Compiled by Nicole Barley, Andrea Bosco + Rachel Jones
Everything about your relationship — from how you met to how you got engaged — is unique. Why not bring that same spirit of specialness to your wedding celebration? In order to help you really impress your guests, we turned to industry experts to get their wedding advice for upping the “wow factor” before, during, and after the party. (We’ve even got a few tips for attendees.) Our advice? The most special events are the ones with gracious guests and hosts who share the love.
A couple’s first dance as husband and wife is always an attention getter. With everyone’s eyes on you already, it’s the perfect opportunity to up the ante. Mario Cardinali, owner of Arthur Murray Dance Studio, helps hundreds of couples every year prepare for that moment. “Once the footwork for the first dance is internalized, we work on the ‘wow factor,’” Cardinali says. “We teach the girls how to flair and flick the dress as they turn. We teach arm styling to show off their new rings.” Guests will definitely be in awe when they see your Mirror Ball Trophy-worthy moves. And for the groom? “The guy’s ‘wow factor’ usually is just being able to dance!” Cardinali says with a laugh. But it doesn’t stop when the first dance song ends! Cardinali likes to teach couples steps to one or two fast dances, so the guests will continue to be wowed throughout the reception.
Photo booths have been popping up and making a big flash at receptions for obvious reasons. They serve as entertainment, fill any lulls, and make instant favors! Brandi Patterson, owner of Shutterbooth, suggests adding personal touches to your photo booth with a customized package. “Most people don’t realize how many options there are,” Brandi says. “You can choose unique backdrops, color schemes, layouts, and graphic details for the same price as the standard package.” Continue the fun of picking props and cheesing with your guests by setting up a full photo hosting gallery, available at ShutterYou.com. “Here, guests can view the photos, order prints in different sizes, and share the photos through social media,” Brandi says. “It’s a great way to extend the wedding into the next couple of weeks.”
Do you want an intimate, romantic reception or a club-like dance party? Either way, the right lighting can really set the mood. “Amazing new lighting elements can transform any space,” says Shaun Pierce, president of Pierce Events. Lighting can enhance the venue and put a personalized stamp on the evening. Instead of your wedding looking like the same ceremony and reception held the Saturday before, different colored, and brightness of, lights add an extra, unique touch. LED and wireless lights can be used in an array of colors both indoors and outdoors.
We all know Pittsburgh is a melting pot of different ethnicities. Brides and grooms can celebrate their families’ traditions or introduce guests to the places they’ve traveled to with a meaningful menu. “Consider working with your chef to create a menu to reflect your cultural heritage,” says Shaun Pierce, president of Pierce Events. “Guests will be surprised with the departure from the typical.” You can even create a fusion of the bride and groom’s cultures, symbolizing both families coming together. Continue the cultural experience on the dance floor with bits of salsa, world music, and contemporary hits. If your DJ or band has the freedom to go beyond the usual, your guests will delight in the new experience.
“Not all DJ companies are created equal,” says Steve Lebo, owner of Party Time Productions. “Things such as creative cocktail interaction from your DJ and unique twists on the bouquet and garter tosses are just a couple of ideas. Taking it to a whole new level would be an idea like ‘bride and groom first dance pledges,’ which are audio recordings taken from both the bride and groom prior, and played as surprises before the first dance.” As a bonus, Lebo says, the newlyweds are given a copy as a keepsake. Creatively consult with your DJ to surprise your groom with a special something — whether it be via fire-eaters and a dance troupe, or a dance of your own! “Utilize new technologies and be open to fresh ideas,” he says.
Bonnie Walker of Bonnie Walker Events emphasizes the importance of adding tangible, personalized elements to your wedding celebration. “One of my favorite wedding trends is creating heirloom pieces that are incorporated into the décor of the wedding itself. When the wedding is over, these custom creations can then be taken home and integrated into the couple’s décor for memories that can be passed down and last for lifetimes to come: ‘See that painting? It is really a piece of a custom floor from my parents wedding. They danced their first dance on it!’ The touches could be a special horah chair, personalized serving trays, lengths of fabric that are then turned into charming throw pillows, elegantly monogrammed napkins for future dinner parties or events, or as mentioned, a piece of a custom floor that then becomes art. These touches will make your event a truly personal affair.”
It makes sense that an elite hotel housed in a 107-year-old building would appreciate rich history and tradition. Recently, Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel’s staff has witnessed a renewed interest in culturally inspired weddings. “We hosted a Russian wedding with a couple that came in with a memorable request for a ‘reverse menu tasting,’” says Senior Catering Sales Manager Tony Lee. “Felix and Zina Yanko cooked their favorite traditional Russian cuisine for all of the staff to try. Two weeks later, the couple came back to taste Chef Brian Molish’s translation of the prized dishes.” Just like the Renaissance is indigenous to the city, the dishes spoke to the couple’s heritage. We’re drooling over the idea! “When our guests walk through the doors, they know that they are in Pittsburgh because of our historical features, local artwork, and views of the Allegheny River, PNC Park, and Heinz Field. Our goal is to incorporate our bride and groom’s traditions as well,” says Director of Sales & Marketing Kristina Bush. The Renaissance’s staff is open to working with couples to personalize a menu unlike any other.
Schedule a mani-pedi party for bridesmaids the afternoon of the rehearsal dinner. Lisa-Martin Campbell, owner of Posh Salon, suggests the salon’s gel polish treatment, which promises extra staying power (up to two weeks). Plus, “We have a separate nail area where the girls can all bond and relax before the rehearsal dinner! Also, it’s a great idea to book your hair to get styled so you look hot for your rehearsal!”
