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Weddings at The Mansion

Nicki Ann's Wedding Blog

In her blog, Nikki Ann shares with you her insights, thoughts, and feelings on all things women, wedding, marriage, and event-related.

2011 Resolutions

December 31st, 2010

This year has been a whirlwind. It has been filled with good things, like getting engaged (!!!) and finally going for it and starting my business. But it has also been filled with many bad. I am hoping to make 2011 one of the best in my life. I have decided to make lots of resolutions in different areas of my life. I have decided to write about them here because it isn’t quite as easy to blow them off if other people know about them. Hehe…

I have some personal resolutions that I’d like to either start or continue. I started taking better care of myself last year by working out and eating right. I had no reason to put it off any longer seeing how I have an entire gym in my basement. I started by using the elliptical three times a week. In June, I took did fitness boot camp for a month. When that was over, I started running three miles three times a week. Though some time constraints have hindered my progress later this year, I still run as often as I can usually no less than twice a week. I have also really changed my diet and have become more conscious of what I eat. I have lost about 16 pounds, but more importantly I feel great about myself. I feel like I have really followed through with my 2010 resolutions. So my personal goals for this year are 1) to continue to eat healthy and work out; 2) run the Race for a Cure; and 3) run a 10k by the end of 2011.

I also want to make a few changes in my relationships with others. I have really made a conscious effort this year to be a better friend and future wife. It is sad to say that I need to make a conscious effort. But in all honesty, I just have so much going on that sometimes I need to stop and think about what type of person I have been. I take out stress on Joey and ignore phone calls from friends. In reality, the people who love you should still love you in spite of these things. My point is they shouldn’t have to put up with that. I love Joey and I love my friends and family. Therefore, my resolution in regards to my friends and family is to show them how much they mean to me – whether it be a random greeting card, a quick text saying hi or planning a weekend trip to visit those who are out-of-town. After all, these are the people who have made me who I am and are always there to support me. I should let them know how much that means to me.

Lastly, I need to make some goals for my business. I have finally made the push to get started and book my first clients. How dumb would I be to just let that slip through my fingers? I don’t really think you want to hear ALL of my goals. There are a ton. Really. A ton. I have a long way to go before I can afford to have a short goal list. So I’ll list some basics for you. For your reading pleasure, I will be making an honest effort to blog at least once a week. It is never a matter of not having something to talk about. It’s always just taking the time to do it. Which brings me to my next resolution – I will spend more time building my business. I will continue doing research, making contacts with vendors and learning more about the field. I also plan to organize my home office to allow me to have a space to focus. Ok, so that one might just be a ploy to get a new desk and paint the office, but it is still a good one :) I think those are a good overview of what my plan is for the year, but by no means is that an exhaustive list.

I apologize if this post wasn’t the most interesting or helpful that I’ve written. If you already know me, you’ll know about my love for making lists. If you don’t know me, you’ll soon know about this little issue. This is a new take on making a list. We’ll see how many of these things I can cross off before the beginning of 2012.

I hope your year is full of happiness and fun. But I’m curious… what are some of your resolutions for the upcoming year?


Gimme, Gimme

December 29th, 2010

Yes, we are crazy. We went to finish our registry a week before Christmas. We dealt with all of the Christmas shoppers. Luckily, there weren’t that many people, well, at least an overwhelming amount of people there. If you are like us, and many other bride and grooms out there, you probably already live together. We bought our house a year and a half ago. I had been living in my own apartment for 5 years before we bought our house. So the need to register for any and everything in the store was not there. I already had really nice everyday dishes. Once we combined our utensil collection, we have way more than we really need. We actually have one set of Tupperware in the basement in a box waiting for the set we are using to kick the bucket.

With this in mind, we decided to register at Bed, Bath & Beyond and Honeyfund. Let me first start with BB&B as I so fondly refer to it. They were super easy to work with. I actually had started the registry online with a few items I knew I wanted without seeing them in person. These items are a Kitchen Aid Mixer and a Keurig coffee maker. To me, these are the only items I really, really want and “need.” The other items on there, I can live without. They would certainly be nice to have, obviously. But I can live without them. I am not a baker by any means, but would seriously consider converting if I had a Kitchen Aid mixer to play with. And the Keurig. Does my small coffee pot brew the same stuff? Sure does. But how nice would it be to have a cup of coffee in 32 seconds?! That’s how long the demonstration guy told me it takes.

