By Andrea Bosco, Colleen Ferguson, Rachel Jones, Shaune Marx, + Liz Petoniak
Bachelorette Party

Paint Party

For a creative twist on the bachelorette party, book a private painting soirée at Paint Monkey’s new, expanded studio in Lawrenceville. Fill the cool space with your own beverages, snacks, and party decorations. Then, connect with your girls — and your artistic side — as you all paint “masterpieces” on pre-sketched canvases. Paint Monkey offers a flat rate of $350 for up to 10 people. And, for parties of 15 or more, the rate drops to $30 a person and the bride paints for free!

Pittsburgh wedding planning, Paint Monkey

Photos: Joe Groom.

Pittsburgh wedding planning, Paint Monkey

Beauty + Body

Underneath It All

Reveal the beautiful skin you’re in with a few trips to European Wax Center on McKnight Road in the North Hills. If time allows, brides should begin the process two to three months prior to the wedding, says Regional Trainer & Coach Carly Sorco. “This will put your hair on a good growth cycle,” she says. You’ll want to avoid waxing, especially facial features, too close to the wedding in case of redness. Sorco advises brides to exfoliate at least 24-48 hours before their appointment with European Wax’s non-abrasive, gel exfoliant. “You put on a thin layer, let it sit for 30 seconds, then rub in circular motions,” she says. “It’s a gentler texture than a sugar scrub.” And, if you’re a first-time client, you’re in luck! Enjoy a complimentary session — brow, underarm, or bikini line — on European Wax. You can upgrade to a “bikini full” or a Brazilian for 50 percent off. The business also offers an unlimited wax package good for one year, and prepaid packages, at all of its Pittsburgh locations!

Pittsburgh wedding planning, European Wax Center

Photo: European Wax Center.

Hair Repair

Getting your hair prepared for the big day takes a little homework and the right products. Philip Pelusi Salons advises making an appointment for a hair consultation with a professional stylist months prior to the wedding to discuss the condition of the hair and scalp, and the length needed to create the hair style the bride has in mind. From there, schedule regular haircuts up to the wedding day to keep the ends of the hair healthy, as well as in-salon deep conditioning hair and scalp treatments, such as P2 by Philip Pelusi Extreme Repair Treatment and Deep Hydrating Hair and Scalp Treatment, to promote healthy hair growth.

Pittsburgh wedding planning, Philip Pelusi

Photo: Philip Pelusi International Design Team for Venexiana 2014 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

Get Glowing

A camera-ready look that will last all day and night begins with glowing skin! Professional makeup artist Valarie Panei offers on-location spray tanning services in custom colors — never orange — to suit each skin tone. Exfoliate and buff your body in the shower beforehand with a mixture of sea salt and water. Says Panei, “I always suggest getting sprayed a full day before the wedding, that way it has time to absorb and set.” On the big day, airbrush makeup is a must for its wear-proof quality. “If applied correctly, the color will always match the skin and can look matte or dewy,” she says. “I’m a huge fan of dewy skin, dazzling eyes, and lashes!”

Pittsburgh wedding planning, Valarie Panei Professional Makeup Artist

Photo: Valarie Panei/Steven Dray Images.

Perfectly in Place

Pittsburgh wedding planning, Posh Salon

Photo: Posh Salon.

Wedding hair starts right after the free cup of Starbucks and needs to last passed the sparkler send-off. Lisa Martin-Campbell, owner of Posh Salon, suggests finishing your salon session with Kerastase Gloss Appeal. The top coat spray adds instant shine without any oil residue. A quick spritz before you head down the aisle will keep the glossy radiance and combat frizz. For extra protection throughout the day, look to Kerastase Laque Couture. Make sure your MOH has a bottle of the highly workable hairspray on hand for touch-ups before dinner and dancing.

Let’s Barre-ty!