Take care of visiting guests by putting together gift bags for the hotel room, says Lisa Martin-Campbell, owner of Posh Salon. She recommends adding travel-size Pureology shampoo, conditioner, and hairspray yo the goodie bag (small snacks, bottled water, gum, and wedding itinerary also make great additions). At the reception, bathroom baskets are the way to provide that little extra something. “It is a great way for your guests to freshen up: hairspray, dry shampoo, pomade, spray wax, in addition to emergency necessities — bobby pins, breath mints, dental floss, stain remover, deodorant, and perfume, to name a few, always make the guests feel welcome, and they appreciate the extra touches!”
A little pre-planning can go a long way! Michele Pelusi with Philip Pelusi Salons notes that, “Most brides and bridesmaids tend to grow out their hair for bridal haircraftings and updos, but often have a hard time achieving length of hair while maintaining quality.” To speed along the growing process, “Give the gift of beautiful hair to each of your bridal party members with a gift bag filled with a P2 by Philip Pelusi Long-gev-ity Shampoo, Long-gev-ity Conditioner, and a P2 by Philip Pelusi Fluid Travel Size Spray at your bridal shower. P2 Long-gev-ity’s hair strengthening Hydro-Charged Pelusi Ceramide Complex helps keep hair strong and healthy as it grows out, helps protect color, weightlessly hydrates, and detangles long hair without weighing it down. Plus, bridal party members can toss the travel size P2 Fluid Spray in their purses for re-misting hair touch-ups throughout the big day! This soft holding spray adds shine with a light hold, making it perfect for mid-wedding quick hair fixes.”
Want your hubby-to-be feeling pampered, too? Michele Pelusi with Philip Pelusi Salons has the perfect solution. “A few days before the wedding, schedule your handsome groom for a pampering with a men’s Volumetric Haircut and a Philip Pelusi Spa Hair Therapy Treatment that includes a relaxing scalp massage. Enjoy the masculine smelling and healthy scalp combination of P2 by Philip Pelusi Roots for Men Shampoo and Conditioner and Texture Groom Styling Product for him to use the day of the wedding. Make it easy for him — prepay for the service and the products with a Philip Pelusi Gift Card, so he can simply arrive at the salon and relax! He will feel great about looking his best on his best day, just like you!”
Nobody wants a runaway bride, and that includes her makeup. Look flawless all day with a Permanent Makeup treatment from Cosmetic Solutions. “If you’re crying, you don’t want your eyeliner to run. If it’s hot, you don’t want to wipe your face and take your eyebrows off, too,” says Heather Hunter, Permanent Makeup technician at Cosmetic Solutions. Don’t forget the lips! The perfect shade of pink will look great on your lips, but not on your groom’s. Keep the color to yourself with permanent lip liner and lip color. Heather encourages getting the treatment about two months before the wedding to allow time for any touch-ups that may need to be done.
For youthful skin, Heather Hunter of Cosmetic Solutions suggests a Fusion 3D Lift. “I recommend this skin tightening treatment for the mother of the bride or mother of the groom,” the Permanent Makeup technician says. Two or three months before the wedding, clients should start coming in to complete the series of treatments. The 3D Fusion treatment, only available in Pennsylvania at Cosmetic Solutions, entails a Microdermabrasion, which exfoliates to remove dead skin and reveal a healthy glow. Then, a laser is used to tighten the skin.
Guests can get in on making a lasting impression as well! Scribe Fine Stationery in Shadyside offers gift wrapping services. Owner Sara Hargreaves says they’ll help put “the finishing touch on your gift to the bride and groom! Our staff will add a signature, hand-tied French ribbon to our designer papers (shown here by Loop of Philadelphia), and a touch of glitter under the bow. Our wrap might even out-pace the fanciest letter-pressed wedding invitation in our store!”
Keep your guests moving. “My biggest achievement is having people not sit at their table too long,” says Bob Sendall, owner of All in Good Taste Productions. “Have people sit down as minimally as possible. Most places are very cookie cutter, and I try to eliminate that.” Sendall says it’s common guests compliment his services on a chock-full schedule. “You can still accomplish a beautiful table for guests to enjoy,” he says. “Plan the evening in stages. And, never close the bar during dinner. Let the beverages flow.” Though All in Good Taste promotes simplicity and elegance, Sendall says you must find a signature idea and run with it. “Start with the invitation,” he says. “Use something bright, vibrant, or textured. Be clever. Make it pop with a monogram and use that all the way through the ceremony — on the dance floor and the napkin.” Sendall says women especially love his personalized bouquets, where he takes “something borrowed,” i.e. lace from the bride’s grandmother’s dress, and uses it as the wrap. You can also incorporate the hand-held arrangements as the tables’ centerpieces — just fill a number of vases with water. Last, but not least, chocolate! Sendall typically provides his Toffee Taboo, in the shape of miniature purses, for the valet to hand to guests as they depart.
“Two areas that add something are unexpected materials and interactive pieces,” says Barb Johnson, owner of More Than Words Fine Papers in Mt. Lebanon. “You want something that is multipurpose and involves active participation.” Print your invites on Lucite, aluminum, or wood, Johnson says. “Require your guests to do something.” Send a scratch-off Save the Date! Or, toss the standard favor for something a bit more inventive. “Peoples’ reactions are great,” she says. “Make them slip on a pair of those fun glasses with 3-D vision. You can still do something very classic — it’s just more than what’s expected.” Johnson also suggests getting crafty with the escort cards. Think: chalk. The possibilities are endless when it comes to ideas in the fine papers (or anything but) department.