Europe Recap: Venice

If there ever was a city unlike any other in the entire world, it would be Venice.  It is absolutely unreal.  From the moment we stepped off the boat, my mouth hit the ground and I think it stayed there the entire two and a half days we were in town.  One look at Venice, the Grand Canal, and all of the smaller canals that wind their way through the city, and you’re hooked.  You almost can’t believe what you’re looking at – a footbridge at every turn, tiny waterways that run between buildings, narrow streets that empty into huge courtyards, buildings that are in some form of aging disrepair but that are still wildly cool.  You feel like you’re on a movie set, like there is no way this is real life.  But it is.  And it’s glorious.  Unique and absolutely breathtaking, especially at night, Venice immediately became my favorite city in the world.  I know, I know – I haven’t been to a ton of places.  But I have a very hard time believing any other city is ever going to top this place.  Plan a trip and see for yourself.  While you’re there, check off the things on my…

Top Ten Must Eat/See/Do List – Venice Edition

1.) St. Mark’s Square – The hub of Venice is certainly this piazza.  With the basilica (see #3 below) on one end, the Museo Correr on the other, and Doge’s Palace (see #5 below), the campanile, and the lagoon close by, it’s tourist central but it’s a must see.  Stop for an espresso at one of the square’s many cafes (Café Florian claims to be the first one in the world!), sit outside, and just watch the people go by.  I’ll warn you though – the square is rife with pigeons.  If you’re afraid of birds like I am, stick to the perimeter.

Recap: Venice

Recap: Venice

Recap: Venice

2.) Antico Forno – There are approximately 1 million pizza joints in Venice but this one is by far the best.  I can say that because we ate a ton of pizza while in town…at one point for three meals in a row.  Don’t judge me.  Thin crust is more traditional (and more delicious) and whoever thought to put prosciutto on pizza was a genius.

3.) St. Mark’s Basilica – Church number two of our tour, St. Mark’s Basilica is the epitome of Byzantine architecture and art.  Glistening, golden domes and a mosaic marble floor that plays tricks on your eyes, the basilica is the crown jewel of Venice and a must see for any visitor!  The church itself is free to tour, although the line to get in apparently gets crazy long.  We lucked out and walked right in.  I read that the treasury tour is worth the admission fee but we opted to skip that.

Recap: Venice

Recap: Venice

4.) Bacareto de Lele – This tiny (and I mean realllly tiny) corner sandwich shop is a hidden gem.  You know a place is good when there is a line out the door.  But it’s totally worth the wait.  Their homemade wine and the simple but amazing sandwiches of speck, mortadella, and prosciutto cannot be beat.  It’s grab and go, so take your grub and sit on the steps to the canal for a dining experience unlike any other.  Also, we split four glasses of wine and six slider-sized sandwiches for around nine euros (~$10). SO CHEAP BUT SOOOOO GOOD!

5.) Doge’s Palace – This building from the 14th century was once home to Venice’s governing council.  While some sections are opulent and impressive, others are small, dark, and modest.  In addition to the chambers of the Great Council, the palace also contains Venice’s ancient courtrooms, which were linked to the prisons by the infamous Bridge of Sighs.  Incredibly, most of the structure is still original.  We sprung for the Secret Itineraries Tour, which is guided and takes you into rooms and chambers not open to general guests.  I highly suggest it but book online in advance to avoid a long wait for tickets!

6.) Gelato – Every ice cream cone I eat from here on out will pale in comparison to the gelato I ate in Venice.  The traditional flavors are made with real fruit or nut purees.  Gelato also generally has fewer calories and less fat and sugar than ice cream.  So I'd say technically gelato is good for you!  Note to self: Replace vegetables with gelato.

7.) Get lost – No map, no GPS, just walk around.  It’s an island so how lost can you really get?  Venice is full of amazing treasures and there is something unique and exciting at every turn.  But you won’t find most of them on a map.  So just head out and go where the tiny alleys take you.  You’ll be surprised by all of the beauty that you find.

Recap: Venice

Recap: Venice

Recap: Venice

Recap: Venice

Recap: Venice

Recap: Venice

8.) Rialto Market and Pescaria – Similar to La Boqueria in Barcelona, the Rialto Market is the place for fruit and vegetables, spices, nuts, and other various fresh foods.  Not far away you’ll find the fish mongers of the Pescaria with their fresh octopus, spider crabs, cuttlefish, squid, and other staples from the sea.  It’s a sight to behold and a great way to get a look at how the locals live.

Recap: Venice

Recap: Venice

9.) Ponte dei Tre Ponti – This bridge is located just steps from Piazzale Roma, and it’s where three bridges from various directions collide to make one.  Actually, the name means “Bridge of Three Bridges” in Italian.  And apparently you can see 21 other bridges from this vantage point.  No, I didn’t count; I just took the guide book’s word for it.  Regardless, it’s still a pretty cool site!

10.) Gondola ride – Ok, I know it’s a super touristy thing to do but where else can you ride in a gondola?!  So when in Rome, right?  Or in this case, Venice.  A half hour gondola ride will run you 60 euros during the day, or 80 euros at night.  Although it was more expensive, we waited until dusk.  SO! WORTH! IT!  The sunset reflecting off of the water is absolutely breathtaking and we were able to see sides of Venice we never could have seen on foot.  80 euros still too steep for you?  Find some friends to split the cost with – it’s per ride, not per person or couple!

Recap: Venice

Recap: Venice

Recap: Venice

Our view from a gondola at sunset. My favorite photo from the entire trip. Is this real life?

Oh Venice, no other city will ever compare to you!  Without question, it was my favorite out of the three we visited.  There is literally nothing else like it.  Stay tuned for a recap of the final city…Paris!

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Real Wedding: Heather & Zach at Soldiers & Sailors

I love a bride and groom who can roll with the punches.  Many of you are probably aware of how difficult it can be to secure Heinz Chapel for your wedding ceremony.  In case you aren't in the know – you can't reserve a date until exactly one year in advance, by the month.  Inquiries are taken by phone and calls are answered in the order they are received.  Ceremonies can be held at one of five times, only two of which are in the afternoon.  It's tough stuff, especially when you're hoping to get married in October.  So what do you do to better your chances of securing your special date?  You snatch up the not-so-popular ceremony time slot of 10:30 a.m. and you have a kick ass brunch wedding.  That's exactly what Heather and Zach did last year, and it was amazing.  Here are my favorite details!

