Brangelina ‘disagreeing over wedding plans’

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are reportedly struggling to agree on details about their wedding.

The pair got engaged recently after dating for seven years. Although Angelina has been happily showing off her stunning $500,000 diamond engagement ring, there is speculation that the wedding planning is taking a toll on the couple.

It appears that juggling their hectic work schedules, along with raising six children and organising their nuptials is proving stressful.

“You’d think them finally getting engaged would have them high on love, but since Brad’s proposal, the shine has worn off,” a close friend told the US edition of OK! magazine. “Of course that’s mainly down to them having to agree on the nitty-gritty details of the wedding, including the pre-nup, and they’re both quite horrified to discover there are loads of things they do not agree on.”

Angelina’s father Jon Voight recently revealed that the actress was in no rush to tie the knot. He also gave an insight into his daughter’s busy life.

“It was very nice I thought,” he said of the happy news. “If they’re going to have a wedding – it’s wonderful. Of course, they’re the parents of six kids. They’ve been that way for a while?

“I’ve seen her recently and we’ve had a great time. She’s one of those people that can do many things at once and has many passions.”

There has been much speculation about where the nuptials will take place – with recent reports suggesting it is likely to be the couple’s chateau in France.

© Cover Media

Wedding Season: 14 Breakable Wedding Traditions

‘Tis the season! Wedding Season!
And it’s also #WeddingWednesday on Twitter!
In celebration thereof, I give you this entry from the Archives …
If you’re getting married next spring or summer, you’re probably in the thick of wedding planning right now, which means you’re probably in the thick of feeling both excited and overwhelmed.

But before you throw in the tulle and call it time to elope, here are 14 wedding traditions you should feel free to break free from.

Yes, revise, modernize or skip altogether.  After all, my dear, you are the BOSS. I mean bride. Bride! I said bride.

Today, I am grateful ~
1/ That when I look back on H’s and my wedding day, it still makes me smile
2/ because not only did H and I do things in our own unique style
3/ but because everyone we love was there ~ one tradition I do not suggest breaking.

Thank you for reading Stop and Blog the Roses.  Follow me on Twitter @fernronay and on Facebook here.
And, if you’re in the market for a birthday gift ~ for a lovely lady or even yourself ~ why not give the gift of gratitude? The non-calendar version of Roses, the book, is now available on Amazon here.

Getting Married in a Church by a Priest
Tradition: Getting Married in a Church by a Priest.
Alternative: Getting married on a beach, on a mountain or on a cliff and having a friend or family member get ordained and do the honors.
Wearing a Veil
Tradition: Wearing a Veil.
Alternative: The important thing is that you feel like YOU on your wedding day. And, let’s say your dress is backless, a veil is pointless, isn’t it?
Wearing White from Head to Toe
Tradition: Wearing White from Head to Toe.
Alternative: Your shoes do not have to be white, ivory or cream. Let your feet scream what a fun, fearless, fabulous bride you are. Wear red shoes to match your red flowers. Wear black shoes for no reason. You get the idea.
And Your Something Blue?
Tradition: And Your Something Blue?
Alternative: Can be something sweet and discreet.
Bridesmaids ... all in the same ugly dress
Tradition: Bridesmaids … all in the same ugly dress.
Alternative: Can we please agree as a nation to once and for all stop torturing bridesmaids? Better yet, who needs ‘em? If you’ve got nieces and nephews, just have the kiddies. If you do have bridesmaids, opt for the same fabric available in many different styles for, uh, many different sizes.


