The pressure’s on.

There’s a wedding on the horizon. Maybe you’re a close friend, the maid of honor or another member of the bridal party. It’s up to you to create a memorable wedding shower for your BFF.

Before you trade in your stilettos for sneakers (hoping for a running start out of town), take a deep, relaxing breath. You’re not alone. Ever since the dowry of yesteryear, people have been planning these parties and living to tell the tale.

That said, we chatted with a few folks in the know. Lydia Ricci, co-author of “The Best Wishes, A Wedding Shower Kit”; Lynn Kaminsky, owner of Social Lite Parties in Strongsville, Ohio; and Eve Hill, contributing editor at Tea a Magazine, served up some clever ideas.

With their input, we composed a simple party guide. You’ll find most everything from tips on etiquette and yummy eats to fun favors and games.

Choose what you like. Then add your own spin to create the perfect – and memorable – bridal shower.

A spa bridal shower:

Now is the time to pamper your best friend. Consider a spa-themed shower.

Here are some possible highlights:

– Hire a nail technician and/or a makeup artist from your favorite salon.

– Offer light spa eats, balanced with a little decadence.

– Cupcakes and cocktails are a must.

– Let your inner princess guide you.

Planning:

– Get an approved guest list from the bride-to-be. You don’t want to accidentally invite one of her “frienemies.” Make sure there’s a tiara and wand for the guest of honor.

Decorations:

– Lots of pink. Set the table with a pink tablecloth, adorn it with quirky Anne Taintor “girl with an attitude” cocktail napkins and accessories. Sprinkle pink rose petals on the table. And don’t forget the fab pink centerpieces. Fill glass bowls with water. Wrinkle up some pink plastic wrap, place it in the water, and then float a cluster of pink tea candles in each bowl.

Party favors:

– Keep the festivities lighthearted, with candy necklaces and lipsticks. After an evening of martinis, your guests will love a goodie bag filled with a cooling eye mask and sample beauty products.

Game:

Adrienne Biggs, publicist for Anne Taintor, designer of humorous, retro-styled graphic cards and gifts with an attitude, suggests a craft party for the girls.

– Ask everyone to bring a few fashion magazines. Supply scissors, glue sticks and plain paper. Guests can tear out pages with modern-day Anne Taintor-type models. Invent an Anne Taintorish catch phrase that relates to the bride-to-be (for example, “Bridezilla – who me?”), then cut out the letters of that phrase from the other pages of the magazine to glue to the model’s image. Present the art as a gift to the bride-to-be.

Eats:

Lynn Kaminsky, owner of Social Lite Parties in Strongsville, Ohio, serves up a few ideas for our BBF spa party. “To keep the menu ‘lite,’ pun intended, I would display trays of healthy eats to complement the martinis’ zesty flavor,” Kaminsky says.

– Make a cheese tray with your favorite varieties. Try some brie, cheddar and maybe one exotic (at least a good bleu, such as Maytag or gorgonzola), served with shortbread crackers. Whole-wheat focaccia squares with baked mozzarella – low fat, of course – would taste great, as well. So would brie bruschetta with slices of avocados.

– Add a bowl of herb-roasted mixed nuts, a great accompaniment. Sorbet cups (possibly melon) with strawberry slices would make tasty companions for your cupcakes.

“The goal is to have healthy finger foods while enjoying your night at the spa,” says Kaminsky.

Shower menu:

Sweet and tangy pomegranate martini *

Brie bruschetta with sliced avocados *

Focaccia with baked mozzarella *

Cheese, crackers and fruit tray

Herbed nuts *

Petite cupcakes

* Recipes included

Sweet and tangy pomegranate martini

Single serving

¼ ounce simple syrup

2 ounces vodka

2 ounces bottled pomegranate juice, chilled

Preparation: Shake all ingredients in iced cocktail shaker, strain and serve. Garnish with lemon twist.

