Visos Tie the Knot!

So I know I didn’t exactly blog about the whole wedding planning process. I’m sorry. Bad blogger. Can I blame moving across the country a month before the wedding? Either way – I’m back! And married! Our professional pictures should be in any day now, but in the meantime I’ll leave you with a few guest photos and a promise to be back with some of the planning madness details!

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Michaela Visovatti (!!!) Michaela@eventsbythebackyard.com

Introducing: Mr. and Mrs. Alejandro Treviño

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of being day-of coordinators for the lovely Amanda Werley and Alex Treviño at their beautiful wedding. The ceremony was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the reception was at The Stonegate Mansion in Fort Worth, Texas.

Amanda and her mother Debbie had done a great job of planning and organizing in the months leading up to the wedding. They came equipped with spreadsheets, labeled everything, and directed tons of great helping hands our way. That being said, this was no small wedding, so there was lots of work to do getting the reception set up!

We came ready to work, in t-shirts and shorts!

We came ready to work, in t-shirts and shorts!

Mrs. Werley and her awesome helpers

Mrs. Werley and her awesome helpers

Slowly but surely, it started to come together. Amanda wanted each table to be different, with a variety of different bird cages, lace linens, candles, tea lights, lanterns, and flowers. Her colors were deep red and purple, with white accents, so we had a nice palette to work with and each table took on its own character.

HUGE windows!

HUGE windows! This venue is gorgeous.

Centerpieces - sketching out the arrangement

Centerpieces – sketching out the arrangement

The Stonegate Mansion is aptly named, because it’s truly a mansion. There was so much going on in the rest of the rooms, outside the dance floor and dining room area.

Sign in table: Amanda and Alex have the same exact initials now that they're married!

Sign in table: Amanda and Alex have the same exact initials now that they’re married!

The "family photo nook" off of the fireplace room

The “family photo nook” off of the fireplace room

Back half of the Bar room

Back half of the Bar room

Engagement photos lining the Bar room

Engagement photos lining the Bar room

Fun for guests during the cocktail hour

Fun for guests during the cocktail hour

#AMThappilyeverafter

#AMThappilyeverafter

Meanwhile, back in the dining room, Lauren was in charge of the flower arrangements.

The artist at work

The artist at work

I was in charge of the candy table – which was to be revealed and set up after the guests had started eating dinner.

Caught red-handed

Caught red-handed: Mrs. Treviño and I love our candy

Monogrammed dance floor!

Monogrammed dance floor!

Part way through the day, we took a time out to grab a snack and check on the bride, who had just finished getting her hair and makeup done. She was very relaxed and full of smiles – the opposite of bridezilla!

with Mom and her brother Michael's girlfriend, Jessica

with Mom and her brother Michael’s girlfriend, Jessica

All eight together, in their very sweetly monogrammed shirts

All eight bridesmaids with the bride, in their very sweetly monogrammed shirts

Shortly after, both cakes arrived:

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Made by a family friend

The flowers were all real: the baker added them when she arrived at the mansion!

The flowers were all real: the baker added them when she arrived at the mansion!

Groom's cake, made by another friend of the bride (such talented friends!)

Groom’s cake, made by another friend of the bride (such talented friends!)

And, as always happens at weddings, the photographer arrived, the bride got into her dress, and everything started moving very quickly! There was a lot of rain, and in fact flooding on some of the roads around the mansion, making it difficult for the limo drivers to arrive. However, the photographer turned the library into a beautiful room for the photos while we waited for the rain to die down, and everyone got off to the church in plenty of time!

Sneak peek: the groomsmen getting their photos taken

Sneak peek: the groomsmen getting their photos taken

They left for the church, and the bride and her bridesmaids came downstairs for theirs

They left for the church, and the bride and her bridesmaids came downstairs for theirs

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Sitting pretty!

Sitting pretty!

After everyone left for the church, Lauren and I had our work cut out for us, dashing around lighting candles, letting the DJ come in out of the rain, making last minute adjustments. Of course we had time for quick pitstop at the photobooth, just to test it out:

Stunning, as usual

Stunning, as usual

The Stonegate Mansion owners, Craig and Michelle, were great hosts and helped us finalize everything in preparation for the guests arriving – from moving plants to adding extra place settings to providing some emergency candle holders. With their staff setting up the food, the candles all lit, and the lighting adjusted, the mansion took on some serious elegance.