  • Ok, let's go back to this most amazing idea ever…A BRUNCH RECEPTION!  The ceremony was followed by an early afternoon party full of day drinking (the best kind of drinking) and my most favorite food in the entire world.  Donuts, muffins, bagels, waffles, an omelette bar, carving stations, homefries, mimosas, you name it!  The best part is after the reception was over, the couple still had the entire night to celebrate with family and friends!  Seriously, more people need to do this.
  • The ladies wore adorable gray brocade dresses (that they could totally wear again) from BCBG and kept the fall chill at bay with ivory pashminas.  Make sure you check out the cute hangers too!
  • Heather actually had parts of her mom's wedding dress sewn into her own.  How special is that?!  The lace around the bottom was the trim on her mom's dress, and other pieces of lace were blended into the beading on the waist.
  • Cute signs galore but my absolute favorite was the one at the cookie table.  If you aren't from Pittsburgh, you just don't understand this tradition.  A sign explaining the custom and its importance to Pittsburghers (and thanking those talented bakers!) is a great idea!
  • Favors that paid homage to the couple's last name – Jones.  Each guest took home a bottle of Jones Soda to enjoy!

The ladies of the Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers were there to capture all of the fun, fall-inspired elements.  Brunch > everything else.  In life.  Period.  Brunch.  Wedding.  Amazing.  Do it.

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

Fall Inspired Brunch Wedding - Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers

From the bride…

When and how did you two meet?
We met junior year while studying Industrial Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.  We had some classes together and were acquaintances, but didn’t hit it off until we were paired up to do a project together in our Communication Skills class that spring semester.  Our friends knew from there on out that we were bound to fall in love.  We both had previously decided to go on the spring break trip organized by the Pitt Program Council to Panama City, Florida.  Our friends actually placed bets on how far into the trip we would realize we were meant to be.  Needless to say, by the end of the trip, we were already falling in love and we went on our first official date a few days after we returned home from Florida.

Juicy details on the proposal, please!  Where, when, how?
We did long distance for a few years after college.  I moved to Washington D.C. and Zach lived in Pittsburgh.  I was home in Pittsburgh for Easter weekend in 2013.  Zach had asked me a few weeks before if I wanted to go on a double date with his sister and her boyfriend, Dan, in the Southside.  They had planned to meet at Zach’s apartment in the Southside before dinner.  I arrived at Zach’s apartment and completely froze as soon as I walked in the door and saw what was waiting for me inside – a romantic setup, complete with flowers and candles throughout the apartment.  Zach was patiently waiting for me at the table in the kitchen.  After a few minutes of silence with me still standing in the doorway (for what felt like an eternity to Zach), he told I that I could come in if I wanted.  I slowly walked into the kitchen and nervously asked Zach if we were still going to dinner with his sister.  Zach replied that we could still go, but he was already preparing dinner for just the two of us.  Finally, I made it into the kitchen where Zach was waiting with an Easter basket, full of chocolates and goodies, but most importantly, a ring box in the middle.  Zach got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.  I was no longer silent and immediately answered “Yes!”

Describe the wedding.  The look, theme, style, colors, etc.
The look of our wedding was very fall and very “Pitt.”  I guess the main theme of our wedding was “brunch” since it’s not your standard wedding these days.  Since Zach and I met at the University of Pittsburgh, we thought a Pitt-themed wedding was very fitting for us.  We had our ceremony at Heinz Chapel, which is reserved for alumni of Pitt and employees of Heinz.  Our reception venue was in the heart of Oakland and was within walking distance from the chapel.  We took pictures all around the campus, and finished our evening with a bar crawl at a few of our favorite spots from college.

We didn’t really have a specific color theme, other than “fall colors”, which is pretty vague.  Some people seemed confused when they asked what my wedding colors were and my response was simply “fall colors.”  Zach really wanted to wear a blue suit and, quite frankly, I have trouble making any type of decision.  When we were ordering bridesmaid dresses, I wasn’t ready to pick a color that would set the tone of the entire wedding, so I went with a neutral color instead – gray.  Our florist was amazing and I had no clear vision for the flower arrangements (since I know nothing about flowers), other than I wanted pretty fall colors.  Since Zach was upset I didn’t invite him to the initial meeting with the florist, he provided input before I went and told me that he liked yellow calla lilies, which became the basis for our floral design.  Our florist did an absolutely incredible job of taking my mish-mash thought of fall colors and yellow calla lilies and miraculously turned them into gorgeous arrangements that completely exceeded my expectations!

Back to the main “brunch” theme – our caterers really did an outstanding job.  They were just as excited about our brunch wedding as we were!  We had a waffle bar complete with toppings, an omelette station, a meat carving station, and lots of other brunch foods on the buffet line – including eggs, bacon, pasta, vegetables and potatoes.  Instead of having baskets of dinner rolls, we had donuts, bagels, and muffins on all of the tables.  My favorite part was the brunch themed drinks at the bar – Irish coffees, bloody marys, mimosas, a fall sangria, and a breakfast stout!

We wanted to add a lot of personal touches, and since I can sometimes be a little bit crazy, I had to do/make everything myself.  Once I had an idea, there was no stopping me until it was complete.  Prior to the wedding, my dad did a photo shoot with us at 30 different places around campus that we used for our table numbers.  On one side was our picture at the place and on the other side was a description of why it was important to us.  I thought this would give the guests, especially those from out of town, some insight into our college days.  We honored lost family members by having a table with candles in vases that had their pictures on them so we had a part of them with us on our wedding day.  We showcased wedding photos of our parents and grandparents, which I always enjoy seeing at weddings.  One of the highlights of our reception was the 12 minute video slideshow that my father made to show during his speech.  It was only slightly embarrassing for me, but so sweet and we absolutely loved it!

