guest’s place setting. We worked with Chelsea Petaja to choose eight different vintage Cape Cod and San Francisco postcard images, which she then turned into custom postcards for us. We spent weeks writing out letters to each guest, and everyone seemed to really love them, which truly warmed our hearts. We knew we were going to have lush, overflowing flowers at our wedding, so we wanted the tablescapes at the Welcome Dinner to have a very different feel. Our escort cards were scallop shells that Chelsea wrote everyone’s name and table number on—we still have ours today! Jacin used beach grass, fishing nets, lanterns, driftwood, and classic red and white seersucker napkins on each table, truly making the table feel coastal. Every seat also had corn holders and mini Tabasco sauce bottles. String lights and lanterns lined the pathway down from the cocktail hour area to the tent for dinner, and a guitarist played during dinner, really setting the tone for our fun evening. We were absolutely blown away by all of the décor. Jacin truly did transform our venue into a beachy atmosphere!
Our signature jalapeno margarita cocktail was a huge hit, and it was amazing seeing everyone drink our favorite beers from each coast in our koozies. Our East coast station included clam chowder, mini lobster rolls, and corn on the cob. Our West coast station included different types of tacos (including fish) and classic San Francisco garlic fries. And of course, we had oysters and a raw bar, fitting in both coasts.
Our Welcome Dinner was such a blast! It was really special for us to be able to chat with all of our guests that evening, and then be able to truly enjoy dancing at our wedding without worrying about having missed anyone. We asked some of our best friends from different time periods in our lives to give little speeches (or roasts), which ended up being extremely special to us, and the whole night was an amazing way to kick off the fun weekend and welcome our guests to Charlottesville. It made everyone excited for the wedding, and was a night I will never forget.
Photography: Ryan Ray Photography | Event Planning + Design: Jacin Fitzgerald Events | Floral Design: Jacin Fitzgerald Events | Lighting: The AV Company | Venue: Keswick Hall | Music: Peter Richardson | Napkins + Koozies: Southern Fried Paper | Paper Goods Design + Production: Oh My Deer Handmades | Rentals: Festive Fare Event Rentals | Shuttle Bus: Ambassador Limo | Specialty Linens: BBJ La Tavola