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The Latest: Shoe Clips December 2, 2010

Filed under: Attire,Favours & Gifts — brilliantbash @ EST
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What fashion trend am I loving lately?  Shoe clips. Yip.

Shoe clips are a stylish and inexpensive way to dress up your tootsies.  They’re all over Etsy, come in a wide variety of fabrics, colours, shapes and sizes, and there are even some online retailers, such as, that specialize specifically in these jazzy little clip-ons.  Who would have thought?'s Sequined Heart Clips

Pom Pom Clips from

Red Flower Clips by No144 (Etsy)

Red Flower Clips by No144 (Etsy)

Polka Dot Shoe Clips by Dainty Button (Etsy)

Clips by LoveOwlEyes (Etsy)

A lovely stocking stuffer idea, methinks?

Photos courtesy of, No144, Dainty Button and LoveOwlEyes

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Bash Attire: Handmade Holiday Party Dress November 18, 2010

Holly Stalder is an independent fashion designer based in Portland, Oregon.  Holly has a custom, made to order, Etsy shop, featuring her latest line, Haunt.  Holly also showcases her collection on her website.

I came across Holly’s shop searching for a unique holiday party dress.  And, boy, did I find one!

The “LBD Backless Plunge” features soft tulle ruffles encircling the neckline and hem, resulting in a playful, sexy dress that is perfection for holiday parties.   The tasteful yet daring back of the dress makes this little number a showstopper.  Holly will custom make her creations to your measurements, so make sure you contact her in time for the party season!

Stunning Back


So Cute!

On the Model

You can see more of Holly’s collection here.

Photos Courtesy of Holly Stalder

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Brilliant Bash: Melanie & Andy’s Wedding October 13, 2010

Melanie and Andy were married in Lincoln, England in May 2009.  Their fun, vibrant colour scheme and use of bold print is unlike any other wedding I’ve seen to-date.  With lots of polka dots, stripes and damask, Melanie’s event design resulted in a hip, modern twist on the traditional.

Melanie is a very close friend of mine and I have always admired her chic, sassy style.  I’m not doing the stationary justice here, but her invitations, Save the Date cards, and RSVP cards were cute and colourful, and they aptly set the tone for their unique bash.  With their ceremony set in a rustic English castle and their reception offered at a new boutique hotel, Melanie and Andy’s wedding perfectly melded the traditional English countryside with a modern urban flair.


Melanie & Andy's Invitation (Front & Back)



Gorgeous Red Bouquet



Ceremony Venue



The Wedding Party



The Girls



The Beautiful Modern Bride



Down the Aisle



The Kiss






Love all of the red!



Cake Cutting






The Happy Couple



Loving it!



Reception Centrepieces






Pimms & Lemonade



Homemade Seating Chart



Head Table






The Ladies



The Gents


Melanie’s thoughts on her big day:

Our photographer was Andrew Fletcher. His approach is to take photos when people are in the moment rather than doing a lot of staged photos, and the results were amazing, however, I do wish I had a few more posed portraits taken.

Our colour scheme was inspired by a trip to the Kate Spade store in Boston. We loved all of the heavily saturated hues and the sort of fun, tongue-in-cheek approach she takes to her designs. We carried the theme through in the save-the-date cards, invitations and RSVPs (all designed by my friend Lisa, who is a fantastic graphic designer), the flowers, and the decor at both Tattershall Castle and The Charlotte House Hotel.

For our attire, we both wanted to have a vintage feel.  I went with a floor length gown from J. Crew. I loved all of the silk tulle layers – it made me feel kind of like a ballerina. To complement the dress, I went with long pearls, a beaded jacket and a fascinator which I partially got from Etsy (the small pearl and feather centre) but took to a milliner in Winchester to build it out a bit more with silk. Andy’s suit was very slim cut and I picked out the DAY Birger et Mikkelsen red and white striped tie. Andy wasn’t convinced by the tie at first, but looking through the photos it made our outfits, bringing out the colours in our flowers and tying (pardon the pun) everything together.

We wanted our wedding to feel special not only to us, but for our guests as well.  The castle provided the perfect backdrop for the ceremony, as it was so old and a bit rustic. All of the rooms were predominantly stone which meant that there would be no clashing with our colour scheme. We served wedding cake and champagne immediately following the ceremony so that everyone could have a little celebration while the photos were taken.

