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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.

Vendor Spotlight: Purple Wagon Designs

June 4th, 2012

In a planning meeting with one of our 2013 brides, she mentioned that she was dreading the whole invitation selection process. She explained that her sister and a few other friends said it was the most boring and tiresome process. They had gone to different places to choose wedding invitations and looked through hundreds of samples and a ton of books. After awhile, they all ran together and looked the same. I told her to save herself the time and energy and just find someone who will custom design the invitations, immediately suggesting that they talk to Kim from Purple Wagon Designs.

So what is so great about Purple Wagon Designs? Well, Kim is not only awesome, fun and incredibly creative, but she is dedicated to making sure you get what you want. No exceptions! I am so glad she was able to take some time to answer some questions for me to share with you. I think you’ll agree that for your invitations, custom is the way to go. After all, each and every detail of your wedding should reflect you and your soon-to-be spouse and not be chosen out of some book that hundreds of other brides have used.

NA: Tell me a little bit about Purple Wagon Designs.

PWD: Purple Wagon Designs is a full-service design studio that specializes in wedding stationery, from the Save the Date and Invitation, through the Ceremony Programs, Table Numbers, and Place Cards at the actual event, all the way to the Thank You Notes. I take great pride in making sure that every detail is just right… for each individual couple. I’m all about customization. Not every couple cares about custom wedding invitations, and that’s perfectly fine. But I’m here for the people who want their invitations to go above and beyond what can be ordered in 20 minutes on the Internet. Try finding a wedding invitation that features the Pittsburgh skyline and Roberto Clemente Bridge on the internet… in purple! That’s what one of my couples wanted, and that’s what I gave them! 
Purple Wagon is the stationery division of my graphic and website design business, Design Intervention. I started Purple Wagon a few years ago when I began designing more and more wedding invitations, and I wanted to be able to market the two companies more effectively. While Design Intervention is my real ‘bread and butter’, Purple Wagon is where I get to have a lot of fun!
NA: What got you interested in designing invitations? 
PWD: Creating wedding invitations combines two of my passions: Design and weddings! I’ve always adored weddings! I love how different they can be depending on a couple’s personal preferences: Rustic weddings in barns; traditional weddings in churches; casual weddings at beaches; elegant weddings at The Mansion; etc. I like helping couples articulate the feel they are hoping to evoke for their Big Day and create something unique that they may not be able to get anywhere else.
NA: How does the process of designing invitations work?
PWD: I’ve streamlined the process to allow couples to have custom wedding invitations without all the stress. The first step is obviously to get in touch with me! We can discuss the details of their wedding over the phone, via email, or in person if they’re local to Pittsburgh. I ask a bunch of questions about the couple, the event, and any requests they have going in – some people have specific ideas in mind and some have no clue what they want… I’ve worked with all kinds!
Following the initial consultation, I put together an estimate that outlines all of the items we discussed. Once we have the particulars settled, it gets to the fun part – the creating! Based on what we’ve discussed, I craft a draft of the wedding invitation. That gets sent to the couple, who then provides me with feedback: What they like, what they don’t like, what they want me to change. I make revisions to the design and send it back for another review. This process continues until the design is exactly right.
After we finalize the design of the invitation, I incorporate it into the other pieces of the Wedding Suite: Reply card, Ceremony program, Table numbers, Place cards, Thank you notes – whatever the couple wants! I make sure each piece has a consistent look and feel so that there’s no mistaking it’s for THEIR wedding!
Once all of the pieces are finalized and proofed, I get everything printed. I then take care of any final details the couple has requested: Assembly; addition of special embellishments like pocket folders or ribbons; and/or addressing in calligraphy. After that, I deliver them to the happy couple to stamp and mail out to their guests!
NA: Is it possible to have custom designed invites on any budget?
PWD: Absolutely! Wedding invitations can vary greatly – in complexity, style, and price. No matter what a couple’s preference and budget, I am confident that I can provide them with invitations that will fit their style, funds, and wedding theme. In the initial consultation, I always ask if they have a budget or a price target for the invitations and wedding papers so that I can make appropriate suggestions to get them the look they are after without exceeding what they’ve designated for this aspect of their wedding. 