Source: www.pomegranate world.com

Brie bruschetta with sliced avocados

Makes about 15 servings

1 French baguette

3 medium-sized tomatoes

9 basil leaves

3 cloves garlic

3 tablespoon olive oil

Salt to taste

1/3 pound brie cheese, softened

1 avocado

Preliminaries: Heat the oven to broil.

Procedure: Slice the tomatoes into rounds and then quarter each. Chop the basil and garlic and place in a small bowl with the tomatoes and olive oil; season with salt and pepper and allow it to sit for 20 minutes so the flavors combine. Slice the baguette into ½-inch slices and lay them on a baking sheet. Brush olive oil on the top of each side of bread. Cut the avocado in half, removing the pit, slice thickly lengthwise. Put the bread slices in the oven until they begin to crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and carefully spread the brie on each slice. Return the toasts to the oven and melt the cheese, about 1 minute. Place the toast on a serving platter and top each with slices of avocado and a spoonful of the tomato top ping.

Presentation: Serve hot, with basil sprigs on the plate.

Source: Kimberly Bulkley

Focaccia with baked mozzarella

Makes 2 sandwiches

3 large tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 red onion, sliced thin

3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

Focaccia bread, sliced horizon tally

4 slices low-fat mozzarella

Cook’s notes: You can easily multiply this recipe to make several sandwiches.

Preparation: In a baking dish, combine tomatoes and red onion in red-wine vinegar. Marinate for half an hour. Layer 2 slices of mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and onion on the bottom half of the focaccia, top with remaining mozzarella and place under broiler to melt cheese. In the meantime, spread a thin layer of low-fat mayonnaise on top half of bread, remove the bread from the broiler, press top half over the bottom and hold together with fancy toothpicks. Slice in two.

Source: Adapted recipe from Gourmet magazine.

Herbed nuts

Makes about 12 ounces

11½ ounces canned mixed nuts, preferably dry-roasted

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped

1 teaspoon thyme

Preliminaries: Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Preparation: Spread mixed nuts on cookie sheet. Stir in olive oil, rosemary and thyme. Roast in preheated oven for 7 to 8 minutes.

Presentation: The nuts can be made up to 4 days in advance and stored, tightly covered, at room temperature.

Source: Lynn Kaminsky, owner of Social Lite Parties, Strongsville.

A multigenerational tea party:

Remember the fancy tea parties you and your Chatty Cathy doll used to have in the back yard? From great-grandma to great-granddaughter,little girls have always enjoyed tea parties: nibbling on delectable tea sandwiches, quaint cookies, precious petit fours – and, of course, lots of tea. Here’s the strategy:

Planning:

– Get a guest list from both the bride and the groom. Gather a bunch of mismatched teacups and saucers (called “harlequin sets”) from thrift stores to serve your tea and use as centerpieces. (These could double as gifts for guests to take home.)

– Ask everyone to get into the party theme by wearing gloves – very “girlie.”

Decorations:

– You can never have too much linen and lace at a tea party. In designing your centerpiece, start with lace or embroidered linens from your grandma’s attic, local craft store or resale shop. Center the linen on each table. Place a teacup and saucer, filled with tightly bundled miniature roses (silk flowers would be fine), on the linen.

Party favors:

– Make them yourself. Gather little metal containers (tins from yesteryear) at the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Fill with assorted teas, wrapped in netting and ribbon in the bride-to-be’s wedding colors.

Game:

– Cut out hearts for each guest to write the couple well wishes or words of advice. Place the notes in a decorative wishing well to be used at the wedding reception. Have the bride read them out loud. It might be fun to hear what great-grandma really thinks about marriage.

Eats:

Eve Hill, contributing editor at Tea a Magazine, offers a few tips on planning a successful tea party.

– “It’s fun to be creative with your tea party,” says Hill. “Simple finger sandwiches can be made special by coating one edge with a thin film of mayonnaise, then dipping it into chopped parsley.” Try different fillings, too. White bread can be sprinkled with a bit of paprika.