The Bouquet Toss and The Garter Toss and the Awkward Placing of the Garter on the Single Lady Unlucky Enough to Have Caught the Bouquet
Tradition: The Bouquet Toss and The Garter Toss and the Awkward Placing of the Garter on the Single Lady Unlucky Enough to Have Caught the Bouquet.
Alternative: Can we please agree as a nation to once and for all stop mortifying single people at weddings? You can still toss the bouquet but why not make it open to ALL ladies (single, married, divorced) and give the winner a nice bottle of perfume? Do the same with the garter and give the winner cigars or liquor.
Place cards
Tradition: Place cards.
Alternative: Call off the calligrapher! There are so many other ideas. Google “Wedding Place Card Alternatives.” Find a smorgasbord of fabulous alternatives!
Flower centerpieces
Tradition: Flower centerpieces.
Alternative: So many alternatives, only one wedding. That’s your problem. Google “Wedding centerpiece alternatives.” Oh my.
Table numbers
Tradition: Table numbers.
Alternative: Again, so many alternatives, too few tables. A bride’s dilemma. Google, yes, “Wedding table number alternatives.” Yes, dear bride, there is more than one way to label a table.
Your first dance to a sappy love song
Tradition: Your first dance to a sappy love song.
Alternative: H and I are children of the 80′s. Our first dance was to the theme from Family Ties. But, if you’ve got the time, the guts and the moves, how can you not be inspired by this couple?


Wedding Cake
Tradition: Wedding cake.
Alternative: There are some beautiful wedding cakes out there but I’ll always be a lover of cupcakes and so the cupcake tower was the natural choice at the Fernicola Ronay nups.
A Traditional Cake Topper
Tradition: A Traditional Cake Topper.
Alternative: And, again, it’s YOUR wedding. It should represent YOU, as in the two of you. For H and me, a traditional cake topper wouldn’t have felt like us. Cats dressed as a bride and groom? Now, that’s more like it.
Tradition: Favors.
Alternative: A donation in loving memory or honor of anyone close to you both.
Another way to break tradition? Start a completely new tradition... like the Wedding Painter
Another way to break tradition? Start a completely new tradition… like the Wedding Painter.
We had an oil painting done of our reception. We also took a picture of it and turned it into our Thank You cards. Now, we’re just looking for the right frame for the painting. Ah, finally down to just one last wedding related to do.


The Most Unusual Wedding Song Requests

The first dance at my wedding was Stephen Foster’s “Sewanee River,” played by a Klezmer band. It sounds unusual, but it had a simple explanation. When we were first dating my husband and I stumbled across an outdoor concert, they were playing “Sewanee River” and we jokingly started to dance. It was the first time we ever danced together, so “Sewanee River” became “our song.”

Less easy to explain is the couple who wanted to walk down the aisle to Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” Chicago-based bandleader Matt Stedman never did get an explanation for that one. Nor did he ever know why a couple wanted Hank Williams Jr.’s ” Family Tradition” as a first dance song. The title sounds promising for a wedding, but the lyrics — about getting stoned and drinking yourself to death — are a little less than wedding appropriate.

Of course, those lyrics aren’t quite as inappropriate as the bride and groom who asked bandleader Tim Adkins of the Michigan-based band, Trilogy, to play “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” as a bridal party entrance song, or the couple that asked guitarist Tego Burke to play “Who’s Sorry Now.” Those requests make the one Zane Wooten of Tennessee’s Sound Drivers got for Jimmy Buffett’s “Let’s Get Drunk and Screw” seem almost… appropriate.

For many wedding songs, appropriate and inappropriate are definitely in the eye of the beholder. In GigMasters’ surveys of brides and grooms and wedding entertainers, two of the songs that most commonly show up on the Do Not Play List, “The Chicken Dance” and “Electric Slide,” just as commonly show up on the Must Play List.

Then of course there are the songs that get played over and over again at weddings, regardless of how inappropriate they are. You’ve probably danced to “I Will Survive” at so many weddings you know longer think about the implications for the couple getting married. “I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll” is a wedding favorite, but news flash, “rock and roll” is a euphemism here. Have you ever cried to a mother/son or father/daughter dance to “Wind Beneath My Wings?” Then you probably haven’t really listened to the amazingly self-obsessed lyrics. Just try asking your own father if it’s “cold out there in my shadow” and see if he doesn’t ground you.

Some of the most unusual song requests can also be the most touching. New York guitarist Jason Liebman remembers a bride named Abbey Marie. When she was little, Abbey Marie’s dad used to sing the “Mickey Mouse Club” theme song (M-I-C- K-E-Y ..) only spelling her name. For her father/daughter dance, Abbey Marie asked Jason to surprise her father by playing the song and singing it the way her father used to. Jason did so, but Abbey Marie and her father became so emotional that they spent the whole song standing and crying instead of dancing.

