Wedding Girl

Wedding Girl

by Stacey Ballis


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You’ve Got Mail meets Julie & Julia in the new foodie fiction from the author of Recipe for Disaster.

Top pastry chef Sophie Bernstein and her sommelier fiancé were set to have Chicago’s culinary wedding of the year…until the groom eloped with someone else in a very public debacle, leaving Sophie splashed across the tabloids—fifty grand in debt on her dream wedding and one-hundred percent screwed on her dream life. The icing on the cake was when she lost her job and her home…
Laying low, Sophie moves in with her grandmother, Bubbles. That way, she can keep Bubbles and her sweater-wearing pug company and nurse her broken heart. But when Sophie gets a part-time job at the old-fashioned neighborhood bakery, she finds herself up to her elbows in dough and reluctantly giving a wedding cake customer advice on everything from gift bags to guest accommodations. Before she knows it, she’s an online wedding planner. It’s not mousse and macarons, but it pays the bills. But with the arrival of unexpected personal and professional twists, Sophie wonders if she’s really moving forward—or starting over from scratch...

Includes Recipes

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425276617
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/03/2016
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 903,386
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Stacey Ballis is the author of nine foodie novels: Inappropriate Men, Sleeping Over, Room for Improvement, The Spinster Sisters, Good Enough to Eat, Off the Menu, Out to Lunch, Recipe for Disaster, and Wedding Girl. She is a contributing author to three nonfiction anthologies: Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, and Living Jewishly. She was an educator for more than fifteen years in Chicago, including teaching high school English in the Chicago Public Schools and serving as director of education and community programs for Goodman Theatre for seven seasons, before pursuing a full-time career in writing and consulting.