Multigenerational tea party menu:

Tea for 50

Pear and stilton petite nibbles *

Miss Monica’s cheese straws *

Ham salad finger sandwiches *

Egg salad *

Petite cookies and petits fours

* Recipes included

Nibbles

Serves 15

1 box miniphyllo dessert cups

1 ounce English Stilton cheese

1 fresh pear

Red raspberry jelly

Cook’s notes: Phyllo cups are typically sold in the frozen food cases of major supermarkets. If you can’t find Stilton cheese, substitute another bleu cheese, fontina or extra-sharp cheddar.

Preliminaries: Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Preparation: Arrange phyllo cups on a cookie sheet. Peel, core and thinly slice the pears. Cut slices to fit into phyllo cups and place one small slice into each cup. Cut small slices of Stilton cheese and put on top of pear bites. Put a teaspoon of raspberry jelly on top of the pear and cheese in the cups so that the cups are filled but not running over. Bake until the jelly is melted, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Presentation: Serve hot.

Source: Adapted recipe modified by Eve Hill, contributing editor, Tea a Magazine.

Miss Monica’s cheese straws

Makes 50 to 70 straws

½ cup butter

2 cups shredded sharp-cheddar cheese

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1¼ teaspoon salt

3 drops red Tabasco sauce

Cook’s notes: If you can’t find your cookie press, refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes, then roll with your hands into half-inch round ropes, a few at a time. Cut off 2-inch sections, and arrange on the greased cookie sheet. Make a pattern down their length gently with fork tines.

Preliminaries: Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Procedure: Have all ingredients at room temperature. Mix all ingredients in a food processor or mixer just until it forms a smooth dough. Don’t over-mix. If you have a cookie press available, fill it with the dough in batches, being careful not to overfill, and pipe it onto a greased cookie sheet, using the flat tip that has a ridged top pattern. Make strips about 2-inches long. Leave some space for expansion, but not too much. Bake about 10 to 15 minutes, checking occasionally after 10 minutes, until they are lightly browned and crisp. Remove carefully with large spatula, and cool on wire racks.

Presentation: When completely cooled, store in sealed tins in a cool dry place (or freezer). Serve at room temperature or warm.

Source: Monica Manning Miller, Albany, Ga.

Ham salad finger sandwiches

Makes 16 triangle servings

1 pound of store-bought ham salad

16 pieces of bread

8 pieces of lettuce

Cook’s notes: You can substitute chicken salad, egg salad or another favorite meat. Place a damp towel or lettuce over sandwiches to keep them fresh.

Preparation: Place 8 pieces of bread on a cutting board. Spread ham salad on bread. Place a piece of lettuce on each sandwich. Cover with second piece of bread. Trim off the edges. Cut crosswise, creating triangular pieces. Place on tray and enjoy.

Source: Brenda Junkin, The Plain Dealer

Egg salad

Makes 2 sandwiches

4 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered

½ cup mayonnaise

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoon minced celery

Cook’s note: Pickle relish gives the recipe a little snap. Preparation: Mash the eggs and mayonnaise together with a fork until the mixture is the desired consistency. Add the remaining ingredients and stir with fork.

Source: The Farmstead Egg Cookbook, Terry Golson, St. Martin’s Press, New York.

An office party:

Colleagues often want to toast a co-worker who is a bride-to-be. An office party is the perfect way to celebrate the upcoming wedding.

With sparkling cider for the toast, tapas and a few catered eats that can be delivered in whatever quantities you need, this can actually be fairly easy. Just don’t forget your Martha Stewart co-worker who’ll want to provide her famous homemade fudge brownies.

Planning:

– Notify the bride’s supervisor. Make sure that there’s no policy prohibiting gatherings in the business place and that management approves. If there’s a meeting room where such events are held, book it. And ask people to donate money toward the food and decorations, so no one feels overwhelmed.

