Archive for June, 2009

Wedding Channel

June 29th update on the Wedding Channel Bridal Blog Award Nomination:

The Nomination period ends on July 8th and so far 10 kind readers have  commented under my original nomination. If you also enjoy reading this blog, I hope that you will click here to add your thoughts to the mix. (Please note that you will have to log into their website. Don’t worry – it is free and painless.)

Thank you so much! I know we can win the nomination together!

Here are some highlights from the current posts on the Wedding Channel’s website that warmed my engaged heart:

From SophIe:

I love this blog. I don’t want a traditional wedding, but I do want a wedding. A lot of the wedding industrial complex is impersonal or tacky, but the alternative is often people who don’t think about the real things couples are trying to figure out. This is a perfect balance. It’s for the unbride (like me!), but also has useful information. 

From Maxwell:

I would like to support the nomination of Chloe.  Before I met Chloe I can honestly say I never even knew what blogging meant.  Chloe is a very caring person so the idea of her wanting to express and share herself through the written word is very fitting.  She invited me to look at her site and even though I am not engaged or planning a wedding I found it so informative and wish that I had some of this information a couple of years ago when I was planning my son’s wedding.  She talks about every step you coud think of and many that you hadn’t in order plan your special day and everything is explained in detail.  So if you are looking for a person who can relate to folks who are trying to plan their wedding then I think Chloe’s site would certainly fill that role.  I look forward to visiting your site.




Original June 19th post:

I don’t ask for much. But, if you’ve enjoyed this blog half as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it, I hope you will nominate it for the Wedding Channel Bridal Blog Award. 

I’ve nominated Word Arrangement on the blog. Please click here to reply to my post and second (or third or fourth…) my nomination.

If you are so inspired, you can also start another nomination for my blog here.

(Please note that you will be asked to sign into the Wedding Channel website. I hope that doesn’t stop you.)

After the nomination period has ended on July 8th, the Wedding Channel will pick their favorite nominees to compete for top honors. They’ll announce the finalists for each category, then you get to vote for your favorites. I’ll keep you posted!

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Amy L Cattell of Amy's Elegance by Design

If the idea of ordering a custom dress brings to mind castles with red velvet wall hangings, your vision could use some modernization. Ann Arbor area dressmaker Amy L. Cattell will custom design a wedding gown for you and keep the cost within your budget. 

A custom dress will fit perfectly; think about how flattering that would be! A dressmaker, like Amy, can use matching material to make a wrap, ring bearer’s pillow, flower girl gowns, etc. Really, anything you can think of can be done. Amy can even take the material from a family gown and create a new design for you to wear. Working with a custom dressmaker is the perfect way to create a unified vision for your wedding party, if you are interested in doing so.

When Amy first meets with a bride, she likes to start with a picture of what the bride is interested in. She can take a designer dress and simplify it to fit in any bride’s budget. For example, one bride was interested in a Renaissance style gown. An authentic silk dress without zippers, it cost over $10,000 in stores. Amy was able to present a similar, simplified style for under $1,600.00. To work within a bride’s budget, Amy can consider using different fabrics and tweaking the style. A straight sheath gown would start at about $600.00. More elaborate beading could add about $2,000.00 to the cost.

Amy’s goal is “to make it their dream dress within their price.” She reminds brides that since the dress is custom made, it shouldn’t require fittings after it is made (which is often a considerable cost when you buy a dress in a store.) When she is designing the dress, she drapes muslin on the bride and creates the pattern. She pins seams and draws the neckline on. It is completely customized and fun. She loves the smile when the brides try on the final gown. 

Amy Cattell's pink wedding gownAmy Cattell's white wedding gownAmy Cattell's Daughter's White Wedding Gown

Amy also sews signature quilts which can be signed at the wedding and then hung on the wall or put on the bed. These tapestries add a personal touch not only to your wedding, but also your home. She is a versatile artist capable of creating new ideas. She made this beautiful pillow for my fiancé and I as a memory of our trip to Venice last summer:

Venezia Pillow


In high school, Amy made her own prom dress, which was when she started making dresses. She made her daughter’s prom dress and when her daughter got engaged, she challenged her mother by saying, “you’ve got to top the prom dresses, Mom!” Amy made her own suit when she got married and then her daughter’s wedding gown. 