We then whisked everyone off to the reception at The Charlotte House Hotel, a boutique hotel in the centre of Lincoln. It was really important to us that the reception have a dinner party feel to it. I wanted everyone to mingle and mix and the food had to be incredible. When the guests arrived, they were greeted with Pimms and lemonade before sitting down to dinner. My father-in-law created the quirky school chalk board with the seating arrangements, and Andy and I created the polka dot table runners and favour tags. Eating outside in the sunshine was my dream come true and everyone seemed to have are really fun time. Best day ever.

Photos by Andrew Fletcher

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Brilliant Bash: Freaki Tiki Party October 11, 2010

We hosted a Freaki Tiki Bash this past weekend and it was a blast.  I based the party plan on a Brilliant Bash Blueprint that I previously posted here.

Tiki Cake


Top of the Tiki Cake


Tiki Treats


Aerial View


Tiki Treat Table Close-Up

The treat table consisted of a four-layer cake (chocolate-vanilla-chocolate-vanilla) that I baked and decorated to resemble a tiki totem.  It was so much fun to create and I was really pleased with the results.  I ordered tiki mask sugar cookies from Lindsey Bakes and oh, what a job she did!  The cookies were decorated impeccably and then packaged individually – they were an absolute hit at the party. I baked gluten-free chocolate “tikicakes”, decorated them with a buttercream icing and tropical sprinkles, and then placed each one in a pink petaled cupcake wrapper, complete with a pink floral cupcake topper.  To place the treats, I used floral melamine plates that my husband’s mother gave me a few years ago, and created makeshift cupcake stands by placing a plate atop a pastel plastic bowl.  The remaining plates were filled with fresh pineapple chunks, decked out with pineapple-topped skewers.  Later on in the night, we ordered Hawaiian pizza (meat and veggie options), which was promptly devoured by our guests.


Cookie Closeup

Gluten-free Tikicakes

For the beverage station, I purchased pineapple soft drinks, pineapple juice, and tropical fruit juice, for the non-alcoholic options.  My husband created a cocktail menu that consisted of a Tiki Punch (in a beverage dispenser on which I had taped a tiki mask print-out from Disney Family Fun), Mai Tais, Screeching Zombies, Tiki Ti-Punch, Bermuda Bouquets, and Jungle Junk.  I will share his tropical cocktail recipes in a later post.

Tiki Tonics

Cocktail Station

The majority of the decor was from the best dollar store I’ve ever been to – a new one that just opened up in Toronto’s Liberty Village a few weeks ago.  I bought the pinata, coconut cups, leis, table skirt, fun straws, drink/food skewers, tiki lanterns, and luau plates, cups and napkins from that shop.  It was quite a challenge to transform our modern Baroque-decorated condo into a tiki hut, but with the right lighting (lots of candlelight) and great tropical flowers, we managed to create the right kind of island ambience.

Island Decor

The highlight of the night for me was the limbo contest.  It was hilarious and our guests really got into it.  I used the pinata stick as the limbo pole, and it worked just fine.  We purchased a “50’s Tiki Party” music collection from iTunes and it was the perfect accompaniment to the party and to the crazy limbo session.

Limbo Time!

The Limbo Champ

This bash was so much fun to plan and to decorate, and it was very low-maintenance throughout the night (with the exception of my poor hubby making cocktails all night!).  We plan to make this Freaki Tiki bash an annual event.  I look forward to next year!

Photos by Brilliant Bash

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Brilliant Bash: Katie & Eric’s Wedding September 22, 2010

I posted a feature on Ontario-based A Simple Photograph last week, as I absolutely adore Erin Samuell’s style and her artistic eye for colour, light and shadow.  Erin’s blog is teeming with striking and fun images, so I decided to do one post about her images, in general, and another that featured a specific event.  This post is the latter.  This post features Katie and Eric’s intimate and beautiful wedding, set in Stratford, Ontario this past May.

I must disclose that Katie is a former co-worker of mine, and I oohed and ahhed over her wedding plans for months, and eventually did the same with her stunning wedding photos.  Katie had raved about her photographer, Erin Samuell, but a lot of people say their photographer is great.  I reserve judgment until I see the images myself.

