After a lot of thought and preparation, and a hectic day, it was time for our engagement party. A few people arrived early to help with last minute tasks (thank you!) and the last hour or so just flew by. But when the first guests arrived, right on 6pm, everything was ready.
Mike and I had made a sign to direct guests through the backyard, which we'd festooned with fairy lights and paper lanterns.
It was Mike who first suggested hiring a photographer and I'm so glad we did. She was lovely, unobtrusive and the sneak peak photo I saw looks great, but it means I've only a few photos to share just now. You'll just have to trust me, the backyard looked wonderful. ;)
We had two long tables set out with white tablecloths, bright table runners and vases of flowers, with fairy lights and paper lanterns floating overhead. In the undercover area was the drinks table, covered with a bright pink tablecloth and holding two big drink dispensers filled with punch and mojitos. There were also tubs of soft drink, beer, cider and wine.
On the grassed area we'd laid out a couple quilts and pillows for lounging and set up the giant jenga. The jenga was such a hit with the kids, I don't think many adults got to play till late in the night. We'd spray painted some of the jenga blocks in party colours and used a stencil on others so they read 'Dee loves Mike' and 'Mike loves Dee'. Overhead were rows of paper lanterns, strung on fishing line so they appeared to be floating.
We'd moved a set of steps out into the garden, forming a little area for speeches with a paper chain backdrop.
Inside the house, which was sparkling thanks to my Mum's efforts the day before, Mike and I had hung more paper lanterns and a long string of bunting stretched from one room into the next. Both toilets, one inside and one outside, each had their own string of baby bunting and a hand towel with a fabric border in those same party fabrics. The sewing was all Mum's work and it looked great.
The table inside had it's own table runner and flowers, plus we'd slipped a few paper lanterns into the bookcase. Early in the party everyone remained outside and I thought all this work might not be seen, but as the temperature dipped later in the night some groups headed inside; a gathering of Dad's family laughing in the couch corner, Mike's family sharing stories at the table, friend's relaxing near the TV. Looking around, it made my heart feel full.
The first couple hours of the party felt a little crazy - I'd start talking to one group just to hear someone else call my name or see new arrivals that I wanted to greet. But at the same time it was wonderful, these were all 'my people' and I wanted to talk to everyone!
And I now understand people saying they didn't spend much time with their new husband/wife on the wedding day; BoyF and I did manage to gather for a few photos, introductions and goodbyes throughout the night.
The evening just seemed to be flying by. Mike commented to me later, when 4 hours go missing you know it's a good night. At one point I thought the music had turned off, but realised it just couldn't be heard over the sound of people talking. That hum of enjoyment.
Mike and I had never tasted the caterer's food before, going only off a one-event recommendation from Mum, but they were brilliant. It was a chunky finger food menu we'd selected and every dish looked and tasted great. We received many compliments; my cousin Ellie said she was waiting with anticipation to see what dish would be brought out next. :)
A little after 8pm my sister, who'd organised to do the introductions only earlier that evening, called everyone over for a few words.
My Dad spoke wonderfully, talking about our travels together and Mike's speech at my 21+1 birthday party that I was the perfect travel companion - we'd arrive at a new city and he'd go to the pub while I'd start planning. Dad also got laughs with the comment that Jenna is pleased to now have in the family someone who has a trailer, Marilyn is pleased to have someone who not only has a shed full of tools but knows how to use them, and I'm pleased that Mike doesn't barrack for a football team so if there's grandkids, there's a good chance they'll be Geelong supporters.
Mike's mum Julie spoke next, telling that she had always thought I was the one for her son, and was just waiting for us to hurry up and realise. When Mike had told her that we were dating, she'd replied 'It's about bloody time'. It's very nice to feel so wanted! There was also the comment that 'Mike has a girl in every port and they're all called Delanie'. ;)
And lastly, I said something along the lines of:
Mike and I often talk about feeling grateful. (By this point I was already teary. Oih! Did make a late comeback though.) Sometimes I'll say lucky but he's not so keen on that, saying we've work hard for what we have. But I think we must have had some good mojo to get to where we are now. To have found each other, if you can say that about someone you met 20 years ago. And the ying yang balance we have. I now have a boat licence, before a beautiful meal he now pauses so I can take a photo. I generally get about two shots before I get the look, but we have a lifetime together to work on that. And to be surrounded here with you. We were overwhelmed in the best possible way with offers of help for tonight, and a heartfelt thank you to everyone we took up on those offers. I'd like to give a special mention to Ben who can include tree wrapping amongst his talents, Jenna who designed the invitations and provided a lot of inspiration for tonight, and Mum who sewed pretty much everything in sight. I'm sure she'd like me to suggest everyone visits the toilet before they go home to have a look at the baby bunting. And of course to Mike, who probably attributes all the fuss and colour to me, but who got just as caught up in the process as I did. And thank you to everyone for being here. You all mean so much to us... Continue to enjoy and keep an ear out for dessert.
And then Jenna finish with a toast to Mike and I. The speeches weren't long, just simple and lovely.
Not long after, with pretty much perfect timing, I caught the sound of Greensleeves. Apparently the kids raced out when they heard, 'Is it here for ussssss?!!'. They were full-bodied excitement when the icecream truck turned into the driveway, jumping up and down and hugging each other.
We'd managed to keep quiet and tell only a couple people about booking the icecream truck so it was an incredible surprise to most. Although the adult's reaction may have been a tad calmer than the kids, 'I've never been to a party with an icecream truck before!', it was definitely a hit. Highlight of the night!
The icecream, sorbet and hot jam donuts were delicious, but it's an icecream truck and that goes without saying does it? ;)
We'd scheduled the evening fairly early - start at 6pm, food from 6:30, speeches at 8, icecream truck arriving at 8:30 - because we didn't want people having to hang around for formalities, but everyone lingered and seemed to be having a wonderful time.
We had some colouring books and pencils for the kids but they didn't get touched, kids too busy having fun playing with the jenga and racing around with each other. The 8 year old boy even asked for the 8 year old girl's phone number, proving to her parents they aren't prepared for teenage years. ;)
Late in the night with only a few friends and Mum remaining, Mike pulled down the wooden box (made by his grandfather) and we opened a bottle of his special 31 year old port, from the year of our birth.
Although I'm no port connoisseur, it tasted wonderful and combined with sharing laughs with friends, it was the perfect way to finish our engagement party.
And with the last guest gone, despite the late hour, we couldn't resist opening a few engagement presents before heading to bed. ;)
It really was just one of those wonderful, incredible nights where everyone and everything comes together perfectly. Mike and I had an amazing time, but all our guests seem to have too. The night exceeded our wildest expectations, the only problem is we may have peaked too early - no idea what we're going to do for the wedding now!