Our Happily Ever After Party (2021): Swansons Said I Do, 1 Year Later
For a short moment last year, we had once thought, “How unlucky are we to have planned a wedding during the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic,” but that moment quickly passed when we realized, “How BLESSED are we to get the opportunity to celebrate TWICE.”
Like many other 2020 brides and grooms, we had to navigate unknown territory when attempting to gather loved ones safely last year. Health regulations and guidelines felt like they were changing by the hour, so it was a constant battle determining what the best decision was, based on whatever the current information was at the time.
In all honesty, the experience was extremely stressful but absolutely worth it. In hindsight, we were so very lucky to be able to celebrate twice. The first celebration was on the day of our actual wedding ceremony on top of Crystal Mountain with 35 members of our nearest and dearest, followed by a very intimate reception at our godparents’ backyard. What was originally a 100+ guest list, turned 35, but with a plan to hold a second reception in 2021.
And that second celebration arrived on Friday, August 13, 2021. Yes, on Friday the 13th (lol), we celebrated with 100+ of our loved ones, one year later, at our Happily Ever After Party.
Why Did We Choose to Have a Happily Ever After Party?
Although we had a perfect, intimate reception with the 35 guests we were allowed to include, we wanted to create an opportunity to not only celebrate with the 65+ others on our original guest list, but we also wanted to celebrate our 1-year wedding anniversary by seeing all of our loved ones after moving to the east coast for almost a year as well.
We went with the phrase, "Happily Ever After Party" because I’m a sucker for a good play on words. We weren’t quite celebrating our wedding anymore, since it was a year later and we had zero plans on reenacting another wedding ceremony. Calling it a wedding reception just felt a little off to us too, so we went with a “Party” to celebrate our “Happily Ever After” as husband and wife.
Another small reason as to why we wanted to host a Happily Ever After Party was because although our big wedding celebration was postponed last year, we were still absolutely showered with support and gifts even when guests could no longer attend. We wanted to take an evening to thank each and every guest personally, and to show our appreciation by gifting them an evening of joy through dinner, drinks, smiles, and dancing!
Planning + Preparations
Although planning for essentially two weddings would initially appear to be stressful, we were lucky enough to rebook most of our vendors from the first celebration. Plus, all of the decorations were pretty much reused for the second time around (with a few add-ons of course!). Once we decided on the venue and menu, we were pretty much hanging out until invitations needed to be sent!
While we would’ve adored a wedding reception at Crystal Mountain Resort (the same venue as our wedding ceremony), we were already struggling with fitting 100+ guests in their indoor venue, while having a decent-sized dance floor, and while providing social distancing as appropriate. So when we decided on a round 2 celebration, we happily chose Farm 12 Restaurant as our venue. Its flexibility with both indoor and outdoor options; its capacity of over 300+ guests; its convenient location to the majority of our local guests (it’s our hometown!); and its restaurant being a sentimental gathering place for Lucas and I personally...? It was an easy choice.
Nestled in downtown Puyallup, Washington, its string-lit outdoor patio is known by locals as a yummy gathering place for weekend brunch or dinner. When we first saw its epic indoor venue space adjacent to the restaurant, complete with rustic chandelier lights, a grand staircase, and large garage doors that can open to provide an indoor/outdoor feel, we were already sold. Additionally, the delicious selection for in-house catering was icing on the cake!
Ordering additional decorations and ensuring that they arrived in-time, counting RSVPs, and taking extra care that my wedding dress could still fit a year later (thankfully it did! ;) lol), seemed to be the only small stressors from planning our Happily Ever After Party… at least, at first. That was until we saw the weather forecast for that day predicting an unusual 100-degree Fahrenheit heat wave, but we’ll talk more about that later ;)
Decorations + Set Up
My immediate family members and wedding party kindly agreed to arrive to Farm 12 early, in order to assist in helping us set up the event space. For this time around, I chose to not hire a wedding coordinator/planner, so I am entirely grateful for everyone’s support in getting everything prepared for our evening celebration.
We spent the morning productively distributing the boxes of decorations all around the indoor venue into the early afternoon. At some point, someone was setting up the gifts/guestbook table, while another was doing a sound check for the video projector. Others were setting up the photobooth backdrop (we hired Snapbar for the actual photobooth), while others were decorating each of the tables with photos, sanitizer giveaways, tealight votives, and programs. We were buzzing around the venue space with time actually on our side. Our only obstacle was the heat. ;)
Weather predictions warned that it would be 100+ degrees Fahrenheit on August 13, 2021, and those predictions ended up being pretty accurate. By the morning, it was already well into the 80s, and although the venue tried its best to keep the space cool, the indoor/outdoor venue was pretty toasty due to the lack of air conditioning. Luckily the Farm 12 team brought in two huge fans that definitely helped during the hotter parts of the day.