Table with the photo slidewhow, which will later be converted to the candy table

Table with the photo slidewhow, which will later be converted to the candy table

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Alex’s mother brought the rosaries you see on the table, as gifts for the guests

Bridal party table

Bridal party table

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Dining room

Dining room

Entryway, complete with bridal portrait which was a surprise for Amanda's dad

Entryway, complete with bridal portrait which was a surprise for Amanda’s dad

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My favorite engagement photo

My favorite engagement photo

Family photo nook

Family photo nook

And then the wedding was over and the guests were arriving! Amanda wanted to make sure she and Alex got to eat, which was extremely smart, so we closed off the library and let them eat before any more photos.

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Hallway leading to the dining room, lined with tealight candles

Hallway leading to the dining room, lined with tealight candles

Since there were about 300 guests, the dining room was quickly packed.

Love the lights hanging from the ceiling.

Love the lights hanging from the ceiling.

 

First dance, happily married

First dance, happily married

After dinner, we set up the candy table.

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Lauren and I both have a weakness for hot tamales

The DJ, known as The Violin Guy, had lights attached to his violin bow, which created some green ceiling light and some crazy moving lights on the dance floor as he came out of his booth to perform.

So many dancers, the floor was overflowing!

So many dancers, the floor was overflowing!

Last, but not least, Alex’s family had arranged for a mariachi band to arrive at midnight and surprise everyone. They took the dance floor to another level!

Sorry about the terrible photo quality here!

Sorry about the terrible photo quality here!

Getting ready for the sparkler exit

Getting ready for the sparkler exit

It was a beautiful wedding and Lauren and I were so fortunate to be a part of your big day. Amanda and Alex: a huge congratulations, and many blessings on your married life!

Halley Chavey halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Halley Chavey
halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Kentucky Derby Party Shenanigans: Grandmom’s 75th Birthday

This was the party of the century for my family. My mom is one of eight, and we’re a loudly laughing group of 44 kids and grandkids who love spending time together. This Labor Day, we celebrated my Grandmother Sally McGrath’s 75th birthday party. She loves horses, and grew up in Louisville, KY, so we went all out on the horse theme. It was a blast.

This lovely couple is the anchor of our family.

This lovely couple is the anchor of our family.

To set the stage, we lined the walls of my parents home with photos from Grandmom’s childhood – researched, formatted, and designed by my aunt Molly. In chronological order, you could walk around from the mudroom and end up in the dining room with a fabulous photo story of her life.

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I have never seen my parents house so festive, as they went all out with the classic streamers and balloons in Grandom’s school colors, blue and white.

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The kids contributed festive homemade signs, which we taped to all the doors.

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My aunt Kelly took the cake with her Kentucky Derby vegetable display: look closely, and you can see horses running through the beans. She and her daughters drew the grandstand backdrop and had the brilliant idea to put vegetable people in the stands too.

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In case anyone’s wondering what’s for dinner…

Kids' table centerpiece

Kids’ table centerpiece

My favorite part of the whole party was the games, though. Everyone had to pick a horse name and Grandmom picked the favorite for each race based on the names.

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The Preakness race was the littlest cousins. They had to run around the house.

At the starting line

At the starting line

The Belmont was the older kids, and they had to run around the house twice – which seemed to go by way too fast.

Lining up

Lining up

Finally, the Santa Anita handicap was the adults, including people recovering from surgery, and pregnant aunt Molly! We all had to balance an egg on a spoon while running around the house, which added a lot of laughs.

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After dinner, we were entertained by a beautiful play about Grandmom’s life (written by aunt Kelly) and a fun “Dress the Jockey” game where she got all sorts of great new wardrobe pieces, some of which she donned immediately: see cap and glasses below!

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Also, we all had matching “Sally’s Sluggers” t-shirts, harking back to the Louisville Sluggers back home.

 

 

The original 8 McGrath children

The original 8 McGrath children

With a few additions

With a few additions

Two little sluggers

Two little sluggers

Grandmom's includes a roster on the back

Grandmom’s includes a roster on the back

We had a blast, and everyone got to take home a favor bag with a beautiful, brief autobiography of Grandmom’s life, complete with great stories of her childhood that nobody had heard before.

