Finally getting around to doing this! Now if I could only finish the thank you cards....
Anyway - let's get to it:
Wedding Planner: Allison Florio - One Fine Day (onefinedaypa.com): A+
My husband and I are both Pittsburgh transplants, so when we knew we were going to host a wedding in Pittsburgh with ~100 out of town guests, we knew some local help was in order! From the first day we met Allison we knew we were in good hands. An engineer turned wedding planner, Allison does what she loves and loves what she does! It really shows! She is outrageously organized, extremely responsive and overall fun to work with. Since we weren't really familiar with area florists, DJs, photographers, etc., Allison had GREAT referrals for all sorts of vendors she had worked with in the past. Not only did Allison hook us up with amazing vendors, but she helped us negotiate prices and save a ton overall. And the day of? Let's just say that when Allison called me on the morning-of just to "check in and confirm everything was good to go" a sense of calm came over me that lasted all day long. We would HIGHLY recommend One Fine Day to any bride and groom who wants to be able to relax and just ENJOY their big day... and the planning process leading up to it. PS: If you're thinking, "I could never afford to hire a wedding planner" or "that's an unnecessary expense and weddings are already so expensive" - I would challenge you to just call for a quote ... I guarantee you'll be surprised!
Ceremony - Heinz Chapel: A
What can we say? Was it tough to get a wedding date? Yes. In fact, we wanted a September date so badly. But when we checked the calendar before calling on September 1st, my now-husband realized that there was 1 slot available for August 24th and with his encouragement, we scooped it up "just in case we didn't get a September date." Well ... good thing we did, because when we called Heinz for September (with 14 people calling and almost 2 hours on hold) every... single...date for September was taken. Luckily, we had a "bird in the hand" with August 24th so we just went with it and I'm so glad we did. Fast forward about a year to the big day -- the ladies who "run" the weddings over there
are seriously amazing. Sure, Heinz has some restrictions, but a lot of
the more restrictive rules have recently been lifted (IE photography
rules are much more lax now). Our only suggestion for Heinz brides-to-be would be to work with vendors (planners, photographers, florists, etc) who have experience with Heinz Chapel. Our vendors had all worked with Heinz a number of times before, so they were AMAZING when it came to planning and executing the ceremony.
Reception - Phipps Conservatory - Outdoor Garden: A
The space? AMAZING. The food? AMAZING. The execution? AMAZING. The planning? Somewhat frustrating. The frustrating part about Phipps is that everything is "separate" (space rental, catering, bar), so you (or - in my case - my planner, for the post part) deal with different people for different things. The event planning staff is experienced and professional, but sometimes getting answers to things was like pulling teeth (i.e. how do we get our lighting set up? where exactly are the restrooms for our guests? etc). Also, separate space rental, catering and bar meant separate deposits, separate deadlines, etc. The confusion almost led us to a 25% price increase for our bar when we apparently failed to sign the contract early enough. We booked in September, 2012 - which we *thought* locked in our prices for the bar (because we were told our prices for catering would be locked in), but by the time we were summoned to sign our bar contract in February, 2013, we discovered the price had increased 25%! Good thing I read the contract carefully and did the math! Luckily, our planner was able to convince Phipps to honor our 2012 prices for alcohol -- this saved us nearly $2,500. The actual execution of our event was fantastic. The space is breathtaking - we had the run of the whole outdoor garden and our guests raved about our cocktail hour (which took place in the sunken pergola overlooking the Cathedral). The event staff - from bartenders to event coordinators - were friendly and courteous, our guests even commented! Overall, we were very pleased with Phipps and would highly suggest the Outdoor Garden Space to brides looking for an outdoor wedding reception with all the amenities!
Photography - Carson Grey Photography: A+
Carson was actually the second photographer we booked for our wedding and we couldn't be happier with her work! The story of the disaster with our first photographer belongs on the Vendor Beware list, so we'll be sure to make that happen :-) We hired Carson about 4 months before our big day and she hit the ground running. Because Carson was another referral from our wedding planner, we knew Carson had a great reputation and was extremely talented before we even met her. What we didn't know was just how friendly and fun she is! From day one, Carson felt more like a friend than a vendor, we had FUN with her! Carson made us *comfortable* and it really shows in our photos!
DJ - Clay Slivko - Pittsburgh All Star DJs: A
Let's just say I have before and after pictures of my shoes -- and they are utterly destroyed from all the dancing we did! Our guests raved about the music! Clay did a great job of keeping the party going, but not being too "DJ-y". We can honestly say that our wedding was the best party we've ever been to and Clay was a big part of that :-)
Florist - Gidas Flowers (oakland): A
We had a bit of trouble finding a florist at first because many florists didn't want to book a "half wedding". Apparently our wedding was a "half wedding" because we only wanted personals (bouquets, etc.) and not full floral centerpieces. Our reception venue was a botanical garden -- we decided to make our centerpieces from candles and wine bottles rather than overload the tables with more flowers. Gidas was happy to accommodate exactly what we wanted, gave us a reasonable price and everything came out absolutely beautiful. We would highly recommend Laurie and Carole to brides getting married in the Oakland area.
Guest Accommodations - Wyndham University Place: B+
We had over 100 out of town guests, so we needed a hotel as close to Heinz Chapel and Phipps as possible. The Wyndham was an obvious choice. Unfortunately when we sent our Save the Dates - the hotel was a Holiday Inn, it changed hands a few weeks later. That was some fun confusion for our guests :-P Either way, they gave us a decent block price and our guests really liked the place. It's recently been renovated, so that was nice. Unfortunately, even though we booked a block for our wedding a year in advance the bridal suite was already booked :-/ But all things considered, our only real complaint had to do with the conference room we booked for getting ready. For some reason the hotel posted an announcement in the elevators and lobby that we had booked a "hospitality room" and listed the location. Some guests got confused and came to the room looking for breakfast and whatnot. When we asked the front desk to take down the announcement, they said they couldn't. It was a little awkward to say the least.
Transportation - Elite Limousine: B-
While the limo we rented was beautiful and our limo driver was really nice, the company and overall experience left something to be desired. Our limo was late to the hotel to pick up the groom + groomsmen to get to the chapel. Luckily, this didn't turn out to be a disaster, the boys just walked from the hotel to the chapel -- thank god it was close. The company also charged us for "overtime" - a half hour, for $117.00. I'm not even sure we went "over" our time, but it's hard to say since I was busy getting married and all. Either way, they left me a voicemail about it while we were on our honeymoon and I came home to find out they just went ahead and charged my card for it without our authorization. Not fun.
Ice Cream Truck - Brynne E Bear Ice Cream: A
Yep! We surprised our guests with an ice cream truck at the end of our reception! Our guests raved about it. The ice cream was great, the guys in the truck were fun and best of all -- it was really affordable. We'd suggest Brynne E Bear to any bride looking for a unique way to say thank you to their guests at the end of the night :-)
Dress - Janet Nelson Kumar (NYC): A+
As a NY native, I headed back to the homeland to search for a dress. First to Klienfelds (not for me...) then to a smaller boutique in the fashion district (Designer Loft Bridal), where I met Janet who happened to be hosting a trunk show. Over the next 7 months, Janet worked with me to completely recreate the pattern of the dress I loved to fit me PERFECTLY. Many late nights driving clear across PA to have a morning fitting with Janet paid off - I couldn't have loved my dress more and my husband was equally impressed.