Well, Katie wasn’t just another head-in-the-clouds kind of bride.  This gal knew her stuff, planned her wedding on her own (impeccably), and the results were magazine-worthy.  And the photos?  Well, have a look for yourself:

A beautiful start to a beautiful day



A Father-Daughter Moment

This Way to Happiness

Down the Aisle



Breathtakingly Beautiful

Have Love, Will Travel

Stoppin' for a snack


Sweet Reception

Katie describes her big day:

“Our wedding day was exactly how we’d planned it – a day to celebrate our love with an intimate group of immediate family and friends.  When we first talked about getting married, we knew the wedding had to be personal and elegant with a focus on local and seasonal.  My dress was from Cabaret Vintage in Toronto – the perfect style for me – short, interesting and handmade. Boutonnières for Eric and his brother, and gorgeous fascinators for me and my sister, were crafted with love by my best friend, owner of Pomp and Plumage.  We chose Stratford, Ontario, as the location having spent two years there for work, and our fave restaurant Bijou became home to both our ceremony and reception.  My flowers were peonies (my dream wedding flower), our favours were handmade pottery teacups and decadent macarons from Nadege in Toronto.  Erin Samuell of A Simple Photograph captured the day with an expert flair, from walking down the aisle to posing in a canoe. With a guest list of 15 people (plus myself and Eric), we were able to make the entire weekend a special experience, and we remember and savour every moment.”

I also asked Erin a few questions about her work and about the experience of shooting this particular wedding.  Here is a snippet of our conversation:

Brilliant Bash: What, for you, seemed special about Katie and Eric’s day?

Erin Samuell: I have a total soft spot for intimate weddings!  There’s something so special about a tiny guest list, I mean when there’s only 17 guests, each and every one of them is the guest of honour.  Because Eric and Katie had such a small and cozy venue you could clearly see the emotion on their faces as they exchanged their vows and you were truly a part of the event, not just a witness to it.  I think that was what was most noteworthy about their wedding, but of course Katie and Eric are such a stylish couple and they created a space that was beautiful and elegant and very easy to photograph.

Brilliant Bash: Did you determine the various shoot locations ahead of time, or was it more of a casual process?  Do you usually have a shot plan for the weddings you photograph?

Erin Samuell: For Katie and Eric’s wedding, we did not pre-determine the locations. Of course, we had a general idea of where and when, but because the bridal party was so small and everything was happing in one convenient location, it was easy to be flexible.  We noticed the canoe rental booth when we were taking photos near the lake, and one of the groomsmen asked if we could borrow one.  That was a lucky find.  I am always open to the unexpected.  Those are the shots that inevitably turn out great!

Brilliant Bash: Do you have any tips for readers who are seeking photography services for their own weddings and special events?

Erin Samuell: Get to know your photographer, make sure you click (pardon the pun) with them on a personal level as well as respecting their body of work.  I am a huge advocate of engagement photos.  I recommend getting them done as early in the planning stages as possible.  It’s simply the best way to get to know how your photographer shoots and it gives your photographer a chance to figure out what style/method works best for you as couple.  Just like you would never order a meal without a taste test, or have your hair styled without a trial, I think engagement pictures are critical, and hey they’re a ton of fun too!

Photos Courtesy of A Simple Photograph

Katie and Eric’s wedding was featured on Style Me Pretty in June 2010.

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SAMPLE Brilliant Bash Blueprint: Tiki Party September 12, 2010

I announced yesterday that I am now offering custom party plans. You can read more about the Brilliant Bash Blueprints here.

For those of you out there who have neither the time nor the energy to get obsessed with party details, let me do the work for you!  I love this stuff.

So you have an idea as to what a Brilliant Bash Blueprint may look like, I’ve created a sample for you.

Bash Board: Tiki Party

Each Brilliant Bash Blueprint comes with a custom Bash Board (as you see above), as well as a complete, personalized party plan, such as the one included below.  This sample Blueprint is for a busy, uncrafty couple who don’t want to spend more than $200 on the bash, and they have two weeks to prepare.  Please keep in mind that the formatting on this blog isn’t the greatest, so the actual Blueprint would appear much more attractive than this sample.