I also offer a 10% discount to couples getting married at The Mansion! 
NA: Woo!! Who doesn’t love discounts?? You mentioned that you have a graphic and website design company, too. How does that differ from designing invitations?
PWD: Actually, there are more similarities than differences! The elements and principles of design remain the same no matter what you are creating: Line, color, shape, form, balance, unity, rhythm, etc. What changes is what you are creating – a logo, a brochure, a website, a wedding invitation – and who you are creating it for. Purple Wagon’s parent company, Design Intervention, has a corporate clientele, so the items that I create for them are generally more formal, but that, too, depends on the company! For instance, I designed the logo and website for The Mansion’s preferred bakery, Vanilla Pastry, and that was one of my most fun projects of all time (and not just because of all the cupcakes I ate as “research”!). For the most part, though, designing wedding invitations is a more exciting job than designing business cards and brochures :)
NA: What do you love most about your work?
PWD: That’s a tough question because there’s so much that I love about what I do! I really enjoy meeting so many different couples, talking to them about their wedding plans and their personal preferences, and then taking that information and designing something that is uniquely THEM. It’s quite gratifying to see the finished products, and I feel honored to have a small part in the BIG DAYS of so many wonderful couples!
NA: Blank Canvas: Tell me anything else you think is important that I might have missed!
PWD: Oh man, Nicole! You’re such a great interviewer that I don’t think you missed anything! Of course, if anyone has any follow-up questions – either general invitation questions or questions specific to their event – I’d be happy to answer them! You can find me at and on Facebook at
Well there you have it folks. I can’t think of a single reason to pick an invitation out of a book after reading that, can you? Now, hurry up and call her. She’s booking up quickly!!!

Behind the scenes…

March 26th, 2012

I hear the same comment all the time. “You have the best job ever” or “You must really love what you do.” Yes, both are true. Not that I am tooting my own horn, but I put a lot of effort into making my job fun and staying educated for you. With that said, I think it is important that you know what we go through every day because a lot goes on behind the scenes. So this post should give you some insight into my life and other wedding vendors.

Day to Day Life

It may seem glamorous, but no we do not sip champagne by the pool, play on facebook and attend fancy events every day. Though that would be nice. Yes, we frequent facebook, Twitter and every other social network out there. Yes, we do sit and write blogs on the back porch on nice sunny days. Yes, we get to create gorgeous events and work with some really wonderful people.

But along with all of that, there are emails and phone calls from current and potential brides every day. To me, this comes before all of that other stuff. Most of the time we do not have the luxury of going right back to what we were doing before the phone rang. Our minds have moved on from that task and are already on to the next thing.

We also have to think about marketing and strategies for how to promote our business and put those into motion. These things all take time and effort. After all, it is most likely how you found us. Even if we are completely booked for the upcoming year, we have to keep going. If we stop, so will our business.

So in a nutshell, that is what we do aside from partaking in your wedding planning and activities. It isn’t always pretty, fluffy stuff. But someone’s got to do it.

Initial Consultations

This is the first meeting you have with a vendor. It could be a visit to a reception venue, a meeting to check out a photogs portfolio or a tasting with a bakery. There are a number of ways this initial consultation can take place, including over the phone. When vendors meet with you, they really want to get to know a little bit about you. Be ready to talk a little bit about yourselves and what you vision is for your day.

I am sure you have an idea of what type of vendors are going to be right for you. So it should be no surprise that every vendor has what they call the “ideal client.” They want to know if you are that ideal client or if you will mesh well. You may even want to ask them about their perfect client. It could be a good way to make a quick and easy decision on whether this person is right for you.

By the end of this consultation, you should be able to make a judgement about whether you would want to work with this person leading up to and on your wedding day. If they do not give you a quote or proposal that day, ask them how long it might take them to get it to you. For some vendors, there is a creative process that goes into each proposal. It may not happen overnight, but it also shouldn’t take weeks.

Design Phase

After the initial consultations, you should be able to narrow down your choices, select all of your vendors and sign contracts with them. Some may also require a deposit in order to set your date with them. This is when all the fun starts.

It’s all in the details. You get to talk about your vision and start working to bring that to reality. But remember, these things can take time. I know you want to think you are the only bride in the world, but you aren’t. Vendors get pulled in every direction (see the “Day to Day” section above) and they really just want to provide you with the best product possible. It can take time to do the research for portrait locations or design a stunning centerpiece idea.

I am not saying you should let the vendors walk all over you and put you off until the last minute. I am simply saying to be patient. You will get the very best of what they offer when they have time to create it. Work with them to set appropriate expectations and I can guarantee you will both be happy with the results.

Creating your day

This is where the magic happens. While you are being pampered and getting ready for your big day, we are running around to make sure every last detail is perfect. This is the part that we really love! A lot of people make your day happen – coordinators, florists, bakers, DJs, musicians, cooks, servers, photographers, dishwashers, bartenders, valet drivers, videographers, etc, etc, etc.

I think the most common misconception out there is that these people start working when the reception starts. Not true. We work for hours before your event and sometimes even days to make sure that your event is flawless. Not to mention the hours spent during the planning process. The end result and happiness on the happy couple’s face is what really make our jobs worth it. If we didn’t love it, we’d be crazy to do it.


So I know this was a long one, but I hope it was at least a little bit educational and helps you see what we really do for a living. I absolutely love what I do. Sometimes, I am tired. Sometimes, I wish the phone would stop ringing. Sometimes, I wish the phone would ring more. But ultimately, I love making people happy. And I get to do that every single day.



