This Takes the Cake

Recently I had the good fortune to try a key lime bundt cake from We Take The Cake, a family run bakery in south Florida.  Let me say that I am not usually a fan of “key lime” anything.  However, I am a fan of Oprah and would LOVE to receive anything on her Favorite Things List. So, when I found out that the key lime bundt cake from We Take The Cake has been on Oprah’s List, I knew I couldn’t pass up the chance to try this mouth-watering offering.

First, the cake was delivered to my door.  Who doesn’t love getting packages?  The box and packaging is just beautiful.  The cake is carefully wrapped, swathed in tissue, as if it were a delicate offering from the finest royal kingdom. Also, included in the package were instructions on how to add the icing, a note from the baker and some background about the company.  I was so excited — I couldn’t wait to taste. My only regret, looking back, is that I didn’t document each step in the process from opening the gorgeous baked delicacy to that first forkful.

The Key Lime cake was surprising.  It was moist, flavorful, and fresh. The key lime delivered a tartness that perfectly balanced the sweetness of the cake.  I was sold.  This was a WINNER.  Let me be clear — I am not being paid to say any of this.  I did agree to write about the cake but only with the understanding that my review would be  honest.

You can order cakes for gifts and send one to yourself.  The ordering, deliver and presentation is flawless. Check out the yummy cakes at We Take The Cake.

Key Lime Bundt Cake from We Take The Cake

Key Lime Bundt Cake from We Take The Cake

Key Lime Bundt Cake

Key Lime Bundt Cake from We Take The Cake


The Envelope Please: Navigating the Invitation Process with Ease

Invites Ink! Wedding Invitation Brian Masserman

Custom wedding invitation

There are so many choices when it comes to the big invitation decision.  Whether planning a wedding, bar or bat mitzvah or other event, you can decide to do-it-yourself (DIY), make it semi-homemade, buy engraved, thermography, letterpress, OY — are you getting a headache yet?  Most of us want some customization and creative input but don’t want to completely do it alone, at home without support or expert resources.

Where to Start:  DIY or Hire a Pro?

The majority of invitation “shoppers” want to be able to do some research on their own before actually meeting with an invitation professional or deciding to go it alone.  Ideally, once we have a sense of what we like, don’t like and/or what type of event we’re planning, we want to connect with a company or individual that can walk us through the process.  When working with an invitation professional, here are some things to look for:


  • Ask to see current samples of their work
  • Get references from friends/acquaintances
  • What is the turnaround time?
  • How quickly can you get an appointment for one-on-one service
  • Do they carry a variety of styles and brands?
  • Does their personality align with yours?
  • Are there products in your price range?
  • Can they handle the addressing and calligraphy?

Dana Ishbia, owner of The Write Stuff, always tells her customers “to get organized, don’t try to keep up with what others are doing, and to relax…this is a fun, exciting time!” For the past 18 years, Ishbia has helped turn dreams into reality with her full service invitation business.

Trends: What’s hot?

Colors:  This year the hot Pantone color is Tangerine Tango (Spring 2012)

Style:  Letterpress and other techniques that deliver texture. Vintage is also very popular.

RSVP:  More people are moving to email vs. snail mail especially for Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

Paper:  Natural materials with an eco-conscious approach.

Design:  Couples are getting custom monograms designed and then building their invitation from there; vintage design, silhouettes and botanical are leading the way for wedding invites.

Choosing the Right Wording: blended families, encore weddings and more

Invites Ink! Bat Mitzvah Invitation Brian Masserman

Personalized Bat Mitzvah Invitation

You’ve set the date, found a venue and even selected the perfect invitation.  Now, comes the hard part.  How do you find just the right words to include step parents, siblings, significant others, deceased parents and more? This is one of the questions that invitation gurus ask most often.

Fortunately, there is no right way anymore to extend your invitation, via a printed gesture, to guests on behalf of yourself or others.  Many formalities have gone by the wayside in lieu of more modern approaches that tend to be inclusive rather than exclusive and accommodate blended families, as is often the case.

Whether you are planning a wedding for yourself or your daughter, celebrating a Bar Mitzvah or throwing a bridal shower, the invitation experts can help you craft just the right message.

Criteria to consider when choosing or writing your wedding invitation message:

  • How formal is the affair?
  • Are parents throwing the wedding?
  • Are the parents of the bride and groom involved?
  • Are there step parents to consider?
  • How do you include parents if you and your fiancé are planning/paying for your own wedding?
  • What if a parent is deceased?  Does his/her name appear on the invitation?
  • Is the ceremony going to be held in a religious sanctuary or a reception/banquet space?


According to Terri Trepeck, owner of Invites Ink!, “there are very few rules about Bar/Bat invitation wording.”  There are several popular options that can be tailored to your specific mitzvah and personal preference.  Most of the time, the invitation is extended by the parents of the child who is becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.  Once in awhile, it is the child who is doing the inviting.

Here are several ideas for you to try out.  You can also include your son/daughter’s Hebrew name in the invitation wording. Remember, this is not something to stress over.  “You are preparing for a joyous occasion and the invitation should be a reflection of the joy, happiness and pride you are feeling about this milestone event,” reminds Trepeck.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Wording Options:

Happy occasions when shared with

Family and friends become life’s cherished memories

Please join us when our son

Adam Michael

Is called to the Torah as a Bar Mitzvah


It would be our pleasure to have you join us

In worship and celebration

When our daughter

Marci Lynn

Becomes a Bat Mitzvah

Wedding Wording Options:

Bride and Groom’s parents sharing in the wedding planning/expense equally

Mr. and Mrs. David Green

Mr. and Mrs. John Rosenberg

Request the honour of your presence

At the marriage of their children

Amy Lynn Green


Steven Andrew Rosenberg


Bride and Groom giving the wedding

Amy Lynn Green


Steven Andrew Rosenberg

Request the pleasure of your company

At their wedding


For more tips, tricks and trends, browse PartyPlanningPlus.  Can’t find what you are looking for? Call me at 248-739-9254.


