Sunday, September 8, 2013

What a Worldly Experience: A Bon Voyage Bridal Shower

Happy Back-to-School for all you Teachers and Parents!  What a hectic time of year for someone like me, a teacher, who is still trying to savor the last days of summer alone and in peace.  The week before school starts, I ponder working on all the little jobs I had planned to finish over the summer, but shopping and couch-potatoing rule all else.  Now that I am back in school, it is back to Saturdays consumed with lesson planning and grading and Sundays for remember the highlights of my summer (and blogging, of course).  Labor Day weekend, the last weekend of the summer for me, was a great one.  I was able to travel home to Northern Virginia, dog and hubs in tow, for my uncle's wedding to Ruth.

This wedding was a weekend event, filled with little details that really represented who they are. If I had to classify them as a clothing type, I would say "classical bohemian" would fit best.  They are well-educated and mature, yet free-spirited and fun.  Two capture these two seemingly opposite parts of themselves, they had two lovely ceremonies: one traditional ceremony at our home parish, and one spiritual ceremony in my uncle's fabulous backyard (he's a landscaper--it's Better Homes and Gardens worthy).  The spiritual ceremony was something unique for me.  I was so happy to experience it.  It really captured who they are as a couple, two people who are of like mind and heart, who wish to pursue a journey through life together.  Hawaiian traditions and Native American prayers bonded us all on their wedding day, making it a memorable one.

Though I could talk all day about the wedding, this post focuses on Ruth's amazing bridal shower.  As you can tell from their wedding, my uncle and Ruth have many worldly interests; they do yoga, drink herbal teas, get acupuncture, read great British literature, walk or bike ride to shops and restaurants on a nice day, and know different languages.  All of these interests inspired me to give Ruth a worldly, travel themed bridal shower.  It fit her to a tee!  Once I started Pinterest searching, I found Rachel's blog was most in line with my vision, even though her shower was a baby shower.  The rest came from my brain and my mom's brain after much thought and discussion.  Find the details below:

The Food

After a quick brainstorm session about the shower, I got the idea that it would be easy to organize food by continent.  We wanted to do one dish per continent, which we originally thought would be easy.  Africa and Antarctica were the most difficult, but we figured it out.

North America

What could be more American than tomato soup and grilled cheese?  Ruth is a (sometimes) vegetarian, so we wanted to have a variety of foods that met every one's tastes.  I got the idea of putting the soup in a shot glass and just sticking a grilled cheese wedge on the outside.  Finding thermal shot glasses was difficult, so after much looking, we decided to get some espresso shot glasses from Starbucks.  Despite the fact that he thought we were crazy, the lovely barista helped us out by donating them to our shower.  :)  Besides, what could be more American than Starbucks?

South America

When I think of South American food, I think of corn and black beans.  Whether Chipotle has corrupted my brain or whether these flavors of continentally authentic, we wanted to go with a corn and black bean salad that had a kick of cilantro and jalapeno.  We ended up with THIS salad, which was delicious and great for Weight Watchers folks.  


With Asia, it was a no brainer.  My mom's co-worker is Thai and makes the most delicious spring rolls I have ever had.  We have had them at a few family get-togethers and they are always a hit.  We decided to order some for the shower and, no surprise, they were the first thing to go!!


For Europe, we decided to go the French route and do two different types of quiche: spinach and lorraine.  That way, the vegetarians and meat lovers would be happy.  We just bought them already prepared from Harris Teeter.  I love Harris Teeter, but their quiche was not the best.  If you have a local Giant, I would get them from there.  They are much tastier.  The spinach quiche we bought from HT was watery.  Oh well...lesson learned.


We went back and forth on what to do for Africa many times.  Because many African foods are much different than the American palette, we decided to focus on certain flavors and make something that would be a hit.  My aunt was inspired by north African flavors and ended up making a curry chicken salad atop bibb lettuce leaves.  It was everything chicken salad should be, and its hidden ingredient, pineapple, surprises you with a burst of curried sweetness.  

Australia/New Zealand

Australia was slightly difficult because many of their dishes are very European due to their English history.  My mom and I were looking for a food group we were missing from our menu and we discovered we needed something "fruit."  After finding that the "kiwi" is a popular fruit in Australia, we decided to do a kiwi fruit salad.  It was absolutely delicious and refreshing. 

Short of doing something with ice, the only thing you think of when it comes to Antarctica is penguins. I have never made a dish with penguin meat and I did not intend to start for the shower.  Instead, we made a penguin relish tray.  I had one at my own shower, but there are plenty of tutorials, like this one, that teaches you how to do it.  It ended up being Ruth's favorite part, being the animal lover she is.  