So why did I choose BB&B over Macy’s or some place like that? Well, I love the 20% off coupons. I have a ton of them and love the fact that most of my guests probably have them too and can save money on gifts that they are going to buy regardless. They have lots of items and brands with incentives as well. For example, some brands offer free gifts with a registry of $200 in their products. You don’t actually have to buy anything, just register for it. I would not suggest registering for items for this sole purpose, but if a brand you were planning on buying anyway has an incentive, definitely take advantage of it! It might be something you’d want to go and pick up before you actually go in to register so you have time to review it.

Our other registry is with Honeyfund. Since we have most of the things we need for our home, we decided to register for our honeymoon. This way, guests can designate a certain amount of money toward your flight, hotel stay or a romantic dinner on the beach for you and your honey. We really liked the idea of allowing our guests to be a part of our honeymoon without them being there. After all, it is a honeymoon. We also really liked the fact that this service is free. Once we have chosen the breakdown of our trip, the guests can go on and choose the item they want to purchase and print out a certificate to include in a card with a check. No money actually goes to Honeyfund and no fees are charged to the guests or us. Now, why would people go through the trouble of printing out a certificate when they can just put the check in the account? Well, there are some people who really like the idea of giving a gift. An actual gift. So with this, they get to choose what they want you to spend the money on and it gives them the feeling that they are giving you a thoughtful gift rather than just money.

So there it is. We kept our registry easy and practical. We also do not need much to set up our house. What other unique registries have you seen or done? I’d love to hear what you have to say!


Dearly Departed

December 22nd, 2010

One hard topic to discuss is death. I feel like this topic has been surrounding me lately. A week ago, I had to make the difficult decision to put my 9-year-old cat to sleep. Alex, aka Meow, was very sick. He had renal failure and intestinal adenocarcinoma. He had been with me through every tough moment in my adult life. I got him when I was just a sophomore in college. He lived with my mom until he made her allergies flare up, put holes in her leather couch and tortured our golden retriever. Since I was still living in the dorms at college and was not about to give up my cute little gray kitty, I decided to move him into the fraternity house in which my then-boyfriend lived. I give full credit to living in that house for his wonderfully tolerant and friendly demeanor later in life. A few months after moving him in there, I got my first apartment and he was my first roommate. He’s been with me through break-ups (he had a really keen sense of who would last and who wouldn’t), new jobs, a new city, and on and on and on. I miss him dearly and can’t wait until the time when I can look back on him poking me in the head to wake me up in the middle of the night to cuddle without crying, but instead with a little smile on my face.

Unfortunately, this has not been the only death this year. It seems like this has been an unwanted theme this year. I know I am not the only one who has been affected by this and with weddings right around the corner, it is hard to think of facing that day without your loved one. So I started thinking… in what ways can you honor the memory of the dearly departed without turning your day into one of mourning. Here are a few ideas:

1. Photo charms can be attached to the inside of your gown, similar to how some brides sew in a patron saint medal. This can be something unseen to honor someone with whom you were very close. You will know it is there, but many others may not. You can also use this same type of charm on the stem of your bouquet. I found this one at Things Remembered.

2. Memorial Tables can be a great way to honor loved ones. Depending on the theme of your wedding, you can use antique photo frames to hold sepia or black and white photos of grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, etc. Wedding photos would be a great way to include one of the happiest days of their lives with one of the happiest days of yours.

3. If it is a recent death in the family, a short toast during the reception can be a great way to remember the good times. This one can be tough, so I suggest sticking with the good memories and possibly even funny quotes said by him/her. It will keep the mood light and yet remind everyone how truly special s/he is to you.

