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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.

Friday Finds 3.25.11

March 25th, 2011

This Friday, I have to share another awesome Etsy shop. Kelly, from Announce Your Day, is absolutely wonderful. I found my wedding invitations in her shop and knew they were the perfect ones to replace the ones I thought I had ordered. You see, I ordered invites from another seller on Etsy, asked her to hold off on printing until I could get final wording, and then she disappeared. Literally, disappeared off the face of the web. Etsy shop gone. EBay shop gone. Email gone. PayPal gone. So as devastated as I was, I let it go (Hey, I have more important things to worry about right?). Then I came across Announce Your Day. I even liked these invites better than the ones I had ordered previously, so maybe there was some higher power telling me the first invites weren’t THE ones. When I contacted her and told her my story, she seemed genuinely sorry for what had happened. Kelly was extremely helpful and got an electronic proof over to me very quickly. I purchased my invitations on February 11 and received them just one month later. This was INCLUDING proof time and adjusting wording! I love my invitations. So much, in fact, I plan on having her create matching programs for the ceremony. Here’s a sneak peak :)

If you haven’t heard of Announce Your Day already, let me be the first to say that you will not be disappointed. You can convo with her to create a custom design for whatever type of event you are hosting. Weddings, anniversaries, baby showers, bridal showers, anything. I hope you are as happy with your invitations as I am!


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.


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.


Ridgeview Acres Farm

September 20th, 2010

Yesterday, I went to Ridgeview Acres Farm. It is located between Donegal (right off the PA turnpike) and Ligonier. I had a meeting with a bride in the morning and she had an appointment with them a little later that morning. I was happy to tag along for the appointment because I am always up for finding great vendors to use. She had come across their booth at the Ligonier Country Market and fell in love with their work. The owners, Bob and Sally, have lived in Bob’s family farm for the last 17 years. They were previously commuting from Cincinnati to help keep the farm in the family and finally decided to make it their daily work and make the move. They started out growing vegetables to sell and slowly started growing flowers that they would cut and sell in bouquets at local markets. This has evolved into a much larger production and they now prepare floral for a few weddings a month. The greatest thing about them is that they grow all their own flowers. They do use wholesalers now and then to provide those exotic flowers that they cannot grow or flowers in the winter months that they are not able to keep in their three greenhouses.

We met with Bob. He was great and really friendly. The appointment lasted about 2 hours because he went through and described past weddings and gave his opinion on how they felt the arrangements turned out for them. It was interesting to see how they design. Most of the arrangements are different, so no two centerpieces are the same. They use a lot of color and really give you that unintentionally beautiful look. In all honesty, I was nervous at first. I didn’t think this was the right type of florist for my bride. She had a very specific color scheme in mind and wanted something a little more uniform. However, Bob had won us both over in the end. We talked more about what she wanted the color scheme we wanted to stick with for the flowers and he was more than willing to work with us. I truly believe the centerpieces will turn out beautiful. They will each be unique and definitely a conversation piece. I can’t wait to see how they turn out! I knew as soon as I left that this wonderful business needed to be shared. Make sure you check out their wedding info here!


E Session!!

May 12th, 2010

For those of you following, you know that one of my bestest and bridesmaids is a fabulous photographer, Jen McKendrick aka Jen McKen. I couldn’t have her as my wedding photographer, so I decided to force her to come to Pittsburgh and take some engagement photos for us. It was like pulling teeth *sarcasm* to get her to have fun with us Friday night when she and Greg, her “baby daddy” she so fondly refers to him, came into town. We went to Benihana for dinner and then to The Saloon in Mt. Lebanon for a few cocktails. We didn’t stay out and party the night away like we may have back in our younger years, but we had a really good time. The next morning, I let her sleep in since she never does, and I went to get my hair cut. Now, normally, it isn’t suggested to get a hair cut the day before or even few days before any big day, but my stylist is awesome and knows my hair pretty well now.