Sometimes it’s not the song that’s unusual, it’s the reason behind it. Whether it goes in the “appropriate” or “inappropriate” category, DJ David Pellot of New Jersey’s SoundBar Entertainment frequently plays The Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men” at wedding receptions. But, the most memorable time he played it was for a bride whose aunt had recently died. The aunt always made a big deal about dancing to the song at family events. David was asked to play the song as a way of letting the family celebrate the aunt’s life and including her in the wedding.

Like music, weddings mean different things to different people. Ultimately, when you choose the playlist for your wedding, what someone else thinks is appropriate or inappropriate, unusual or normal, doesn’t matter. Choose songs that work for you. Although really, try and listen to the lyrics first!

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Miyake eco-friendly origami line beats Duchess wedding gown at ‘design Oscars’

Japanese designer Issey Miyake received the Fashion Award for his eco-friendly, origami-style 132 5. collection at London’s Design Museum Awards on April 24, beating fellow nominees including Sarah Burton and Phoebe Philo.

The awards honor designs and designers across a wide variety of disciplines, including architecture, furniture and fashion, with winners from each category, and one overall winner, chosen by a panel of experts.

In the fashion category, Burton had been nominated for the wedding gown she created for Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge, while esteemed creators such as Mary Katrantzou and Phoebe Philo had also been in the running for a prize — but the innovation behind Miyake’s collection ensured a victory.

Created with the assistance of software that creates flat geometric shapes from single sheets that open into 3D creations, the 132 5. collection comprises wearable dresses that can also be folded flat, origami-style. This isn’t the first time the art of origami has inspired the fashion world, as Belgian designer Alexandra Verschueren scooped the main prize at the prestigious fashion and photography festival in Hyères with an origami-inspired collection back in 2010.

Miyake’s 132 5. collection also boasts green credentials — dresses are made out of recyclable materials such as polyester processed from plastic bottles. This is particularly on trend at the moment, with labels such as Paul Smith, Lanvin and Armani embracing sustainable fashion as part of eco-fashion campaigner Livia Firth’s Green Carpet Challenge. Firth famously wore an Armani gown partly made from recycled plastic bottles to the Golden Globes back in January.

The Seating Plan, Top Wedding Planning Tips

Creating a seating plan is often the height of stress for many couples. You must think about family relationships, friends who may or may not get along, age groups, elderly who can’t be seated near the loud speakers, Children who may be disruptive, and so on…

I suggest tackling the seating plan two weeks before your wedding. Any earlier you risk guests RSVP’ing at the last minute and having to re-do the entire plan, waiting any later will cause more stress as the wedding nears. Plus, you need to leave time for the printers to get the table plans printed.

There are no rules when it comes to seating your guests, however, etiquette suggests seating female, male, female, male, etc., and seating couples opposite of each other rather than next to one another. I rarely see a traditional top table as many parents are divorced and/or remarried, so the modern approach is for each set of parents to host their own table with the bride and groom doing the same.

Below are some of my top wedding planning tips for your seating plan:

~ Elderly guests should be seated further away from the band/DJ and any speakers

~ If children are attending, their table should be at the back of the room near the door so they have easy access to the restrooms and can be escorted out if there are disruptions

~ When you handover the seating plan to your wedding planner, put a star by the people that should be facing the head table. As a planner, I often receive seating plans that tell me the order in which guests should sit around the table, but I don’t know where on the table they should be positioned. To help me out, let me know who should have the best view of the new Mr. and Mrs.

~ Put a single guest who knows nobody on a table with a talkative friend of a similar age/interest

~ Seat work colleagues together

~ If you’re truly afraid of offending guests, consider offering “Zones”.  Set up 3-5 zones and assign each guest to a zone where they choose their own table and own seat. It’s on a first come first serve so if they get the table in the corner they can’t bicker to their friends after the wedding!



Tags: Guest List, planning tips

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4 Oddball Investment Ideas That Can Make You Money

With the volatile stock market and bumpy U.S. economy, many investors are looking  to non-traditional investment ideas such as collectibles and peer-to-peer loans.