Vendor Spotlight: ShoFilms

December 19th, 2011

Next up on our vendor spotlight is ShoFilms. They are absolutely spectacular at what they do. I mean, I cannot even express how awesome they are. I had a chance to dig down into their creative minds to find out what makes ShoFilms tick. Here’s what they had to say!

NA: Tell me about ShoFilms.

SF: ShoFilms got its start in Pittsburgh when a few wedding photographers wanted to do more to share couples’ stories! ShoFilms is comprised of 3 people (Paul, Justin, and Mindi) with diverse backgrounds in photography, video production, graphic design, audio, the arts, and business spanning 10+ years of experience. It only made sense for us to join creative forces and offer couples compelling stories of their days and not just a stagnant camera sleepily recording every last second from the very same angle for hours on end.

It began with lots of conversations full of big ideas, capturing our first wedding film, and word of mouth spreading quickly.  We soon had a handful of weddings booked thanks to our first and only film.  It took us a while to come up with our name… probably longer than any of our films have taken to create!  ShoFilms is simply the first initials of our last names.  Lucky for us, they spell “show” (just without the W!).  We sifted through different terms for “cinema”, but “films” seemed to fit us the best. ShoFilms was the perfect name for us and our studio.  The studio is located in South Park, PA where it was an office space remodeled into a modern and inviting space for us to both work and host newlyweds with their families and friends to view their special HD film on our 10 foot screen.

NA: Why is cinematography better than your regular old videography?

SF: Cinematography is better than regular old video because, well, it looks like a movie! It tells a story of the couple’s day in a cinematic, artful, and thoughtful way.  We have our couples stop in and get to know us, and we film a private interview with both the bride and the groom.  We hear their story from both sides before we even begin.  We incorporate this getting to know the couples into our films, and it really provides an emotional connection in the film.  Even to people who don’t know the couple! The look of our films also has a lot to do with our equipment and knowledge of how to use it.  We use small noninvasive digital SLR cameras along with sliders, steadicams, and the same tools as Hollywood filmmakers.

NA: How long in advance should brides book your services?

SF: Brides should book our services as soon as they begin considering all of their other vendors. Six to twelve months is best and preferred, but we’ve been known to swing a gorgeous film within as little as a month’s notice.

NA: Where do you get your inspiration from?

SF: Everything! Especially our couples!  Every story needs character, setting and a plot.  After hearing their story, how they met, and what their future holds…we have all the inspiration we need.   We are also constantly watching films and browsing websites like vimeo and flickr to keep up to date on trends and beautiful work in general.

NA: How long does it take to go from shooting the video to the finished

SF: It takes us about 4-8 weeks to have a completed film, shot, edited, and burned onto a disc ready for our couples to enjoy.

NA: What goes into creating the finished product on the bride and groom’s side of things?

SF: All the couples have to do is go about their day, enjoy themselves, and we do the rest! Although if they chose venues with great lighting with us in mind (like the Mansion!), that wouldn’t hurt!

NA: What else do brides need to know about ShoFilms?

SF: We are storytellers at heart!  Our approach is a little different. We don’t strictly document your wedding.  We want to tell your story.  We’d like anyone watching your video to feel like they were there… feel what you guys felt.. cry with you.. laugh with you!

If you really want to get an idea of what ShoFilms does, it’s best to let the work speak for itself. Check out the video from their 11.11.11 wedding!

Bree + DJ from ShoFilms on Vimeo.



Pittsburgh Chevy Sonic Sweets Tour

November 23rd, 2011

I bet you read that title and thought, “What the heck?” I did too. Earlier this fall, I worked with Jamie Dray of the Pittsburgh favorite WeddObsessed. We became fast friends and as she says, “Us bloggers have to stick together.” So she, being the sweet thing she is, passed along my information for an invite to the Pittsburgh Chevy Sonic Sweets Tour. 

I know, I know. You still don’t quite get what this means. So let me tell you. A bunch of us bloggers here in Pittsburgh met up in Dormont for an afternoon of driving and eating. Driving the new Chevy Sonic and eating yummy delicious treats across Pittsburgh from three locally owned bakeries- Sugar Cafe , Dozen Bake Shop, and Gluuteny. Being that I blog for all you brides out there, I knew it was my duty to venture all over the city to taste test items from each bakery. After all, bakeries are a very important part of weddings. Eating these delicious treats all afternoon was torture. It was torture, I tell you. Pure torture…

We took a few minutes at the beginning of the tour to talk about the new Chevy Sonic, which I later got to drive. It was a hatchback and is considered one of their small cars. This car did not feel cramped and drove really nice! I was pleasantly surprised. You know that feeling you get when you are driving a car you are not familiar with? The one that you just feel completely out of sorts? I really didn’t get that feeling with this one… other than the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the windshield wipers and it was raining. I am used to driving a 6-cylinder, so it took a little getting used to since this was a 4-cylinder. But overall, it was a nice car. We were discussing on the ride that it would be the perfect car for young professionals.

