I know that I have mentioned several times that Dave was quite clear about not having a funeral but wanted a party instead. That is not 100% accurate. He was VERY clear about not wanting a memorial or funeral after he died because he really disliked the idea of spending so much money for people to stand around and be so sad. He was actually content for me to do nothing. We talked about this some more because doing nothing was really not an option.
Every thing about the party seemed to fall into place without much stress or effort. As I started to call venues, I quickly learned that most places can only accommodate 150-200 people which I knew was not nearly enough. I put out a message on Facebook searching for ideas. My friend, Kathie, suggested the Torpedo Factory. It was the perfect choice. Not only could it hold a large crowd easily, it is also a place that we enjoyed visiting as a family. In fact, one of the pictures in the slide show was from a family art day that we attended.
I used the recommended vendor list to hire a caterer. As I scoured websites, there was only one company that stood out from the rest. The feel of their website, the comfort food on their menu and the rave reviews from previous customers sold me. I left most of the details up to them and trusted them to figure out our rentals of chairs, tables, glassware etc. I made two menu requests – the grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup shooters because yum and the pot roast because that was one of Dave’s favorite meals. The rest of it, they figured out for me. (As a side note, the food got RAVE reviews from everyone I talked to.) We walked the venue and I told them where I wanted the bars, the slide show and the DJ to be. It occurred to me that in November we would need a coat check. That is all I had to say, and it was taken care of. The only other thing that I requested was the orange and silver linens that I had spotted on the rental companies website. They were so perfect.
The Torpedo Factory only uses one lighting company. At first I balked at the additional expense. My friend, Alex, and I discussed renting lights and plugging them in ourselves. I am SO glad that in the end, I just decided the extra money was worth spending. The lighting was beautiful. There was a warm orangish glow on the columns and spotlights on the tables. There were white fairy lights on the upstairs railings, and when it came time to fire up the dance music, they had bright colorful lights on the dance floor. It was the right mix of festive and lovely.
I knew that I wanted to use my friends’ entertainment company to hire a DJ. When I contacted Miles about it and told him what I was looking for, he took care of the rest. He hired the perfect guy for the job who kept the balance of karaoke and dance going throughout the evening. Steve even wore orange when he heard that was the dress code for the evening. And I hope that Miles and Michelle don’t mind me putting this out there, but they covered the expense of the DJ as their gift to us. I was and still am so touched by their generosity.
By the day of the party our RSVP list had climbed to 437 people. I was a little nervous because I had told the caterer that our final number was 400. But with last minute cancellations and no shows, I think we were probably at 400 so that turned out well in the end. Once the party started the room filled up really quickly. People really rocked the color orange with its many shades and styles. It was such an incredible sight. It was amazing to see the different parts of Dave’s life and our lives represented by groups of family, neighbors, my work friends, Hayfield folks, FCPS friends from different times in our careers, his fantasy football buddies, friends lifelong and newer. People came from near and far and quite literally all over the country to celebrate Dave. The hardest part for me was not having nearly enough time to talk to people and in some cases not getting in more than a hello. I felt very ADD and am sure that I probably walked away from people mid-conversation. I wish I could have spent more time with everyone. It was amazing to meet people that Dave has talked about for years (Scott B, Debi T, Lora B, Ken T). The other problem that I seemed to have was not recognizing people out of context. I am chalking that up to just being a little overwhelmed and not old age.
We had about thirty minutes that we were a little more ceremonial in nature. I welcomed everyone and shared some details about our fundraiser. I was so nervous that when I walked down the stairs afterwards I wondered what exactly I had said. I stumbled over the quote that I wanted to share. (I had to practice it many times so that I wouldn’t get choked up when I read it.) It is from the musical RENT and just seemed so perfect.
You always said how lucky you were that we were all friends. But it was us baby, who were the lucky ones.
Representative Ken Plum presented Dave’s parents with a memorial resolution that was passed by the House of Delegates when Dave died. He did a wonderful job and I thought it was a very special moment. Ann, Dave’s mom, said a few words and was very gracious and thoughtful. Two of Dave’s best friends, Mark and Sam, spoke. They were spot on perfect combining just the right balance of eloquence and humor. Dave’s brother put together a slide show which I didn’t actually get to watch at the event because someone pulled me aside to talk to me. I think that might have been okay though because I got to watch it at home and really absorb all those moments captured. Finally, Dave’s brother and sister wrapped up the more formal part of the evening with a few words and a toast to Dave. I thought it was perfect.
The slide show –
From this point on it really was the party that Dave would have wanted – dancing, drinking, karaoke. In his honor, at one point, many of the guys had their shirts off and were singing and dancing. One of my friends asked if they were people Dave worked with. When I looked around to point out Dave’s “A Team”, I spotted them having an equally great time dancing around with their ties tied around their heads. I believe we achieved the right balance of ceremony and sloppiness of which Dave would have approved.
People have mentioned the expense of the party. I will say first and foremost that it was all worth it. I would not have done anything differently. As far as the cost, I will just say that I could be driving a pretty nicely equipped entry level BMW or in Sam’s words “two years of college”. : ) It was important to me that this be a blow out worthy of Dave. So, I have no regrets. Dave sister mentioned to me afterwards that they were all sort of dragging their heels about getting ready for the party because they were somewhat dreading it. I have to say that I never had that feeling at all. I knew that it was going to be amazing. It had to be. That is what he deserved.
Here is my vendor list. I would use all of these companies again without any reservation. They were all outstanding and helped bring my vision to life and then some.
The Torpedo Factory (Shai – contact) http://torpedofactory.org/rent-the-tfac
Spilled Milk Catering (Amit – contact) http://www.spilledmilkcatering.com
John Farr Lighting Design http://www.johnfarrlighting.com
MSE Productions (Miles Stiebel – contact) http://www.mseproductions.com
My friend, Alex. I don’t think you can rent her out, but she helped me through this every step of the way. If you came to the party, you met her. She greeted you at the door, showed you to the coat check and guided you to check out the welcome table to see the pictures of Dave and write a message on one of the memory cards. I appreciate her so much and couldn’t have done it without her.