Melissa Dellovade of Pure Barre Mt. Lebanon is catering to brides — and their bodies. The full-body workout technique concentrates on the areas women struggle with most: hips, thighs, seat, abdominals, and arms. Says Dellovade, “Pure Barre targets those places on a woman’s body that we want to look good from day to day, and especially on our wedding day.” For brides-to-be, all Pure Barre Pittsburgh locations are offering a three-month unlimited package for $375. The rate is also available for bridal parties, so your Maid of Honor and bridesmaids can join you, too. Also available are bachelorette barre-ties! The private parties can be personalized by the bride and combined with snacks, cocktails, and goodie bags for a surely memorable experience.

Pittsburgh wedding planning, Pure Barre Wexford

Photo: Pure Barre.


Budget Bliss

How do you plan the wedding of your dreams without draining all of your savings? Helena Erdeljac of Arista Catering & Event Planning says it’s important to prioritize your spending. “Splurge on what’s meaningful to you,” says Erdeljac. “Discuss with your fiancé what is most important to you both. Once you determine this, create your budget, and put that item at the top of your list. Everything else will fall into place.” She also advises brides-to-be on a budget to look for more intimately sized companies to provide décor, such as flowers and linens. “These companies tend to be more willing to negotiate and offer the same products and same quality,” she says.


Pittsburgh wedding planning, Extraordinary Events

Photo: Mary Mervis Photography.

Do-it-yourself mania is sweeping cyberspace, and social media makes it easier to embrace the inner craftsman (or woman) in each of us. “With the popularity of Pinterest, today’s brides are finding some really great DIY ideas for their weddings,” says Lisa Mason Eck, owner and event director of Extraordinary Events. “Incorporating a DIY item at the wedding gives the busy bride, who doesn’t have time to devote to the planning process, the opportunity to contribute to her wedding in a very special and personal way.” Eck only advises that brides don’t overdo it. “Choose one or two DIY projects, like a small escort card or guest party favors, to add that personalized touch without becoming overwhelmed.”

Cakes + Desserts

Colorful Confections

Pittsburgh wedding planning, Moio's Italian Pastry Shop

Photo: Tony Moio.

As you share your first dessert as man and wife, we suggest going for a cake that best reflects your unique personalities. Step up your pastry game with gourmet flavors and whimsical decorations. “Trends seem to be leaning towards cakes with more color in the icing,” says Tony Moio, owner of Moio’s Italian Pastry Shop. “The ombré design is a good example of that.” Looking for something more traditional? Opt for white icing, but wrap the bottom of each tier in a colored ribbon!

Get Your Fill

We all know and love the Pittsburgh-centric Burnt Almond Torte from Prantl’s Bakery — heck, The Huffington Post named it “The Greatest Cake America Has Ever Made!” Owner Lara Bruhn is allowing brides to get their fill, with a twist. “Many brides request our Burnt Almond Torte in disguise,” she says. “It’s decorated like a regular wedding cake, then the almonds are sprinkled on when the dessert is plated.” She’s also seeing a trend toward more seasonal cake flavors. For winter, she recommends a cranberry nut batter with white chocolate cream cheese filling. For fall, consider a pumpkin batter with one layer of apple filling and one layer of spiced vanilla buttercream. Yum!

Pittsburgh wedding planning, Prantl's Bakery

Photo: Meaghan Elliott Photography.

Dress Shopping

Dress to Impress

Choosing universally flattering cuts and colors can take the battle out of finding the perfect bridesmaids dresses. To complement all shapes and sizes, Jenn Mason, store manager of MB Bride & Special Occasion, recommends empire- or baby doll-cut dresses with pleating or asymmetrical waistlines. “Fabrics that work well and flatter the best have been the chiffon gowns,” she adds. As far as hue goes, jewel tones look gorgeous on all skin colors. Says Mason, “Burgundy, navy, and plum are top colors that look nice on everyone.”

Blushing Brides — and Bridesmaids!

This year, blush is a must. “The biggest trend in bridesmaids dresses is choosing blush and champagne colors,” says Sharon Wiley, The Exquisite Bride’s Gibsonia store manager. “Something pale, light, soft, and romantic — just a hint of pink.” With so many variations on the peachy-pink spectrum, some brides are inviting each maid to wear a different shade. Others are alternating between two tones from the same color family, or letting the MOH stand out as the only one in a different hue. “We’re starting to see a lot of blush and champagne bridal gowns, too,” adds D.J. Marinelli, director of sales and marketing at The Exquisite Bride. “When you put a blush color under white or ivory lace, it looks so rich. It really pops!”