Now… on to the good stuff! Our first stop was Sugar Cafe in Dormont, where we tasted lemon pound cake, vanilla bean macaroons, and Irish Carbomb mini cupcakes. Yum.

I have to say that this was probably my favorite stop of the day, but it was tough competition! I, personally, am just more a fan of fruity desserts. The lemon pound cake was phenomenal! The vanilla bean macaroon was placed on top of a delicious raspberry sauce that really just made it stand out to me. It was also the only place where I ate every bite and did not take home a doggie-bag :(

Next stop, Dozen Bake Shop in Lawrenceville. This shop was recently opened under new ownership. They have closed a few of the shops throughout the city, but the Lawrenceville and Oakland shops remain. I wish I had gotten a photo of the adorable chandeliers, but I was too busy tasting to take too many photos.

We tasted cupcake push-pops, pumpkin gobs, apple “pop-tarts,” and mini cupcakes. This is also where my sugar shock started to kick in, so I had a bite of everything and then packed up my leftovers in a to-go box so I could share with my hubby.

My favorite here was the pumpkin gob. It was not overwhelmingly sweet and was melt-in-your-mouth moist. Mmmm…

Our last stop was Gluuteny in Squirrel Hill. I thought this was an interesting choice because all of their goods are gluten- and casein-free. In many cases, people who have gluten allergies are also allergic to a number of other things including dairy and oats.

Now, I am not allergic to any foods (thankfully!!) and was a little nervous to taste these goodies because I had no clue what they would taste like. I had recently tasted some non-dairy chocolate chip cookies made by a friend who’s baby has a milk protein allergy. They were surprisingly good and I really couldn’t taste the difference. I made sure to pick up some pizza dough mix for her while I was here. See, her husband makes some of the BEST pepperoni rolls I have ever tasted and while we enjoyed, she just sat there and drooled. Anyway, back to the tasting!

The first treat was a pumpkin cupcake. As I mentioned, the sweets had started to get to me, so I mostly stuck to eating the cupcake itself with minimal icing. This was the only one I got photos of too. I think it is because everyone was hesitant to jump in. However, once they tasted these, the rest disappeared pretty quickly. We also had their brownies and a raspberry almond cake. Which brings me to a great tip for all of my brides out there…

Each and every one of these bakeries does make wedding cakes. Yep! You heard right. Now there is a wedding cake out there for every bride. Whether you are like me and can eat anything or whether you have dietary restrictions, you can find a cake for you. And if you do have dietary restrictions, no one else will even know they are eating gluten-free cake. I promise. I didn’t!



Vendor Spotlight: Wenning Entertainment

November 14th, 2011

The three things that most bride and grooms say are important to them when planning their wedding are food, alcohol and music. You always remember when the food was horrible, when they ran out of alcohol or when the music was awful and out-dated. I mean, there may still be some lovers out there, but I am pretty sure the song What is Love?  is not the top song you want to hear, unless of course the bride and groom are huge SNL fans.

I will touch on the food and alcohol in another post, but today I want to focus on music. There are so many ways you can provide music at your wedding. Bands, DJ, iPods. The list goes on. One of the preferred vendors of the Mansion at Maple Heights is Wenning Entertainment. Eric Wenning is the CEO of this entertainment service. We are huge fans of Eric’s. You often hear the term MC being thrown around. In most cases, it means Master of Ceremonies. In Eric’s case, it means Move the Crowd. I can’t take full credit for that term, but I completely agree with it. When he or his staff are performing here at the Mansion, the guests don’t stop dancing unless they want them to. They are always aware of what is happening next. No guests will miss your toasts or cake cutting just because they didn’t know it was happening. To sum it up, they’re awesome. Period, point blank.

I had the opportunity to ask Eric a few questions I thought all brides would want to know. So let’s hear what he had to say!

NA: How did you get into DJing? How long have you been spinning tracks?

EW: Well I have been doing this for 18 years. I started at Age 11 and then DJ’ed my first wedding at age 13 which was a Jamaican wedding! WE had a BLAST and from then on I was hooked! I have always been into music. My dad was a drummer, so I was as well. Music was kind of already in my blood. I knew I loved making people happy and making their day so special, I just knew this is what I was supposed to do in life!

NA: What is your favorite part of the wedding reception?

EW: I really don’t have any one in particular. But the part after they say “I DO!” is always a great time!

NA: If you were getting married, what song would you use as your grand entrance?

EW: Well that right there is Top Secret! ;) But I am a fan of BOB by Outkast! Great energy to the song!

NA: What has been your most interesting request from a bride?