Once the venue was all set and ready for the party, we all made our way upstairs to enjoy brunch made for us by Farm 12. I chose the Smoked Turkey Sandwich with a Lychee Mimosa (both are familiar favorites!), and Lucas went for the ¾ lb Ribeye Steak! I was really grateful for a moment to sit down and eat before starting to get ready for the evening.
Getting Ready + Details
At the Farm 12 Event Hall, there are two rooms located upstairs that can be used as “getting ready” rooms: one for the fellas, and one for the ladies. Given that there was only myself, my three bridesmaids, and my mom, we all had plenty of space to get ready before our photographers arrived. Identical to last year, my best friend, Chelsey, blessed my hair with her amazing talent, and also did some magic for my makeup as well!
Our lovely photographers, Shelby and Whitney with Something Minted Photography, arrived early to get started on capturing the details. Some of our details were repetitive from last year’s celebration, but others were newly showcased. While our wedding rings were the same, and I did use my Louis Vuitton Attrape-Reves perfume last year as well, my new rose gold butterfly necklace, gifted to me by Lucas as a surprise, made its debut that day.
Our florist, Alanna with Verde & Co. Seattle, also impressed us once again with her beautiful floral arrangements for not only just our bouquets and boutonnieres, but also for the entire venue space. Other than colors and general flower preferences, she was given no further direction from me, as I trusted her vision to create something beautiful. And WOW - did she exceed expectations immensely. The table centerpieces, our head table arrangements, the bouquets, the boutonnieres, and even our wedding cake were all beautifully decorated by Alanna and her team. We are so extremely blessed for the opportunity to work with her twice!
Capturing More Memories
Lucas and I wanted to recreate a “First Look” moment over in Farm 12’s beautiful greenhouse behind the Event Hall. Sure, Lucas had already seen me in my dress last year, but it was all in good fun! We even threw up a “Round 2!” in the photos which gave us both a good laugh!
Afterwards, we took some quick photos with our wedding party. One of Lucas’ groomsmen, Elliott, recently moved to Texas so he was unable to attend the celebration, so for the photos, my brother, Joe, stepped in to smile with us in front of the camera! Next up were photos with immediate family. I loved having these photos from last year’s celebration, having even more photos is never a bad thing in my opinion!
Our 2020 Wedding Video
Once all of the photos were taken, Lucas and I (along with our wedding party) hid upstairs as guests started to trickle into the venue space. We took this time to rehydrate and freshen up in the air conditioning.
Capturing our wedding day via photos and videos was a high priority for us last year. Not only are we firm believers in, “you only regret the photos you don’t take,” but we also wanted our memories captured so we can cherish them for the rest of our lives. The pandemic only emphasized this priority even further when we realized that video footage and photos would be the only way to share our wedding day with the rest of our guest list.
With that in mind, we decided to hold on re-sharing our wedding day video on social media until August 13, 2021, when we could showcase it during our Happily Ever After Party. Right before our wedding party was announced to walk down the grand staircase down to the venue, we appointed my dad to play our Wedding Video on the projector for our guests to watch.
Luckily our view from the upstairs landing allowed us to watch the video without our guests seeing us. It was so special to experience our wedding day with all of our loved ones... just in a different and creative way. We were told later that there wasn’t a dry eye in sight, and I adored the photo taken of my dad smiling up at the projector as the video was playing!
If you’d like to watch our Wedding Day on 8.8.2020, click here!
After the video played, our DJ/MC announced our wedding party to dance down the stairs to “Marry You” by Bruno Mars. For us, I chose the song, “Marry Me” by Jason Derulo as we walked down the stairs. Right as the song began to play, the MC asked our guests to stand and welcome us, and I underestimated the amount of emotion that I would feel while walking down those stairs. Seeing all of our loved ones smiling up at us, cheering and clapping for us as we walked down the stairs, was a moment I’ll replay over and over in my head forever.
After a tough year of planning a 2020 wedding, and another busy year of planning a 2021 celebration from across the country, here we were with all of our loved ones, who were all ready to support and love on us just as hard as they always have. My eyes were filled with tears, and all I could do was grip Lucas’ arm in an attempt to hold it all together as we descended down the steps to celebrate with everyone below.
Special is an understatement for that moment. And we are so very blessed.
Dinner Selection + Drinks
On the menu that evening was what Farm 12 called, “The Grand Floral Buffet.” This buffet included Cedar Salmon (apple cider butter sauce) and Oven Roasted Garlic Chicken (thyme chicken jus). To supplement the main entrees, it also included Watercress Salad (pink grapefruit, radish, marinated fennel, roasted shallot, and honey vinaigrette), Warm Rolls with Butter, Steamed Clams (white wine and leek ragu), Au Gratin Potatoes, and Seasonal Vegetables.