Pick a Flower

The temperatures may be decreasing, but your options for beautiful, seasonal blooms are not! “There is so much product available in any season with locally sourced materials and professionally grown crops,” says Jim Price, co-owner of Cuttings. For the fall, the Sewickley florist suggests wild grapevines, or fruited and berried branches, such as persimmon and pomegranate. For the winter, use bare or berried branches to bring texture to soft, romantic bouquets of white garden roses. “This gives you the feel of the starkness of winter against the lushness of the cut flowers,” Price explains. “Spring bulbs — like amaryllis, daffodils, hyacinth, muscari, and tulips — also create great winter looks and are readily available.”

Pittsburgh wedding planning, Cuttings Flowers

Photo: Hot Metal Studio.

Food Options

Memorable Menus

Go beyond the usual chicken or beef, and get creative with your food options! Stacy Stoller, assistant events coordinator at Common Plea Catering, says many Pittsburgh couples choose to highlight their hometown with fun foods like pierogies, halušky, and even miniature Primanti Bros. sandwiches. “For one wedding, we did a Pittsburgh theme, and all of the different stations were built around different neighborhoods in the city,” says Stoller. Embracing local food staples or food from your heritage helps personalize your menu, and can be a great way to incorporate your theme.

Move Around

In lieu of a sit-down, plated dinner, John Vallese, president of Yes, We Cater, suggests a style of food service that will bring more energy to the reception. “Many people often forget what they ordered for their entree — whether it’s chicken, steak, or fish — by the time of the wedding anyway,” he says. “Hors d’oeuvres parties with displayed stationary and passed foods have become really popular because they encourage guests to move around and socialize more.” Another way to bring more action into the mix? Vallese recommends having a chef on-hand to create dishes, such as fresh mozzarella or quesadillas, in front of guests.

Pittsburgh wedding planning, Yes We Cater

Photo: Kelley Snyder.


Appealing Appetizers

When planning your cocktail hour menu, remember that the appetizers shouldn’t spoil your guests’ appetites for dinner! Rania Harris, owner of Rania’s Catering, recommends passing six different bite-sized hors d’oeuvres for a one-hour time slot or eight to 10 for anything longer. “People prefer hot items over chilled, so plan for a hot-cold ratio of 5-1 or 4-2,” Harris adds. “People also love antipasto, and seasonal items are popular, too. For colder months, we love to pass grilled Gruyère and pesto cheese triangles, secured with a bamboo pick; shooter glasses of roasted butternut squash bisque; or wild mushroom ragout in Gorgonzola cream on toasted baguette slices.


Paradise Found

What could be better than watching the sun go down over the crystal blue water of the French Polynesia, or exploring ancient Greek ruins, with your new spouse by your side? Planning your honeymoon isn’t as smooth sailing as the above options, so we looked to Olsen-O’Leary Travels, Inc., for a few tips and hot spots for 2015. “Travel is complicated,” says Brett Horowitz, luxury travel expert. “We cut through the clutter, and provide couples with an accurate point of view and recommendations based on their personal needs.” The full-service travel agency has access to exclusive offers and buying power that often means lower cost, special tours, and private tastings. So, what are the current must-see destinations? Tahiti, for one. Says Horowitz, “Just the word conjures up the tradewind breeze as you gaze over the turquoise sea, and exotic orchids delight the senses. The French Polynesia is still about as dreamy as reality gets.” Horowitz says other popular choices include the Mediterranean, Paris, Hawaii, Belize, and the Galápagos Islands, to name a few. Your trip of a lifetime is beckoning!

Pittsburgh wedding planning, Olsen-O'Leary Travel

Photo: Olsen-O’Leary Travels.