Read an Excerpt

        Every Girl Should Be Married
        I may not meet the right man today. Or even this week. Or even this year. But believe me, when I see him, I’ll know it.
        —Betsy Drake as Anabel Sims
        Nine months ago . . .
        “You look gorgeous, Sunshine. A vision of loveliness.” My dad seems horribly uncomfortable in his tuxedo. He’s tugging a bit at the bow tie, which is
        “Look what we made, Robert, just look.” My mother glides across the room in what can only be described as a fringed lavender muumuu, her waist-length
        “I know, Diane, I know. We did good.” She beams up at him, and he kisses her deeply. With tongue. Gack.
        “Hey, parents, could we please keep the making out to a minimum, at least until after dinner?” Don’t get me wrong; it’s fantastic that after over forty
        They pull apart with a sickeningly slurpy squelch and look over at me.
        “Poor Sunshine, she’s still embarrassed of us,” my dad teases.
        “Bobby, you know she prefers Sophie; today of all days, give her a break,” says Bubbles from her perch across the room in a comfortable chair. Thank
        “Of course, Mom, you’re right; have to respect the bride’s wishes.” My dad walks over and kisses my grandmother on her soft, powdery cheek.
        “Good boy.” Bubbles pats the hand he has placed on her shoulder.
        I was born Sunshine Sophie Summer Karma Bernstein. The Sophie was in honor of my dad’s dad, Solomon, Bubbles’s husband, who died only a month before I
        “You named me, and I wouldn’t want to be called anything else.”
        When I was just learning to talk, at the precocious age of ten months, my parents kept trying to get me to call her Bubbe—Yiddish for “grandmother”—but
        “You are a vision, Sophie, truly,” she says, and I turn back to the full-length mirror that has been set up in our little lounge. And I have to admit,
        None of it matters today. The dress is a perfect rich off-white, the color of the cream of grass-fed cows; made of the heaviest matte silk; and in a
        Candace, the event manager here at the Ryan Mansion, comes flying in. “Sophie? Do you have time for a quick walk-through before we open the doors?”
        “Of course.”
        My mom starts to walk toward us, but Bubbles catches the look on my face.
        “Diane, dear, would you get me some more of that sparkling water, please? You go ahead, Sophie; the three of us will wait here for you.” Thank god for
        I follow Candace out of the lounge and down the hall to the elevator.
        “You look gorgeous,” she says as we ride down to the main floor. “How do you feel? Nervous at all?”
        “Actually, no. I feel great. Never felt better!”
        And I do. No jitters, no sweaty palms, no butterflies. This is the day I was destined for. The man I was destined for. Dexter Kelley IV—DK to his
        And who wouldn’t be? In Dex, I’ve found my perfect partner in all things. We work together at Salé et Sucré, the two-Michelin-starred restaurant from
        I have to say, as much as I love my Dexter . . . our general contractor, Liam, is insanely gorgeous. I don’t know how his wife, Anneke, ever lets him
        “When the trust turns over, we’ll be able to find the perfect house, and when we officially quit, we can take a few weeks off to travel before jumping
        I’m sure that when his trust kicks in, my newly minted hubby will have no problem helping me pay off this minor debt I’ve accrued. After all, while it
        Candace and I step off the wood-paneled elevator and into the wide entry room of the mansion. This place is my win-the-lottery dream house: twelve
        As Candace walks me through all the spaces, I’m blown away. The flowers—arranged by Cornelia McNamara, who does all the special events at the
        The round dining tables, small six-tops to keep conversation flowing, are set with white linen cloths with deep-magenta linen napkins, centerpieces
        Three square tiers of hazelnut cake filled with caramel mousse and sliced poached pears, sealed with vanilla buttercream scented with pear eau-de-vie.
        There’s no point to being a pastry chef if you can’t get your own wedding sweets perfect.
        “It’s, just, everything,” I whisper.
        Candace puts an arm around my waist and squeezes. At least I think she’s squeezing; who can feel anything through this corset? “It’s one of my most
        “Not me. I only want to plan one wedding in my life, and this one is it. The rest of the brides are on their own.”
        “Well, maybe for a daughter someday?”
        “Maybe.” I say this, but I don’t really mean it. The restaurant business, even under the best of circumstances, is a hard row to hoe for parents. Kids
        I have to admit, seeing Anneke all preggers out to there, and the way Liam watches her and smiles and gently touches her belly when he walks by her,
        “Well, if everything looks good to you, I’d say we could open the doors and get ready to welcome your guests,” Candace says.
        “Can I check in on the kitchen?” I ask.
        She looks me up and down. “Yes, but hold on a second.” She disappears down the hallway and returns with a large men’s trench coat. “Lost-and-found
        We walk over to a swinging door, and she holds it open while I stand just inside. “Bride in the house!” she calls out, and immediately three people
        “Hello, Chef, congrats to you,” says my friend Erick, who has taken a night off from both of his restaurants to man the kitchen.
        “You congratulate the groom, silly, and wish the bride luck.” I accept his kiss on my cheek.
        “You don’t need luck; you’re a rock star,” says Gino, who is serving as Erick’s sous chef today and running the line.
        “We’re gonna ruin these people,” says Megan, who is doing all the appetizers and covering the midnight buffet.
        The menu is spectacular. Passed hors d’oeuvres include caramelized shallot tartlets topped with Gorgonzola, cubes of crispy pork belly skewered with
        I look at these dear friends who are practically working for free to make our day perfect, and grin at them.
        “We expected nothing less, and we cannot thank you all enough for all of this. You know that I owe every one of you wedding or birthday cakes when the
        “We’re going to hold you to that. Have the day you deserve, and don’t worry, we got this!” Erick says, winking at me. “Let’s go, everyone; we’ve got
