Lauren Hatcher and Brandon Sullivan took a quiet moment Sunday to have a bite to eat and talk about things.
But their moment was in the middle of the Grand Exhibtion Hall at Tropicana Casino and Resort, which at the time was hosting hundreds of future brides and grooms and other assorted wedding-party people for the annual Bliss Bridal Expo.
Their snack was kicked up a few notches, because it was a pair of the "s'moreberries" being handed out by Steve Barile, the pastry chef for Starr Restaurants in Atlantic City, including the Continental. The highlight of that dessert treat is a large strawberry artfully coated with a cloud of meringue individually roasted by a restaurant professional with a baby blowtorch.
Hatcher and Sullivan, from Mystic Islands in Little Egg Harbor Township, Ocean County, gave thumbs up both to their treat and their visit to Bliss, which they agreed was helpful to their plans to get married next spring. They were both wedding-show rookies before Sunday. Hatcher said it was a good way to get lots of information in one place.
"And I wanted him to come so he could get an idea of different things," she said, adding that she does give her future husband credit for spending his Sunday afternoon at an event called a bridal expo.
Sullivan, who said the couple will pay for their own wedding, agreed it was useful - especially giving them an idea of the possible price tag of their big day.
But not everything was so calm and rational at Bliss, which was sponsored for the eighth time by The Press of Atlantic City. The afternoon involved mass dance lessons organized and choreographed by the deejays and other entertainers of Versatile Event Designs, which is based in Toms River but expanded a few years ago to open an Atlantic City office.
While Nick Skevakis, Tony Ciaravino and Mike Thomas got a big, boisterous crowd of mostly women out swinging to Michael Jackson's "Blame it on the Boogie" and more line-dance favorites, Versatile's owner, Ozzy LaMilia, talked a bit about his company and its industry.
In 1988, Versatile did about 20 weddings. By this year, he said, the company has 30 entertainers and expects to do more than 800 events.
"It's a recession-proof business," he said, sounding confident.
Other vendors Sunday looking to get their share of the American wedding industry - estimated by The Wedding Report in 2012 to be worth $55 billion a year - included a wide selection of niche businesses.
Bliss naturally featured several local country clubs and more catering venues. Other booths included weight-loss plans, cosmetics, custom engraving, hair-styling, flowers, photography, photo booths, trolley services and dental care.
One popular stop was Joe Canal's Discount Liquor Outlet in Egg Harbor Township, where Aaron Tasoff was pouring tastes of red and white wine, and punches based on sparkling wines. He was advising potential customers about the store's services for bring-your-own catering halls.
Tasoff said he'd have to wait and see how much actual business the day generates, but added that "a lot of people seem interested in winning our gift basket, and we're getting a lot of email addresses."
Back at the edge of the dance party, Renzo Poblete, of Somers Point, and Samantha Navas, of Egg Harbor Township, were also rookies at wedding shows. Poblete just got back from Afghanistan last week, and the two plan to get married next May.
"It's his first one. I didn't want to shock him," Navas said, smiling as she explained why the two weren't out showing off their dance moves. She agreed it was too soon to say how successful the trip to Bliss had been.
"Everything is just so new," Navas said. "I have to go back and look at all my stuff, all this paperwork."
Planning a wedding can be complicated, even stressful. At least that was the idea behind a popular giveaway from Phillips Seafood in Atlantic City, as explained by Michelle Torres, in Phillips' marketing operation.
"They're bride and groom stress dolls," she said, showing off the small, rubber, squeeze-friendly dolls dressed up as the stars of wedding day. "Instead of people taking out the stress on each other, you can take it out on this bride and groom."
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