We headed out about 11:00am and found the weather to be less than ideal. It was cold, windy and gloomy. The gloominess was perfect for photos, but the wind was not. We didn’t let the weather ruin our day though. We started in the Strip District where we parked the car and just started walking. I know Jen knows what she is doing so I said, “When you see something, just yell stop!” And she did. She found so many unique back drops that I NEVER would have picked out. She really has some talent.

I had the brilliant idea to go to Primanti Bros. for lunch. But after seeing the line out the door and around the corner, we quickly changed our minds and headed to Station Square. We had lunch at Houlihan’s and of course, out of the corner of her eye, Jen spotted good lighting at the bar so we took a few there as well. While Joey and I went to the parking garage to do a costume change, she went in search of some places for photos along the river. She found plenty of options and our photo shoot continued.

As usual, Jen posted a few “teasers” on Facebook. The anticipation for the rest was unbearable!! But only 2 days later (and I am sure it was only this long because Mother’s Day was Sunday), she had created a collage of photos and video recorded during the session in a short clip available for your viewing pleasure here. If you can’t view this for some reason, I have posted the ones she chose as teasers here.

We will be having a photo session later in the summer with our wedding photographer Erica Hilliard. I am really looking forward to getting some more photos with her. I mean, who doesn’t like being the center of attention???


Linens and flowers and videographers… Oh My!

April 23rd, 2010

I just went to see the Wizard of OZ at Heinz Hall, hence the title. I had my first vendor appointments on April 13th. We have a few companies that are exclusive vendors of The Mansion – La Creme Catering, Mosaic, Inc., DesignSpace, and All Occasions Rentals. Our appointments that day were with Mosaic and DesignSpace. Let me just tell you what a great experience I had! I was a little nervous at first that I couldn’t choose my own vendors. So far, I am very pleased. The customer service and personalities of Stacey (Mosaic) and Bill (DesignSpace) was above par. I really enjoyed our appointments and am getting even more excited about the wedding. I had a ton of ideas of how I wanted to have the tables look and the centerpieces and now I really feel like I am really able to picture it.

I had back-up for the day from my FMIL (future mother-in-law, for those of you new to the shortened versions) since it is always good to have someone else’s input. I went into Mosaic thinking that having all Tiffany Blue linens on the tables would be a bit bright. So I was looking more toward using runners and napkins to add the color. Stacey showed us the “base model” and both of us knew that was not quite going to do it. Then she showed us the Tiffany Blue and black lamour linens. Now that is what I am talking about! If you are not familiar with fabric types, as I was not, it is a satin-y linen with some shine, but not quite as much as a straight silk. My original thought was to use the black linens with Tiffany blue runners. Then we thought about alternating black and blue tables. Stacey threw a Tiffany blue linen over the table and then showed me the black by just laying it over the one side. As we were standing there discussing, I couldn’t help but stare. I just loved the Tiffany blue with that contrast of black. It was really sharp. I am pretty sure I interrupted because I hadn’t really been listening to what anyone else was saying and said I really liked the look of the black over the blue and that was that. My original idea that the Tiffany blue was too much went right out the window. We decided on Tiffany blue tablecloths with black napkins. We will have red napkin rings to add that pop of red I wanted. Stacey suggested that we use ribbon rather than rent their napkin rings because they did not have the color red that we were looking for. Later in the day, my FMIL and I went to Pat Catan’s to look for some ribbon and ended up finding many other crafts to try for the wedding. But that is another story.

