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The beauty of a lifetime dream should not be overshadowed by a temporary cloud. The past year has been difficult for couples who have fallen in love, dreamt of a storybook wedding, and paused at how to have the celebration of their lives in harsh economic times. At Cooking by the Book, we found a wonderful solution: let your friends join you in creating that special wedding celebration.

This week we featured a wedding dinner for one of our own staff members and his bride, Reid and Julie. Reid has been one of our front of the house waiters for a million years (or at least eight). For this lovely new couple, it simply was not possible to rent an event space, provide a catered meal, and have all the embellishments they wanted for their friends. So, their friends joined to supply all that was needed for this evening to remember.

For a wedding dinner, you need a space, food, wine, pictures, entertainment, and surely a cake. For our new couple, a dozen of us CBTBers contributed these necessities, and the result was spectacular; forty friends and family enjoyed a sumptuous meal. It’s something that any couple can try.

The first issue is the big one: space. We hosted the party here at Cooking by the Book where our large dining room can handle the forty. If you have a friend with a loft space, you’ve got a solution. Even a smaller apartment can work. You’d be surprised how many people can fit into a Manhattan kitchen, front room, hallway and yes even the bedroom.

The food. Out of your list of attendees, you’ll probably have a handful of “foodies”. Appoint one of them the wedding planner and ask each one of them to contribute one dish or appetizer. At our meal, we had several foodies so we ended up with  an amazing menu:

  • Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Empanadas with a Chili Dipping Sauce
  • Crabcakes with Cranberry Chutney
  • A Great Murray’s Cheese Plate
  • Stuffed Spinach and Feta Triangles
  • Ann Nurse’s Amazing Baked Ham
  • Rao’s Garlic and Lemon Roasted Chicken
  • Caeser Salad
  • Vegetable Pot Pie
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Roasted Veggies
  • Rice and Beans
  • Homemade bread and rolls

It was easy for each contributor to bring one special dish. Added together, we had a feast. And, since these are foodie friends, the quality was tops. Caterers are usually nice people, but they rarely cook with love.

Next, find the best crafty person in the bunch and assign them the flowers and candles. We had Joyce and Holly help with this task. The color theme was Gold and Beige. Tons of votives added just the right touch.

The wine. The groom, a former bartender, asked us to use our best contacts to find affordable wines. We called Acker Merrall and Condit, our wine buddies, and got three fun wines for under $10.00 each.

  • Conclass Rueda 2007
  • Cotes-Du-Ventoux
  • And for that special wedding toast Cristalino Brut Kava

The pictures. It always heps to have a great friend like Jillian who is a professional photographer.

The entertainment. This is New York for God’s sake. Everybody knows somebody who plays or wants to. In this case the bride and groom put together a duet…very sweet. Finally

The cake. One of our CBTB’s Lady Charmaine is a great pastry chef. She created the most delicious and beautiful three-tiered wedding cake.

The moral of this story is ask your friends and family to be an active part of the wedding. A wedding made with love is the best start a newlywed couple can have.