In addition to dinner, we also had a fun selection of drinks at the bar! We hosted an open bar for beer and wine, and we’re really proud of our guests for making the most of the experience! ;)
Games + Dancing the Night Away
The rest of the evening was a happy blur of laughs, smiles, and legendary dance moves. Our DJ (DJ Rocryte) proved to us that he was worth every single penny. From the MC services he provided with his partner, to the perfect music that he played throughout the entire evening, we couldn’t be happier with his service!
After dinner, our MC led us to the toasts. My brother, Joe, and his girlfriend, Stacy, kicked off the toasts with a speech filled with jokes and laughs. Followed by my Matron of Honor, Chelsey, and Lucas’ Best Man, Ray, who shared some tear-filled memories. We all raised a glass to a night of celebration and the night continued on.
Next, we played the “Shoe Game.” If you’re not familiar with this wedding game, it’s when the bride and groom each hold one of their own shoes, and one shoe of their partner’s. The MC read off a series of quotes like, “I’m the cook in the relationship” or “I said ‘I love you’ first”, and the crowd has to yell out and guess who said which quote. The bride and groom then have to lift up the right shoe to indicate who really said it. It makes it even more fun when they don’t always agree! ;) It was hilarious hearing the crowd’s guesses! For “I said ‘I love you’ first,” the crowd definitely all thought it was me - but learned soon after that it was actually Lucas. And it was even funnier when the crowd all violently yelled “Lucas!!” for “I’m the cook in the relationship” or “Gen!!” for “I’m the better dancer.” The laughs of the evening were only beginning and we were off to a great start!
Shortly after the Shoe Game, we cut the cake. I gave Lucas a break this time and refrained from shoving it in his face like last time… lol.
Our “First Dance” was up next. Although we already had our “First Dance” last year, we decided it to be the “First Dance” of the evening. We chose the song I walked down the aisle to last year, “The One” by Kodaline (Acoustic Piano, Strings Cover) Duet by Matt Johnson and John Adams, mixed with a Tagalog song, “Ikaw at Ako” by Moira Dela Torre and Jason Marvin. I couldn’t help but cry, but luckily I thought ahead and planned for the projector to be playing a slideshow of our wedding pictures from last year, so guests didn't have to stare at me crying (lol).
To lighten up all of the emotion, we had our Father/Daughter and Mother/Son dances to follow. We danced to “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts, and this was extra fun because we also had a slideshow playing on the projector, filled with all of the embarrassing photos of both Lucas and I as kids and sweet photos of us with our parents.
The next dance ended up being one of my favorites! It was the Generation Dance, and is something I’ve only seen done at one other wedding prior to ours. The MC invited all couples to the dance floor, didn’t matter how long you’ve been married or dating, or if you just met that day... all couples were asked to join the dance floor. The song playing was, “Incredible” by James TW, and throughout the song, the MC called out time frames. For example, “If you’ve been dating for 2 years, 5 years…” or “If you’ve been married for 2 years… 20 years…”. As each time frame came up, couples were asked to sit down when their time was called. My best friend/bridesmaid’s parents ended up winning with 32 years, but only won by 1 month because my parents were also married for 32 years but 1 month after them. It was SO much fun seeing my dad dancing with my mom, both of them just absolutely laughing with each other and with the Dooley’s!
That was our last organized dance of the evening, the rest of the night was energized by our DJ’s song selections! We kicked it off with the iconic Electric Slide (if you know me, you’d know this song was shamelessly necessary), and from there, Lucas and I were snapping photos in the photobooth, sharing drinks with our guests, and tossing the bouquet to a competitive group of ladies (lol!). Many dance circles were formed, including one made for our little cousin who had some killer dance moves to showcase!
The night concluded with so much laughter. My cheeks were sore by the end of the evening from smiling, and the celebration was everything I ever could’ve asked for!
After having such a perfect celebration last year, we went back and forth on whether or not we really wanted to have a Happily Ever After Party. In hindsight, I would’ve told myself it would be all that I’ve ever dreamed of and more!
We are so incredibly grateful to all of our loved ones who took the time to be present with us, not only on that day, but for holding a sweet and impactful presence in our lives no matter what the circumstances were. I’ve said this multiple times, but we are just so grateful. Although someone from the outside looking in, may empathize with us and show us sympathy for our “undesirable” or “unconventional” wedding celebrations, I’m proud to say that we were able to conquer it all and made tons of sweet lemonade out of all of the sour lemons!
How lucky are we to get the chance to celebrate twice. How lucky are we to have an epic wedding ceremony last year in the mountains - a day with a sole focus of committing to forever, without the pressure of too many eyes watching us as we said our personal vows. How lucky are we to celebrate a year of marriage with even more family and friends - a day with a sole focus of celebrating and laughing with one another as we embrace and cherish moments with our loved ones.
How lucky are we to have the best support system, as we continue this journey through life.
Cheers to 1 year of marriage + many more!
P.S. Our Honeymoon in Greece Blog Post is coming soon! ;)
Storytelling by Gen
Travel diaries from explorations and adventures.