The second appointment was with Bill at DesignSpace. We had a little difficulty finding the shop. It is located on Baum Blvd., but there wasn’t a big sign to call attention to the door. So, we passed it the first time. On our second loop, we did find it. Honestly, the only bad thing about this appointment was the 3 flights of stairs we had to climb to get up to the showroom. We sat down and immediately got down to business. He asked the usual questions like, “What are your colors? What is your budget? How many bridesmaids? Groomsman? Parents?” etc. I really had no idea what to expect at this appointment because I had never gone to one before. I pulled out all the pictures I had printed of centerpieces I liked. He didn’t even ask me to see anything. I showed him anyway, but he didn’t really ask to see them. One HUGE bonus was that he works so closely with Mosaic and All Occasions Rentals that he actually had a sample of all of the dishes and linens they carry. His last question was, “What are your favorite flowers?” Then he said he’d get together a quote and once that was finalized, he’d do a full table mock-up with the centerpieces, linens, and place settings. This made me super excited. I think this is such a nice touch and really allows the bride to get a true picture of how her reception will look. At first, I was a little sad that we didn’t talk more about what the centerpieces will look like, but then I realized that I know very little about flowers. This is his business. He knows flowers like the back of his hand. While there was a little difficulty letting go of control over this, I feel good about it. And I can’t wait to see the mock-up.

Overall, our day went pretty smoothly. I am just so excited to see what it will all look like together, but at least I have a better picture in my head. One other detail I was able to firm up was our videographer, Justin Yeckley of Iron City Productions. He is a close family friend of Joey’s. I had never really wanted a videographer for my wedding because I couldn’t really picture when it would be watched. I mean, no one wants to sit through an hour or more of wedding vows and people saying, “congratulations!” Then, I saw my friend Will’s video from his Central Park wedding last year. Now, he had worked for NBC in the past and his videographer still worked for NBC, so clearly he is pretty talented. It was just a short, ten minute montage of the ceremony, reception and clips of an interview with the bride and groom done the day before the wedding. Unfortunately for Will and Jennie, it had rained on their ceremony, but the way the clips were cut made it so adorable and really made light of the rainy day. Since that point, I only wanted a videographer who could do something like that or no videographer at all. Luckily for me, Justin said this was no problem.

So just a few details down, but in my mind they are pretty big details and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Now on to find a bakery, DJ and limo…



March 26th, 2010

Yes, I quoted Fergie. That is how I am going to feel on my wedding day because I just booked an awesome photographer. Erica Hilliard was a suggestion from my bestest, Jen McKen. Unfortunately, I cannot take advantage of her skills, but I do trust her judgment. I was really impressed with the photos on Erica’s blog. We met on Sunday to go over a few things. She showed us a few more photos while we were there and both of us were blown away. We really loved her work. It is not the usual posey-posey work. It really captured personalities and the moment. Neither one of us thinks we are photogenic – but then again, who does think of themselves that way? She offers a complimentary engagement session with her package, which is a great idea to allow for the couple to become familiar with her style and how she works. We will be completely comfortable for the day of the wedding because we will know her a little better.

Not only are we doing an engagement session with Erica, but we also booked one with Jen. I couldn’t let her get away without taking any photos for us! It is going to be a blast. There are a ton of really great locations where we can do photos. It would take all day to get to all of the cool spots. So we will have one day with Jen in the South Hills and one day with Erica elsewhere. I was thinking of La Casa Narcissi Winery in Gibsonia for a session with Erica and maybe Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg as well. I am going to have to look into this more. I also think Phipps would be awesome, but they charge $350 for a 45 minute session. I think that seems high, but they do put a ton of work into maintaining the facility. I am unsure if the winery or farm charge, but I will definitely research it! There would be some really interesting backdrops for photos in these places.

I am finally able to enjoy the planning aspect because the level of anxiety is VERY low. The date and places are set. Now I just get to work on the details. After all, presentation is everything.


Wow, I’ve been gone a long time!

March 11th, 2010

I know I had intented to write daily on what I am working on and what has happened. But as usual, life gets in the way. Since I last wrote, I have been continuing my search for a reception venue. We were a year and 4 months before our wedding date, so I knew I had plenty of time. Or so I thought…

After visiting numerous venues and asking about dates, it seemed that everyone else also had the idea to book weddings for June 18th. I had my heart set on an outdoor reception. I have pictured it for years. Big white tents, candles galore, and a warm, breeze to cool us off from dancing the night away. I had found a few more places – Phipps, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and the Mansion at Maple Heights. I made some appointments and Joey and I went on the search.