EW: Honestly, I can’t think of a request that has really stood out over the years from a Bride. There was a request from a Groom, he works on Broadway, and wanted to sing a special song he wrote just for his new wife at their reception. So we had to provide all the Backline (Piano and Monitors) for him and set it up in a very small window and get the sound check done perfectly in a very short amount of time, so she would not find out! This was amazing and sounded great! She was instantly crying and it made their day so much special!

NA: What can you offer your brides that makes you stand out?

EW: We can offer many different services from DJ, Photography, and Specialized Lighting and Decor. The bread and butter of our business was and will always be the DJ side. We offer some of the ONLY professionally trained Entertainers in PA. We put all of our Entertainers through the same training program call F.A.M.E., which stands for the Florida Academy of Mobile Entertainers. I, personally, am an Instructor for the school and teach other DJ’s across the country also. Our training is kinda like a Masters Degree for a teacher. We pride ourselves in higher learning and education on how to make the guest and clients have the best time possible without the whole “cheese” factor. So our client’s wedding will be fun and interactive, but not over the top and all about the DJ. It’s about the Bride and Groom, not us!

NA: What is a common misconception that brides have about DJs?

EW: The most common misconception is always shopping for the cheapest price first. Our service is not a tangible item, where you can compare apples to apples. We are a highly trained service that has detailed customer service. Just like when asking around for car insurance, there are MANY variables in your quote because there are many factors into your price, just like a DJ. The length of time, venue, how many different systems will they need, travel, your exact needs, and more.

So I would suggest to find out a little more about your entertainment before the price question comes into play. There are many others that can tell you a lot about the DJ before you even get into pricing. Such as, “Do you have Liability Insurance?”, “What kind of backup do you have – personnel wise and equipment?”, “Are you a full-time company or just a Hobbyist?” …and more! You can visit our Wedding DJ Section on our website for a Great Article on what questions you should be asking. Go to : then Click on the ‘Wedding’ Section under the DJ’s, and click on the button at the bottom of the page where it says “Click here before you ask How Much!”

NA: Open Mic: What else do you want brides to know?

EW: Lastly, if you having your wedding at a venue like the Mansion at Maple heights, utilize and trust the venues recommended vendors because they won’t advertise someone that could jeopardize their reputation. Also, they see a lot of variety every single weekend. So trust their judgement and make sure to research your choices online. Read online reviews and ask other friends and co-workers about your choices. They may have seen or worked with one of your prospects for your wedding. Before you make any decision, make sure they have at least the following: insurance, proper training, & backup’s of people and equipment WITHIN their company. Those are a Must Have.

So there you have it. Now, you want to know how you can book him to move the crowd at your wedding. You can check out his website at, call him at 1-866-9-WENNING, or email him at Pretty simple. I highly recommend him. You won’t regret your decision!

Until next time,


Vendor Spotlight: Pittsburgh Makeup

November 3rd, 2011

For those of you who know me, I am not one to wear a ton of makeup. It was never something I played around with when I was little. I played with Tonka trucks, not makeup. So it is no surprise that I didn’t want a makeup-caked face on the day of my wedding. Since I am definitely not a pro at makeup application, I knew I needed help on my big day. I enlisted the help of Julie Marckisotto, owner of Pittsburgh Makeup. To say I was pleased would be an understatement. In fact, I am even planning on going back for a makeup lesson, so I can learn to recreate that look on my own. I will be sure to post photos when I do it!!

Now, of course, I love Julie. But since you may not have had the pleasure, I had the chance to ask a few questions.

NA: Tell me about you and Pittsburgh Makeup! How long have you been in the biz? How did you get started? How long have you owned Pittsburgh Makeup? 

JM: It’s going on 20 years actually that I’ve been in the industry. I got my license in 1992 for Cosmetology. I knew it was something I wanted to do at a very young age, so went to Cosmetology school right when I graduated high-school. I worked for various cosmetic lines and spas before having my own business which I started in 2008. I always did weddings on the weekends for a number of years and knew that was the direction I wanted my business to go initially.

NA: What are some of your favorite products? 

JM: I love primers and products that create a long lasting makeup look. Since a large portion of my clients are brides, they need their makeup to last all day.  Urban Decay Primer potion is my favorite primer for the eyes.  I also love Loreal’s Studio Effects Makeup Primer which is only $13 and is amazing.  I love Model in a Bottle to waterproof the look, but lately I’ve been using Kat Von D’s (Lock N’ Load) setting spray which is great!

NA: How far in advance should brides book with you? 

JM: I’m booking up 12-18 months in advance right now.  It’s just me and typically I only do one wedding a day so it’s never too early to book the day!

NA: What should brides bring with them when they come in for a trial run? 

JM: Any pictures that they stumble upon for makeup helps, although I do have bridal makeup books they can look through during their consultation if they don’t have a picture.  Also, I love to see pictures of the dress, and also how they will be wearing their hair…to get the big picture.  Other than that, just a clean face!