What inspired your vision?
I’ve always dreamed of a fall wedding, and since attending Pitt, dreamed of getting married at Heinz Chapel.  If you’re familiar with Pittsburgh wedding venues, then you know that a fall wedding at Heinz Chapel is pretty popular and hard to reserve – there are five wedding time slots at Heinz Chapel every Saturday, and in the fall, they are almost all booked.  You have to book exactly one year in advance by the month.  After looking at some very cool venues all over the city, we decided it made the most sense to have an Oakland inspired wedding in honor of where we met and spent so much of our time during our years at Pitt.  We booked Soldiers & Sailors as our reception venue, and as October 1 was approaching (which is the first day that you can book a wedding for the following October), I started to get a little nervous that we weren’t going to be one of the five lucky couples to get a slot on October 18, or if we were, that we would be stuck with the early/awkward time slots of 10:30 a.m. or 12:30 p.m.  And then it hit me – what if we decided to take the first time slot (because nobody actually wants the first time slot) and have a brunch wedding instead of a traditional dinner reception?!  We’re in our late 20’s, so weddings and wedding-related events pretty much consume our lives right now, and I thought it would be fun to try something a little different.  First, we love brunch food (who doesn’t?) and second, once the reception is over, you still have the whole night ahead of you to continue partying with all of your friends and family (which is exactly what we did as our bridal party organized a bar crawl through Oakland to all of our favorite college spots)!  The only drawback was that I kind of forced all 10 of my bridesmaids to be up at the crack of dawn (or slightly before dawn) to start primping for the big day. 🙂

Bride to Bride

What advice would you give to other Burgh Brides planning their big day?
I was constantly stressed out about every detail of the wedding, as I imagine many brides are.  My dad reminded me throughout the wedding planning process to have fun!  It’s a whole lot of planning for just one day and that day sure does come and go pretty quickly.  Always remember to enjoy the time you get to spend with your fiance, family, and friends while planning for the big day and to make sure you have fun while doing it!

Any  must haves, must dos, or can't live withouts?  Anything you would do differently?
Add personal touches to make your wedding unique.  It doesn’t have to be anything extreme or over the top, but I think some sort of personal touch is a great way for your guests to remember and enjoy your wedding.

Do research on your wedding vendors and take recommendations from friends and family, if available.  Many of our vendors came as recommendations from others that had previously used that vendor, so we knew ahead of time that we’d be dealing with someone who was reliable.  All of our vendors were great – so pleasant and easy to work with and they not only made our wedding day go smoothly, but they definitely helped to ease the overall planning experience as well!

Vendors
Bride's Dress: Sorelle Bridal Salon | Bride's Jewelry: Nordstrom and a gift from the maid of honor | Bride's Shoes: Benjamin Adams | Bridesmaids' Dresses: BCBG | Cake: Prantl's Bakery | Caterer: All the Best Catering | Ceremony Location: Heinz Chapel | Decor: Decorations and table numbers were made by the bride and bridesmaids | DJ: DJ Crush | Favors: Jones Soda | Flowers: Donna Delestienne | Hair: Jennifer Wechter (bride & mother of the bride) & Brooke Rockwell Hair Design (bridesmaids & mother of the groom) | Lighting: Gray Phoenix | Makeup: Simply Beautiful | Menswear: Tommy Hilfiger at Macy's | Photographer: Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers | Reception Venue: Soldiers & Sailors | Stationery: Wedding Paper Divas; programs, signs, and seating assignments were made by the bride | Transportation: Molly's Trolleys

 

 

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Featured Vendor: Syncopated Pictures

When we got married, we originally weren't going to hire a videographer.  My initial plan was to just spend that money on a realllllly good photographer instead.  However, as the months progressed, I started to feel like I might regret not having a video.  We ultimately ended up hiring a videographer and I am so, so glad that we did.  That video…oh my goodness.  I can watch it now, over a year and a half later, and still experience the same emotions I did that day – crying during our vows, laughing during the speeches, and smiling from ear to ear.  There is something so incredibly special about that.  Yes, our photographs are beautiful and I'll treasure them always.  But the video allows us to re-experience the day in a completely different way.  If I could offer all you Burgh Brides one piece of advice, it would be to find a way to work a videographer into your budget if you can.  Every single penny will be well spent, but most importantly, you'll be able to relive your wedding day over and over for years to come.

That's where Syncopated Pictures comes in.  The way in which owner Christina and her team view and piece together special moments is captivating.  Syncopated takes a storytelling approach when it comes to wedding films.  This means they get to know you and your fiance, understanding what is important to you and what matters  most on your wedding day.  In Syncopated's films, you'll hear less music and more dialogue.  Meaning you'll be able to rehear that funny joke your maid of honor cracked as you were getting your hair done or those sweet final words your dad said to you before walking you down the aisle or the first “I love you” whispered by your new husband.  Having the ability to relive those tiny but oh-so-meaningful moments is priceless.

Need some more convincing?  Revisit Lisa and Adam's video from last week's featured wedding and check out some more of their work below.  I don't even know these couples and their wedding films have me in tears!

Katie & Michael

Robin & Matt

Natalie & Amir

Katy & Gautam

From Christina…

What type of services do you provide?
We create wedding films.  But not the long, boring, drawn-out kind that makes your friends and family want to run and hide.  We get to know our couples, find out what's behind their unique connection, and find a way to tell that story in the context of their wedding day.

Tell me a little bit about your company!  How long have you been in business?  What makes your services unique?  Why should brides and grooms hire you?
My partners and I all began as wedding photographers.  Over and over, we heard from our couples that there were no good options for wedding video – and we agreed.  We decided to try to redefine what a wedding film is all about.  Instead of viewing the wedding video as a comprehensive, exhaustive retelling of the wedding day, we focus on creating a film that has emotional impact and forges a connection with the viewer.  We ask lots and lots of questions so we get to know what really matters most to the bride and groom, and what parts of the wedding day most represent who they are.  Brides and grooms should hire us because we are 100% committed to story and emotion.

What is your ideal client like?
Our ideal clients never lose sight of the fact that it is the marriage and the relationship that matters most.  They're unique, quirky, confident, and madly in love.

Contact, Like, and Follow!
Email: christina@syncopatedpictures.com
Blog
Facebook
Vimeo
Website

PS – In addition to running Syncopated Pictures, Christina is also a talented photographer and recently launched this incredible guide to Pittsburgh engagement and wedding photo locations!

