Beautiful Day: Wedding Planning in Pittsburgh

Plan your wedding to perfection with these professional tips and trends

BY NICOLE BARLEY

Turn, Turn, Turn!

Sheila Weiner, president of The Event Group, shares a favorite project, inspiring us with ambitious, beautiful planning. “A quick turn of a room is something planners do frequently, but the transition never ceases to be anything short of spectacular! We had the pleasure of transforming the New Hazlett Theater from a raw theater into a very warm and intimate ceremony space and then, during cocktails, turning it one more time into a regal, wintery atmosphere fit for a party. The amazing floral centerpiece by Allison McGeary Florist was a focal point in both settings. For the ceremony, it was positioned low and joined by a canopy of twinkle lights. For the reception, it was raised higher over the dance floor, as not to hide the cake that appeared on the second-level scaffolding, individual chandeliers were lowered over the dinner tables, and the twinkle lights were exchanged for snowflake gobos that lit the brick walls.”

The Event Group | 1008 Washington Blvd., East End. 412.441.9811. eventgroupweddings.com.
The Event Group - professional wedding planner tips

Photograph from Hot Metal Studio.


Bright Ideas

Flowers in the Attic - professional wedding planner tips

Photograph from Alisa Garin Photography.

Ken Milko, owner of Flowers in the Attic, says that when deciding on floral décor, it’s important to “choose your florist knowing that you feel comfortable with them. Give them your thoughts and ideas, and a good florist will know which flowers are in season during the time of year for your wedding. Your event will look cohesive and have a flow. Make sure the florist doesn’t drop and run [after placing] the flowers at the ceremony. It is always best to know that the florist will be there when you see your flowers for the first time in case there are any issues.” As for what’s trendy, Milko says it’s all about the bling. Shine on!

Flowers in the Attic | 7505 Saltsburg Road, Penn Hills. 412.789.2200. flowersintheattic.com.

Do it Up!

Like DIY projects? Want to incorporate a personalized element to your celebration? Visit Loom Exquisite Textiles. Designer John Gurman provides the following advice: “Loom has a large variety of trims and ribbons to adorn bouquets and vases, or to simply drape across tables for adding color and dimension. More is, well, more! Loom also carries lots of vintage tableware and linens that can add a personal touch in a variety of ways!”

Loom Exquisite Textiles | 2124 Penn Ave., Strip District. 412.586.4346. loomshowroom.com.

Trend Alert

Lounge and large banquet spaces are the hot trend for reception spaces, says Meaghan Tiberio, catering sales manager for Fairmont Pittsburgh. The idea is to book several banquet rooms in order to establish a sense of place and privacy for wedding guests. “Couples looking for an immersive experience can make an entire area seem like their own private and enchanted palace,” she says. “We’ve seen couples offer one room for the dinner and dancing, and one as a relaxing area to get away from the music. It feels like your party is the only thing happening in the whole world.” As for lounge areas, a comfy arrangement of couches, ottomans, and pillows provides a place for guests to rest their feet and chat, all while adding a dose of trendy décor to the space. This setting, designed by Natalie Berger, is a beautiful example.

Fairmont Pittsburgh | 510 Market St., Downtown. 412.773.8800. fairmont.com/pittsburgh.
Fairmont Pittsburgh - professional wedding planner tips

Photograph from Goldstein Photography.


Just Dance

Want to keep the dance floor packed? Take these wedding reception tips from Dean McAfee, owner of Pittsburgh DJ Company:

  • Keep everything in one room. It may seem like a good idea to have the bar or your photo booth in a separate room for space reasons, but that really can have a negative impact on the dance floor. Ask your venue for a mobile bar to be set up in the same room, if possible.
  • Start your reception just a little later in the evening. A simple change of having cocktails start at 6 p.m. rather than 5 p.m. can really make a big difference on how your guests will respond to dancing. When the dancing starts at 7 p.m., a lot of people subconsciously think it’s too early to dance. When dancing starts at 8 p.m., they are ready to party!
  • But don’t let dinner drag on. The longer your guests sit, the more comfortable they get! Once you have finished your dinner, certainly take a few minutes to greet your guests and thank them for coming. But if you can’t greet everyone personally by the time dinner is done, that’s OK. You have plenty of time to have fun with them throughout the night! And, it’s always well-received when the bride and groom make a quick speech to thank everyone for coming, and to please join them on the dance floor!
  • Have fun and dance! Leave the stress of planning in the past and make sure that you have fun! If you are ready for a fun evening, your guests will be, too; they want to celebrate with you! After all, the more the bride and groom dance, the more everyone dances — no one leaves the guests of honor on the floor alone.

“These little changes can have a big impact!” says McAfee. “A wedding is an elegant event, but once the formalities are over, it’s about celebrating your new life together! The moments you have now will be the memories you have later — so have fun!”

Pittsburgh DJ Company | 412.638.5350. pittsburghdjcompany.com.
Pittsburgh DJ Company - professional wedding planner tips

Photograph from Josh Mariana Photography.