NA: If you were renewing your vows, how would you want your makeup to look? 

JM: Great question…I often think about how I would love to renew my vows because things are so different now than they were 15 years ago.  Not just with makeup but everything. For makeup, I’d do a simple neutral eye and probably a little more pop on my lip and definitely LASHES! Oh, and I’d airbrush my foundation since it lasts for 18 hours.

NA: I might know a place if you do decide to renew the vows :) Say a bride comes in and says “I don’t have anything in mind for my look. Just do what you think would look best on me.” How do you go about that?

JM: This happens probably at least 50% of the time. If they are coming to me it’s mostly because they are trusting that this is what I do, so I actually LOVE hearing that. I take all things into consideration…for example if they never wear makeup…I wouldn’t go into a smokey eye with lashes, they would be in shock!

NA: What else do you want brides to know? 

JM: I would say don’t go too trendy with your makeup since you’ll be looking at those pictures for years to come.  Also, if all the bridesmaids are having their makeup done professionally, it’s good to have the makeup look consistent.  It’s just my opinion, but one bridesmaid that goes really smokey and dark may look odd if everyone else is soft and natural.  Always go a little more than you think for pictures, which is the golden rule…but you want to feel like yourself in person too so there’s a place you can meet in the middle with that.

So that is that! I promise to document my attempts to learn to apply makeup when I go for my lesson. It should be interesting!

If you want to contact Julie about her availability on your wedding day, you can check out her website at, email her at or call her at 724.468.8317.

As always, feel free to email me at or call at 412.427.2877 with any questions!

Until next time,


Vendor Spotlight: Brooke Rockwell Hair Designs

October 26th, 2011

For those of you who know all about the Mansion, you know that we have some absolutely AMAZING preferred vendors. I had the chance to ask a few questions to Brooke Rockwell, owner of Brooke Rockwell Hair Designs. First of all, I have to say that I just adore Brooke. She is one of those people that you HAVE to be friends with because she is so sweet and sincere. She did my hair for my wedding day and I was not disappointed one bit.

Since I know photos are what we all want to see, I have featured some of Brooke’s styles on some of my Mansion bride sisters. Enjoy!

NA: Tell me about yourself.
BR: I have been doing hair for 25 years this year! I went to cosmetology school during high school. I have had my salon for almost 19 years. I started as an assistant at a small salon in Oakland.
NA: What should brides bring with them when they are coming in for a trial run? How long does this take?
BR: They should bring anything they plan to use in their hair, a camera, and some pictures of styles they love and don’t love. We allow for an hour for the trial. Most of the time we don’t use the whole hour.
NA: How far in advance should brides book with you?
BR: As soon as the bride knows her wedding date she should give us a call. We have brides scheduled for next November already!
NA: How do we know what time to get started?
BR: Our hairstyles will last for hours so it’s better to be done a little early than cutting it too close. We usually plan 1 hour for the bride and 30 minutes for anyone else. You decide how much time you need and work back from the time you want everyone finished.
NA: If you were going to renew your vows, how would you have your hair styled?
BR: If I was renewing my vows, I would wear my hair down and in glamorous 1940’s waves. Maybe with a birdcage veil, they are so great.  I know I would definitely do a fun bright pink or green shoe!
NA: Well, you are a girl after my own heart. So, what else do you want brides to know?
BR: The bride should always be honest about what she likes and doesn’t like. It won’t hurt my feelings if our first couple styles aren’t perfect.  It’s part of the trial to try things and see what works best. That’s why the trial is so important. The wedding day goes smoother if the guess work is already done. Choosing a hairstyle should always be the fun part of wedding planning!

Ok, now that you love her as much as I do, there is one more important thing to know. Where you can find her! Brooke Rockwell Hair Designs is located in Washington Plaza Apartments at 1420 Centre Avenue in Suite 4B. This is right beside the Consol Energy Center if you are trying to get an idea of where it is. You can call her with any questions or to set up an appointment at 412.471.9122. You can also email her at I’d also suggest checking out her website: You can also check her out on facebook!! 


As always, feel free to email me at or call at 412.427.2877 with any questions!

Until next time,


Vendor Spotlight: Orr’s Jewelers

October 20th, 2011

I’m like a bird. No, not like Nelly Furtado. When I see something shiny, I have to stop to investigate. I have to stop and investigate even more closely when that shiny stuff just so happens to be jewelry. One of the preferred vendors of the Mansion at Maple Heights is Orr’s Jewelers, so when I had the opportunity to visit and check out some of their goods, I quickly took it. They actually have two locations- Squirrel Hill and Sewickley. We visited the Squirrel Hill location and had a chance to chat with Karen Nicola for a few minutes.

***Unengaged ladies… This is the post you want to forward to your boyfriends!!! Just sayin’. And from this point on, I am going to talk directly to the men since this is really aimed at them.

