How To Be a Gracious Bride

Every engaged gal fears being called the B-word.  You know which one I’m talking about.  The one that insinuates that you’re being selfish, controlling, and/or unrealistic.  I’ll be honest – when you’re planning your wedding and things aren’t going quite as you had thought they would, it’s actually not all that difficult to slip into the role of a bridezilla.  We’ve all been there a time or two and it’s not pretty.  I get that planning a wedding can be incredibly stressful.  Really, I do!  But that doesn’t give you the right to be a crazy person.  Instead, follow these few tips and be a kind, gracious, glowing bride who is beautiful both inside and out.

Burgh Brides Tips On How To Be A Gracious Bride

Say “thank you.”  A lot.  Be grateful.  To your fiance, your bridal party, your family, and your vendors. They are helping you; don’t forget that.  Acknowledge the time, money, or effort that someone has given up all in the name of your big day.  So overuse the words “thank you.”  They’re simple, they’re free, but they go a really long way.

Be nice to your vendors.  I can’t stress this one enough.  You will totally reap what you sow when it comes to relationships with your vendors.  If you’re kind and gracious to them, I guarantee they’ll work extra hard to make your day spectacular.  Be considerate of the fact that your wedding likely isn’t the only one they’re working on.  Cut them some slack when it comes to responding to emails or phone calls.  And please, for the love of Pete, feed the ones who will be working all day.  A real meal.  It doesn’t need to be the filet and lobster tail your guests will be eating, but something substantial that will keep them fueled and focused.  Back in my wedding planner days, I had numerous clients ask if they had to provide meals for their vendors.  Yes, yes, yes, 1000% yes.  This is not the place to save a few dollars.

Diversify your conversations.  By all means, be excited about your wedding!  It’s an exciting time! But try to not talk about it 24/7.  Your friends and family are happy for you, but they don’t want to hear about your wedding alllll the time.  If someone asks you a question about the wedding, go right ahead and answer them.  But be sure to follow up with a question about them.  Ask about what they’ve got going on and be genuinely interested in their answers.  Take the same approach with your fiance too.  Make a rule to routinely do non-wedding related activities together and have a weekly “Absolutely No Wedding Talk Allowed” evening.

Remember it’s not just “your” day.  As a matter of fact, vow to never let the words “It’s my wedding!” cross your lips.  Sure, you’re the bride and you’ll undoubtedly be the center of attention, both during planning and on the wedding day.  But the celebration belongs to other people besides yourself, such as your fiance and your parents.  Let them share the excitement and joy with you.  Involve them, take their opinions into thoughtful consideration, and pick and choose your battles wisely.  Often it’s better to concede on something small than it is to deal with the hurt feelings later.

Don’t expect too much from your bridesmaids.  They are not your actual maids.  Don’t treat them as such.  You want to be friends with these girls after the wedding is over.  So don’t make demands on their time; ask for their help instead.  And if they can’t help with or attend something, be understanding.  Keep them involved but don’t expect them to run errands or do things that aren’t wedding related.  Also, be thoughtful of how much money you are asking them to spend.  A dress, shoes, jewelry, bridal shower, bachelorette party, gifts…the costs add up quickly and can be exorbitant.  Have an honest discussion with them early in the planning process to get an idea of how much they are comfortable spending and then try your best to stick to that.

Roll with the punches.  Some things will go wrong, both during the planning process and on your wedding day.  It’s just Murphy’s law.  Maybe your favorite photographer will already be booked, maybe the flowers you were dying to have are just too expensive, maybe it will rain on your wedding day, or maybe the DJ will play the wrong intro music.  Whatever it is, in the grand scheme of things, are any of those really a big deal?  You’ll still be married to your sweetheart at the end of it all.  Have a Plan B for everything.  Accept that minor obstacles or mishaps will happen, let them roll off your back, and move on.  When it comes to snafus on the big day, keep in mind that you are likely the only one who knows how things were “supposed to” be or go.  Guests are typically none the wiser when something goes awry. I guarantee they won’t even notice. Don’t stress about it too much and get back to partying.

Because Burgh Brides are the best kind of bride, I'm sure you knew all of this already.  But a friendly reminder never hurt anyone.  What other advice would you give for being a gracious bride?