Cater to You

Catering trends are constantly evolving, and Common Plea Catering Chef Tom Dunne shared the tasty details on what’s hot now — everything from late-night snacks to milkshakes:

  • Dinner stations, featuring micro-beers and food pairing
  • Whimsical dessert stations, donuts, and s’mores action stations are hot
  • Late-night bites, such as mini pizza flatbreads, mini taco stations, and, of course, the ever-evolving milkshake and cookie offerings

A favorite combination of Dunne’s? Salted caramel and pretzel milkshakes, made with French vanilla ice cream, sea salt-infused caramel, chocolate-covered pretzels, caramel vodka, and heavy cream, “all blended together with a pretzel garnish and served with a salted pretzel cookie.” Yum!

Common Plea Catering | 2495 Smallman St., Strip District. 412.281.5140. commonplea-catering.com.

There’s an App for That

When it comes to weddings these days, “New technology is helping DJs create unique and fun excitement at weddings that years ago could not be accomplished,” says Steve Lebo, owner of Party-Time Productions. In addition to uplighting, photo booths, and top-quality sound systems, Lebo highlights a free app that “enables guests at your wedding to take photos from their iPhone and instantly share them with the DJ, who can then project them up on video screens. Imagine the fun and excitement of watching all of the great pictures taken in real time as your guests dance the night away. The app is free, and your DJ can prep your guests on how to use it during cocktail hour!” Lebo also notes a creative lighting technique, which allows brides and grooms to make a memorable grand entrance: “Imagine the bride and groom behind a white drape, and only their shadows emerge and are visible to the crowd. They can strike a pose and give a kiss, and everyone in the room can only see their shadows. The DJ shifts the lighting and plays the entrance song as the bride and groom appear from the shadows for the first time as husband and wife!”

Party-Time Productions | 412.401.5320. partytimeprodj.com.
professional wedding planner tips - Party-Time Productions

Photograph from Through My Looking Glass Photography.


Mirror, Mirror

professional wedding planner tips - Bill Chisnell Productions

Photograph from Photographic Excellence by Bea Nyilas.

According to Bill Chisnell, owner of Bill Chisnell Productions, mirrors are must-have elements for creating effective and engaging event décor! He suggests using mirrors in unexpected places. “How great to have mirrors available at weddings and parties to check out how you look — or even one at your place setting. They also add a modern edge.” Another smart way to work with reflections? “Posting your seating charts on them is also fabulous,” says Chisnell.

Bill Chisnell Productions | 1111 Penn Ave., Strip District. 412.251.5601. billchisnellproductions.com.

Small Bites, Big Impact

From cocktail hour to closing time, serving small bites is a surefire way to deliver a delicious reception menu, says Amanda Cressman, catering and events director for big Catering. “Mini foods are a big trend right now. We make delicious mini tacos with various fillings such as tuna tartare, short ribs, wild mushrooms, and jumbo lump crab that are delicious and super cute!” she says. “Another popular trend now is a late-night snack. Things like mini donuts, ice cream sandwiches, or even mini burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches are great snacks while guests are drinking and dancing!”

big Catering | 5740 Baum Blvd., Shadyside. 412.361.4318. bigburrito.com.

Magic Moments

Brides and grooms: Take time for yourselves on the big day to savor the moment and take in all of the planning coming together for a beautiful result, says Bob Sendall, owner of All in Good Taste Productions. One of his favorite things to do during each wedding is to “whisk the new couple away for a private celebration of their new union with Champagne and hors d’oeuvres. Then, I escort them for their first glance at the reception area. The reaction on their faces is joyous and rewarding.”

All in Good Taste Productions | 1520 Monterey St., North Side. 412.321.6869. allingoodtasteproductions.com.

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Outstanding Celebration

professional wedding planner tips - All Occasions Party RentalWant your wedding to stand out from the rest? The experts at All Occasions Party Rental emphasize the importance of “stick[ing] to your own personal style.” Cindy Scott, director of sales, and Allison Miller, senior marketing director, say, “A lot of brides and grooms follow the latest lounge furniture trends, tabletop styles, linen colors, and accessories that constantly change from season to season. While it’s important to stay up-to-date with these trends to stay modern and fresh, it’s also important to incorporate your own designs to give your wedding a personal touch. Use Chateau lounge furniture and white Chiavari bar stools for your cocktail hour for a more relaxed atmosphere, and then, champagne Chameleon chairs, and a black and white California dance floor at your reception for a more formal look.” This wedding at Oakmont Country Club, which incorporates Miller’s advice, was planned by Tim Komen of TK Event Studio and features rentals from All Occasions, linens from Mosaic, and flowers by Hepatica. Lovely!

All Occasions Party Rental | 2740 Smallman St., Strip District. 412.471.2100. 72 Wilson Road, Eighty Four, 724.745.1500. allparty.com.

This article is featured in WHIRL Wedding Guide: Volume 8 (Fall 2013).