4. If you have any jewelry, handkerchiefs, wedding gowns, etc from the deceased family member, you can incorporate that into your wedding. By wearing a special ring of your mother’s or having your grandfather’s handkerchief to wipe away your tears of joy, you will easily remember how much you loved them and they loved you.

This is a problem I hope no bride has on her wedding day. But if you do, at least you will know how to make sure the memory of your loved one is honored. Have you seen other unique ways to pay tribute to loved ones who have passed on?

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite from our first round of engagement photos. This was how a typical day in our house went. RIP Meow.


Top Dog Productions

December 10th, 2010

I recently had the pleasure of working with Dustin Greene from Top Dog Productions, which is based out of Johnstown. Let me just tell you that Dustin is awesome. I booked him only 2 weeks in advance to play for my ten-year reunion the Friday after Thanksgiving. He was incredibly accommodating and offered to do anything he could to help get ready for the event. He even called me the day of to make sure there wasn’t anything he could do before heading to good ol’ Blairsville.

Top Dog Productions will provide disc jockey service for anything from weddings to birthdays to bar/bat mitzvahs to school dances. They provide a link where guests can hop online and put in requests before the event. For weddings, they also provide a handy-dandy guide to organize the songs for all your special dances.

A couple of other interesting additions they can provide are custom lighting, photo montages, photo booths, and karaoke. Now I don’t know about you, but I LOVE karaoke. Of course, I like it much more once I’ve had a few drinks, but that’s not the point. Karaoke is fun and gets everyone involved. It’s not for every event, but can add a little something to a reunion or birthday party.

If you want to learn more about the services provided by Top Dog Productions, contact Dustin. I can say that I am sold and would happily book him for another event in the future. His charming and fun personality really won me over. I leave you with this picture from the reunion. I think it really shows how much fun we had. We are accompanied by Jen McKen.


Ten Years?!?!

December 9th, 2010

I can’t believe it has really been ten years since I graduated from high school! It seems like just yesterday I was throwing girls around and yelling my head off everyday. Come on people, I was a cheerleader, not a bully.

Since I am talented in the area of planning events, I offered my services to our class president to assist/take over the planning of our ten-year class reunion in good ol’ Blairsville, PA. When trying to come up with a location for the reunion, I was limited in options in our small town. I decided to go with Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort and Conference Center. We had a prom there many years ago and it has only gotten better since then. The resort has improved and even build a Hampton Inn on the property to make it much easier for golfers to stay for an extended time to play the two beautiful courses. This was also pretty convenient for those of us traveling in for the reunion who do not still have family in the town. Working with Natalie Barbi (also a BHS graduate, her brother was actually in the class of 2000 with me!) was a cinch. She made planning so easy and I was actually able to do all of the preparation without even making a separate trip to Chestnut. She was willing to work with our budget and via email to make it easy on me.

Now, there are only a handful of people who I have actually kept in touch with from high school. Facebook has definitely made it easy to keep up with everyone’s lives (no, not stalking!), but never actually speaking to them. I wanted to make our ten-year a nice event that everyone would enjoy. Thankfully for Facebook, I was able to round-up a good majority of emails to send an Evite. We were on a limited budget so this was the way to go! Save paper, save money!

I hired Top Dog Productions to pump out the sick beats for the night. Dustin Greene was awesome. You’ll get to hear more about him later. Though no one danced much until the very end of the night once a few beverages had been consumed.

I wanted to create a centerpiece for the tables to add a little something. A table isn’t a table without a centerpiece!! I decided to go with a fall theme for them because it did take place just a day after Thanksgiving. Photo courtesy of Dustin’s skills since I never actually managed to get my camera out of my purse.

One of our own, Jen McKen, set up a photo booth. It was her own reunion after all! We had a great time with different props and chalkboard. Many of the photos were posted on Facebook. Here’s an example :)

I think overall the event was a success considering I was asked a few times when I would start planning the 11, 12, 13, etc. year reunions. Here’s a group shot of the remaining BHSers at the end of the night.

I am looking forward to organizing our next official reunion in 2015! But maybe one sooner at the Italian Club next Thanksgiving? What do you think guys??