        Candace shuttles me out of the kitchen, relieves me of my borrowed trench coat, and hustles me back to the elevator. “We’re opening the doors, and I
        “We’re not superstitious, and the more people we have face time with before the ceremony and during the cocktail hour, the more we will be able to just
        “Okay, then I would do one last lip gloss and hair spray check, and send your family down, and then join them in about ten minutes.”
        “Will do.”
        I head back upstairs to my lounge. The door is slightly ajar, and I can hear my parents talking.
        “It isn’t that I don’t like him; I just don’t like him for her. He seems just a little too slick for my taste,” my dad says.
        My mother pipes up. “I know, I agree, but what can we do? She loves him. We have to support her fully in that.”
        “Does she?” my dad says. “Or does she love what he represents? Does she love the idea of him? Does she love that he isn’t me?”
        “Pish, Robert, it isn’t about you,” my mom says. “She wants everything that isn’t us, that isn’t what we chose, and we can’t choose for her. All we can
        “What the two of you can do is stop worrying and let the smart, beautiful, capable girl you raised make her own life the way she wants it. She’s not
        I move a few steps back from the door and stomp loudly, calling out, “You guys ready to get your party on in there?” and fly into the room in a swirl
        “We’re ready if you are!” Lucky for me, my mom is adept at putting a good face on it, and for today, that is enough.
        “I’m ready. Dad, if you will please escort these lovely ladies downstairs, I will be down in two shakes to join you. Bubbles, there is a cozy corner in
        “I’m not infirm, child. I’ll be perfectly fine with the rest of them, thank you very much.” Bubbles claims eighty-two, though I suspect that may be
        My dad looks me deep in my eyes and leans over to kiss the tip of my nose like he used to when I was little. “See you down there, Sunshi . . . um,
        I walk over to the mirror and check myself one last time. Everything is in place. And my future is waiting. I turn and head out of the room, closing
        Dexter should be around here somewhere, but I don’t see his brother yet, so maybe they are still on their way. Dexter’s parents are on an exclusive
        “This is amazing, and you are spec-freaking-tacular.” I turn to see the beaming face of my best friend, Ruth. Ruth and I grew up on the same block and
        “Thank you.”
        “I can’t believe the whole thing. Are you ready?”
        “Ready as anything. Where is Jean?” Jean was Ruth’s first girlfriend in college, part of Ruth’s transition from “bi-curious” to “full-time power
        “You know Jean; she had a meeting this afternoon that she swore would be done by three, but those theater people take two hours to just say good-bye.
        I hear the doors open and peek over Ruth’s head to see who is coming in, and it is Jean, but her face is ashen. I wave and she makes a beeline over to
        “Hey, honey,” Jean says, grabbing me in a deep and powerful hug.
        “Don’t wrinkle the bride!” Ruth tries to pry Jean away, but Jean won’t let go.
        “Jean. Have corset. Can’t breathe.” I lean back and Jean finally breaks her embrace.
        “Baby girl, we are here for you and with you, and this is all going to be okay.”
        My stomach drops.
        “What the fuck are you talking about, Jean?” Ruth is snippy.
        “I heard it on the radio on my way over. Dexter . . .”
        Oh no. This cannot be happening. There’s been a horrible accident. He cannot be gone. I make a little yelping noise as my eyes fill with tears. “Is he
        Jean shakes her head, her eyes reflexively filling with sympathy tears. “He’s not coming, dearheart. He’s in St. Barths.”
        My heart drops back into my chest. My tears dry up. “I’m sorry, what?”
        “Jean, you are making no fucking sense whatsoever. Spit it out, woman.” Ruth shakes her shoulders a bit.
        “I was listening to the news on WGN radio on my way over. They congratulated local girl Cookie Carlisle and her new husband, hotshot sommelier Dexter
        All the air flies out of my lungs.
        “That bastard,” Ruth mutters.
        I look up and see that everyone in the room is looking over at me with shocked faces or still staring at their phones, which I presume are blowing up
        But then Bubbles holds her arms out to me and says, “Here, shayna maidela, here,” and I know that it is real as soon as I sink into her
        My dad is rubbing my shoulders and saying all the things one would imagine a pissed-off dad would say, and my mom has joined the hug with Bubbles and
        I stand up straight and shake them all off. “Okay, then,” I say.
        “What do you need?” my dad asks.
        “What do you want?” my mom asks.
        “Who can I kill?” Ruth asks.
        “I have this,” I say. Because if Dexter Kelley the fucking Fourth is going to steal my happiness and my future and my hopes and dreams, he sure as shit
        I take a deep breath and try to keep the waver out of my voice as I call out, “Can I have everyone’s attention, please?” The already-quiet crowd shifts
        Ruth takes my hand and squeezes. Which gives me just enough power to continue. “I take it that what I am about to say is not going to come as a
        I head for the elevator, Ruth and Jean in tow, and we make our way upstairs. In the lounge, the two of them begin a long string of expletives and
        “Are you . . . ?” Ruth starts, and I hold my hand up.
        “Not now. I cannot do anything right now. Right now I would just like for the two of you to agree to spend the night here with me tonight after the
        “Deal,” Jean says. “I’m so proud of you.”
        “You are the most amazing woman I know,” Ruth says.
        They follow me out, and we head back downstairs, stopping at the second floor. “Hold the elevator for me, would you? I’ll be right back.”
        I walk up the hallway to the ballroom and open the door. The room is just as perfect as before. The band is beginning to do a sound check. A busboy is
        “Hi, you see that small table for two near the dance floor? Can you please make it disappear before we come back up?” He nods, heads right over, and
    The Awful Truth