Decorations:

– Keep it simple. Designate one person to pick up disposable tablecloths, napkins, plates, cups and utensils. Remember, this is a lunch-hour party: You may have to decorate, party and clean up all in one hour.

– Cover the table with the paper tablecloth and then roll out some cute gift wrapping paper as a table runner.

– Pick up some flowers.

– Buy a cluster of helium balloons in the wedding colors and tie them to the bride’s chair.

Party favors:

– What’s better than coffee and pick-up treats to please a crowd of co-workers? How about little cellophane sachets filled with coffee beans (from the local coffee shop), tied with ribbon?

Games:

– Match up celebrity couples. Gather some paper and pens, then write the guys’ names (for instance, Brad Pitt) on the left side of a sheet of paper. On the right side, write the gals’ names in random order. (Correct match: Angelina Jolie.) Give everyone a copy. The first one to match all the couples wins. Of course, you’ll have to tuck the names of the bride and the groom among the others. The winner gets a copy of the latest People magazine.

Eats:

– You could certainly make this a potluck, but Lydia Ricci, co-author of “The Best Wishes, A Wedding Shower Kit,” had a lot of yummy ideas for the office bridal showers.

“There’s always that one person in the office who is known for a special something,” Ricci said. “Ask them to bring it in. Then mix a few catered or prepared platters from local grocery stores. You want to make this easy on everyone involved. Plan on finger food, a kind of get-and-go offering works best for co-workers.”

Office shower menu:

Sandwich platter

Salads

Oven-roasted baby potatoes with garlic *

Tapas

Your favorite specialty pizza

Brownies *

Fruit bowl *

Sparkling cider and coffee

* Recipes included

Oven-roasted baby potatoes with garlic

Makes about 10 potatoes

1 tablespoon full-flavored olive oil

1 pound small creamer potatoes, about 1½-inch diameter

2 heads garlic, divided into cloves, unpeeled

1 teaspoon coarse salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Cook’s notes: These very low-fat, vegetarian tapas can be served hot or warm. Have guests squeeze a roasted garlic clove onto their potatoes.

Preliminaries: Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Procedure: Line a shallow baking pan with foil and add olive oil. Wash and dry potatoes and roll in olive oil to coat. Add garlic cloves and toss to coat with oil. Sprinkle potatoes and garlic with salt and pepper, rolling to coat all sides. Bake until potatoes are tender, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove move garlic cloves when brown and soft, about 20 to 25 minutes. Shake pan occasionally while roasting.

Presentation: Arrange on a serving plate with garlic cloves. Serve immediately.

Source: Bob and Colleen Simmons, www.grandtimes.com.

Brownies

Makes 28 small squares

1 cup butter, softened, divided use

4 squares unsweetened chocolate

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sifted, all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped nuts

Preliminaries: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Procedure: Melt ½ cup butter with chocolate; cool completely. Meanwhile, cream remaining 1/2 cup of butter with sugar. Add eggs; beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, and beat into creamed mixture. Stir in flour, salt and nuts; blend well. Pour batter into greased and floured 9-by-13 pan. Bake 14 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool, cut and serve.

Source: www.southernfood.about.com/brownie

Fruit bowl

Makes 10 servings

1 large seedless seasonal melon, cut into bite-size pieces

6 kiwis, cut into bite-size pieces

2 pounds Red Flame and Thompson green grapes, separated, stems discarded

Cook’s notes: For the sake of simplicity, purchase three types of seasonal fruit. If you wish, add other varieties such as more than one type of melon or pineapple cubes, fresh hulled berries, etc. You can also consider purchasing precut fruit from a supermarket produce department or salad bar.

Procedure: Mix in a large bowl. If the fruit is a bit tart, consider sprinkling with granulated sugar, stirring and letting fruit stand in the refrigerator at least 2 hours, occasionally stirring.

Presentation: Serve well chilled.

Source: Adapted recipe from Brenda Junkin, The Plain Dealer.


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