Upcoming Event: UnVeiled

If you're in the midst of planning your own wedding, you need to mark your calendars for this awesome upcoming event.  UnVeiled, brought to you by Melissa Crawford of Devoted to You Events, is a bridal show/wedding reception hybrid and it's changing the way Pittsburgh brides meet vendors and find inspiration for their own big day.  Imagine walking into a venue that is all set up for an actual wedding reception – tables, chairs, linens, centerpieces, food, drink, extra special touches, the works!  Except it's not a reception.  It's a fun, unique way for brides to find steal-worthy ideas and see potential vendors in action – a photographer will be there snapping photos, a DJ will be spinning tunes, and there will even be models showing off the latest wedding fashions.  Attendees get the rare opportunity to experience what it might feel like to be a guest at their wedding, as well as the chance to see all of the creative elements pieced together.  How cool is that?!

Feast your eyes on a few photos of the first UnVeiled from Steven Dray Images or head on over to Kelly Adrienne Photography to see how she covered the event.  Keep reading to see how you can register for the next show on Friday, April 24!

UnVeiled - A Stylized Wedding Reception - Steven Dray Images
UnVeiled - A Stylized Wedding Reception - Steven Dray Images
UnVeiled - A Stylized Wedding Reception - Steven Dray Images

The lucky couple who was married at the first UnVeiled! Read more below.

What
UnVeiled, a stylized wedding reception

When

Friday, April 24, 2015
6 – 9 p.m.

Where
Clear Story Studio
South Side
1931 Sidney Street

Cost
The event is FREE but you'll need to register.

More from organizer Melissa…

What is UnVeiled?

UnVeiled is Pittsburgh's original styled wedding reception!  The concept is a styled wedding reception in which guests (prospective brides) can see a space completely set up for a wedding and enjoy food and drink tastings, live music, a walk-around fashion show, and more!  All of the participating vendors are “in action”, doing what they do at a typical wedding.  Brides not only have a chance to chat with them, but also to actually see or hear what they have to offer.  It's a fun, interactive alternative to a traditional bridal show and it really helps those visual brides (the ones who need to see things instead of imagining them) relax and enjoy the planning process.  I took the first event a step further and ran a contest in which one couple won the chance to actually be married at the event!  I wanted to give back to someone in need, so couples were able to submit their stories and I chose a winner a few weeks before the event.  All of the vendors then pulled together to give the couple the wedding they had not been able to have.  The dresses, the tuxes, the flowers, the space…all donated to the couple!  It was so amazing to be able to do something like this AND to bring wedding inspiration to a new level!

Why a styled wedding reception?

There are several different reasons.  First, the visual aspect of getting to see an entire space set up for a wedding is priceless.  As a wedding planner, I can walk into a blank space and visualize how it look all set up for a wedding.  But not all people are like that.  Secondly, I love being able to show off what I can do as a wedding planner.  I often get hired for day-of or month-of coordination, but those services don't normally allow me to be involved in the creative process.  That is something that I love and I wanted to be able to show off my abilities.  Lastly, UnVeiled gives brides and vendors a chance to interact in a way they aren't able to at typical bridal shows.  Vendors are able to showcase what they do and brides get to see them in action.  Planning a wedding should be the best time of your life and each bride deserves to do it with vendors she loves.

How does it differ from other bridal shows?

It's definitely not your standard show.  There are no booths.  Brides mix and mingle with vendors in a casual way, while enjoying the evening.
 
What can brides and guests expect? 

Fun!  It's an evening out with your friends, sister, mom, or even fiance!  It's a no-pressure, stress free way to not only meet and learn about vendors but to see them in action.  You'll find real people, in real situations, having real conversations, and making real connections.  When you're hiring vendors, it's so important to not only rely on their professional abilities, but to also actually like them as people!  Planning a wedding is stressful enough; you should do it with people who make the process easier!
 
This is the second UnVeiled event.  What was the response to the first one?  Was it a wild success? 

I was so blown away by the response from everyone!  Participating vendors, folks who just came to check it out, family and friends of the couple that was married, brides planning their big day…the support was so positive that I was inspired and motivated to do it again!  Everything about this event is my heart.  I can't even begin to describe what it means to be able to do it again.

BB here…

UnVeiled is sure to change the face of bridal shows in Pittsburgh and I'm so excited to attend this event next week!  If you'd like to join me, be sure to register here.  Hope to see you there!

DIY Cement Vases & Candle Holders

Yay!  I'm so excited to feature my first (and long overdue) DIY project.  I teamed up with Jen, one half of the Found + Made duo, to create some seriously kick butt cement vases and candle holders.  If you read 100 Layer Cake, you may have seen these beauties in the featured styled shoot put together by the talent of Found + Made, Your Wedding Project, The Farmer's Daughter Flowers, Hannah Conard Beauty, Orchard Made, and Simply Sweet Shoppe.  In case you missed these adorable pieces…

How cute are they???  These unique containers are the perfect addition to an industrial chic theme or simply a fun spin on the ordinary vases and votive or taper candle holders.  Lucky for you, I'm breaking down how to do this easy project for yourself.  To begin, here is what you'll need:

Burgh Brides DIY: Cement Vases & Candle Holders

  • A tarp, plastic sheeting or a large garbage bag
  • A large bucket for mixing the cement
  • Rubber gloves
  • Water
  • Cement mix (We used something very similar to this.)
  • Pam or other non-stick spray
  • Plastic, cardboard, or glass containers of varying shapes and sizes
  • Rocks, pebbles, marbles, or other small pieces that can be used as a weight

Instructions

1.) Cover the area where you’ll be working with the tarp, plastic sheet, or garage bag.  This project gets MESSY!!!  Also, don’t wear clothes that you care about!  I love doing anything that requires me to be in sweatpants.

2.) Take a look at your containers.  You’ll need an outside mold to create the base and an inside mold to create the empty space where candles, flowers, etc. can be held.  Begin to pair up containers, placing smaller ones inside larger ones, to create the various shapes and sizes you like.  Be creative and don’t be afraid use multiple inside molds!  If this is unclear, the photos below will help it make sense!

3.) Once you’re happy with the molds you’ve created, grab the Pam.  Give the molds a liberally dousing!  You’ll want to spray the inside of the outside mold and the outside of the inside mold.  Make sense? Basically just go to town anywhere the cement mix will be touching!