It’s the little things

December 8th, 2010

Lately, I have been counting my blessings. There have been so many horrible things happening to people around me that it really makes me think about how lucky I am. I have great friends and family, a job (actually 3 to be exact), two degrees (though paying for them causes me to question exactly why I did it sometimes), an awesome house, my fur babies, and most importantly, Joe.

Now I am a little bit biased, but I do believe I have the best fiance in the world. I think any woman thinks the same of her own fiance. And they should. When I think about why I love him, I could say it’s because he bought me a gorgeous ring (Yeah, check out the pic above. It’s pretty awesome!) or that he supports my every move. But the times that I am reminded of how much I love him are not only because of those things.

It’s the little things. It’s when he wakes up half an hour early to go outside and shovel snow and salt the driveway so we can get out safely. It’s when he changes the brakes on my car and doesn’t complain once. It’s when we get one of the many packages from Amazon and it doesn’t have a Blu-ray (did I tell you he’s OBSESSED with Blu-rays? On a whole other level… I’m guessing the collection is upwards of 250) but a book I have been talking about wanting forever. It’s when I say I am going to get up on the roof to hang Christmas lights and he looks at me like I have three heads and says he’ll do it. It’s when he agrees that the 10 foot tall and 3 foot wide spruce tree would go perfectly in our 12 by 12 living room.

Maybe it’s all the sentimentality surrounding the upcoming season that inspired me to write this post. I do LOVE Christmas. But I think he is the real inspiration. He is my biggest supporter. He yells at me when I don’t blog enough or spend time working on my business. He sits and listens to me talk endlessly about votives and overlays and at least pretends to be interested. Knowing that I love Christmas and all the lights and trees, he proposed to me here.
He truly knows me and would do anything for me.

Even though this post has nothing to do with tips for planning weddings, I think it is important to stop and remember why you are getting married during this long and consuming process. So next time you see your intended, give him/her a huge hug and tell them why you love them. Tell them everyday. In fact, that sounds like a good New Years’ resolution.


J. Verno Studios

December 7th, 2010

I recently went with a bride to J. Verno Studios. She had found this place online and it had just the feel she wanted for her reception location. It is a photography studio located in the South Side on Jane Street. I was quite hesitant about this location because her wedding guest list is topping at about 330 people. I could not think of any locations in the South Side that could possibly be large enough to hold that many people sitting. I’ve also been in a number of places in the South Side and was not sure how updated the interior of this place would be. When I drove up to the building, I saw a large warehouse with a small front door and stoop. Again, I was a little nervous that we had wasted a trip. Once the bride and groom showed up, we went to the front door and hit the buzzer… nothing. So we wandered over to the “back” entrance where we had seen some staff members unloading trucks for the wedding that was going to take place later that evening. We found one of the staff who was willing to take us on the tour. See, we had made an appointment, but because the owner of the studio was the photographer for the wedding and was unavailable to guide us on the tour.

As soon as we walked in the door, all of my hesitation went right back out. This place was HUGE and beautiful. The main room where the dinner would take place was set for 180 people and there was plenty of room for more. The dance floor was large and lighting was amazing. One big bonus was that the colored lighting used for ambience that is so popular currently, is included in the rental fee. This is something that is typically an additional fee and usually needs to be set by a professional company. However, since this is a large photography studio, the lighting was already installed.

The studio is designed to give the look and feel of a home. Apparently, the studio has been used to film television shows. There is a small kitchen off the corner of the reception area, which is usually used for a food station. There is also another kitchen for food prep that is a little more hidden so your guests don’t get to see behind the scenes prep of their food. While having a chef prepare pasta in front of your guests can be an exciting show, salads and soups are a little more boring.

Moving past the reception hall, there were two large rooms for cocktails. Again, lighting gave the whole room an ambience that was unmistakably old Hollywood. With a little more exploration, we found that was exactly the theme of the incoming wedding that evening. It truly is amazing what a little lighting can do for a venue.

Overall, this venue really wowed me. Below are a few photos I found on the internet. You really do HAVE to check out the website as well. This place is truly a fantastic venue.