    No, things are the way you think I made them. I didn’t make them that way at all. Things are just the same as they always were, only, you’re the same as
    —Irene Dunne as Lucy Warriner

    Today . . .

    I grab the last box out of my battered Honda, lock the doors, and carry it up the wide stoop and through the front door.

    “My goodness, now that is a very stinky Snatch!” I hear Bubbles in the other room, and I shake my head and suppress my giggles. A fat, elderly pug comes
    “Snatch. You stop right there, young man,” she says to the dog, who halts and plops down on his wide ass. If he weren’t a boy, I’d say Snatch has
    “He rolled in something dead in the backyard,” Bubbles says, by way of explanation, removing the offending garment and rubbing his rolls down with the
    Straight up the narrow staircase and left at the top, into the second room on the right. Boxes are stacked floor to nearly ceiling on three of the four
    “Is that everything?” Bubbles asks from the doorway.

    “That’s it.” I wave my arm around the room. “The sum total of my worldly possessions.”

    She crosses the space delicately, weaving around the obstacles on the floor with fluid grace. She perches on the wide arm of the chair and takes my chin in
    “Well, here is all my stuff.”

    “I forgot to ask; maybe we should have painted the room? You picked this color when you were six. I know your taste has changed.”

    My room. Growing up, I spent a lot of time here at Bubbles’s house. She insisted on taking me after school one day a week and one weekend a month. It gave
    “It’s still my favorite room. I wouldn’t change a thing,” I say, smiling at her as best I can.

    “Well, if you change your mind, we’ll redecorate. Now, all of this stuff will wait. I’ve got treats downstairs. We’ll have some Nook time.”

    In my grandmother’s kitchen is a small bay window where there is a tiny café table with two chairs that she and my grandfather brought back from their
    “I’ll be down in ten minutes, I promise.”

    “I’ll put the kettle on. You hear that whistle; you get your tushy downstairs.”


    Bubbles heads to the kitchen, and I take stock of my shame. I am thirty-four years old. Nine months ago, I was left at the altar by my perfect-on-paper
    I decided it was best to still take the week off after the wedding. Dexter and I had planned on a little staycation honeymoon, and so I wasn’t expected at
    I threw away the toothbrush and deodorant, and washed my hands of it. The mistake hadn’t been mine; it had been his. And I was grateful he had shown his
    Right up until the entire staff got invited to the soft opening of Abondance, the “new restaurant venture from Dexter and Cookie Kelley.”

    They’d kept the name I had come up with, the French word for “abundance”; my concept, French-influenced comfort foods elevated to fine-dining quality; and
    I started phoning it in at work, taking shortcuts, losing my perfectionist’s edge. I sent out desserts that were overbaked, breads that were lackluster,
    Boy, did I ever deserve it. The news of my career fall from grace only served to flip the script on my victimhood in the whole Dexter debacle, making
    Ruth and Jean abducted me to Canyon Ranch spa, where one of Ruth’s clients owned a home she had always offered to Ruth, and the three of us spent a week
    The plan started great. My folks had been toying with trying to convince Bubbles to explore assisted-living communities—some recent bits of forgetfulness
    I can hear the kettle squeal downstairs.