Amy will also alter store bought dresses or suits for a reasonable price. When she meets with you, she is happy to work with your schedule and meet at your place or hers. For more info on her custom designs, check out her website.

If you are looking for a dress maker and you aren’t in the Ann Arbor area, Amy suggests finding someone who listens to what you are looking for in a dress. The person should be both creative and precise. She recommends asking for referrals, as you would for any business person.

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OneWed.ComThanks to OneWed for inviting me to blog about how to find the best readings for your wedding. It is a great site and I think you’ll enjoy the collection of Expert Tips and Advice.

Feel free to comment below on your favorite wedding reading ideas.

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My fiancé works in an office with a wonderful pastry chef: Theresa Ramirez. He often comes home from meetings raving about what treat she brought in for the group. When I heard that she also makes wedding cakes, I knew I had to learn more.

I hope you enjoy this interview and the pictures (mmmm!) as much I as I did. I was particularly interested in Theresa’s advice about how to save wedding cake for your first (or second!) anniversary.

Theresa's cake (1)Theresa's cake (2)Theresa's cake (3)Theresa's cake (4)Theresa's cake (5) 





How did you get started?

I got started in 1982 My eldest niece (Missy) was living with me at the time, [her mom remarried and they moved out to the country (pigs and horses for neighbors)] so she moved in with me so she could continue to work and be close to her friends, including her fiancé.  I have always enjoyed baking and she asked me to make her wedding cake.  So I enrolled in a cake decorating class to learn how to make flowers and such.  I had lots of fun and learned a lot.  Although having the bride in the house, and all the hormones that goes with planning a shower and wedding, baking the cake, planning the lunch between the church wedding and the reception was very hectic.  I was actually late for her wedding – I missed her walking down the aisle.  It was one of those things where the reception hall wouldn’t let you in until a designated time and I had to decorate it and then drive back to the church and there just wasn’t enough time. 

How long does it take you to make a wedding cake?

Time depends on the size of the cake and how much decorating there will be.  I would say the average cake (serves approximately100) takes about 6-8 hours to bake and at least 12 to decorate.  The average time to set up the cake and add the finishing touches at the hall is about 1-1/2 hours.

What is the hardest part?

Definitely delivering the cake – there are always so many variables – weather, road conditions, construction, steps, timing at the hall or reception area, etc. 

What is the secret behind the high layered cakes (how do they stand up?)

Each layer has to be supported – back when I began it was always that you used wooden dowels, strategically placed in each layer.  Now there are newer and better pillars to use to separate the cakes or they have floating cake stands where each layer is just placed on a ring that is soldered to a base.

If a couple goes to a cake tasting, what questions should they ask of the baker?

They should ask how far in advance is the cake baked? No one wants to eat stale cake.  I always bake mine the week of the wedding and store them in the fridge.  They can be frozen, but then sometimes you get water condensation when the cake defrosts. 

Another question would be to taste the frosting  – if the frosting is too sweet or doesn’t taste good (too much Crisco – too grainy, etc) the cake will be a disappointment for sure.

If a couple wants to save the top layer (or a part) of the wedding cake, how long will it last in the freezer before the taste/texture changes?

The average is a year, but I know from experience that it can last 2 if it is stored correctly.  For my sister’s wedding she was delivering her son on their 1st anniversary so they waited until their 2nd anniversary to take it out and eat it and it was fine.  Years ago (because I hate smoke and frosting seems to absorb odors) I started baking an extra layer that actually did not go on the cake, but I decorated it just like it would and gave it to the couple.  Then this layer (which would already be in a box) needs to be carefully wrapped in foil, sealed with tape and then rewrapped in plastic – I suggest a new, clean garbage bag that could be wrapped tightly around the box and sealed with tape and then placed in the back of the freezer. 

What was the most interesting cake you ever made?

