Afterwards, we rushed to pack up the cars to go up to John's on 12th Street for the rehearsal dinner. In choosing a place for the dinner, we had 2 issues to contend with: we figured that the guests wouldn't want to have Chinese food two days in a row, but we also didn't want to travel far from the rehearsal location in Ctown. This severely limited our options and early on we thought of Italian (since Little Italy is within walking distance) as the perfect foil & complement to Chinese (both cuisines embrace 'family-style' meals). We tried one place that received decent reviews in Zagat's but it was only alright and way overpriced. Weeks later, we finally settled on John's in the Village (not walking distance but somewhat close -- just 10 minutes drive) b/c Dear had been there for a birthday party and he liked it. We also did a test drive two weeks before and I was satisfied with both the service and the food.
But on the day of the actual dinner, I was less than satisfied. The room in the back was really dark and they set up two long tables along the wall for us. This wouldn't bother me as much if we had the space to ourselves but there were lots of other ppl there and the space was tight. The other ppl were also very loud so we could barely have a conversation (not that this would be easy if you sat on one end of the table and wanted to mingle with the other end, which is why I'm never a fan of long tables, as opposed to round). I also felt obligated to sit with the old folk since they seemed lost (this is what happens when you only eat Chinese food all the time). I was already in a sour mood so I didn't appreciate the massive agita that my parents and ILs were giving me ("Is there a set menu?" "Do we have a choice -- I hope it's not a choice b/c I don't understand this food" "What's on the menu?"), especially since I didn't have the answers (everything about the dinner was last minute and I barely remembered any of the details). And, as the set menu choices were read out, I realized that my uncle from Indonesia can't really have meat (good thing we didn't do a barbecue dinner, which I thought would be a neat idea) nor does he speak English, much less Italian (the old folk had such a look of puzzlement for things that I take for granted, like "bruschetta," "lasagne," "chicken parmesan"). You can imagine the chaos as we tried to explain what everything was while the waiter was taking down the orders. To make matters worse, the first waiter became deeply confused when he was taking the order and everyone kept changing their mind from one thing to the next. He tried to clarify things by repeating the order back to us but an annoying individual who is now related to me and shall remain nameless tried to "help" by summarizing the order in his own varied permutations. For instance (if you're not already confused by now), the waiter went down his list and around the table saying "OK, you're having stuffed mushroom, you're having the bruschetta, mushroom, mushroom, bruschetta..." but unnamed individual had to say "Everyone but blah, blah, and blah is having the stuffed mushroom, or you can think of it like 3 ppl are having the bruschetta, everyone else is having the mushrooms." The guy came back with extras of everything and we had to give it to the other table.
The agita combined with the nervousness and stress prevented me from finishing my main course (chicken parm), which was alright but not as good as the appetizer (bruschetta with avocado and tomato). A lot of ppl couldn't finish theirs either b/c the portions were gigantic (the leftovers could have been a second meal) and I couldn't take the leftovers home b/c we were going to the hotel, so I felt terrible about the vast wasting. I couldn't stomach the dessert either (the horror!!), a tartuffo. :(
REHEARSAL DINNER at JOHN'S: B-
Though the service was pretty darn good (the confused waiter did well to hide his frazzled-ness and annoyance) and the food was alright, I hated being in that crowded, dark room. I think it's a good place to have a casual dinner, maybe other types of parties, but for a rehearsal dinner when ppl are apt to make speeches or special presentations (I felt uncomfortable giving the BMs their gifts though Dear had no problem giving out gifts to the GMs nor the helpers), it's not conducive to getting to know ppl. There's also no parking in that area so some of the drivers arrived as the first course was wrapping up.
Many hours later, I found myself finally at the Embassy Suites on North End Avenue in lower Manhattan. It was a gigantic headache-inducing night to coordinate everyone's ride home or to the hotel and to bring to the hotel all the necessary accoutrements. It was so agita-filled that I just gave up at this point (and from that point on I just didn't give a damn about much of anything until everything was over on Saturday night). I have no idea how ppl got to where they needed to go and how things ended up where they ended up.
If I had to do everything all over again, I'm not sure I would stay in a hotel the night before. Even though it was a convenient excuse to not have to play the Chinese door games (the groom picks up the bride from her home only after he fulfills tasks that the BMs come up with to test his worthiness and to torture him in the process), it was so difficult to coordinate all the stuff that needed to be at the hotel and then to consequently move from the hotel to the church and/or banquet hall. It also didn't help that it was freezing that weekend and many of us weren't prepared for it. If we were at my house, we'd just put on an extra sweater or something. Everyone also has the added task of packing stuff for an overnight stay (clothes, pjs, beauty products, etc.). And initially I thought I struck gold when I got a room at the Embassy b/c the suites are spacious and there is room enough to sleep 6 ppl, but I forgot that there is only one bathroom (there is a sink at the wet bar but no extra toilet and shower) so there was some inefficiency as some waited their turn for the bathroom.
It was nice to have all the women together in one place though. One BM re-did my manicure using her stash of stuff (even though I told her I wanted us to sleep early and we probably wouldn't have time to use any of it), and my cousin also packed a bunch of useful stuff (she wasn't part of the bridal party but my mother asked her to join us and I was very glad for it). I just wish that I kept my cool for the final moments, stayed organized and that we had some time to bond (or play Cranium!) instead of stressing about stuff.
As I slowly drifted to sleep at 3 or 4 in the morning, I was glad that I got all the bridezilla moments out of my system and I prayed that none of it would surface the next day.
EMBASSY SUITES HOTEL: A
As I previously blogged, I really like the Embassy and the suites do come in handy when you have a wedding to get ready for. However, it is a bit out of the way of everything (the closest subway is still quite a trek) but it is downtown and should only take 10 minutes to drive to Ctown (barring traffic). It is also spacious and could offer gorgeous views of the Hudson. Unfortunately I gave up that view for a lower floor so that we could get 2 double beds to fit everyone. There is also scarce parking and their lot is exorbitantly expensive (in my eyes) but it is very clean and is everything you'd expect from a Hilton property. There's also free made-to-order breakfast, as well as a regular hot buffet. If we had time, we'd also have had an opportunity to use the NYSC in the building.