Get with the program. No plan means high expense, says Northeast Ohio event planner Amy M. Shipman, president of At Last Event Planning in Chagrin Falls. She suggests the following:
1. Establish a Budget. Money is a leading factor in making all
2. Determine the size of the group. This determines where it will be held.
3. Select a venue. Shipman suggests selecting a location that “already has everything in terms of décor. You can always add to it.”
4. Decide on your food and beverage. Coordinate food with the theme for a better shower.
5. Select a theme. Carry out the theme in everything from the invitation to the décor to the favors.
Heather Haviland, owner and chef of Lucky’s and Sweet Mosaic in Cleveland, notes the trend for a less traditional guest list. “The bride and groom invite all of their dearest friends and are able to spend more time with them at a shower than at a wedding.”
Bake your best lasagna recipe and uncork bottles of wine. Consider inviting the men in your life. “Couples showers are becoming more popular,” Shipman says. But if you are going to invite the guys, take their comfort level into consideration. “If you’re planning a garden party with lots of flowers, don’t invite men.”
When it comes to making plans, remember that it’s all about the food. John Pistone, co-owner/chef of J. Pistone Market and Gathering Place in Shaker Heights, says women want something healthy. His secret? Offering sandwiches with crunch from cucumbers and raw veggies and salads featuring trendy whole grains like orzo and couscous and lentils. He also always includes fruit, sometimes in a salad, covered in chocolate or on skewers.
Haviland suggests pairing wine with food and offering a cheese course. One of her recent menus included wild mushroom and brioche sandwiches, pickled greens and grilled vegetables and pulled pork.
For the bride and guests who love to cook, consider a hands-on cooking class at International Culinary Arts and Sciences Institute at the Loretta Paganini School of Cooking in Chester Township. Chef/instructor/event coordinator Matthew Anderson customizes hands-on cooking classes for 15 to 50 people. “This is a different take on a shower,” he says. “The event is the cooking and camaraderie that happens with that.” Menus are distributed and guests break into groups with each preparing a specific dish.
Pulitzer prize-winning Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz did not want a bridal shower. She was, after all, 46 years old and this was her second marriage. And, although she made her position clear to her friends and her soon-to-be husband, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, no one listened.
Even the desserts being offered at today’s parties have changed. Everything being offered is mini … right down to the cake.
Kim Henderson, owner of BabyCakes in Cleveland Heights, knows that cupcakes are what’s hot today. “The actual size of the cupcake really makes a difference in the way that people think,” she says. “People believe that they aren’t being that bad. … They aren’t feeling that guilty about going off their diets … because the cupcakes or minicakes or pies that we make are so small.”
Henderson has custom designed all kinds of minicakes, pies and cupcakes, most recently creating an under-sea theme with light blue frosting, a white cloth over the cupcake stand, brown sugar scattered on the table and white chocolate sea shells.
Carry Out a Theme
Pearl of the Orient owner Rose Wong suggests a 1940s Shanghai theme. Ask guests to wear Chinese costumes. Consider a traditional Chinese sit-down or food stations if you prefer guests stand and mingle. Offer symbolic foods like fried wonton (gold nuggets), Shanghai spring rolls (continuously having sons), candied lotus seeds and peanuts (lucky, healthy children) and glutinous rice (unity). For color, decorate tables with carry-out containers filled with rice, silk flowers and colorful chopsticks. Or fill them with Chinese ginger or dried plum candies for party favors. Custom, colorful fortune cookies complete the theme. Top off the evening with a ruan (Chinese guitar) performance.
Looking for something more formal? Consider afternoon tea. Gloria Cipri-Kemer, owner of Emerald Necklace Inn & Tea Room in Fairview Park, provides tea and all of the accoutrements at her inn or elsewhere. “Once the bride provides us with a theme, we come in with colors and fully cater down to the decorations and favors.”
Finger sandwiches are de rigueur at afternoon teas. Cipri-Kemer serves a variety of traditional and unusual finger sandwiches served with a choice of more than 75 loose-leaf teas. Her dessert afternoon tea includes scones with Devonshire cream, honey, jam and lemon curd. Brides may also choose from chocolate, nuts, custard and baked minipie offerings.
Remember crowding into a photo booth with your friends at the amusement park? Hartley Grimm, owner of Memory Productions in Canal Fulton, brings photo booths to events. Able to take digital color or traditional film photos, the booths are “an absolute blast. Four-year-old flower girls and their 80-year-old grandmothers stick out their tongues for the camera, and they both have fun.”
Evenings typically start with two or three people in the booth, and wind up with as many as seven or eight piled in together.
Now that’s a reason to smile.