 

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Grandmom also got to take home a picture book of Churchill Downs, signed by each one of her children and grandchildren, as well as this great binder full of customized illustrations of horses for her to enjoy.

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This one is mine.

This one is mine.

It was a wonderful Sunday and this was a very happy celebration of a beautiful and inspiring woman. We love you, Grandmom!

Happy 75th Birthday, Grandmom!

Happy 75th Birthday, Grandmom!

Halley Chavey halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Halley Chavey
halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Homemade Blueberry Pie

‘Tis the season – almost. In Texas it might not quite be blueberry season but it is definitely warming up, and yesterday I was in the mood for pie.

I combined a few different recipes to make this -and the filling was a little runny for a beautiful presentation. However, my taste testers loved it and said the extra goopy filling was perfect on top of ice cream. So if you want to try a different filling, feel free, but just know that this crust is SO flaky and buttery and I couldn’t be happier with it.

 

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Sorry, I got carried away eating it before I could take a lot of pictures.

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The trick to this crust is using COLD butter, COLD shortening, and COLD COLD WATER – and then keeping it in the fridge. The warmer the dough, the harder it is to roll and the more holes you’re going to get.

Also, I had some extra pie crust left over so I made these little creations which I’d seen on Pinterest – just use a glass to cut some small circles, add a blob of good jam or jelly, and layer/seal with a fork. I used triple berry premium select from World Market but you can use whatever you have.

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For the Crust:

2 2/3 cup all purpose flour

2 tsp sugar

3/4 tsp salt

2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 tbsp cold solid vegetable shortening

1/2 cup ice cold water

Mix flour, sugar, and salt by hand until combined. Cut in butter with a dough mixer (by hand) and add shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Slowly add cold water until the mixture becomes a crumbly dough. Knead 2 or 3 times just until the mixture holds together, divide into two disks. Cover with saran wrap and put in the fridge at least 30 minutes.

 

For the filling:

1 1/4 c. white sugar

6 tbsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

5 c fresh washed blueberries

1 tbsp butter

Combine sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Pour over blueberries and stir lightly to coat.

 

Take one of your pie crust disks out of the fridge and roll out on lightly floured surface. Place in greased 9-inch pie crust dish. You should have some crust hanging over the edges.

Pour blueberry mixture into the crust and even out. Cut 1 tbsp butter into small pieces and place on top of blueberries.

Take your second pie crust disk out of the fridge and roll out on counter. You can make a lattice top now if you want, or, just place over the top. You could also cut four holes at the center – however you want this to look. Take a fork and press around the edges to seal the crust. Take the extra trimming and make pie cookies.

Bake at 400 F for about 45-50 minutes or until crust is just beginning to turn golden brown. Cover the edges with foil before you put it in the oven so they don’t burn – I used foil strips, but if you have a fancy foil round for your pie crust, definitely use that.

Let it cool, if you can – the filling will be easier to work with. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Halley Chavey halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Halley Chavey
halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Jalapeño Pepper Jack Turkey Burgers with Chunky Guac and Butternut Squash Fries

Welcome, summer.

 

It’s been a long hiatus, but as spring approaches we’re back to the blog with a new look and lots of yummy recipes on the way.

 

Michaela and I spent a lot of last weekend at the pool and were craving a classic summery burger and fries. We don’ have a great grill in our apartment complex and wanted to try to whip up something a little healthier – so we settled on turkey, and decided to try butternut squash fries for the first time. We had Jacob and Marc over for dinner and had nothing leftover – this was delicious to say the least.

We started with a large butternut squash.

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You have to peel it – we tried with a potato peeler, but the skin was too thick so I ended up using a knife.

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Cut it in half and scoop out the seeds.

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Cut each half  into more manageable chunks.

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Cut it up into french fry sized pieces, place on baking tray lined with parchment paper, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on salt, bake at 425 for about 40 minutes (but keep an eye on them, and if you feel like it, flip them over after 20 minutes).

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While those were baking, we got started on the turkey burgers and the guacamole. I LOVE GUACAMOLE.

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I like my guacamole with a LOT of onion, tomato, and cilantro, so I basically used all of the ingredients pictured above plus two more avocados. We devoured all of it, but if you have a more normal sized appetite this will be a lot of food.