Our first stop was Phipps. They have a lovely outdoor garden which is used for weddings. It was covered in snow, of course, so it was hard to picture what it would be like when it was summer and in full bloom. I mean, it is Phipps. I am pretty sure it will be beautiful. One downfall is that the space where the tents would be set up is kind of long and narrow. So if we were having our first dance, the guests who were stuck at the tables on the ends would have a hard time seeing. Not the end of the world, but still a downfall. It was a beautiful space in general.

The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts did not require an appointment, so I decided we could just stop there following our next appoinment at the Mansion at Maple Heights. After reviewing the online pricing, I was unsure about if we could even afford this place. After coming up to the front door, I just had to see this place. We were super early and were offered the Library to sit in while we waited. We hung out and You Tubed a few videos on our new phones (yep, we broke down and bought the Droid. We are loving it!). I was of course you tubing potential first dance songs, while Joey looked up It’s Always Sunny clips. Gotta love kitten mittens.

Our appointment was at 1:00. In walked a very large man, who shook our hands and said, “Hi, I’m Chuck.” We introduced ourselves and I stood there slightly shocked. I was so surprised that a man had walked in. As we were sitting there giving him some info about what we wanted for a wedding, I noticed a large ring on his hand. Slowly, I realized it was a Superbowl ring. Yes, ladies and gentleman, we were sitting there with former NFL football center, Chukky Okobi. You know how they said brides have a certain glow about them? Well, the glow was coming from the groom this time.

That aside, we proceeded to go through the whole tour and I continued to be impressed. He really knew what he was talking about – from votives to sashes and so on. He had really done his research and impressed the fact that he wanted us to be happy with our wedding and it was “your wedding, your way.” The mansion is absolutely beautiful. The bridal suite was almost the size of our house. The closet in the bridal suite was bigger than my master bedroom. It was amazing. They have a large lawn in the back and side where tents can be placed for outdoor events. However, the nice part is that the entire venue is rented, so there are no worries of other people wandering around and we can use every room in the mansion.

Chukky told us to go ahead and roam around and take a few minutes to talk about it. We walked out of the room and the first thing that I said to Joey was, “I want it!” It was perfect. It had the outdoor space like I wanted plus clean bathrooms and lots of indoor space to allow people to come inside in case the night air was too chilly. We thought of a few more questions and told him we’d let him know. We left and I had a sad feeling in my stomach. I still didn’t know if we could afford it.

Needless to say, the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts was no longer a thought in our minds. I would love to still see this place, because I think it would be a beautiful venue. There was no getting our minds off of the Mansion though. We decided to stop at his parent’s house to work out pricing and see what we were looking at. On the way there, we decided that we wanted it and were willing to do whatever we had to do in order to make it work. After all, it was only slightly above our budget. Once we were at his parents and told them about the place, we called Chukky back and asked if we could come and sign the contract. We signed for June 25th.

I had spoken with Father Fronk at St. Bernard’s earlier in the week, who told me that the 25th was indeed still open. So I was hopeful it was still open. Shortly after getting home from signing, my bestest friend for the last 15 years (holy crap, I can’t believe it has been that long) told me she was unable to come on the 25th. There is no way I could picture getting married without her being there. I mean, a 15 year friendship is a pretty long one, especially for someone who is only 27. And the anxiety sets in…

Finally, after 3 days of going back and forth and trying to find a date that coordinated with Jen’s schedule, the church and the mansion, we set our new and final date of July 16th, 2011. A month later than we started with, but what is another month when you have everything you want for your wedding?


I’m getting married!!

