This Rehearsal Dinner Was Inspired by "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"—Bundt Cakes and All
During the summer of 2016, Chelsea and Ross met the old-fashioned way: over a 15 liter bottle of rosé at a party in Montauk, New York. "I was celebrating my friend's birthday, and Ross was in the midst of a boys-only weekend," Chelsea says. "His friend invited us to join their party, and we were hesitant at first, but then we noticed the rosé, so we decided to give them a chance."
It ended up being the right decision—two years later, Ross proposed in their first house together in Jersey City. At their engagement party that night, a family member had suggested they look at a friend's summer camp venue in the Hudson Valley. They shrugged it off, but once they saw Cedar Lake Estate's website, they knew it would be the perfect place for their wedding weekend, which kicked off with an epic Grecian-themed rehearsal dinner—partially inspired by the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding—for 132 guests on September 21, 2019.
"Ross' family is very Greek," Chelsea says of the choice. "We asked the guests to wear all white, and to our surprise, everyone did! It made the night feel even more transporting. You could feel the rich culture being infused into our marriage and our two families coming together." True to theme, the party featured an olive oil bar, a Santorini-inspired signature cocktail, and even laurel crowns for guests to wear. For dessert, a collection of bundt cakes (a nod to the film) filled the sweets table. And, naturally, there was plenty of rosé to go around.
Into the Woods
Right after they got engaged, the pair's family told them about a friend's camp upstate that they needed to consider for their wedding venue. "When we came home that night we looked it up with the intention of laughing at the idea," Chelsea says. "Once we saw the website for Cedar Lakes, we realized it was everything we wanted: a beautiful venue where our family and friends could spend the entire weekend together."
They also appreciated that all the food would be sourced onsite, and that all beverages would come from local producers.
Mapping It Out
The couple hired Niamh Langton to illustrate a map of the property that appeared on the invitations and at the entrance to the rehearsal dinner.
Greenery-centric vignettes just outside the celebration space's overhang previewed the foliage- and herb-forward arrangements inside, on the tabletops.
Feast for the Gods
"The seating chart table was filled with overflowing fruits and felt like a banquet fit for a Greek god," says the bride. Black taper candles and white florals in vintage vessels added drama.
Near or Far
Inside, Chelsea printed out black-and-white pictures of their family and friends that had passed away, and displayed them in the bookshelf behind the bar. "We felt like they were with us that night," she says.
Greek to Me
The night's signature sip? The "Santorini Sunrise," a mashup of fresh grapefruit, vodka, honey, and mint. Around the bar, custom cocktail napkins prompted conversations with questions such as, "When did you meet Ross and Chelsea?"
In the dining room, burlap runners and cement pots filled with herbs—including rosemary, sage, olive leaves, and oregano—covered picnic tables. String lights, garland, and candles hung from the ceiling to create an island vibe.
Because dinner was buffet-style, all the plates were up next to the food; adding a charger and flax linen napkin to each setting ensured tables wouldn't look bare.
To go along with the Greek isle theme, the couple asks their guests to wear white to the party. Chelsea and her mom also created faux laurel crowns for their loved ones to wear. "We spent more hours than I'd like to admit looking at different types of leaves for them," Chelsea jokes.
Together Wherever We Go
The couple arrived to the party hand-in-hand—and stayed that way most of the evening. "Stick together the entire night," Chelsea advises. "Hold hands as you walk around and say your hellos. You want to experience everything together, not spend the night looking for each other—you want to look back on the night and have the same stories and experiences."
Later in the evening, Chelsea's sister and Ross's brother gave speeches. "Lauren was very heartfelt and I think every person in there shed a tear," Chelsea recalls. On the other hand, Ross's brother had the crowd roaring with laughter.
Guests chowed down on a Mediterranean meal that included lemon herb chicken, red wine braised lamb shanks, prime rib, crispy red potatoes, and orzo. During cocktail hour, an olive oil bar packed with fresh pita was the star.
Dance with Me
Post-dinner, Fantasia Music played a traditional Greek song that summoned around 50 guests to join hands and dance in a circle while throwing dollar bills into the middle. "It was the happiest I have ever seen Ross' papou," Chelsea says.
All Greek to Me
As a nod to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a variety of bundt cakes crowded the dessert table. "In the movie, the Greek mama doesn't know what a bundt is and thinks the cake is broken with a huge whole in the middle and uses it as a vase instead," Chelsea explains.
A Sweet Ending
Guests were also invited to grab s'mores materials and sit around the fire pit for a sugary treat.
Photography, Elena Wolfe
Venue, Catering, and Cake, Cedar Lakes Estate
Event Planning and Design, Modern Kicks Event Design; Rose + Co Interiors
Flowers, Faye and Renee
Stationery, Niamh Langton Illustration; Minted
Music, Fantasia Music
Rentals, Party Rental LTD
Bride's Gown, Keepsake The Label
Bride's Accessories, Be Something New
Lighting, Event Lights Inc
Transportation, Rolling V