Burgh Brides DIY: Cement Vases & Candle Holders

4.) Time to put on your rubber gloves.  The longer the better since you’ll need to reach all the way into the bucket.  Speaking of which, grab that too, along with the cement mix and water.  Pour some mix into the bucket and top it off with water.  There really isn’t an exact recipe or ratio of mix versus water, but you want it to be like cake batter.  Dig your gloved hands in there and start stirring!  Just like with a cake, you want to make sure you don’t have any dry bits or clumps.  Add more mix or water until you have the right consistency.  It should be thick but a bit runny.  Like…well…cake. Hmmm…cake…

Burgh Brides DIY: Cement Vases & Candle Holders

5.) Grab your outside mold and use your hands to scoop some of the cement mix into it.  You could try using an old cup or mug but using your hands is also kind of fun.  Give it a few shakes to level the mix and get rid of any air bubbles.  Remember that the inside mold will displace the mix so don’t fill the outside mold up all the way!

Burgh Brides DIY: Cement Vases & Candle Holders

Jen being cute in her pink hat; me being messy playing with cement mix. I had cement in my hair for days.

6.) Take your inside mold and place it wherever you want!  In the center or a bit off to the side for a more modern look.  Add some rocks or pebbles to the inside mold to weight it down and keep it from wiggling or moving around.

Burgh Brides DIY: Cement Vases & Candle Holders

Burgh Brides DIY: Cement Vases & Candle Holders

7.) Time to dry!  After about 24 hours, you should be able to remove the inside mold.  A week later, the finished product can be removed from the outside mold.  Plastic and cardboard should be easy to remove pending you’ve used enough Pam.  If the molds are glass and you don’t care about keeping them, just take a hammer to them.

8.) Add tea lights, taper candles, succulents, or flowers and enjoy your very own creation!  Or partner up with some vendors and use them in a styled shoot like we did!  A special thanks to Your Wedding Project for providing all of these awesome finished product shots!

Burgh Brides DIY: Cement Vases & Candle Holders - Your Wedding Project

Burgh Brides DIY: Cement Vases & Candle Holders - Your Wedding Project

Burgh Brides DIY: Cement Vases & Candle Holders - Your Wedding Project

Burgh Brides DIY: Cement Vases & Candle Holders - Your Wedding Project

Burgh Brides DIY: Cement Vases & Candle Holders - Your Wedding Project

Burgh Brides DIY: Cement Vases & Candle Holders - Your Wedding Project

Burgh Brides DIY: Cement Vases & Candle Holders - Your Wedding Project

The above instructions will make for a very smooth finished product.  If you’d like something a little more rough and grainy, add peat moss to the cement mix!   You can also give your cement some color with good ol’ fashioned acrylic paints.

Happy DIYing!

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Europe Recap: Barcelona

As I’m sure you know from my countless (and probably annoying) social media updates, my husband and I just took a fabulous trip to Europe!  We spent 12 days exploring Barcelona, Venice, and Paris and you all are lucky I even came back.  If it weren’t for my dog, I might have just stayed there, opened a patisserie, and lived out the rest of my days drinking more wine that water (because that’s the European way) and basking in the centuries-old glory that is Europe.  Alas, I love my dog (and all of you) too much to do that.  Besides “Europe Brides” isn’t really a good name for a blog.  So I’m back!  Ok, technically I’ve been back for a while now but I’m just finally getting to these recap posts.

First on the agenda?  Barcelona!  From gothic architecture by the ridiculously inspirational Gaudi to colorful street art done by local talent, Barcelona is a unique mix of old and new.  We had heard awesome things about this city before we ever even set foot in it, so our expectations were high.  We were not disappointed!  Barcelona is very compact and easily walkable.  We managed to see most of the city in our two and a half days there.  Inexpensive, full of warm, friendly people, with something to offer to everyone, it certainly didn’t take long for Barcelona to steal a piece of our hearts.  Rather than write our day-by-day adventures, I thought I’d just give you my favorites.  So here is my…

Top Ten Must Eat/See/Do List – Barcelona Edition

1.) La Sagrada Familia – The most amazing thing I have seen in my entire life.  Hands down.  This Gaudi creation has been in construction for over 100 years and the work is still going strong.  Step inside and you’re suddenly transported to a kaleidoscope-like forest.  Gaudi designed the interior pillars to branch out at the top, resembling trees, and the stained glass is breathtaking.  Purchase tickets online in advance and spring for the audio tour (for the inside scoop on the architecture) and the tower tour (for sweeping views of Barcelona).  Side note – I’m not embarrassed to admit that the beauty of this church actually had me overcome with emotion.  A trip to Barcelona without seeing La Sagrada Familia is a trip totally wasted.

Recap: Barcelona

Recap: Barcelona

Recap: Barcelona

Recap: Barcelona

Recap: Barcelona

2.) The Barcelona Taste Tapas Tour – Two different friends had recommended this tour to us, and they did not steer us wrong!  This three hour tour took us to four different establishments where we tasted everything from sheep’s cheese to blood sausage to fuet to toast rubbed with olive oil and tomatoes (a Catalonian staple) to a dessert that was very much like cold French toast.  The portions are more than enough to fill you up, it’s all-inclusive including wine, and the tour guide, Jo, is hilarious and super friendly.

3.) Poble Sec – We stayed in this up-and-coming section of town.  It’s close to the highlights but hasn’t been overtaken with tourists just yet.  For a much more local vibe, check out Blai Street at night or on the weekend.  It’s jam packed with cool bars and yummy tapas places.  Koska Taverna served up the best ones we had in Barcelona.  The renowned Quimet y Quimet is also in this neighborhood, although we never made it there, unfortunately.

4.) Spice Café – Barcelona, and I think Spain in general, isn’t big on dessert.  But Spice Café, a coffee shop in Poble Sec that is run by an American and a Catalonian, served up the best piece of carrot cake I’ve ever tasted.  The trick?  Cinnamon cream cheese icing and pecans instead of walnuts.  Mind blown.

5.) El Gotico – The El Gotico section of Barcelona is exactly what I imagined Europe to be like.  Narrow, cobblestone streets, cute cafes, old buildings, people bustling by, and something unique on every corner.  El Gotico is chock full of shops, restaurants, and bars but it’s also home to the Barcelona Cathedral and various other long-standing and beautiful churches.  It’s a great place to just walk around and get lost.

Recap: Barcelona

Recap: Barcelona

6.) Churros con cioccolata – Sugary, cinnamon-y churros, served with what is basically a cup of hot chocolate pudding for dipping.  America needs to jump on this band wagon STAT.

