Ackermans raise bar on weddings

When Susan Ackerman sat down with legendary event designer Preston Bailey to plan her only son’s wedding, she summed up the mission in a sentence.

“For this amount of a budget I definitely need you to take my breath away,” she told him.

The result was Las Vegas’ wedding of the new millennium, with a price tag reportedly north of $1 million.

They started with the setting: the art deco-rich $470 million Smith Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in March.

On June 2, her son Sasha Ackerman-Kalishki married Kimberly Headding at an altar set up in the lobby, on stairs leading to the 2,000-seat Reynolds Hall concert venue.

Ackerman-Kalishki, who manages Ackerman Realty, is the son of longtime Las Vegas luxury car dealer Don Ackerman. Headding is a nursing student at UNLV. She and the groom are both 27.

Three hundred guests dined onstage where Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard christened the entertainment temple.

The wedding’s numbers are mind-boggling: The floral tab added up to about $300,000.

“Preston is all about flowers,” said Susan Ackerman, who was born in Pula, Yugoslavia.

More than 90 people were involved in the floral project, which covered everything from chandeliers, to the centerpiece, even a baby carriage covered with white roses for the couple’s daughter.

The 6-foot-high, six-tier wedding cake by celebrity cake designer Sylvia Weinstock cost $20,000. She’s known as the “Leonardo da Vinci of Cake.” It was flown in from New York City. Each tier featured different flavors, including chocolate and red velvet. Each slice had four different fillings.

Bailey’s eight-member team was assisted by several top Las Vegas event planners.

Five photographers from Las Vegas-based altF Photography shot nearly 4,000 images for the event. Several other photographers pushed the image total to 7,000, and there were two videographers.

In addition to the maid of honor and best man, the bride and groom each had 12 attendants.

“The head table was the most elaborate I’ve photographed,” said altF owner John Michael Cooper, a wedding specialist who said the Ackermans’ was “on a grand scale of any we’ve done on the East Coast.”

The bride made her grand entrance on a white carpet that stretched from the back of Reynolds Hall to the stage.

Serbian dancers performed, along with Elvis tribute artist Trent Carlini, Mark and the Martinis and a DJ, with a karaoke nightclub for the over-21 guests.

The newlyweds honeymooned in Bora Bora.


Horror film director Eli Roth wants to bring Halloween to Las Vegas on a year-round basis.

“I want to make it the world mecca for horror,” said Roth, who plans a September opening of his Goretorium attraction on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Roth said he is optimistic that he can tap a vein or two of the 77,000 to 100,000 tourists a day who pass the site of his 15,000-square-foot project near Harmon and the Strip.

“I’m building the house of my nightmares,” said Roth, before spilling details on what he predicts will be “ground zero for horror.”

He not only plans to scare the pants off tourists, but also is considering an adults-only stripper maze. And he’s bouncing around the idea for a bar called Bloody Mary’s and a lounge with a baby-doll theme, vampire nurses and zombie cage.

“And because it’s Vegas, there will be a chapel, ” he said.

He’s counting on boffo business from foreign visitors. From his travels, he’s learned “so many countries are jealous that we have Halloween. They can experience it here.”


“Now that health care is guaranteed, I’m frying everything I eat. Fried food and cigarettes.” – Craig Ferguson

Norm Clarke can be reached at 702-383-0244 or Find additional sightings and more online at Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke.

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