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I mash my avocados, but I try to leave some chunks in there so I take a fork to it but carefully leave some chunks.

You have to gut your tomatoes when you add this many, so that you don’t end up with salsa by accident. I used Roma tomatoes this time but you can use any kind. Just make sure you add a lot.

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I always use the Vidalia Chop Wizard to help me get these chunks to bite-sized in a short amount of time. Might be cheating, but usually by this point I just want my guacamole NOW so I’m trying to go faster. I love it. I’d highly recommend having one of these contraptions for your kitchen.

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I added about 2/3 of that onion, and the outside (NOT the seeds  yet) of two jalapeños.

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Then I took the seeds from one jalapeño and added them. If you add too many, this gets spicy fast. You don’t have to add any if you don’t want to. I usually add about half the available seeds.

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Next, cilantro. I love cilantro, so I added almost the entire bunch, and didn’t cut it up very much. If you like smaller pieces, you can definitely cut up the leaves, or add less.

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Yum. Mix and add salt to taste, and voila.

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Meanwhile, the turkey burgers were happening, recipe invented by Michaela.

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2 Pounds ground turkey, jalapeño, onion, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. We cooked these on the stove. You can’t make them too big or else they won’t cook evenly – go small, and eat multiple.

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Add a little bit of olive oil, turn on the fan, and let them go.

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Flip them.

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When they’re no longer pink in the middle, add pepperjack cheese and garnish with cilantro.

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Yum. At this point the fries were done. We didn’t flip them, so they were crispy on one side and soft on the other. I like that, but if you want them crispy all around you can flip them after 20 minutes and/or bake them a little longer. We also added a little extra salt when they came out.

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Serve with margaritas or light beer?

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Enjoy. Also, we got a new little puppy named Ellie. Stay tuned for more pictures of this little munchkin.

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Halley Chavey halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Halley Chavey
halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Restaurant Review: The Blue Goose Cantina

Fall is here. It’s time for pumpkin, apples, cinnamon, crockpots, chili, hot chocolate, Christmas shopping, and all of those awesome things that usher in the holidays and winter cheer. I love this season. It’s beautiful.

But if you’re like me, you maybe can’t let go of the grilling season so fast. While I love fall, I have to have a little bit of summer here and there and Tex-Mex has always been one of my favorite meals – and it brings me right back to summer. Margaritas, tacos, and fajitas might not be the most festive November meal, but if you have to have it, you have to have it.

This is dedication

This is dedication

This caliber of perseverance and dedication may not be your style, though.

If that’s the case, I would highly recommend a trip (or catering service) by The Blue Goose Cantina. In fact, if you live in the area, I’d highly recommend the Highland Village location as you can look out the window and see this while you eat and get the best of both winter and summer:

On one of the warmer fall nights, you might even be able to sit outside

On one of the warmer fall nights, you might even be able to sit outside

The Blue Goose Cantina is a DFW-based Tex-Mex restaurant with 6 locations in the area (well, 5 – one soon to open in McKinney). Their menu is big and full of all kinds of good traditional dishes that are large, smoking hot, spicy, flavorful, and accompanied by great margaritas. It’s not too expensive – especially since a lot of the dishes are big enough to share. Also the salsa is fantastic.

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I’ve been to Blue Goose a few times, and if you go you are welcome to pick whatever you want to eat off the menu, but I’ll walk you through and tell you what I got because it’s really good and maybe you want some guidance. I hear the tamales are really good. You could also try those.

1. Goose Eggs.

Goose eggs.

Goose eggs.

Goose eggs are called goose eggs because this is The Blue Goose Cantina [maybe you figured that out- it took me a while. A little slow over here). They are actually jalapenos stuffed with chicken, cheeses, spices, and durango sauce for dipping. I would recommend one order of these for every two people in your party.

2. Fajitas.

This is how much food you will get.

This is how much food you will get.

I love their fajitas because of the high quality meat and vegetables which are smoking when they get to the table – plus great guacamole and pico de gallo on the side. Lots of it. I would recommend the combo of both chicken and beef because then you get to taste both.

3. Margarita, frozen.

I also really like these jars because your hand doesn't get cold while you're drinking

I also really like these jars because your hand doesn’t get cold while you’re drinking

Their margaritas are excellent. I don’t think I need to say anything else about them.

