from Sandy Needham

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rehearsal Dinner Dispatch

So, speaking of enchanted summer nights, the Hudson River provided the romantic backdrop for two memorable evenings of Jake and Larissa's wedding festivities.

The first night was the Rehearsal Dinner for the wedding party, held after the actual rehearsal at the wedding venue. The beautiful Harvest-on-Hudson restaurant in Hastings, NY was the dinner location. They have their own garden for herbs and vegetables used in their seasonal dishes, and this provided the setting for the cocktail hour in the glow of the retiring sun.

The parents-of-the-groom are traditionally in charge of this event. I decided to introduce a Brazilian theme and render the ambiance somewhat casual ahead of the more elegant wedding to come. I found matching card stock and envelopes on my trip to civilized Rio with which to make the invitations. As you can see, there was a fruit theme:

(There was another banana accenting the inside of the card.) Most of the wedding participants received their invitations mailed from Brazil, though it took over three weeks for them to arrive.

Newton and I bought baskets and loads of fresh fruit on the day of, arriving early to make arrangements for the tables:

You will notice that there is a banana at each place setting. These are the 'banana shakers' (percussion 'ganzás' or 'chocalhos' in Brazil) that I discovered online after being unable to secure 32 artisan-made instruments in Natal. These were ideal because Jake is known among his friends for his famous banana costume!...and because they had a surprisingly professional sound.

Now, back to the garden with a fantastically fun and engaging group of friends and relatives:

Larissa, Jake, and Zak - groomsman, Jake's high school friend, and son of one of my best friends, Lucia:

Larissa's paternal Scottish grandmother, Lena, from Florida, and maternal grandfather, Sylvan, from Albany, NY:

                                                            Larissa's mother, Danya, from Albany, with two friends:

Larissa's dad, Bruce, and stepmother, Vicky, from Clarksville, NY:

Alan, former Activities Director at Camp Unirondack (where Jake and Larissa met) - the officiator of the wedding ceremony - and his wife, Pilar, from Baltimore:

                                                                           Sarah, Maid-of-Honor, and Erica, Larissa's college friends from Boston:


Kira, bridesmaid and Larissa's grad school friend from Idaho, and Charley, Best Man - Jake and Larissa's Camp Unirondack friend from Buffalo who was also their Las Vegas housemate until recently:

Doug, groomsman - Jake's poker buddy and sometime roommate, from Las Vegas, with his girlfriend, Kaitlin:

                                                                          The "Two Emily's" bridesmaids, from Granville, NY and Ventura, CA, with friend Jason:

Thomas, groomsman - Jake's poker buddy from Germany, and Erica, bridesmaid, Larissa's college friend from Ontario:

Elise, sister-of-the-groom and bridesmaid, from Los Angeles, with friend Stephanie from NYC:

                                     Stephanie again, with Stephen, groomsman and Jake's middle and high school friend, from Loveland, Colorado:

Alex, Jake and Larissa's Camp Unirondack friend from London, with Kira again:

Newton, father-of-the-groom!

After cocktails, we all gathered in the private dining room for dinner. We started out with a 'banana shaker' lesson from me, accompanied by Brazilian samba music which continued throughout the evening. I learned the proper way to play a ganzá with the samba beat by studying Brazilian musicians very closely!

The blond in the black shirt on the right side of the table is Anthony, the 6th groomsman needing to be introduced - Jake's middle and high school friend, from NYC.

Larissa's Grandmother Lena was actually the sharpest pupil of the banana shaker! We all had the chance to try them out repeatedly between the courses, not to mention dance a little samba while we were at it.

The food was wonderful - four courses of tasty offerings, along with delicious Italian and California wines. We sure had a lot of fun, which continued afterwards back at the hotel in Tarrytown, NY. Luckily, Jake provided a bus to transport this convivial group between venues and the hotel, both nights. 

Wedding Eve!!



  1. Wonderful location for the dinner and you even had good weather. The explanation of the 'ganzás' puts some clarity around some of the previous FB pictures of banana antics at the dinner.

  2. Now you do know how to throw an amazing party. I love the informal style with all the touches of Brazil. And I do believe the center pieces show the incredible artist that lives within you. Thanks for sharing!


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