SAMPLE Brilliant Bash Blueprint: Tiki Party

Brilliant Bash Blueprint:
1st Annual Tiki Party
September 2010

Theme: Freaki Tiki

Colour Palette: Tropical colours – bright green, orange, red, pink and yellow

•    Tiki lanterns
•    Grass table skirt
•    Coconut cups
•    Leis
•    Fresh tropical flowers
•    Tiki bar sign
•    Brightly coloured candles
•    Punch bowl
•    Patterned napkins
•    Food picks
•    Themed cupcakes
•    Tiki pinata

Tiki Cakes - Via Cupcakes Take the Cake

•    Hawaiian pizzas (meat and veg versions)
•    Fruit platter (pineapple, melons and strawberries)
•    Coconut cookies
•    Themed cupcakes
•    Tortilla chips w/pineapple salsa
•    Tiki punch
•    Pineapple soda or pineapple juice w/pineapple wedge garnish

Limbo Time!

•    Tiki soundtrack
•    Limbo
•    Pinata

Guest Favours: Leis and pinata winnings

•    Outfits – Grass skirts and brightly coloured tops for the women; khaki shorts or pants and colourful hawaiian shirts for the men

•    Accessories – Leis, faux flowers in hair and around wrists and ankles, coconut or shell “bras” over shirts, fun jewellery and earrings such as these

Overall Feel: Colourful, fun, relaxed – not too cheesy or overdone with décor, but with an edge of spooky tiki (achieved via music, lanterns and candlelight)

•    Forego the usual paper or plastic printed cups and opt for plastic coconut-shaped cups instead.  These costs a bit more, but are much more fun and memorable.  If you can only afford a few, just start the night with the coconut cups and move on to paper or plastic printed cups as more guests arrive
•    As each guest arrives, greet him/her at the door and adorn him/her with a brightly coloured lei.  This is a great way to welcome your guests to the party.

Suggested Preparation Timeline and Checklist:

3-4 weeks prior: N/A

2-3 weeks prior: N/A

1-2 weeks prior:
o    Purchase décor items and soundtrack (order any online items as early as possible)
o    Purchase attire
o    Purchase pinata contents
o    Purchase small bags for guests to place their pinata winnings

Week of:
o    Stuff pinata
o    Purchase pineapple soda/juice
o    Clean your home

Day prior:
o    Purchase and arrange flowers
o    Purchase necessary food items
o    Bake cupcakes
o    Create name tags for coconut cups (since there will be a limited amount of coconut cups, this will help to ensure guests continue to use the same cup throughout the party)
o    Place extra toilet tissue in the washroom
o    Prepare space for guest jackets in your front closet and shoes in your entryway
o    Start to arrange food table

Day of:
o    Hang tiki lights and pinata
o    Decorate cupcakes
o    Finish arranging food table
o    Prepare punch bowl
o    Pick up ice
o    Set up ice bucket
o    Slice pineapple wedges for drink garnishes
o    Place straws and cups for guests to self serve their drinks
o    Order pizza


Décor Items: Tiki grass table skirts, grass skirts, leis, themed napkins/cups/drink picks/straws, brightly coloured candles, plastic coconut cups, tiki lanterns and pinatas can be purchased at your local dollar stores, party stores or online via Party America , Luau Express or Party Mart (Canada).  And if there was ever a time to display your brightly coloured serving platters and bowls, this is it!

Flowers: One day prior to the bash, pick up brightly coloured flowers at your local grocery store or favourite florist.  If you have particular flowers in mind, order the flowers ahead of time, as early as your timeline allows.

•    Order the pizzas from your favourite pizza delivery restaurant
•    Purchase the remainder of the food and drinks at your local grocery store
•    Use a cake mix and store-bought icing for the cupcakes to make things easier for yourself.  Use tiki-themed drink picks as cupcake decorations.  I would suggest chocolate cupcakes with white icing, so they have a dark look, but the white icing will allow the tiki-themed drink picks to really stand out.
•    If you cannot find pineapple salsa, there is a great recipe here
•    Punch Recipes:

Tiki Rum Punch
4 Cups water
1 Cup lime or lemon juice
3 cups strawberry-flavored syrup
2 cups Jamaican white rum or Appleton Rum

Mix all ingredients together in a punch bowl. Serve over ice cubes with a piece of lime or lemon. Water and rum maybe added to weaken or strengthen as needed.  Serves 10-12

– OR –

Tropical Rum Punch
8 cups (2 quarts) guava nectar
6 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
1 cup fresh lime juice
2 cups coconut cream
3 cups light rum or Malibu Rum to taste

Chill all ingredients well before mixing.  Mix all ingredients well in a large punch bowl.  Float an ice mold or block of ice. Serve over crushed ice, if desired. Makes 40 servings.