I think the most interesting one was for a “beach” themed wedding.  The couple actually went off to some island to get married and then had a reception in their home town.  The person that was supposed to bake their wedding cake cancelled 6 days before the wedding reception.  Someone gave the bride my name/number – she called me on a Monday evening and I delivered the cake that Saturday.  She gave me “poetic justice” to just design what I wanted.  It was a simple – 3-tiered cake, decorated with sea shells.  I went on online and found out how to make and color the sea shells – it was interesting.

If you could design the perfect wedding cake, what would you design?

I’m a sucker for heart shaped cakes – just goes with the wedding theme. 

When I started making cakes I found one in a Wilton Cake book that I just feel in love with and I told myself that if I ever got remarried that would be my cake.  A few years back one of my best friends finally decided to marry the guy she was with (they are a wonderful couple) so I made this cake for them as my wedding present to them – it turned out beautiful and I have made it a couple of times since.

My next preference would be to have different shaped layers – say the bottom square (good base to start with) – then a round layer topped off with a heart on top.  I prefer to have a separation between the top and next layer – either for flowers or a figurine of some type. 

I prefer simplicity to cakes with tons of stuff on them.

How can couples contact you?

Email is best: tramir(at)umich(dot)edu.

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Tania CookI think the idea of buying property is like eating spicy food: it tastes good, it’s a bit of a challenge, and in this economy, you can’t be sure if it is worthwhile in the long term.

Ok, that is oversimplifying a commitment perhaps as large as the one to get married in the first place. 

Is buying property the perfect investment? The worst? You have to consider your income, job security, school district, re-sell value, neighborhood, not to mention the size of the property, heating or air conditioning costs, etc. … the list goes on and on. You could give yourself an ulcer just thinking about it.

I recently had lunch with Tania Cook of Capital Funding Mortgage and she offered some practical advice for first time home buyers. Of course, every state, couple, etc. is different, but these general suggestions should help get you started. 

The first thing Tania emphasized was the importance of setting a budget and keeping track of your money, both as individuals and as a couple. She recommended the budgeting website Mint. This is a free and secure website that that can help you set budgets, tag items for tax deductions, etc. If you are looking for a conversation and community dedicated to saving money, you might want to join the social networking site Wesabe. Two other useful sites are Finicity and Smartypig. They help you save by earmarking money for various expenses and savings.

To those of you in the midst of not only saving for a wedding, but also buying a home, you can help fulfill your savings for a a home by setting up a registry to which wedding guests can contribute. This helps to avoid registering for things that you don’t need or won’t fit in your current, rented apartment. 

Tania’s favorite thing is to help people to buy their first home. She remembers that when she bought her first home, she didn’t quite know what she was doing. She sees clients become intimidated and confused by the process, as she once was. She works hard to help explain what all of the documents mean and to untangle any confusion.

It can be a stress point in a relationship to locate the perfect first home – that is, something that fulfills your expectations and is still within your budget. To help limit that stress, Tania suggests sitting down with your partner before you start house hunting. Make two lists: a wish list and needs list. What would you love your house to have, but you might be willing to give up? What is necessary (handicap accessible, baby’s room, etc.) This exercise, done individually and as a team, will help you to set priorities and determine what your bottom line really is. 

Then, look to partner with a buyer’s agent and a trusted lender. The lender can be either a bank or broker. In this way, the fees will be charged to the seller, not the buyer. You should look for someone who is an empathetic and experienced realtor.

Remember, you want to determine if your lender is a broker or a banker (brokers can take your loan application to a number of banks whereas a banker works with only one bank.) 

There are a number of financial advantages to being a first time home buyer. Look into what might be available to you.

To consider how much you can afford to pay on your mortgage, try using Capital Funding Mortgage Company’s payment calculator. 

Whatever you decide to do, be sure to ask a lot of questions. For example, the cost of the new home isn’t limited to the mortgage. You will also have to consider repairs, utility bills, insurance, possible condo association fees, etc. You might want to look for an energy efficient home in order to save on some of the utility bills.

You are eligible for an annual free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. A good trick is to order one report from a different one of the three major consumer credit reporting companies every fourth month. 

