When Tal and I decided to have a small backyard wedding, we knew that our guest list would have to be limited. There’s just not enough room for everyone we love in our backyard! We hated the idea of cutting close friends and family out of the celebration, so we decided to have an engagement party that everyone could come to!
I knew the perfect place for it, too — Palma Sola Botanical Park. I’ve been here many times for playdates when the kids were younger and for a birthday party or two. It’s the ideal spot for something like this because there’s a covered, screened-in pavilion you can rent in the middle of a huge garden area, complete with a big grassy field and a playground for the kids. Plus, a walk behind the pavilion leads around a small lake and through tons of fruit trees, vegetation and animal life — Trevor found a few turtles! I knew everyone coming would enjoy not only the party, but the entire area, and the kids would be well occupied. Super important if you’re looking for a fun grown-up time, too!
I also knew I wanted to keep the food “simple.” Here’s why that’s in quotes — You know how you have a fantastic idea that is really easy (or at least manageable) in your mind… and then it comes time to put said fantastic idea into production and you realize just how insane you are?!?!
We decided to bake 500+ sweets and goodies for the party… ourselves: just Mom and me.
Why, you ask??? Why would we do something so incredibly ambitious?
I wanted the ENTIRE party to be safe for Jillian (milk-, egg-, and nut-free). I wanted to be able to tell her, “Nothing here can hurt you. You can have anything you want!” That’s a rare treat for someone with food allergies.
And we managed to pull it off! Quite beautifully and deliciously, if I do say so myself. But MAN was it a lot of work! We started baking and freezing about four weeks ahead, leaving the last two days to thaw and decorate anything that needed it. Luckily we both love to bake… although this was pushing it.
Some of the things we made I’ve already posted recipes for, like my mom’s Vegan Chocolate Sheet Cake or our favorite Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. And I mastered the art of making Sunbutter Cups just for this party. Everything else will be coming up in future posts. So by the end of this month or so, you’ll be able to throw an entirely vegan and nut-free dessert party of your own! If you ever wanted to…
And guess what? No one knew the desserts were vegan other than immediate family! I told a couple friends after the party, “Everything was Jillian-friendly!” They could not believe it! That’s a proud moment. 🙂
The party was beautiful, and it was a lot of fun. The adults could actually relax and enjoy chatting because the kids were occupied with the playground (and the awesome walkie talkies Trevor got earlier that day as a birthday present!). I loved seeing a lot of my friends and family all in the same place. That rarely happens.
I do have two BIG regrets, though. It was a crazy day. Crazy! Since my family was all going to be in one spot, we decided to throw a mini-birthday party for Trevor right before the engagement party. Luckily my brother and sister-in-law took over the planning, cooking and decorating for that party. But still we had to throw Party A. Break down Party A; set up Party B. All in just a couple hours.
Because of the sheer insanity of the entire day, I forgot to get pictures. I literally have no pictures of Tal and me… at our own engagement party! I have no pictures of my family that came and no pictures of my friends that came. I had my brother take pictures of the food. That’s the extent of what I thought of at the time. At least there’s that. If there was no documentation of all of our hard baking work, I think I would just start crying now.
My second regret is that there were people that I totally forgot to invite. We didn’t do formal written invitations for this party. No guest list. Just Facebook invites, emails, texts, phone calls, word of mouth, etc. And I missed some important people. I have no excuse other than the fact that so much is going on in my life right now, I’m lucky if I can remember my own name. So for anyone reading this who thinks they should have been there — you’re right. You should have been. And I’m sorry.
I can’t make it up to you, but I can offer you this… come over and get some sweets because there are a LOT leftover! Mom and I way overbaked, and most everyone was too polite to eat much or take home what was left. So come and get these treats out of my house!
Because I have to fit into my wedding dress in exactly one month…