4 Stupid Investor Tricks to Avoid

For years, people have invested in art, wine, sports and other passions, but with stories like the vintage check that was used to buy the rights to Superman selling at a record $160,000 last week, alt-investments are getting attention. And $160K is just small change compared to last year’s record $2,161,000 sale for one of the most expensive comic books ever sold, a 1938 Action Comics #1-Superman, according to Vincent Zurzolo, of Comic Collectibles in New York City and, which sold both items.

“You look at real estate and it’s a complete nightmare, the banking system with 1 percent returns, and you think, I gotta be able to do better than that,” Zurzolo says.
From railroad ties to cereal boxes, alternative investments offer a way to broaden your portfolio, and for some, a way to blend a passion with investing. Peer-to-peer loans and crowdfunding are also changing the game.

With so many upsides, why do people still buy stocks and bonds? The cons are that many of these offbeat investments tend be illiquid, says financial advisor John Graves of The Renaissance Group in Ventura, Calif., who also collects wines and old maps. They’ve also typically been a playground for ultra-high net individuals, and Graves tells his clients that they have to be very knowledgeable about the collectibles or field they are interested in investing. His clients have varied interests, from restoring old cars to collecting old writing desks from the Colonial Period.

Also, if you’re attached to that bottle of wine or baseball card collection, it will make it difficult to sell and get a price that’s fair, he says.


10 Bad Investments No Sane Person Should Make

Doug Allen of Legendary Auctions, a sports memorabilia auction house in Lansing, Ill., tells the story of how his teenage daughter took a look at his sports memorabilia collection with new interest. He asked her why. “Mom said this was my wedding and college [money],” she said. “I thought it was my collection; my wife looks at it as just investments,” he says.

If you have the passion, interest or curiosity to try offbeat investments, here are four options that have been generating buzz lately:

1. Collectibles: Sports memorabilia/comic books. Most collectors of sports memorabilia are men, Allen says. “Even if they got hammered in the stock market, they are still interested in collecting. They convince their wives their collections are investments,” he says. For example, a rare Honus Wagner card bought at auction a few years ago for $350,000 sold for $1.6 million. “With high-end sports memorabilia, there is unbelievable appreciation,” Allen says. Don’t deal with anything post-1970s because production advances have made collectibles less valuable, he advises. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Allen recommends investing in one high-end collectible rather than several low- or mid-price ones. If you can’t buy high-end, look at it as a nice collectible that holds value. As a collector, buy what you like. As an investor, be more selective.

2. Broadway shows or Hollywood movies. These ventures are high-risk investments, explains Stanley Fishler, a 95-year-old inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist in Los Angeles. “You have a good chance of losing your shirt but if you don’t, then you can make a very large ROI,” he says. In 1962, he backed a Broadway musical-comedy titled “Never Too Late.” The show was not only a hit on Broadway, but was made into a successful Warner Bros. film produced by Norman Lear.

“I’d be the last one to tell you to make your primary investment vehicles Broadway shows or Hollywood movies,” he says. But as always, with high risk comes high reward. “I rolled the dice on this investment vehicle, but I liked the odds and it paid off in spades,” he says. The typical minimum Broadway show investment is $10,000, according to Most investors in big Broadway productions have deep pockets and meet wealth requirements set by the SEC, but the recent revival of Godspell was funded by a grassroots effort, with shareholders investing in as little as $1,000. Unfortunately, Godspell has performed only modesty at the box office so far and investors won’t see any money until the show starts making a profit.

3. You become the bank. Peer-to-peer lending services such as LendingClub or Prosper allow investors to loan money to consumers. The majority of people who turn to LendingClub loans have good credit and are aiming to consolidate their credit cards at a better rate than their banks offer. Ninety-six percent pay back the loan at 14 percent; 4 percent default.  LendingClub investors earn a 10 percent return, compared to investing in Treasury bonds at 1 percent, says Brendan Ross, of Ross Asset Advisors in Los Angeles. “The process of explaining [peer-to-peer loans] to clients is a lot longer than it takes to explain mutual funds,” says Ross, who specializes in creating portfolios for retirees and other conservative investors.