Tania Cook specializes in creative financing for first time homebuyers, including low down payment  financing, no closing cost options and tax rebate programs.  She and her company, Capital Funding, offer a variety of programs to make your home purchase and refinance affordable and easy. Tania is an experienced, reliable, mortgage consultant with a referral based practice. She practiced law for several years, specializing in employment issues and was a manager at American Express Financial Advisors for 5 years. Check out her company’s website.

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survive wedding seasonThanks so much for posting my Expert Survival Tip: Personalized Wedding Poems, Survive Wedding Season!

Readers, I hope you’ll click through their great website. It is a unique online destination specifically designed for wedding guests. They give great advice, from bachelorette parties to gifts. Enjoy!

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Betys Finn photgraphed by Jeff Dachowski

Ann Arbor area photographer Betsy Finn keeps herself busy. She photographs, blogs, Facebooks, Twitters and continues to educate herself and others on photography.

I met with her recently in her Dexter, MI home-based studio. It is surrounded by a beautiful lake and plenty of trees. I could imagine all of the opportunities for outside shots. I found myself nodding as I walked to the front door. Yes, this is the kind of place where a photographer should live and work.

Betsy kindly shared some insight into planning the engagement photos. (For more information on finding the best photographer for your needs, read Dec. 08 blog post with DC based photographer Tony Richards.)

Betsy’s wedding packages all include engagement photos. The engagement photo shoot is a great chance for her to get to know the couple better and for everyone to feel comfortable together; this helps the wedding day photography to go more smoothly. She described it as a bit of a test – she can see how the couple interacts, what kinds of poses they enjoy, etc. This is also the perfect time to discuss any kinds of specific concerns (angles, fears, etc.)

I asked Betsy what kind of clothes she recommended couples wearing to the engagement photo shoot. She suggested a more casual look with solid colors (no stripes or Hawaiian shirts, please!) Solid colors never detract from people or expressions and create a more classic look. She suggested bringing more than one outfit, if you aren’t sure what will look best, and working closely with her to choose one or even change in the middle of the shoot. 

Engagement photos can take place in a studio, outside, or elsewhere, but Betsy suggests that the couple chooses a location that is important to them. One couple she worked with got engaged in the Ann Arbor Arboretum and they did their engagement photos there. If the couple chooses a more popular, outside location, she said that a certain amount of flexibility is necessary to deal with the pedestrian and car traffic. She related a story about shooting a couple at the Fleetwood Diner. She ended up climbing on the metal trash cans in order to be above the couple and find the right angle. Check out the engagement photo in the boat – the groom proposed to his bride in one of them!

She suggests adding anything that you think might help to make the pictures more personal and share a bit of your own story. One couple included their puppy in their photo shoot, but not until the end when they were all walking back to the car and Betsy noticed the puppy in the car. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and include anything – or anyone – who you think might help to show the camera your true self. 

Betsy's Photography - wedding

Betsy's Photography - engagement photoBetsy's Photography - detail

Betsy's Photography - engagement photo















A creative spirit, Betsy prefers the spontaneous moments that arise during a wedding. She keeps her eye open for laughter or unplanned kisses that share the couple’s love.  I love this picture of the shoes on the piano.

If you are a photographer, professional or aspiring, you may be interested in reading Betsy’s Learn with Betsy section. She has some great photography and business related advice here. I particularly enjoyed the post on simplifying your life to lead to inspiration.  

Unrelated to photography, Betsy has a cat that can open doors. I didn’t quite believe it until we went down to her studio and the closed door behind us opened to a cat standing on its hind legs. It was enough to make me want to pick up a camera.



Betsy is a certified photographer who has been photographing since she was a child. She remembered fondly a photograph of her at three with a camera in her hand. Betsy was named “Top 7 Photographer of 2008) by the Professional Photographers of Michigan, and runner-up for Detroit’s 2008 Photographer of the year (Detroit Professional Photographers Association), Betsy’s work has received local and national recognition. Betsy’s images were also featured in the 117th International Exhibition of Professional Photography; she will have additional pieces on display for the 118th International Exhibition as well.

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