At that point I’m usually too full for the dessert but if anyone has tried them please let me know because maybe one day I’ll manage that.

What’s most appealing to me right now is that on their website’s catering page they offer to grill on site. This is not a joke. Click here if you don’t believe me. They will grill for you at your house.

I think what this means is that if you are looking for a unique November or December holiday party, this could be your event. Nobody else is making margaritas in November, but who will turn this invite down? Nobody.

Also, remember, before you have a Christmas party, you could be doing this:

not that fun

not that fun

Or sleeping, while Blue Goose takes care of the grilling for you:

very fun

very fun

Take your pick.

Halley Chavey halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Halley Chavey
halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Sweet Success Awards Gala: A Planner’s Perspective

For the last six months, we’ve been working on planning a Gala fundraiser for Play Like a Girl! There will be plenty more pictures coming, but I wanted to take a quick breather and announce that this event was by far the biggest we’ve ever done – complete with full plated dinner, 13-piece band, awards presentation, live and silent auction, VIP reception, valet parking, the whole shebang. It was hard work. But we’re a little bit proud of how it turned out. We were privileged to work with vendors like the Emerald City Band, the Hilton Anatole, and Gold Crown Valet.

Here’s a preview of some of the pictures of the event:

Stemmons Ballroom at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas - beginning to set up the tables

Stemmons Ballroom at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas – beginning to set up the tables

Outside the ballroom, the silent auction items were set up on S-shaped tables

Outside the ballroom, the silent auction items were set up on S-shaped tables

Registration table, all set and ready to go!

Registration table, all set and ready to go!

The theme was a Venetian masquerade, so there were beautiful masks on sale at the auction as well

The theme was a Venetian masquerade, so there were beautiful masks on sale at the auction as well

Closer look at the silent auction

Closer look at the live auction preview on display

Some of our volunteers waiting to assist guests a few minutes before the doors opened.

Some of our volunteers waiting to assist guests a few minutes before the doors opened.

Mystery bags! These cost $35 each, but held a value of $50 or above in each bag.

Mystery bags! These cost $35 each, but held a value of $50 or above in each bag.

And for those of you who would like to know what it’s like to plan such an event, we each wanted to share one (of millions) of things we learned during the process and some tips for those looking to plan a similar event in the future.

Michaela says she learned, in a different way than before, “the importance of taking ownership of everything that you do and holding yourself to a standard of excellence.”

Lauren learned that in life, “you will experience difficulties in everything you do, but your perseverance and determination to succeed will ultimately teach you more about yourself than you will ever expect. We learned so much about who we are as individuals, but also who we are as a company because of this event.”

Halley learned that at times when we’re frustrated or things aren’t going the way we planned, it helps to take a deep breath and think about how far we’ve come, and talk through problems with a third-party who isn’t involved in the event. Usually, after stopping to talk through the  problem from the beginning, it seems a lot more manageable and a lot less frustrating.

We learned so much through planning this event, though, and when it came to the big night on November 1 we were finally ready. The event was beautiful and we received lots of compliments from the guests – which is exactly what we wanted to hear.  A smooth and natural feeling event encourages lots of giving at a fundraiser like this.

If you’re looking to plan a similar event or begin a similar project, here are a few tips we wanted to share:

  • Develop a timeline, and stick with it. Make sure you’re constantly updating what tasks have been completed/have not been completed, assign clearly what tasks go to who, and communicate clearly on upcoming deadlines. Otherwise, you’ll end up missing something or farther behind than you want to be.
  • Be patient with yourself and the people you’re working with. You will make mistakes, inevitably, but the final product is a test of how you handle your mistakes and the mistakes of others. Communicate clearly, think outside the box when you’re problem solving, and don’t let anything slide by your attention.
  • Recruit excellent volunteers. We were so blessed to receive help from the Alpha Delta Gamma fraternity, for example, who graciously helped us all day – from unpacking silent auction items to welcoming guests to helping match guests to their purchases to loading up our cars at the end of the night. Their help made a huge difference.

Thanks for reading, and if you have questions on the process shoot us an email and we’d be happy to offer more on what we learned. Keep an eye out for more photos coming soon!

Halley Chavey halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Halley Chavey
halley@eventsbythebackyard.com