The most common question from his clients is: How do I get my money out? The typical portfolio includes two-thirds of the client’s investment in 3-year loans and one-third in 5-year loans, Ross explains. LendingClub turns down 90 percent of loan requests.

4. Crowdfunding. President Obama recently signed The Jumpstart Our Business Start-ups, or JOBS Act, which will allow entrepreneurs to access online investors through social networking for their start-up businesses.  Although investors won’t be able to do anything until 2013, there is a lot of buzz about what Obama called a “game-changing” idea. The average amount for crowdfunding is $80, says Sherwood Neiss, one of the entrepreneurs who led the effort and runs

Right now, most crowdfunding ventures and sites such as are similar to money given to charity, where you can donate to help fund a creative project such as a film or book. But when the JOBS Act goes into effect, entrepreneurs will need to show a strong social network, a solid idea and a clean and transparent background. After start-ups pass a thorough background check, they’ll be able to send out loan requests via LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Neiss advises investors to avoid investing in anyone you don’t know. (If you’re receiving emails similar to letters from Nigeria begging for money, be suspicious.) He also recommends buying products or services you believe in. Investing in the coffee roaster company your neighbor wants to start, for example, rather than some random idea. All start-ups have risks, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket, he adds.

Butterflies, beautiful things grace Stan Hywet (WITH VIDEO)

by April Helms
Special Products Editor

Beauty is the buzzword this year at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, with its theme “The Art of Living Beautifully.” The historic manor home, the former dwelling of Frank A. Seiberling, officially reopened to the public for its 2012 season April 1.

Last year’s theme highlighted Seiberling’s contribution to industry, sad Gailmarie K. Fort, vice president of outreach and communications. This year, the focus is more on his wife Gertrude Seiberling.

“We are very excited about this season,” said Fort.

Gertrude Seiberling was “very active as an Akron arts patron,” said Linda Conrad, president and executive director at Stan Hywet.

One of the displays includes “Finer Things: Jewelry and Accessories from the 1880s-1930,” which can be seen at the manor house. Throughout, jewelry and accessories from different time periods, can be seen as well as dresses from various eras and other accessories.

Starting May 1, guests at Stan Hywet can stop at the Corbin Conservatory to see “Citrus Garden, Luxury of the Day.” This will be seen through Oct. 28.

Citrus fruit, Fort said, was a true luxury in the early 1900s.

A main attraction for this year will be the return of Stan Hywet’s butterfly display, Conrad said.

“I think that will appeal to families of all ages,” Conrad said.

The butterflies can be seen from late June to early September.

Ginny Black, a volunteer with Stan Hywet for 26 years, said the exhibit was “outstanding.”

“It was interesting to watch the exhibit go through the years,” she said.


Stan Hywet is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Stan Hywet is closed Mondays, except on Memorial Day and Labor Day, when the regular hours are in effect.

Stan Hywet is at 714 N. Portage Path in Akron. For details, call 330-836-5533 or visit online.


Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3153

Introducing: The Luxury Bellagio Wedding Photography Package by James Broome …

Wedding Photographer Manchester - James Broome introduces the Bellagio Wedding Album

The Bellagio Wedding Album

Love Life, Love Photography

Manchester, Lancashire (PRWEB UK) 25 April 2012

The Bellagio Package is a complete Wedding Photography Solution provided by wedding Photographer Manchester . . . James Broome. From the initial consultation with James to receiving the finished album, each and every couple receives James’s full attention and will no doubt be amazed at the quality of the images displayed at the post-honeymoon viewing.

The highlight of this fantastic new package is a luxurious handmade wedding album combining classic good looks with contemporary design. Made by one of the world’s most renowned wedding album designers – Mario Acerboni of Italy . . . this album truly does outshine its peers.

Each album is individually designed and compiled at James’ studio in Manchester – never outsourced as can be the case with other wedding photographers in Manchester. The Bride Groom are actively encouraged to get involved with the design process and by way of several customizable features such as cover colours materials and choosing a favourite image to use in the stylish front page aperture, are able to help James produce an album that is truly personal and unique.