7.) La Boqueria – This market is Barcelona’s version of the Strip District.  It reminded me a lot of Eastern Market in Cleveland, Spanish style.  Loads of fresh seafood, vegetables, and prepared foods just rip for the picking.  It’s a fun place for a snack or to just ogle at the countless options.

Recap: Barcelona

Recap: Barcelona

Recap: Barcelona

8.) El Born – This neighborhood seemed to be the Lawrenceville of Barcelona.  It’s very hip and trendy, with lots of artsy boutiques, cafes, and bars.  It’s definitely worth an afternoon, especially if you’re looking for some one-of-a-kind souvenirs.

9.) Cera 23 – Go here.  Order the blackberry mojito and the black volcano rice with seafood, saffron cream, and parmesan cheese.  The best meal I had on the entire trip!  I still dream about it.

10.) Parc de la Ciutadella – Similar to Central Park, Parc de la Ciutadella is the major area where city dwellers go for a piece of nature.  It appeared to be jam packed on the weekends, full of folks sunbathing, napping, reading, practicing a hobby, running, walking, or just breathing in the fresh air.  The park has a zoo, museums, and a giant maze but the main attraction is undoubtedly its giant, golden fountain.  The double staircase takes you up behind the waterworks for a cool perspective.  A must see!

Recap: Barcelona

Recap: Barcelona

Recap: Barcelona

Have you been to Barcelona?  What were your favorites?  What else would you recommend eating, seeing, or doing?  Barcelona ended up being Justin’s favorite city out of the three we visited!  It was a close second for me.  Keep your eyes peeled for a post recapping the city that did take my number one spot…Venice!

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Real Wedding: Lisa & Adam at the PAA

Lisa and Adam's wedding is a sweet love story come to life.  After meeting a few times through mutual friends, the two continued to run into each other.  Love eventually blossomed and the rest is history.  The pair tied the knot on a sunny July day.  The Pittsburgh Athletic Association (PAA) inspired the vintage-themed wedding, as did a fun Pitt versus Penn State rivalry between the bride and groom.  Guests were asked to pledge their allegiance to their favorite team, and there was a battle of the fight songs during the reception.  The wedding was chock full of other Pittsburgh nods and unique touches, such as:

  • Prior to the ceremony, Adam and his groomsmen made a pit stop at Primanti's.  What better way to kick off a Pittsburgh wedding than with a cap, egg, and cheese?
  • A beautiful ceremony location.  Not only is St. Stanislaus located in my favorite Pittsburgh neighborhood, the Strip District, but it's also one of the most beautiful and history-rich churches in the city.
  • Some stunning group and bridal portraits taken in front of a few of my favorite Pittsburgh photo spots
  • Instead of a slice of cake, each guest got their own individual version of the greatest cake America ever made, Prantl's infamous burnt almond torte.
  • An amazing after-party in the basement bowling alley of the PAA, complete with late night snacks, more dancing, and of course, a little 10 frame competition.

Milla C. Photography captured this picture-perfect day and Syncopated Pictures put it all in motion.  Feast your eyes on the oh-so-pretty photos and the sweet video that is sure to tug on your heart strings.

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

Classic Pittsburgh Wedding with a Bowling After Party - Milla C Photography

From the bride…

When and how did you two meet?
While pledging Delta Zeta at the University of Pittsburgh, I became great friends with a girl named Jess, whose brother, Keith, attended Penn State University with Adam.  In 2006, while getting ready for the Preakness horse race at a a friend's house in D.C., I was introduced to Adam for the first time.  From then on, I would see Adam at events for our mutual group of friends and think of him as “Keith's friend with the hair.”  After both attending a wedding at Penn State several years later (and taking photos of each other on the Nittany Lion), the two of us kept in touch.  It was during the Steelers versus Jets playoff game in 2011 that Adam and I ran into each other at the Rivers Casino and our feelings for each other changed…but it would be a few more months until we both knew it.  I was thinking about Adam a lot and decided to make up a story about being at the casino and thinking of the time they saw each other.  This spawned a few weeks of phone calls and text messages.  In May 2011, Adam planned a trip to Pittsburgh to cheer on his friend and Keith's wife, Courtney, in the Pittsburgh Marathon…and to see me.  From that weekend on, we were a couple…a long time coming, but worth the wait 🙂

Juicy details on the proposal, please!  Where, when, how?
Adam and I were celebrating our second anniversary of dating.  Adam planned a dinner at The Chart House in Old Town Alexandria, where we went for brunch the very first weekend I visited Adam in D.C.  Unbeknownst to me, Adam was going to propose this night.  After a great dinner at a table with a wonderful view of the Potomac River, Adam and I boarded a boat for a Monument Cruise.  The cruise left Old Town as the sun set, heading toward the Georgetown Waterfront.  As we passed the Kennedy Center, Adam hinted to me that we could go to the rooftop terrace to enjoy a drink.  I had never been to the Kennedy Center and thought that would be a romantic thing to do.  After we arrived at the Georgetown Waterfront, we walked to the Kennedy Center, where we self-toured through the halls and then made our way up to the rooftop terrace.  Adam and I each bought a drink before walking out to the rooftop.  The weather was calling for rain, so the rooftop was completely empty.  Adam walked me to the side of the terrace where it overlooked the monuments of Washington, D.C.  Here is where Adam got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.  After a few panicked bursts of “Oh my God,” I finally said YES!

Describe the wedding.  The look, style, theme, colors, etc.
At first, I really thought I wanted to incorporate navy and coral as our wedding color scheme, but once I picked my wedding dress, everything changed!  I quickly switched to a softer, more romantic and vintage feel, and used different shades of blush, gold, and gray in our decor.  It went perfectly with our wedding reception venue as well.

What inspired your vision?
I found a lot of inspiration on Pinterest, as well as from the wedding of Eric and Jessie James Decker.

What made your wedding unique?
There has always been a healthy rivalry of our college alma maters, Pitt and Penn State.  With so many college friends planning to be in attendance, we thought it would be fun to incorporate a Pitt versus Penn State cheer off to both school's football fight songs.  As guests walked into the grand ballroom, they were given the choice of navy/gold beads for Pitt or blue/white beads for Penn State.

In lieu of wedding favors, guests were invited to join a bowling after-party in the basement of the PAA.  They enjoyed the retro bowling alley, a bar, homemade pizzas, cookies, and music!