    “Come sit.” Bubbles gestures to the Nook, where a plate of golden mandel bread, sort of a Jewish biscotti, awaits, crispy and studded with walnuts and mini
    “So. How are you, really?”

    I take a sip of the tea, some exotic Russian blend she keeps loose in a battered red tin. I can taste the comforting flavors of vanilla and chocolate and
    “Leaving the job, I’m going to guess, was less under your control than you would have your parents believe?”

    I look sheepishly at my cookie. The official press release said that I had resigned to pursue other opportunities, saving me what little face I had left
    “But you’re better now? Coming out of the fog?”

    “I’m trying, Bubbles. I’m really trying.”

    “Good. That is all you can do. So while you are trying, we will do what we do. After all, the movies never let us down.”

    Bubbles and I have one thing that is our deep, shared passion, beyond sweets. Old black-and-white movies from the thirties and forties. Anything with Cary
    “That sounds like good medicine to me,” I say, thinking about losing myself in a world long past, where getting left at the altar would be a funny device
    “TCM is running a marathon today, all of the Thin Man movies in order. I think it starts in about an hour. We’ll watch all six in a row, and only pause to
    “Well, then I will do a little unpacking, and meet you in the den, and we will hunker down for some serious screen time.”

    I finish my tea, grab another piece of mandel bread, and get up from my chair. Bubbles grabs my wrist in a firm grip. “Darling girl, it will all be okay.
    I lean over and kiss the top of her silvery head, breathing in the scent of the Arpège perfume she has always worn. “I’m gonna take your word for that.”

    I spend the next hour putting clothes away in the closet that Bubbles emptied out for me and in the small dresser. My wardrobe isn’t exactly expansive,
    I manage to clear off the bed and arrange all my boxes so that I know what is in them—mostly cookbooks and cooking equipment. I sold my condo fully
    “Just in time.” Bubbles pats the couch next to her when I get to the den, and I snuggle in. She hands me one of the crocheted throw blankets that she made
    Then she takes my hand in hers, and as soon as the MGM lion roars, I can feel my shoulders unclench just a little bit, and my breath is slightly less tight

Excerpted from "Wedding Girl"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Stacey Ballis.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion

1. Sophie is bound and determined to have her dream wedding, even though she knows it goes beyond the scope of her means and requires that she hide the expenses from her fiancé. What do you think it says about someone who is that committed to a type of event that they will put themselves in financial straits in order to make it happen? What did it make you think about Sophie?

2. Sophie is very determined to keep herself hidden away after her public embarrassment. Would you have handled it the same way? What is the most publicly embarrassing thing that has happened to you?

3. Bubbles gives Sophie a safe place to land when her life falls apart. Why do you think Sophie chooses to move in with her instead of her parents? Who would you move in with in a similar scenario?

4. Sophie adores the movies of the 1930s and 1940s. How can you see those movies influencing her life, good or bad? What do you think it says about her that she is so much more drawn to those old films than to contemporary movies?

5. Do you think Sophie should be giving out wedding advice for money? Do you like or agree with the advice she gives? If you needed a second source of income, what sort of advice website would you launch?

6. brings Jake into Sophie’s life. Why do you think she is drawn to him? Were you excited for her or concerned that he was going to be trouble? Have you ever met someone randomly online and ended up knowing them in real life?

7. The Cake Goddess coming into the neighborhood means trouble for the already troubled Langers, and puts Sophie in the awkward position of wanting to help the failing business, without really being committed to it for the long run. Mark calls her out on getting Herman’s hopes up. Do you agree with his side of things, or do you think it was right for Herman and Sophie to fight for the business?

8. The cake competition was bound to put Sophie back in the public eye, even if she was only assisting Herman. Do you think she was ready? If you were going to make a cake based on your hometown, what elements would it have?

9. Were you surprised to discover Mark is such an accomplished cook? Did it alter your opinion about him?

10. Were you glad that “Jake” turned out to be Mark? Do you think that he and Sophie are a good match? What do you think their wedding will be like? And who will bake the cake?

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