Outstanding quality, contemporary design an eye for detail . . . .

As with all great designs, it’s the little details that make the album so special. The Bellagio package offers the option of metallic paper prints to beautifully highlight favourite images (Often avoided by many photographers, as they cost four times as much as regular glossy pages, but part of James’ package at no extra cost), the pages inside the album are specially coated to be wiped clean, and attractive coordinating overlays are available in the same wipe clean finish, ensuring treasured memories will last a life time and always look perfect.

The quality is outstanding, and James’ attention to detail and quality control are simply impeccable. Every finished album undergoes rigorous checks to ensure it is absolutely perfect before it leaves the studio.

The aim at James Broome Photography is quite simple – to produce a stunning collection of beautiful photographs that couples will love and be proud to share with friends and family and ultimately, treasure forever.

What makes a great Wedding Photographer? . . .

Of course, a beautiful keepsake album is the final piece of a much larger puzzle. Choosing a wedding photographer in the first place can be a daunting task. James Broome Photography are proud to have been the choice of so many happy couples, and believe their popularity is due to a combination of outstanding service, value for money, and a real dedication to and passion for creating truly stunning photographs.

James knows that a great wedding photographer should listen to what his clients want, which is why he offers a no obligation consultation – to discuss all the details of the big day, explain all photography options, demonstrate the albums products available, and answer any questions. He knows that a great wedding photographer should be familiar with a wedding venue, which is why he will visit the ceremony reception locations ahead of time at no extra cost. Most importantly, James knows that a great photographer is only great if the happy couple is delighted with the photos he takes. His unique style and relaxed approach to wedding photography ensures the newly weds and their guests will have lots of fun during the photo sessions which will reflect in the final photograph collection. Plus, being a specialist in documentary and lifestyle wedding photography allows James to work unobtrusively, capturing all the detail of the day’s events unfold in timeless images that will be treasured for years to come.

Build the Perfect Wedding Package . . . .

James Broome Photography offers a completely bespoke service to couples throughout Manchester, Cheshire, The North East of England and beyond. His packages can be tailored to clients specifications, and he is delighted to work alongside couples to produce exactly the sort of results they have in mind.

Package prices start at just £495. The most popular package is £720 includes:

  •     Pre-wedding consultation
  •     7hrs Photography
  •     Classic storybook album
  •     Copyright-free CD (up to 60 images)
  •     Luxury Leather CD folio
  •     Online image gallery
  •     Free studio portrait sessions for each member of the bridal party (worth £60 each)
  •     Pre-wedding shoot at the studio or local location
  •     A stunning Framed Print
  •     Spectacular post-honeymoon viewing

For more information and to view examples of James’ work, visit, or contact James directly on 0800 612 6102.

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Throwing an engagement party or bridal shower? Here’s help – The State Journal

If you’re throwing an engagement party or a bridal shower, the menu will be a big part of the production. But it doesn’t need to be complicated to be remarkable.

Alison Hotchkiss, owner of Alison Events in Rowayton, Conn., and San Francisco and author of “The Destination Wedding Planner: The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Wedding From Afar (Chronicle Books), says the type of food served depends on the time of the party. For an event held around noon or the dinner hour, plan on more hearty fare.

“I always recommend three to five appetizers including chicken, beef, fish and two veggie options,” she said. Alternatively, set up food stations, so guests can help themselves.

“I suggest comfort food. Mac-and-cheese you can never go wrong with, or little beef sliders or spicy Thai chicken skewers or a really amazing spread of all sorts of cheeses and grapes, apricots and nuts,” she said about food stations.

If you don’t want to host an indoor party, consider a cookout, pool party or garden party.

“We love a good barbecue,” said Hotchkiss. “Red-and-white-check linens, picnic tables, rattan chargers with paper plates, striped straws, s’mores and a complimentary wine. Perhaps have a couple of games ready like backgammon, Chinese checkers or card games so people can play while soaking up the sun.”

For a bridal shower or engagement party held in the afternoon, she suggests a lighter menu.