What was your favorite moment of the day?
Our favorite moment of the day was when I walked down the aisle to Adam.  We only focused on each other the entire walk down.

Our second favorite moment was getting our photos taken on the Roberto Clemente Bridge.  It just so happened that the Y108 Jason Aldean concert tailgate was going on, so the entire bridge and street were closed down.  One of the DJs saw us walking over with our bridal party and made a big announcement.  Everyone cheered and congratulated us; some even asked for photos!

Bride to Bride

What advice would you give to other Burgh Brides planning their big day?
Everyone has their own idea and expectations of how your wedding day will go, but don't forget that at the end of the day, it is all about what you and your husband have planned and dreamed about.  Don't get hung up on small issues or lose sight of the real reason you're having a wedding to begin with – to celebrate the love between you and your husband.

Any must haves, must dos, or can't live withouts?  Anything you would do differently?
Make sure that both you and your new husband do everything you can to not get separated throughout your wedding day.  Sneak off to a corner of your reception venue, turn around, and take a nice, long look at all of your favorite people in one room together.  It's the only time everyone you love will all be in one place at one time!

Vendors
Bride's Dress: Mori Lee from Bridals by Natalie | Bride's Accessories: Swarovski & Bridals by Natalie | Bride's Shoes: Badgley Mischka | Bridesmaids' Dresses: Monique Lhuillier, Donna Morgan, & Love Lane from Bella Bridesmaids | Cake: Prantl's Bakery | Ceremony Location: St. Stanislaus Kostka Church | Cookies: Family members & relatives of the groom | DJ: Eric Stoner of Nittany Entertainment | Flowers: Lilli-Maeg | Hair & Makeup: Allison Roth Studio | Menswear: Men's Warehouse | Photographer: Milla C. Photography | Reception Venue & Caterer: Pittsburgh Athletic Association | Stationery: Minted, Wedding Paper Divas, & Etsy | Transportation: Elite Transportation | Videographer: Syncopated Pictures

P.S. One more day to take my reader survey for a chance to win a super cool prize!

Engagement Photo Tips

Taking engagement photos is one of the most fun things you’ll get to do as a couple.  It’s like your wedding day, but without all of the pressure.  Just the two of you, beaming, and a crew of paparazzi following behind.  You’ll feel like rock stars.  Here are some of my best tips on how to make the most of your e-session, as well as some extra insight from a few of Pittsburgh’s finest wedding photographers!

Get to know your photographer.  The best way to guarantee you’ll feel comfortable in front of the camera is to befriend the one working it.  Make sure your personalities jive and that you can truly be yourself around them.  It’s magic when this happens and it really shines through in your images!

PRO TIP from Ashley Giffin Photography – “I love getting to know my clients.  I highly recommend taking the time to talk to each other, ask questions, laugh, and just have fun.  It not only helps with knowing how to work it in front of the camera but it also helps the photographer know what you are comfortable with and how to direct you.”

Select a location (or theme) that is meaningful.  One of the spots where you take photos should be a place that is special to the two of you – where you met, the restaurant where you had your first date, your favorite bench in the park, or even your own home.  Share a favorite hobby or a love of something?  How about some photos of you two enjoying whatever that is together.  Those are the images that will mean a little extra something to you.

PRO TIP from Eva Lin Photography – “When picking a location or theme, find something that is special to you as a couple.  One of my favorite engagement shoots was when the groom played his family heirloom accordion and the bride danced along the street (their idea!).  And since music was such a huge part of their relationship, they also dressed up and pretended to play in a rock band with amps, guitar, mics, the whole nine yards!  Your favorite date spot could also be a wonderful place for some intimate candid moments.  You will rarely get an opportunity to do a shoot however you choose, so I always recommend being a little creative.”

Or go completely rogue!  Think totally outside the box and head to a spot where no one has ever gone before.  Photos with the Pittsburgh skyline will always be beautiful but there are soooo many other cool spots for your session too!  Be creative!

PRO TIP from Veronica Varos Photography – “This session is a great opportunity to visit somewhere you’ve always wanted to go.  Are you and your fiancé utterly obsessed with photos of Yosemite or Ireland?  Buy yourself a couple of round trip tickets and turn your session into an adventure.”

Choose clothing carefully.  Make sure you’re comfortable in whatever you select.  You’ll be moving around a lot and you don’t want to be fidgeting with your outfit.  For our engagement photos, I wore a dress with a cut out back.  However, I was constantly worried about my bra strap peeking out.  In hindsight, I wish I would have chosen something that allowed me to be a bit more mobile and relaxed.  Coordinate, but don’t match, your attire with your fiance's.  You don’t want to look like twins but you also don’t want to clash with each other either.

PRO TIP from Steven Dray Images: “Ask your photographer for tips on what to wear.  You should wear something that is comfortable and reflects you as a person and as a couple.  Pick up a copy of the latest fashion magazine and draw inspiration from it.  And dress appropriately for the weather!“

Treat Yo Self!  Ladies, get your hair and makeup professionally done.  Ok, you don’t really have to do this but you’ll feel fabulous.  Guys, splurge on some new clothes or brush the dust off that three piece suit.  Always love the theatre but never get a chance to go?  How about some photos at the Benedum Center?  Your engagement session is a rare opportunity for you to do something you don’t usually get to do so take advantage of it!

PRO TIP from Michael Will Photography – “I’ve found the best photos happen when couples think outside the box and go big with either unique locations or wardrobe or both.  Make it fancy!”

Be yourself.  If you are forcing a pose or a facial expression, it’s going to show.  Don’t worry so much about trying to “pose” or look like a model.  Instead, just relax.  Act as if the camera isn’t even there and just do what you would normally do.  I know it’s probably more easily said than done but this is why the first tip above is so important!

PRO TIP from Beth Insalaco Photography – “The best pictures come when you are relaxed and having fun!  Truly be yourselves and help each other loosen up.  You know each other best and seriously, you can’t do anything wrong in front of the camera.  My job is to create great photos by directing, posing, and catching the real and perfect moments.”