I decided to do cupcakes for our dessert.  Due to the fact the we were going the vintage route with the shower, I decided to do spice cake, which I feel is very vintage.  I did a Fluffy Karo Syrup Icing with a caramel drizzle.  To add some pizazz, I bought some vintage stamp cupcake wrappers from Etsy.  To give my guests a choice, and also to use the July 4th Funfetti Cupcake mix my mom had, I made "freedom cupcakes" with an almond flavored icing.  Both were decadent and delicious

Travel Snack Tray
To play with the travel theme, my mom decided to get typical plane snacks and put them on a tray as an appetizer.  We had Biscoff crackers/cookies, peanuts, and pretzels.

The Drinks

My family is not filled with a bunch of drinkers, so we did the basics- lemonade, water infused with cucumber, and one alcoholic beverage- red and white sangria.

The Games

At a bridal shower, it is always important to have just the right amount of games.  I say three is typically the standard. One can be done pre-food, one pre-coffee/desserts, and one pre-gift opening.  Here are two of the three travel inspired games we played.  

For this game, I chose different foods and asked the contestants to match the food with its country of origin.  Ruth was the only one to get a 100%.  Woo-Hoo!!

The next game I called "I Do" You Believe It.  It was my own play on true or false.  For this game, I found different wedding traditions from around the world, combined them with wedding traditions my brother and I made up, and asked people to decide which traditions were real and which ones were fake.  This one was HILARIOUS!!! 

For the last game, my mom and I found a bunch of different airline, bus, train, metro, and taxi logos.  We even found airline sound bite on youtube.  As we showed each guest the logo (you can do so on large poster board or on an index card, they had to write down what transportation line the logo matched with.  We decided not to give them matching options, making it more difficult.

The Prizes

The prizes were simple, yet lovely.  I made three continent-inspired gift bags: North America, Asia, and Europe.  I went to our local World Market (BEST STORE EVER!!) and filled each bag with delicious goodies from that respective area.

For North America, we bought banana caramel pancake mix (what's more American than that?), maple syrup (HAIL CANADA!), a small whisk for mixing, Texas Turtle flavored coffee, and a Sharpie mug, that I made, which said "Howdy, y'all."  My Grandma won, and she loved it.  

For Asia, we bought Pad Thai Noodle Meal, Jasmine Rice , Lemongrass Simmer Sauce, chopsticks, green tea, and a Sharpie mug that said, "Ni Hao."  

For Europe, we bought Shortbread cookies, crepe mix, lemon curd, a set of measuring spoons, English Breakfast tea, and a mug that said, "Ciao bella."

I also found some awesome shopping bags from Marshalls that had postage stamps all over them.  For $.99, I bought three and we used them in a giveaway; people who had a postage stamp on the bottom of their plate won.

For the favor to go home, we did tiny care packages, with worldly desserts inside.  We filled package with baklava, date cookies (which are suppose to be good luck for the bride and groom in Canada), an tiny Mexican wedding cafe cookies.  We bound them like an old-school package using twine.  Then, I put little stamp stickers on each one.  I found the stamp stickers at Michael's Arts and Crafts.  They were in a small, duck tape-like roll, which was only $1.99.  It was perfect!  The favors were a hit with the crowd.

                The Decor

We kept the decor simple, elegant, and rustic.  The color scheme was gold, burgundy, and white because they seemed old world, Casablanca-esque.  We kept the flowers within that color scheme, finding great gladiolas and other unique flowers at our local Safeway.  We put flowers in Mason jars.  I found burlap in the children's arts and crafts section at Michaels, which was much cheaper than the stuff they had throughout the rest of the store.  I tied dark twine around the burlap to give it an even better effect.

 Luggage tags, clipped to a string, make for a beautiful sign.  I used Kraft colored luggage tags to make a banner than said "Enjoy the Journey."  I now use it in my classroom- hurray for recycling items.  Also, my grandma randomly had cloth signs for different countries around the world, like you see to the left.  We hung those up around the food table.  They were a delightful, fun addition, but if you don't have any, they are not necessary.  You can use maps and such, as well.

I wanted to make fun centerpieces on the tables to represent elements of travel.  The first one was kind of an accident, actually.  My mom was trying to get rid of her ancient camera and was asking me if I wanted it.  I took a look at it and immediately fell in love with it for a centerpiece.  It looked awesome.  I put the camera atop its case, and put a black and white picture of my uncle next to it.  The second centerpiece played off the element of a "make up" case.  In old movies, you see people with their make-up case filled with lipstick, their finest set of pearls, a powder compact, and a picture of someone they love.  I put all of those items in a small cedar box.  It was adorable.

Lastly, my favorite centerpiece played on the idea of old-school luggage.  People used to pack a ton of books and treasures in their luggage, something we don't do much of anymore.  My mom and I found a luggage box at Home Goods and stuff it with old books, and atlas, a road map, pearls (of course), an old photo of my uncle, a lace handkerchief, and a small mirror.  All except for the luggage box were things my mom had around the house, making it a relatively inexpensive centerpiece.

I hope you enjoyed viewing the shower as much as I enjoyed creating it.  This one was one of my favorites because of all the unique touches you are able to create.  It has been a week since my uncle and Ruth have journeyed down the aisle.  Cheers to a wonderful journey throughout a lifetime.