February 22nd, 2010

It is official! I am getting married! Well, I was getting married before, but we were able to set our date with the church! As you might remember from my last blog, that process was quite in depth and long. The big day is June 18, 2011 at 3pm. Now, if only I could find the perfect reception site…

We have visited a few places so far. The Pittsburgh Airport Marriott, The Hilton Garden Inn at Southpointe and the Southpointe Golf Club. All of them beautiful and all of them have their own perks. None of them have the outside venue like I wanted. So the search continues. Not that any of them are ruled out completely, but they are definitely put on the back burner for now. I had originally ruled out Phipps Conservatory, but I have decided to revisit that idea. One con is that the max number of people is 175. Our guest list is at 204, which would mean that we would be hoping people do are not able to come to our wedding. I don’t think we should be hoping for people not to come, otherwise we should just not invite them. I do think it is worth revisiting so see if there is any flexibility. Having it there would allow me to have the entire reception outdoors, which is what I really want.

I have also started researching photographers, since the only one I know and love is going to be busy that day pampering me and enjoying the day as my bridesmaid :) I have been looking through a number of blogs and websites that were of course suggested by Jen McKen herself. You’d think since one of my bestests is a photographer, I’d know much more about it than I do. I usually just leave that part to her and trust what she says. I have a few emails out to get more info, so I will update with that once I have gotten it.

I can’t let Jen get away scott free, so I have enlisted her as our photographer for our engagement photos. We had orginally set the day for March 20th, but with all the snow and cold weather, we decided to move it back to May 8th. That also happens to be the weekend between our birthdays, so we will be doing a little more than a photo shoot while she is in town! As I told her, I am so excited for her to experiment with us. And as she told me, that sounds pretty dirty.


All under one roof

February 2nd, 2010

So this past weekend, I went to the Cavanaugh Bridal show with my future mother-in-law. Our first reaction was “Holy crap!” There were more people in one room than we could handle. People walking all over the place and trying to get free samples of cake. Now, don’t get me wrong. When we saw the woman from the Gateway Clipper with the cocktail shrimp, we made a beeline straight to her. However, I was just amazed by the people flocking to the bakery tables. Oh and the chocolate fountain… I don’t think I really need to say more. Once we got out of that first room and were able to breathe again, we moved to the larger room. Again, more people than we could imagine, but at least it was in a larger room and people seemed to be a little thinner than the first room.

I was slightly skeptical about how much information I could actually get from this huge show. I had been to bridal shows before and they were much smaller and did not mearly have as many vendor options. I was pleasantly surprised. I actually found a florist who had the exact centerpiece I had envisioned. And to top it off, they were only $35! I will not name said florist quite yet because I do plan on looking around for the best pricing. But honestly, that is one of the biggest things that sticks in my mind. I just couldn’t believe that I had found the exact centerpieces I wanted!

Not only that, but three of the reception sites I had on my list were there and 2 of them had their appointment books. I was able to schedule appointments on the spot! That was wonderful because we were able to chat about what they had to offer in person before I even booked the appointment.

So what didn’t I like about the show? Of course you had your pushy vendors who ran out in to the aisle to grab you and force a card in your hand. But really, can you blame them? They have to pay to be in the show so I’d want to get my money’s worth too! I didn’t like how many people were crammed in there, but who can really help that?

So if I can offer any tips from my experience this past weekend:

1. Attend at least one of these shows before planning any wedding. You can get a ton of ideas and can learn about a ton of vendors you might not have otherwise known about.
2. Pre-print your name, address, and email on address labels. You can also include your phone, but they do tend to call you numerous times saying that you and your fiance won a cruise… you just have to attend this talk and then buy into whatever it is they are selling.
3. Print and highlight the list of vendors so you can hit the vendors you are most interested in and do not miss them by accident. You can avoid the grocery shopping method of going up and down every aisle this way. I was there for much longer than I wanted because I forgot my highlighted list.
4. Taste the cake. And anything else they are offering. It is worth it. It’s an easy way to see if it is even good enough for you to make an appointment. Just make sure you have enough time between the show and the wedding to burn it all off.