By Shaune Marx

Shannon Merenstein + Cole Williams

Photographs: Craig Photography

WHIRL Weddings September 2014, Shannon Merenstein and Cole Williams

The bride found her first dress at Anne Gregory for the Bride, a mermaid design with textured ruffle appliqués that gave the skirt a unique, feathered look.

When Cole Williams took his girlfriend of two years out for dinner one night, she immediately knew something unusual was going on. “I noticed Cole was super nervous right away,” Shannon remembers. “I noticed on the way there that his hands were shaky.” Her suspicions proved correct after dinner, when the anxious groom-to-be dropped to one knee in front of the PPG fountain and proposed. After Shannon accepted, the art teacher began planning the big day. “I just wanted it to sort of feel eclectic and handmade, but also polished at the same time,” Shannon explains. She, her mother, and her wedding planner Shayne Souleret brought this vision to life, using creative handmade décor to deck out the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. Shannon advises other brides to “Think creatively about materials and decorations. Think outside of the box for the décor!” The artistic bride certainly did so herself, crafting tissue paper flowers to use as place cards, and spray painting kids’ plastic animal figurines in gold and silver for table markers! Everything at the October event was bold and vividly colorful, from the black-and-white-striped tablecloths to the ombré flower arrangements, which faded from reds and pinks to oranges and yellows. Even the bride, who changed into a Sue Wong, ostrich feather, flapper-style short dress after the ceremony, exuded vibrant, modern flair. Shannon says much of the reception turned into a ’90’s hip-hop dance party, courtesy of DJ Eric Schiemer. Yet, the highlight of the day was before all the fun and dancing. “I think my favorite memory was probably seeing Cole for the first time,” says Shannon. “We hadn’t seen each other since the rehearsal dinner, and I just felt a great sense of relief once I saw him. After that, everything seemed like it was a blur.”

WHIRL Weddings September 2014, Shannon Merenstein and Cole Williams

Friend of the bride Jess Wagner, of the Cake Eaters Shoppe, whipped up a delicious s’mores cake and an assortment of cupcakes, including mouth-watering fall flavors like salted caramel, ginger, and pumpkin!

WHIRL Weddings September 2014, Shannon Merenstein and Cole Williams

One of the couple’s first dates was to a Pixies concert in Detroit, so Shannon walked down the aisle to a Pixies song, played by the Giambelli String Quartet.

WHIRL Weddings September 2014, Shannon Merenstein and Cole Williams

Craig Photography helped the happy couple make the most of their fantastic venue, taking photos all over the museum. “Our photographers were great, and they helped us get some really awesome shots,” says Shannon.

Rachel Bove + Joe Bunta

Photographs: Stephanie Letzkus

WHIRL Weddings September 2014, Rachel Bove and Joe Bunta

Rachel found her first dress at Carrie Ann’s Bridal, a traditional strapless gown with a gathered skirt and train. For her second reception, she ordered a bridesmaid’s dress in white, with a black ribbon around the waist.

When a mutual friend set Rachel Bove and Joe Bunta up on a blind date, sparks immediately flew between them. “We were out until 4 a.m.,” remembers Rachel, who knew right away that their connection would lead to something spectacular. Three years later, Joe popped champagne — and the question! — in their South Beach hotel room. After a quick, three-month engagement, the two became man and wife at St. Stanislaus in May. The pair broke from tradition and planned two receptions — an intimate affair with only immediate family at Lidia’s Italy Pittsburgh following the ceremony, and a larger, more casual, outdoor event a few months later! Lidia’s provided centerpieces of roses and lilies, while Bella Floral supplied beautiful bouquets and boutonnieres of roses, peonies, and lilies.

Rachel used a chic color scheme of white and black for both receptions, with elegant damask accents. To match, Dozen Bake Shop provided a chocolate cake with white icing and a cocoa powder damask design on top. One of Rachel’s favorite memories was taking photos on one of the Fairmont Hotel’s balcony with fireworks from that night’s Pirates game lighting up the background! As a pyrotechnical expert himself, Joe was equally excited about the breathtaking shots. Rachel says, “Fireworks mean a lot to my husband, so the fact that we could incorporate that was wonderful.”

Ashley Zarecky + Joshua Hodge

Photographs: Alex and Erica Inthiar

WHIRL Weddings September 2014, Ashley Zarecky and Joshua Hodge

The newlyweds enjoyed an exotic honeymoon at The Excellence Resort at Riviera Maya.

Growing up in Grove City, Ashley Zarecky and Joshua Hodge shared a common group of friends throughout high school. Their friendship grew stronger when they both attended Duquesne University, and romance finally blossomed between them when she was a junior and he a senior. Four and a half years later, Joshua pulled off a romantic storybook proposal at the Foxburg Inn, where he took his bride-to-be on a horse-drawn carriage ride before popping the question at an overlook where two rivers meet. Ashley planned an elegant and timeless affair at Pittsburgh’s Grand Hall at the Priory, an August wedding with a color scheme of ivories, whites, and sand tones with soft, gold accents. She found her stunning dress, a strapless drop-waist ball gown with a ruffled skirt, at Bridal Beginning, and enjoyed a four-tier lemon cake with vanilla frosting from Karla Cakes. Other than that, most of the other elements were supplied by family friends, such as the ivory roses from Ed Lewis. “I think it was so special because we did grow up in the same town, so everyone pretty much knew everyone,” says Ashley. Her favorite moment was after the ceremony, surrounded by her wedding party with her groom by her side. “It was the first moment I really got to take everything in,” she remembers.

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