“I think having a cheese board with fruits and nuts and fresh bread and crackers is a great staple,” she said. Add some warm fingers foods such as mini quiches or other appetizers (homemade or store-bought).

Beverages can add a celebratory note.

Champagne or other sparkling wines are crisp and refreshing, and the bubbles add a touch of elegance. A signature cocktail is another way to go. Be sure to have water and nonalcoholic drinks on hand, as well.

For dessert, Hotchkiss said, “Women don’t like to be caught eating large desserts. So, keep it bite-sized.” She recommends petit fours, mini lemon squares, almond cookies, mini cupcakes, mini ice cream cones, caramels or small chocolate candies.

“Also, be sure to have a good spread of berries. Fresh fruit is always a hit.”

Shrimp Fajitas Salad on Crisp Flour Tortilla Chips

From Alison Hotchkiss

4 (8-inch) flour tortillas

1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno, or more to taste

6 ounces extra small (salad shrimp) cooked and peeled shrimp, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)

3 tablespoons finely chopped peeled ripe mango

2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro

1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons thin sliced green onion tops, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Use ruler to trim tortillas into 4 large 6-inch squares. Cut 24 2-inch squares from the squared off tortillas; discard trimmings.

Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray. Arrange tortilla squares on pan and spray with nonstick spray. Bake until toasted golden and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool.

Puree avocado, 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice, 1 teaspoon cilantro and 1/2 teaspoon jalapeno in a food processor until smooth. Set aside.

Combine shrimp, mango and remaining cilantro, jalapeno and lime juice in small bowl. Spread about 1/2 tablespoon avocado mixture in center of each toasted tortilla square.

Lightly press a tablespoon of the shrimp salad in center of each. Garnish with scallion slices and serve.

Makes 12 servings, 2 pieces per serving.

Grown Up Ham and Cheese Finger Sandwiches

From Food Network Kitchens

1/2 cup water

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced

8 slices thin white bread, recommended: Pepperidge Farm

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 large or 2 small green apples

4 to 6 ounces aged Gouda

1 tablespoon Dijon or whole grain mustard, apple butter or chutney

1/2 bunch watercress

8 thin slices prosciutto

Freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bring water, vinegar and brown sugar to a boil. Add the onions and remove from the heat. Cover, and set aside until the onions come to room temperature.

Trim the crusts off the bread and cut the bread into thirds, for 3 rectangles per piece. Lightly brush both sides of the bread pieces with olive oil and lay out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until just crisp and lightly brown, about 5 minutes. Cool.

To assemble: Quarter, core, and very thinly slice the apple, (a mandolin is terrific for this). Very thinly slice the cheese into triangles or shards that will fit nicely on the bread.

Place a dab or smear of mustard on the bread. Place a piece of apple, cheese and 1 or 2 sprigs of watercress on each piece of toasted bread. Wrap a small piece of prosciutto around each stack to make a neat package. Top with a little bit of the pickled onions, a drizzle of olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve at room temperature.

Do ahead tips: Toast the bread ahead, and thinly slice the apple, placing them in lemon water to prevent them from turning brown. If you need to assemble the sandwiches ahead, don’t add the watercress, and cover them with a very light moistened paper towel.

Makes 24 sandwiches.

Prosecco Ginger Cocktail

Adapted from Alison Hotchkiss

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup (6 ounces) crystallized ginger

1/2 cup sugar

2 bottles prosecco, chilled

24 thin diagonal sliced seedless or Persian cucumber

Combine water, ginger and sugar in saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat, uncovered, 15 minutes. Off heat let steep, covered, 30 minutes. Cool.

Puree in blender until smooth.

Add 1 tablespoon ginger puree to each champagne glass. Add chilled prosecco, and stir well with swizzle stick until blended. Garnish glass with cucumber slice.

Makes 24 servings.

Juice of a Few Flowers

Adapted from “Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients” by Ina Garten

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)

1/2 cup freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice (1 grapefruit)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)

1 cup good vodka, optional

Extra lemon juice

Granulated sugar

Fresh mint sprigs

Combine the orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, lime juice, and vodka, if using, in a pitcher. Dip the rim of 6 martini glasses first in a dish with lemon juice and then a dish with sugar. Set aside to dry.

