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Eat, Drink, and Be Married

A Potluck Buffet
October 11, 2002

The Bride and Groom: Silvana Nardone, 32, a cookbook author and the owner of a mail-order food company, and Stephen Gross, 41, a freelance portrait photographer.

The Setting:
Their upstairs neighbors' apartment in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

The Backstory:
Although Silvana and Stephen had been engaged for almost a year before their wedding, Silvana is, by her own admission, a major procrastinator; two weeks before the wedding, she still hadn't ordered any food. She had called a well-known catering company a few weeks before but found the menu pretentious and the prices outrageous. "We didn't have a budget in mind, but we didn't see any reason to be too elaborate, since that wouldn't be a reflection of us," says Silvana. "We wanted it to be more about intimacy, about sharing with friends and family." As luck would have it, a number of Silvana's friends were also in the food business. So partially out of desperation, partially out of knowing she'd end up with delicious food, Silvana decided to ask about a dozen of them to bring something.

Making it Happen:
The couple's foodie friends showered them with culinary contributions. Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery, cabbed it across the Brooklyn Bridge with boxes of pizza bianca. Others brought big rounds of cheese or platters of antipasti heaped with olives, cured meats such as prosciutto, and charred artichokes, eggplant, and zucchini. Some brought bottles of wine and champagne chosen with great care to celebrate the special occasion. At the last minute, Silvana ordered a few basics - orzo and quinoa salads, a cheese platter, poached shrimp and a poached salmon - from another friend, Brooklyn-based caterer Jamie Sydney. To supplement the wines brought by guests, she also ordered a few cases of her favorite wine, a Sardinian varietal. Her other splurge was a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache from Regula's Specialty Cakes.

How it Played Out:
Sydney laid out the food buffet-style on the large farm table in the kitchen, and added the various offerings as guests arrived with dishes. Disposable plates and silverware avoided the need for pricey rentals. The 75 guests helped themselves throughout the evening, and many took home doggie bags filled with leftovers. In the end, Silvana's "un-plans" proved wildly successful. "Everyone who had been married before told me they wished they could have enjoyed their reception as much as we enjoyed ours," says Silvana. "It was very simple but very beautiful, and I didn't have to worry about anything."

The Tab:
About $24 a head for food and beverage.

From the Spring 2005 New York Wedding Guide