Choosing a Photographer

Here are some frequently asked questions that Brian Masserman gets regarding “how to choose a professional photographer.”

Q.  What are the most important pictures to take at a Mitzvah before the service?

A.  It is important to take a well-posed shot of the celebrant in front of the Ark and with an open Torah. Bringing parents and grandparents in with the child is also important.  Looking at their parsha and looking at the camera are important shots.

Also, a it’s important to photograph a nice combination of immediate and extended family members well posed on the bima or somewhere in the Temple/Synagogue that has pleasant backgrounds.   The parents and siblings should be included in most of these shots.


Q.  Is there really that much of a difference between a wedding photographer and a Bar Mitzvah photographer?

A.  A Mitzvah photographer must know the traditions that go along with ALL types of Mitzvahs, including orthodox, conservative and reform.  This photographer may not be taking photographs of the actual ceremony since it is not permitted in most congregations.  However, the photographer should be able to re-enact some of the ceremonial parts such as grandparents putting the tallit on the celebrant.  Another plus, is that the photographer must know how to work well with children and teens. This person must be easy going and quick.  Patience is a virtue!


Q.  I am hearing so many photographers are shooting the event and giving the clients a disk of the photos.  Isn’t it cheaper that way? Do I own the rights?  Is it recommended to go this way when hiring a photographer?

A.  It is an utter disservice to shoot an event and only put images on a disk.  First, while many clients will share them via social media, most will not put in the time in to make prints or create a book for themselves.  They end up paying several hundred dollars for a CD but never wind up with a retouched, printed album.  Remember, you still spent anywhere from several hundred to a few thousand dollars for someone’s time without receiving a beautiful heirloom album.  It is best to invest in an album package and to invest with a FULL TIME photographer or photography studio that is well established. Your package should include retouched, printed photos in the album of your choice.


Q.  How far ahead do I need to book if I want Brian Masserman to shoot my Mitzvah?

A.  It really depends on the time of year.  We suggest 6-8 months out at the latest. Our philosophy is simple: Offer our customers a personal experience, deliver high quality, professional photographs at an affordable price and provide flexible options and packages. Feel free to call Brian at 248-346-6791 or email him at


Negotiate to get what you want.

Elayne Gross Photography Townsend Hotel

Elegant Event Venue

It’s not always easy to know what to ask for or how to negotiate for what you want before signing a contract with a venue for your event.  Here are some tips to help ease the process.  Use this as a guide when planning a wedding, bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah, sweet sixteen, christening, baby’s first birthday, 50th anniversary or other milestone event.


Chemistry with the Catering Manager, Sales Director or booking agent — does her/his personality seemed suited to yours? This is so important. If you sense friction in the initial meeting, don’t ignore your instincts.  It will not get better with time.

Responsiveness – are your calls and emails being promptly returned?  This is critical — untimely responses are a sure sign right out of the gate that there will be problems later on.

Flexibility – how willing is the Catering Manager to adjust menu offerings to accommodate any budget or dietary considerations? If it is not possible to customize a menu or work within your budget (regardless of size), then this, is not the place for you.

Vision – can you imagine having a successful celebration in the environment offered?

Reputation – what have you heard?  Does the positive outweigh the negative? Pay attention to comments like “poor customer service, ill-prepared food and inadequate staff.” These are red flags and worthy of further investigation if, and only if, it’s a place that is on the top of your list.

Space – is it adequate for your needs?  Don’t try to fit your event into a space that is too small or not configured the way you’d like. Unless the venue has moveable walls, the space is the space.  You are not going to change a room that seats 200 into a comfortable space for 350.

Curb Appeal — Is the location clean, well-kempt, and updated? If the exterior is crumbling, it’s a sign that this is not a well-cared for venue.  Do you want your guests pulling up and noticing chipped and peeling paint, weed infested landscaping or cracked and crumbling concrete? Of course not.


Are soft drinks and coffee included with the meal?

Can we bring in our own dessert?

Are there any discounts or coupons out now that we can take advantage of?

Do you provide linens?

Will you waive a room fee or minimum food/beverage charge?

Is the deposit refundable? What is the cancellation policy?

When is the balance due?


When a catering manager is unwilling to negotiate and says “this is the best we can do,” the message is “we don’t want/need your business.”  There is a venue out there for everyone so that is your cue to leave and not come back. Trust your inner voice.  If a warning light starts to flicker at the early stages of planning, pay attention. You may not even be able to pinpoint what’s bothering you, but you can be sure that something is not right. Oh, and one more thing.  If you are told that you “must have a soda bar all night for the kids” you might want to run in the other direction. Paying $4.00 extra per child for the privilege of letting them pony up to the bar all night is unnecessary.  Most places will negotiate lemonade, iced tea and soft drinks.

Finally, be upfront about your budget.  Don’t assume a venue/restaurant is out of your price range…you will be surprised, especially in this economy, what you can negotiate for.  Remember, be fair, the banquet hall is in the business to make money but would like to earn your business and book your event.

One last bit of advice:  don’t be afraid to ASK for what you want.  Good luck.