When ready to serve, place ice cubes in a cocktail shaker, add the cocktail mixture to fill the shaker 3/4 full, and shake for about 30 seconds. It’s important to shake for a full 30 seconds to get the drink very cold and dilute it slightly with the ice. Pour into the sugared martini glasses and garnish with a sprig of mint. Continue filling the shaker with ice and cocktail mixture until all the drinks are poured. Serve ice cold.

Makes 4 drinks.

Kathryn Rem can be reached at 788-1520 and

Brookfield’s Brides on the Boulevard showcases local vendors, money-saving ideas

Attending Brookfield’s Brides on the Boulevard wedding expo this past weekend didn’t just give Valerie Goldman some ideas for her September wedding.

It may have been the key to helping her stay within a $10,000 budget for the big day.

“I feel like this is a great experience,” she said, adding that she came to the event to support local businesses. “They have a lot of coupons just for being here, and discounts.”

The 26-year-old Brookfield resident was among dozens of other brides-to-be and their friends and family who gathered along Grand Boulevard on Sunday to browse a variety of wedding-related products and services from more than 20 vendors.

Their reasons for coming varied, but many attendees said they wanted to find inspiration and have a chance to talk with suburban or Chicago-based entrepreneurs whose work they could possibly incorporate into their wedding plans. Saving some money also was a plus.

Amanda Newlin, 22, of Forest Park, found the expo to be helpful because she’s on a $3,000 budget and still has a lot to plan for her wedding, which is only three months away.

“It’s a cool idea, being able to bring all these different venues to the same area,” she said, adding that she was particularly interested in a photography company that was at the event. “It’s helpful instead of having to go to each one.”

Berkeley resident Ruth Dodgson came to the expo with her soon-to-be sister-in-law’s summer wedding in mind.

“I’ve never gone to this showing, so I’ve just come to check it out,” she said. “I think it’s good to get local artists and people that are in the wedding industry to come together and advertise their businesses.”

Although this past weekend marked the event’s fourth year, it was the first time many of the vendors participated.

“Even though we solicit businesses, we’re also getting people that are finding out about it and coming to us and wanting to participate,” said event co-chairwoman Debbie Barta.

Some vendors, such as Vonnie Smith, enrolled in the show because they were hoping to gain business in the tough economy.

Smith, who owns a home-based craft business called Simply Vonnie, was selling hand-painted glassware at the expo in an attempt to get a few leads for bigger jobs, such as bachelorette parties or wedding showers.

“It’s very, very tough. You have to spend money for the tables of course, and sometimes you don’t make that table back,” she said, adding that the booths were $75 for Brookfield’s event, but that she was splitting the cost with a friend who was selling jewelry. Midway through the day, Smith already had made her half of the money back.

Other vendors said they thought their products cater well to brides who are trying to save money, but that the expo helped in advertising their name and getting people aware of what they do.

Oswego resident Antoinette Struck, an independent distributor for Premier Designs jewelry, has a hostess plan for parties that can result in the bride getting free jewelry.

“Since the economy has gone (south), I’ve actually seen a lot more people booking parties so they don’t have to buy the jewelry that they love so much. They want to get it for free,” she said.

Lindsay Payleitner is the owner of The Sewing Maniac, a Chicago-based business that she launched in January. While her company is new, Payleitner believes that once people hear about the group sewing parties she hosts — all materials and sewing machines included — they will want to have their own pre-wedding sewing get-together.

“Because of the economy, there’s been a sort of do-it-yourself movement and so people are excited to learn how to do things themselves,” she said. “People seem to be really digging the idea, actually.”

The expo seemed to cater best to women like Jamie Volmut, 26, of Brookfield, who still has a year until her wedding day. She found out about the event through the Brookfield library and decided to attend just to browse, as she got engaged only about a month ago.

“I haven’t even really started looking at anything yet, so it’s nice to see how everybody does things,” she said, adding that she will have to be conservative in her wedding spending because she has a 2-year-old daughter. “I didn’t really get pricing on anything, so I don’t really know if it’s good for a budget or not. But it was fun.”