•    Pinata – This can be purchased at your local dollar stores, party stores or online via Party America , Luau Express or Party Mart (Canada)
•    Tiki soundtrack – available via iTunes (Recommended: Kenny Saski & the Tiki Boys) or online via CD Universe or Amazon (Recommended: Drew’s Famous Original Tiki Bar Party Music CD)
•    Limbo – just a broom handle can work for this one!  Twist a lei around it if you would like to pull the party colours into the game.

Have a fabulous time!


If you are interested in learning more about Brilliant Bash Blueprints, please visit me here.

Thanks for reading!

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Brilliant Bash: Don’t rain on my pic-a-nic Part II

I posted a preview of my Ladies’ Picnic Party here a few weeks ago.  Needless to say, I was absolutely peeved that an unscheduled downpour occurred immediately before my guests were scheduled to arrive.  My poor husband ran up and down the stairs helping me bring in all of the picnic goodies so they wouldn’t be ruined.  It was rotten!

I had planned the picnic to take place on our spacious rooftop patio but, due to the nasty rain, we ended up being cramped into our tiny condo livingroom.  It all turned out fine, and everyone was a really good sport about the situation, but my beautiful party plan had been foiled!  Hmph!

A few pictures I managed to snap as the rain was doing its dirty work:

Dampened Picnic!


Pretty Picnic Gerberas


Ruined! *sob*

My friend Maryam took great photos of the indoor party here. Maryam is a talented photographer and did a much better job with the photos than I ever could.  Thank you for making me feel better about the indoor picnic, Maryam!

I planned this party in one week, so I didn’t have a tonne of time to obsess over the details.  Along with the classic red picnic gingham, I took inspiration from strawberries and watermelon and added some touches of light pink and fresh green to the colour palette.  I love polka dots, so I incorporated the print in red and green throughout.

I created handmade invitations for the guests I would see in-person that week (details here), and the remainder of the guests were invited via Facebook, with a cute picnic basket photo to entice them.  I purchased the gingham-printed trays, baskets, mason jars, paper cups, tablecloths, napkins, cutlery and dishtowels at various dollar stores, the ribbons at Walmart, and the fancy stripey paper straws at the small shop in Thomson Hotel (though I now sell these in the Brilliant Bash boutique here for much cheaper).

I ordered six strawberry shortcake and six lemon meringue cupcakes from For the Love of Cake in Toronto’s Liberty Village.  The guests oohed and ahhed over the cupcakes and some even tried one of each flavour.  They were a hit!  The fried chicken and cold salads were ordered from KFC, and I made pb&j sandwiches on regular and gluten-free baguettes.  I also prepared a cheese dome with various cheeses and a cracker platter with a fancy basil and olive oil goat cheese spread in the middle (from The Healthy Butcher).  There were candies, watermelon slices and strawberries on offer, as well as the picnic and lunchbox tradition – raspberry wagon wheels!  It was quite an afternoon feast.

To refresh our guests, I offered water with fresh strawberries, as well as mixed a berry vodka with fresh lemons and frozen lemonade and – presto – we had “Electric Berry Lemonade.”  My husband mixed an alcoholic variation of a sweet and tart iced tea, which was absolutely delicious.

I found a red and white checked clip art border online and created small tent cards so I could label the food items that weren’t obvious (such as the drinks).  I then placed a small ladybug scrapbooking sticker in each upper-left corner.  Unfortunately, it was all for naught, as all of my tent cards got drenched!

Regardless of the weather, what to wear to this picnic party?  I visited Toronto’s Little Party Shoppe and found a sweet pink gingham apron that worked perfectly for my Ladies’ Picnic Party.  See?

Cheers to the Picnic Apron

Favours consisted of bags of red gingham-wrapped jelly beans and gummy bears, red and green Laura Secord lollipops, and individual serving packs of cherry Kool-Aid.  It was rot-your-teeth-out kind of fun!

So, all in all, the picnic went ahead and the guests seemed to enjoy the indoor variation of the original plan.  I must admit that I am hesitant to ever plan an outdoor event again (I’m still feeling the burn!), but I am scheming up various ideas for the indoor focused fall and winter months.  Look out friends – more invitations are coming your way!

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