Invitations + Stationery

So Suite

Pittsburgh wedding planning, Nota Bene stationery

Photo: Michael Fornataro

Nota Bene Fine Paper Boutique co-owner Amy Bass has seen a return to the traditional when it comes to bridal stationery suites. If you’re going for classic, she suggests using ivory invitations with black ink, and great calligraphy or raised printing. “You can use letterpress as well, and add color for a twist,” says Bass. She advises brides to carefully adjust the wording according to who is giving the wedding and have other eyes peruse the proofs. Her best advice? Start early. “Give yourself enough time to pick out the invite. The proofing process can take time. Send your save-the-dates at least six months prior, and your invitations at least two to three months prior. There is nothing worse than a rushing bride!”

Hand-Picked Sparkle

From choosing paper options (gold shimmer or pearl white?), to printing options (digital or letterpress?), there are so many stationery decisions to make! Trending big this year are all things that shine. “Whether using glittery papers, ribbons or rhinestones, brides this year are embracing elegant invitations that sparkle!” says Anne Lehman of Anne Lehman Design. Peruse the collection and consider a stationery suite, which includes save-the-dates, a postcard reply, thank you notes, menus, place cards, escort cards, programs, and wine bottle labels — just to name a few.

Pittsburgh wedding planning, Anne Lehman Design

Photo: Anne Lehman Design.


First Impressions

The song a couple chooses for the first dance is a musical interpretation of their relationship. For a sweet, traditional dance, Dean McAfee, owner of Pittsburgh DJ Company, says his top requests are:

“God Gave Me You,” by Blake Shelton
“Then,” by Brad Paisley
“I Won’t Give Up,” by Jason Mraz
“Everything,” by Michael Bublé
“All of Me,” by John Legend

For a fun twist, some couples plan a surprise first dance mix. McAfee says a normal, romantic song starts playing, but then skips and crackles halfway through. It cuts off, but then guests are surprised to see the bride and groom dancing to a choreographed mix of fun and lively songs. McAfee says, “It’s always a crowd-pleaser!”

Hit the Dance Floor

Packing the dance floor at the reception all comes down to hiring a great DJ and trusting their talent and expertise, according to Steve Lebo, owner of Party-Time Productions. He says, “Each party has its own personality. Some guests may hit the dance floor right away, others may need a little more time to warm up. An experienced wedding DJ will be able to connect with your audience and know what works best.” Other surefire ways to get guests grooving? “Forego table numbers and use song titles instead. When a table’s specific song is played, everyone, including grandma and grandpa, has to get up and dance,” says Lebo. And, lastly, hit the dance floor yourself! “Guests always want to be where the newlyweds are, so your family and friends will undoubtedly want to dance and have fun with you.”

Pittsburgh wedding planning, Partytime Productions

Photo: Party-Time Productions.

Pop-Up Party

“Tented wedding receptions offer unlimited opportunities to create just the right ambiance with event lighting,” says PartySavvy owner Dan Skena. “A beautiful white tent provides a blank canvas for a lighting designer to create any atmosphere a bride may have in mind.” Skena says one of his favorite looks for an evening event involves lighting under a clear tent. Uplighting large trees and the surrounding landscape provides an additional point of interest, he says. One trend is using LED lighting fixtures around the perimeter of a white tent to “wash” the ceiling with almost any color imaginable. And, the colors can be programmed to change throughout the evening! Skena advises brides to consider pin-spotting their floral arrangements. “If the reception space is lit with low-level ambient lighting, the floral arrangements that people spend so much money on can get lost,” he says. “A pin-spot fixture will direct a narrow beam of light on each centerpiece, which really makes those beautiful arrangements pop.” Something to avoid? Mini Christmas-type lights on the ceiling of a tent, says Skena. “Thanks to Pinterest, there are a lot of photos of that type of lighting out there. It looks nice if properly done; however, doing it properly is very time consuming and quite costly.”

Something New

For reception rental trends, we turn to All Occasions Party Rental. “Chandeliers have become so popular, and continue to be used indoors and in tents for weddings and events,” says Senior Marketing Director Allison Miller. “The crystals pick up light from around the room and give that warm glow from above.” Also trending are the Philia chairs and bar stools. “These chairs are seen in restaurants and television shows — they are popping up all over the place and brides want them,” says Miller. “Match them with our popular Farm Table and you get a rustic, contemporary feel. They are metal and have the perfect look for industrial type settings.”

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