Now there are a few things you should know about when going to purchase an engagement ring. Karen says that you “should get an idea of what kind of style she likes as far as jewelry goes. What kind of metal she prefers, whether white or yellow, and the cut of the stone (round brilliant, cushion, princess) are very important.” At Orr’s, they will sit down with you and educate you on the 4 Cs – cut, color, clarity and carat weight. They will also explain the GIA reports and explain the important types of diamonds and what to look for when buying. This is can be quite a large investment, so you want to be educated and get the best quality for your money.

A popular misconception about purchasing an engagement ring is how much should be spent. The rule of “spending 3 months salary is more of an old tale nowadays,” says Karen. She thinks “you should really focus on what they would like and the style.”

It is also important to note that size isn’t everything. “I think it is definitely the quality of the diamond [that is most important]. Something that has a nice cut and is going to shine on your finger. The cut of the diamond is the most important factor. It is how the diamond reflects the light. Sometimes people come in and want the bigger diamond. The 2 carat might have a lot of inclusions or the cut is poor as opposed to a 1 carat that has little or no inclusions and a good cut,” says Karen. So she’s saying to go with quality over quantity.

So what are the most popular trends right now, you ask? At Orr’s, three things seem to stand out. The first is the type of metal used to make the ring. They find that platinum is the most popular with palladium coming in a close second. “The palladium market has been popular because of the price. It is more economical. It is still in the platinum family and is a pure white metal and very durable. It has been around for a long time but because of the market, but it has become much more popular because it is so economical.”

Second, is the cut of the diamond. The most popular is the round brilliant, which “is the most traditional cut for the bride and gives you the most sparkle because it has 58 facets.”

Lastly, the style of ring that has been most popular is the diamond halo with the smaller diamonds surrounding the center diamond to highlight it.


With all of the knowledge that Karen has, she said she “would go with a round brilliant and style would be very traditional. My original was a solitaire mounting. Very traditional with a nice cut.”

Now what about the guys? I didn’t want to leave you out, so I was sure to ask about your wedding bands too :) “Platinum would be the most popular, but palladium is also very popular. It is good to wear everyday.”

Now, what happens if I didn’t write this post in time and you are already engaged? “We have so many styles of wedding bands whether it is a traditional channel set or a plain polished wedding band, so we can certainly help them because we carry such a vast assortment so we can certainly help them in that category.” So there you go. You can still have the pleasure of working with Karen at Orr’s.

And the most important question… where can you find Karen? You can visit the Squirrel Hill location at 5857 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15217 to see Karen in person. I highly recommend it because she really knows her stuff. They also have a location in Sewickley (532 Beaver Street, Sewickley, PA 15143). Even though I have not met anyone there, I have no doubt they know their stuff too. Service is something they pride themselves on at Orr’s. You can see it as soon as you walk in. You can also give them a call at 412.421.6777 and you should most definitely check out their website:


As always, feel free to email me at or give me a call (412.427.2877) if you have any questions about this post or just in general!



Vendor Spotlight: The Urban Gypsy

April 19th, 2011

I am so excited to share this vendor with you. I met Paulette, the owner of The Urban Gypsy, at a bridal show this past March. She had brought a few samples of her work and I immediately knew this was someone I wanted to work with in the future. Not only was her work creative and gorgeous, but her personality really stood out. We met for coffee to get to know each other a little better and ended up sitting there for 2 hours just talking randomly about design and goals for our business in the future. She and her family had plans to go to a festival and they actually had to come and interrupt to get us to stop talking. We could have been there for 5 more hours.

I can say that this is someone I will most definitely be working with again. And again. And again. As a matter of fact, we have something in the works right now. But you’ll have to wait for the details :)

So what is so great about The Urban Gypsy? Well I asked Paulette a few questions to help you get to know her.

NAE: What is your favorite color scheme from a wedding you have done?
UG: I did a fall wedding that used autumn orange, green and cream. My fantasy is to do a peacock-blue and purple wedding and a platinum and hot pink wedding.

NAE: What is the most unusual request you have had from a bride?
UG: To construct a necklace out of fresh orchids. The bride was so pleased, she had tears in her eyes, and so did I…

NAE: What made you decide to open your own floral shop?
UG: After two decades in the corporate world, I was ready to let the real me takeover. It was time to stop dreaming about how I wanted to live, and start living the dream. What a dramatic, positive effect it has had on my health, happiness and my family.

NAE: Which non-floral pieces do you love to incorporate into your work?
UG: Grandma’s brooch. A small beloved toy. Vintage ribbon. Old Buttons.

UG: NAE: If you could be any flower, which one would you be?
The calla lily. Graceful. Unpretentious. Perfect in any situation.

NAE: How far in advance do you suggest for brides to meet with you?
UG: 6 to 12 months is the usual, but I’m accommodating–I’ve met with brides in as short as a few weeks from their wedding.