Don’t copy.  Pinterest is a great way to gain inspiration but if an idea or pose looks like one that me and a thousand other people have pinned, you’re doing something wrong, IMHO.  An idea is only original the first time it’s done; after that it’s just a replication.  Be unique.  Don’t ask your photographer to duplicate a pose or a shot you saw online. It’s insulting to their creativity…which brings me to my next point…

Let your photographer take the lead.  Artistically speaking, your photographer is going to know what is best.  Don’t be afraid to try something new that he or she suggests.  They may ask you to pose in front of seemingly strange backgrounds or in an odd way but the outcomes could be amazing.  Be open to their suggestions and let their artistic eye be the guide.

Don’t over style.  Incorporate some props or signs but try not to go overboard.  All good things in moderation.  The best images are when the focus is on you and your sweetie, not all of the other “stuff”. Likewise, don’t get too caught up in a specific background.  What’s in the foreground (i.e. YOU!) is way more important!

PRO TIP from Elizabeth Craig Photography – “Too many couples want over-the-top sessions or very specific backdrops.  They don’t realize until much later that 1.) it didn’t play nearly the role they thought it would and 2.) it actually took away from the main focus of the photo.  The most important thing is an e-session is the couple – their connection, their energy, and their ability to be romantic, sweet, funny, and at ease.”

Last but not least, have fun!  It’s not every day that you get to bask in the glow of being engaged and have a talented photographer snap pics of you doing it.  Enjoy it!  Soak in every moment and let your happiness shine through. The results will be incredible.

PRO TIP from Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers – “It’s ok to feel silly!  I believe that giving my couples the ok to feel silly instantly relaxes them.  They then know there is no pressure to be a ‘professional model’ and that we’re all working together.  The permission to feel silly produces a connection between couple and photographer.”

Will you be taking engagement photos soon?  What do you think of these tips?  If you've already had your e-session, what advice do you have for others prepping for theirs?

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Burgh Brides Reader Survey & A GIVEAWAY!

Even though I’m the owner and writer of Burgh Brides, I really do consider it to be YOUR blog.  I don’t write about amazing vendors, inspirational Pittsburgh weddings, and planning ideas and tips for myself.  I’m already married.  I write about those topics for all of YOU.  As a full time event planner, designing the details and coordinating the logistics for my big day was an easy task for me.  I know how to “think” when it comes to planning an event.  You approach them in a certain way, with the eye of someone who is forward thinking, strategic, and, of course, creative.  These skills have always come naturally to me.  But I realize that isn’t the case for everyone.  If you have never planned an event, arranging everything for your wedding can be insanely overwhelming and stressful.  One of my main goals with Burgh Brides is to alleviate some of those feelings that are often associated with wedding planning, and to provide some inspiration along the way.

Now that Burgh Brides has been live for almost 4 months (say what?!), I want to ask you all how I’m doing.  Since this is your blog, I want to make sure you’re happy with it!  Vendors, brides, and general fans, this means YOU!  Are you seeing what you want to be seeing?  What aspects are you favorite?  On what areas can I improve?  Those are just a few of the questions on my Reader Survey that I’m hoping (pretty, pretty please with a cherry and sprinkles on top) you’ll take 5 or so minutes to complete.  I want Burgh Brides to be the absolute best it can be and in order for that to happen, I need your feedback!  The good and even the not so good!

To entice you even further to complete the survey, if you include your email address, you’ll be entered to win this amazingly cool Pittsburgh tote bag from MapTote!

Pittsburgh Tote from MapTote

You aren’t required to enter your email address if you wish to remain anonymous, but you must fill out this field if you want a chance at this fun prize.  The survey will remain up for one week and a winner will be chosen and announced after that.  Good luck and thanks in advance for your feedback!!! xo

Featured Vendor: Bella Christie and Lil Z’s Sweet Boutique

Save the best for last, right?  If you're looking for a totally kick butt finale to your wedding meal, look no further than Bella Christie and Lil Z's Sweet Boutique.  Whether it is a smorgasbord of miniature desserts, a candy bar, the quintessential Pittsburgh cookie table, freshly made donuts, s'mores, or cotton candy stations, gourmet ice cream sandwiches, or frozen cocktail sorbets, Bella Christie can do it all.  And do it deliciously.  Their treats taste as good as they look and guests are sure to be wowed by their creativity and skill.

Most importantly, the crew at Bella Christie is super sweet (pun intended) to work with.  I know this from experience – they provided the incredible dessert spread at our wedding and I've worked with them a few times both through former wedding planning clients and my day job.  Their goal is to make sure the dessert is not only yummy but also matches the vibe (and budget!) of your event.  This means they ask a ton of questions to ensure they understand your vision, even going as far as making sure the ribbon on the cake pops matches your color scheme.  Details, people, details.

Put a spin on your dessert course.  Even those who proclaim they don't have a sweet tooth will be asking for seconds.  How could you not?  Remember what they did for Nicolet and Greg's wedding, as well as my own?  And just look at what else they can do below!

Oh, and in case you don't notice, this first cake on the left is UPSIDE DOWN and SUSPENDED.  Bella Christie just blew my mind.  And I'm also now hungry for cupcakes (nothing new there).

From Amanda of Bella Christie…

What type of services do you provide?
We aren't just a bakery…we are an event-catering company specializing in everything bite size!  We create custom wedding cakes and sweet tables to be incorporated into the wedding of your dreams!  We also do birthdays, bat and bar mitzvahs, anniversaries, corporate parties…anything you want to celebrate, we can create a sweet for!  We have stations, too…oh sugary stations!  Donut cart, liquid nitrogen, fry daddy, s'mores, and MORE!

Tell me a little bit about your company!  How long have you been in business?  What makes your services unique?  Why should brides and grooms hire you?
Ten years ago, we started creating cakes and desserts by order out of a commercial kitchen.  In April, it will be four years since we opened a storefront bakery in Aspinwall.  Clients should choose our services if they are looking for a show-stopping dessert table or cake.  We do not view dessert as an afterthought to a meal; we look at it as an opportunity to wow your guests one last time and leave them with a lasting impression.  We go the extra mile to create beautiful desserts that taste as good as they look and coordinate with the look and feel of your special event.

What is your ideal client like?
Anyone!  Seriously, we have something for every palette!  We can customize desserts to any theme or color scheme.  If someone is looking for desserts for a small, simple dessert party – we can create it.  If someone is looking for a multi-tiered wedding cake and sweet table for 500 people – we can create it.

Contact, Like, and Follow!
Email: amanda@asweetboutique.com
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