Spring Inspired Styled Shoot

After a long, cold, gray winter, I get really excited when I first see a pop of spring.  Some green leaves, a pretty flower blooming, and even bright colors in my wardrobe all make me very happy.  This colorful styled session from Krystle Castillo Photography and other talented vendors is all of those things that let you know spring is here, wrapped up into one photo shoot.  The vintage decor, the natural background, and dresses, hair, and makeup give these photos a soft look.  But the colors of the florals, not to mention the AMAZING BLUE SHADE of the sofa, brighten everything up beautifully.  Let these images inspire your own spring or summer wedding, or just enjoy how happy these colors are bound to make you.

Spring Inspired Styled Shoot from Krystle Castille Photography Featured on Burgh Brides

Spring Inspired Styled Shoot from Krystle Castille Photography Featured on Burgh Brides

Spring Inspired Styled Shoot from Krystle Castille Photography Featured on Burgh Brides

Spring Inspired Styled Shoot from Krystle Castille Photography Featured on Burgh Brides

Spring Inspired Styled Shoot from Krystle Castille Photography Featured on Burgh Brides

Spring Inspired Styled Shoot from Krystle Castille Photography Featured on Burgh Brides

Spring Inspired Styled Shoot from Krystle Castille Photography Featured on Burgh Brides

Spring Inspired Styled Shoot from Krystle Castille Photography Featured on Burgh Brides

Spring Inspired Styled Shoot from Krystle Castille Photography Featured on Burgh Brides

Spring Inspired Styled Shoot from Krystle Castille Photography Featured on Burgh Brides

Spring Inspired Styled Shoot from Krystle Castille Photography Featured on Burgh Brides

Spring Inspired Styled Shoot from Krystle Castille Photography Featured on Burgh Brides

From the photographer…

Describe the styled shoot.
It was my first inspired styled shoot!  I wanted to aim for springy and bright to shine through the pop of green that had just recently appeared.  I wanted to keep it close to nature and give it a bohemian look, but while keeping it fun!

What inspired your vision?
My inspiration was Mt. Lebanon Florals.  While checking out some floral crowns, I came across a really pretty one that I knew Carmel, from Mt. Lebanon Florals, would blow out of the water!  I messaged her to coordinate with me.  As the green grass started to grow and the flowers started to spring, I wanted to bring color to my photos while keeping the very smooth and bohemian, natural look.  Soft and serene yet fun!  I wanted to let brides know that spring weddings are always beautiful and I wanted to kick off the wedding season with pops of color in all sorts of ways!

The couch from Vintage Alley Rentals really gave us a boost of energy.  Its vibrant blue on the sunny beautiful day in the green grass kept us all happy-go-lucky.  I also enjoyed working with all of the vendors.  Mt. Lebanon Florals really blew us away with her vibrant, unique, and impressive bouquets and head pieces.

Vendors
Dresses: Celia Grace | Flowers: Mt. Lebanon Floral | Hair: Hair by Briana Rasicci | Decor & Furniture: Vintage Alley Rentals | Makeup: Jae Lee Paredes | Models: Mary Gibson, Alicia Marie, & Nikki Rhianna | Photographer: Krystle Castillo Photography

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Ask Burgh Brides: June

I'm loving all of the great questions that have been submitted to Ask Burgh Brides so far!  This month's question comes to you from a soon-to-be Pittsburgher who is wondering when to book her reception venue.  She writes…

“I was wondering how quickly venues book in Pittsburgh.  I just got engaged and I am moving to Pittsburgh at the beginning of June.  Since Pittsburgh will be our new home we decided, it would be the best place to get married.  However, I am not too familiar with wedding planning in the area!”

First of all, let me tell you how happy I am that you've decided to tie the knot in the Burgh!  Not too long ago, my friends at Modern Era Weddings wrote a blog post on the top five reasons to get married in Pittsburgh and it's AWESOME!  From lower costs to spectacular views to crazy unique venues, the Pittsburgh wedding scene is popping.  And no wonder.  We're pretty sweet.

But speaking of venues, most sources advise booking yours at least a year prior to your wedding date.  However, I think this could be a bit flexible, depending on a few things:

  • The time of the year.  May through October marks “wedding season”.  This is when most venues and vendors are booked solid.  If you're open to getting married in the “off season,” say in January, you may have a better chance of securing your choice venue with less notice.
  • The day of the week.  Obviously, Saturday is the most popular day for weddings.  Friday is a close second.  Opt for a Sunday or even a Thursday wedding and there will be more openings for you to choose from.
  • The popularity of the venue.  Places like the Carnegie Museum, the Heinz History Center, the Pittsburgh Opera, and other wedding reception hot spots book up quickly, sometimes even more than a year in advance.  If you don't have quite that long, try looking for a new, not-yet-heard-of-by-everyone venue.  If not much word about a place has gotten out yet, the chance of them having some openings is higher.  Similarly, try searching for non-traditional venues, which are more likely to have some free weekends.  A private residence, a restaurant, or even a park pavilion can easily be transformed into a beautiful wedding venue with just a little TLC.
  • How far you're willing to travel.  Go outside the city a little bit and you'll increase your chances of finding a venue that doesn't fill up quite as quickly.  Plus, weddings outside downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods tend to be less expensive all around.

Readers, what do you think?  How far in advance did you book your venue?  Comment below and help a fellow Burgh Bride out!

Planning a wedding and need some help?  You've come to the right place!  Submit your question and you could see it answered right here on the blog.

Color Palette Idea: Mint, Peach, & Metallic Gold

The combination of mint green and peach is like a breath of fresh summer air, so light and delicate.  Add a pop of metallic gold and it really packs a punch.  This palette evokes whimsical feelings and can be used with a number of different wedding styles.  Add lots of gold mercury glass and gold sequin linens for a more sparkly look.  Or combine with rustic elements such as white milk glass and wooden farm tables for a charming contrast.

Mint, Peach, and Gold Wedding

Clockwise from top left: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Check out my Pinterest board for even more ideas in this pretty palette.

A Gift Idea from Wendell August + A Giveaway!

Between the dress and the venue and the flowers and the cake and the music and the…(I could go on for days)…you have a lot of wedding details to worry about!  One thing that you definitely don't want to forget, put on the back burner, or save until the last minute is thank you gifts!  You want to show your bridesmaids, mom, future MIL, and all of the others who helped you out just how much you appreciate their time, love, and support.  Thank you gifts should be personal, reflecting the recipient or something they love, but also remind them of you and your wedding day.  That is why I absolutely love the Upcycled Hydrangea Monogram Bracelet from Wendell August.  This handmade, hammered metal bracelet is seriously stunning and the engraved initials make it all the more special.

Gift Idea for Brides, Bridesmaids, Flower Girls, and Moms from Wendell August

Gift Idea for Brides, Bridesmaids, Flower Girls, and Moms from Wendell August

Gift Idea for Brides, Bridesmaids, Flower Girls, and Moms from Wendell August

Wendell August, a Grove City based company that has been around for nearly a hundred years, was kind enough to send me one of these beauties and I'm so excited to start wearing it.  Even though I've been married for a year and a half, I still love seeing my new monogram, and the interlocking cursive letters on this are really pretty.

Gift Idea for Brides, Bridesmaids, Flower Girls, and Moms from Wendell August

Speaking of pretty, check out the back!  Beautiful flower petals and detailed leaves give the underside of this baby a surprise pop of beauty.

Gift Idea for Brides, Bridesmaids, Flower Girls, and Moms from Wendell August

It goes great with so many pieces that I already own and but also looks lovely by itself.  It's thick but not heavy at all, and I love the way the hammered finished reflects the light.  Their forging process means that no two pieces are identical, making each bracelet truly one of a kind, just like each of your bridesmaids.  They'll love receiving something so personal, and I guarantee they'll always think of you when wearing it.  BFFs for life.

Gift Idea for Brides, Bridesmaids, Flower Girls, and Moms from Wendell August

Gift Idea for Brides, Bridesmaids, Flower Girls, and Moms from Wendell August

Gift Idea for Brides, Bridesmaids, Flower Girls, and Moms from Wendell August

Not only is it a great gift idea for your bridesmaids, but it's also perfect for a coming-of-age junior bridesmaid who will feel extra fancy in her new big girl bracelet.  Don't forget about your mom and his mom too!  Have a newly engaged friend?  Celebrate the soon-to-be bride with one of these engraved with her new monogram.  Orrrrr you could try and win one for yourself!  That's right…Wendell August is gifting one of my lovely readers with a bracelet of their very own!  Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter; each step earns you one entry.  A winner will be chosen and announced one week from today!  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wendell August also offers a matching necklace and countless other gift ideas.  For those of you attending weddings this summer, check out some options for the newlyweds.  They even have a whole line of products dedicated to Pittsburgh.  A company after my own heart.  Be sure to show them some love!

While this post was brought to you by Wendell August, all opinions are my own.  And a special thanks to my friend and fellow blogger Ashly for being my wrist model!

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Ask Burgh Brides: April

Last month, I introduced a new feature to the blog, Ask Burgh Brides.  Have a question about wedding planning, need some advice, or just want to bounce an idea off of someone?  I'm all ears!  Fill out the form at the link above and I'll answer a few each month or so right here.

First up?  A question from Maddie, who is getting married this September.  Maddie writes…

“My fiance and I are having an intimate, very ‘us' wedding this September.  We're not getting married in a church, and we're only inviting parents/siblings/surviving grandparents.  Neither of us have ever wanted a traditional or big wedding, and we don't have the money to throw a party for 200 people anyway.  We're having a cookout with our friends the day after to celebrate with them, and the day after that, my fiance's parents are hosting a big party for us with his extended family.

There are some people who already have hurt feelings over our wedding plans (cousins who wanted their daughter to be the flower girl, a grandma who can't believe we're not inviting her other son).  There are also some who will definitely have hurt feelings because they wanted to attend, but won't be invited.

I've explained to these family members as delicately and lovingly as I can where we are coming from, and yet some people just don't get it.  How can I address these people in a respectful way that also shows that I'm not going to change my mind about our plans?  Some people are pressuring us to change our plans to accommodate them and it's really starting to become hurtful.  Also, how can I announce to extended family members that we got married in a loving, respectful way?  I know that some people send out wedding announcements after the fact but it seems like that might reopen hurt feelings.”

Wow, Maddie, you are making me start this series with a tough one!  It's a shame that family members are pressuring you to change your wedding plans or are making you feel guilty about them.  I suppose they mean well and are just upset because they were hoping to share your special day with you.  However, that doesn't change the fact that you want what you want – a small, intimate affair for close family members.  I hate to say this because it sounds brattier than I intend for it to but – it's your wedding.  Don't feel the need to apologize for your wishes and desires, or worse yet, change your plans.  By explaining things in a respectful and loving way, you're doing all you can.  Unfortunately, there will always be some people who will never understand why you're doing what you're doing.  But that's ok because it's not their wedding (see a few sentences ago).  It's a tough situation but my best advice to remain your sweet, polite self, explaining your wishes in a respectful way, but to try and not to let them rain on your wedding day parade!  If your parents are supportive of your plans, it could help to have them in your corner, explaining things to hurt family members and trying to smooth things over with them.

As far as announcements go, they certainly aren't mandatory.  If you feel that they may pour salt on some people's wounds, then don't feel obligated to send them.  But for those guests who took the lack of an invitation in stride, wedding announcements are a nice idea.  Hopefully receiving an announcement will remind the former folks just how in love and happy you are, making them forget about their hurt feelings.

Readers, what advice would you offer to Maddie?  Comment below and help a fellow Burgh Bride out!

Color Palette Idea: Pale Pink & Pale Blue

I know that you’re thinking these colors scream “baby shower.”  But I promise, if combined correctly, they’ll look stylish and ethereal.  Stick with the palest of the shades, use sheer, airy fabrics, and accent with white, gray, or a metallic.  This color combination looks fantastic when combined with vintage pieces, such as mix and match china, lace, antique furniture, and Depression or milk glass.  Choose blooms such as garden roses, dahlias, peonies, and ranunculus, all of which can be found in the prettiest shades of pale pink or milky white.

Pale Pink and Pale Blue Wedding

Clockwise from top left: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, center

If you’re really daring, opt for an ice blue (one of this year's hottest bridal fashion trends!) or blush pink wedding gown, like this stunner worn by Burgh Bride Christina when she wed Andy in May 2012.

Check out my Pinterest board for even more ideas in this pretty palette.

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop Recap

Last week, I teamed up with the super talented ladies of Sapphire & Lace Event Design, Jack+Bean Event Stationery, Mosaic Linens, and Found + Made to teach (what I'm pretty sure was) Pittsburgh's first wedding design and styling workshop!  We took over the ballroom of the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel and hosted an evening of inspiration and education for local brides.  If you weren't there, you missed a good time!  But lucky for you, Dawn Derbyshire Photography was in place to document all of the pretty details and I'm giving you a full recap today.

The event started off with a the simple, and probably obvious, question – “What is design?”

Ladies, listen up!  Are you paying attention?  This is really important! 

Wedding design is sooooo (o x 9863958) much more than just your color scheme!  Creating a cohesive, impactful look for your wedding day means a whole heck of a lot more than just picking out pretty bouquets to match the bridesmaids' dresses.  Instead, it means determining a style, look, or even theme and weaving commons threads of that style/look/theme into every single aspect of your wedding day.  From the invitations to the favors, and everything in between, all aspects of your wedding should be cohesive and look like they belong together.  There is a fluidity between the big aspects, such as your venue and even your dress, and all of the details, like the menu cards and cocktail napkins.  Don't just stop at picking out a few colors!  Find something that inspires you – a piece of art, a book, architecture, a flower, a hobby, whatever! – and determine what style it lends itself to.  Then, let everything else flow from there!

To give our guests a visual representation of what we meant, the team came up with three different concepts and created tablescapes to go with each of those.  Mood boards showed guests what inspired the looks and they were able to see, touch, and explore all of the elements that brought that look to life.  From nailing down a style to selecting all of the various pieces, we explained the thought process behind each and every decision.  I think this really helped our guests understand more clearly what “creating a cohesive” look really means.  Plus, it was so fun to see all of the pieces come together!

Our first concept was bohemican chic.  Think jewel tones, natural elements like antlers and feathers, bright flowers and succulents, brass candlesticks, amber glass, and even birdcages.  Our tablescape was absolutely breathtaking!  We also created a lounge area to inspire unique seating vignettes for cocktail hours, after parties, or even quiet spaces during dancing.  Colorful and a bit anything goes, this look was flawless!

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Boho Chic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Boho Chic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Boho Chic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Boho Chic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Boho Chic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Boho Chic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Boho Chic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Boho Chic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Boho Chic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Boho Chic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Boho Chic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Boho Chic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Boho Chic Inspiration

The second style was modern.  Minimalistic but bold, this look was inspired by black and white stripes and lots of greenery.  In contrast to the boho chic look, you won't find much color here.  But it still packed a mighty punch.  The linen grabbed your attention and kept it, since the other details are subtle.  We also worked up a styled cocktail table.  Your cocktail reception is a great place to have a little fun with specialty linens, unique centerpieces, or even cute signs with your wedding hashtag or fun facts about the bride and groom.  This look was sleek and stylish in a quiet way, but it definitely made a statement!

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Modern Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Modern Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Modern Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Modern Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Modern Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Modern Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Modern Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Modern Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Modern Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Modern Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Modern Inspiration

The final concept was classic and sparkly.  We were inspired by lots of candlelight, mixed metallics (yes, it is ok to mix gold and silver!), and monochromatic florals.  This style is perfect for the traditional bride or the one who wants a pretty, feminine look.  The navy blue linen was rich but was softened by the white and ivory flowers, pastel blue napkins, and menu card with its subtle punch of coral. Gold beaded chargers, lots of mercury glass, and candles galore completed this tablescape.  We also created an escort card table that had a big wow factor!  A large display of various candles set a romantic tone and the sequin linen was just gorgeous.  The entire look was soft, glowing, and romantic!

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Classic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Classic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Classic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Classic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Classic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Classic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Classic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Classic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Classic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Classic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Classic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Classic Inspiration

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Classic Inspiration

After exploring the three tablescapes, it was time for my favorite part of the evening…the Design Bar!  We had various shaped tables in place and lots of extra linens, centerpieces, table numbers, menu cards, candles, and other accessories and guests were encouraged to play and create their own beautiful tablescapes.  The team was there to spark creativity and help guests think outside the box.  It was like playing dress up!  So fun!

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Design Bar

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Design Bar

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Design Bar

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Design Bar

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Design Bar

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Design Bar

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Design Bar

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Design Bar

Wedding Design & Styling Workshop - Design Bar

We even spent a little time getting to know our guests, learning about their wedding looks and helping them come up with ways to bring those to life.  The ladies asked great questions and I hope that they found the night to be fun, educational, and inspirational.  We're already looking forward to bigger and better workshops!  If you're in the midst of wedding planning, let us what you would like to see at the next one!

And a HUGE thank you to the amazing vendors who helped me bring this idea to fruition!  Bethany, Julie, Molly, Jen, Laura, Dawn, and Katy – you gals are the best!  Thank you from the bottom of my wedding detail-loving heart!

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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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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