NAE: I’ll let you bloom: What else do you want to share?
UG: I’m very versatile, creative and open-minded. My role is to enhance the bride’s vision, not so much as to change it. It’s about building relationships with my brides. I want them to know that they are in capable hands; they will be well taken care of.

NAE: Where can brides find you?
UG: The best way to reach me is via e-mail: They can make an appointment at my lovely space in Polish Hill for a free consultation where I’ll give them my complete attention:

3101 Brereton Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Here are a few pictures of her work to give you a better idea of the beauty of her work.


Vendor Spotlight: Jen McKen Photography

April 10th, 2011

I have known Jen McKen for over 17 years. I knew her before she was Jen McKen. I called her Jennifer, Jenny, and Popeye among many others. But most of all I called her my best friend. And I still do. Her mom was “Mama Kenrick” for Pete’s sake. We spent every waking moment together from the time we were in 6th grade until graduation. Even when we decided to go to different colleges, our friendship never faltered. So needless to say, I know her pretty well.

Because I do know her so well, I know it would be a shame if you didn’t. I asked her a few questions that I thought would help you get to know her and her photography style a little better. Let’s see what she had to say:

NAE: Tell me about your ideal client.
JMP: This may sound cheesy but….an optimist. I see a pessimist and I go running in the opposite direction. Life is too short to be negative. I like to surround myself with like-minded people, both in my personal and professional life. When I’m around an optimist, my work glows. I love clients who aren’t afraid to think outside the box, who are successful in their own right and who aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves—or at me! LOL

NAE: How long have you been at this and how did you get your start?
JMP: I’ve been doing the “photography gig” since my sophomore year in college. I started working at the school newspaper with NO experience other than I wanted to take awesome photos. My junior year, I traveled to Costa Rica as part of a college summer class and collected life style photographs to start building a portfolio. Soon after I returned I saw an ad in the local newspaper that they were seeking a photographer. I applied with my portfolio in hand and got the job. Now when I look back, I was horrible (hey everyone has to start somewhere!! Haha) I was able to hone my craft while working there for 6 or so years. I decided to quit the paper job when my business and family began to grow.

NAE: Besides weddings and engagements, what other services do you offer?
JMP: I specialize in PEOPLE! Preferably happy people!! LOL I love shooting families and senior portraits on location HOWEVER….I just finished a small-scale boudoir, maternity and newborn studio. This will serve as my space for meeting with wedding/engagement clients but a shooting space for those shoots that require a bit more privacy like boudoir…bow chica wow wow!!

NAE: What advice do you have for the bride and groom in preparation for photos on their big day?
JMP: Meet with your vendors IN PERSON if possible. Not only do you get a sense of their personalities but you can also get a clear understanding of what you can expect for your final product. Pick a photographer that compliments your style, personality, and overall look you’re going for. If you don’t like the images you see on their website, you won’t like the final product or images. Just like each wedding planner, DJ, cater is different-so are photographers. We all have our own style…just because they have a business doesn’t mean they are the right vendor for you.

NAE: What is your favorite moment during a wedding?
JMP: There are soo many! My personal favorite moment is when the father and daughter see each other for the first time, or the moment before the doors open at the back of the church and the anticipation and excitement between a father and daughter. No matter how grown up, successful or independent a woman is, she turns into “daddy’s little girl” again for a brief while. It tears me up every time!

NAE: What is your advice for choosing a wedding photographer?
JMP: Brides, you will be with your photographer longer on your wedding day than the man you’re about to marry. Make sure you “LIKE” your photographer. Hire someone you could see yourself be friends with outside of the “wedding world”. The day goes so much smoother and your photos are so much more personal when you have a photographer that you enjoy being around. Long gone are the days of a grumpy, pushy photographer…….and consider doing a first look. I talk in-depth about it here.

NAE: How do you break the ice and get your clients to relax?
JMP: We laugh and we talk-just like old friends. People typically love to talk about themselves-especially their engagement story. While they are spilling the beans and laughing at each other’s version of the story, I’m getting my shots! Before long, having a camera there is “no big deal”.

NAE: I had a tough time figuring out what to wear for my engagement sessions. What suggestions do you have on this?
JMP: The safest thing: BE YOURSELF!! Often times I see people going out and buying all the trendiest outfits, etc and trust me they look fabulous…..but if you think about it…REALLY think about it, if that’s not how you really dress everyday-why fake it for the photos. On the other hand, if you want to “take it up a notch” there are great resources available such the gals from Wardrobe Wednesday . They do an amazing job at putting together inspiration boards from everything from kids, families, engagements session AND they list coupons for stores periodically. My only other advice is to try not to be “matchy matchy.”

NAE: Where can brides find you?
JMP: Holla at me, tell me a joke or just say hi!
About me: