A Memorable Wedding: It’s All About The Details

Adding personal touches into one’s nuptials can help make the day feel like a one-of-a-kind event rather than just another wedding.
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PHOTO BY DAWN DERBYSHIRE PHOTOGRAPHY

Few things are more synonymous with a Pittsburgh wedding than the iconic cookie table. The longstanding tradition, which has Eastern European roots, has been a part of Western Pennsylvania nuptials for generations.

When Karly Kunkle and Bruce Huska were planning their wedding at Pinerock Farm in Champion, Westmoreland County, in May 2022, they decided to give the oft-done cookie table a sentimental twist.

Sweet Memories Table By Missy Martz At Occasion Creation

PHOTO COURTESY OCCASION CREATION

The Sweet Memories table, designed by wedding planner Missy Martz, owner of Occasion Creation, featured photos of lost loved ones next to a platter of their favorite cookie.

“Every family member that passed was represented by a cookie, a short story and a photo,” says Martz. “It was unique, and while everyone loves the Pittsburgh cookie table — this is a way to reinvent it.”

This variation of a widespread tradition is just one way that local couples are jazzing up their big days with intricate details that make their ceremony and reception stand out from the fray — and there are so many more.

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PHOTO COURTESY OCCASION CREATION

Greeting Guests

The first chance a couple has to express their individuality occurs the moment guests enter the reception venue, says Tricia Derry of Vintage Alley Rentals, noting it sets the scene for what’s to come. “Everyone wants to see how unique their greeting can be,” she says.

Derry, who launched the company in 2014 after working in the industry for decades, specializes in vintage rental decor. Most of her clients choose to forgo the basic display of white name cards and table numbers.

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PHOTO BY WHITLING PHOTOGRAPHY

“For a wedding in a brewery, we used beer jugs with six to eight names on them,” she says. “Champagne walls are a huge hit, too. I have six golden glass racks that are all in use pretty much every weekend.”

Greeting guests with drinks is a big thing, says Derry. “Everyone wants to have a glass of Champagne in their hands.”

At SHE | Shayla Hawkins Events, Alexis Allen’s clients have embraced this creativity. Allen mentions one event that drew on the history of the venue. “We were at the Pennsylvanian, the seating chart looked like an old train station — like a schedule board. [We’re] just doing fun stuff like that. It’s unique and it’s specific to them.”

At a garden-themed party planned by SHE, the guest table was full of flower boxes containing the guests’ names and a sign that read, “Our favorite buds,” a concept Occasion Creation has used as well.

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PHOTO COURTESY OCCASION CREATION

Creating a Vibe

It’s not just that first impression that couples are focused on. Once guests are seated, hosts have ample opportunity to express their personalities.

Every tablescape and menu card is a chance to display customized touches. Derry had the chance to plan weddings for both of her children during the past two years — a special treat for someone who works in the wedding industry.

“My daughter got married in December of 2021 in what I call a ‘Hallmark movie barn wedding,’ and then my son did the complete opposite.”

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PHOTO BY WHITLING PHOTOGRAPHY

Her son’s wedding reception in 2022 was at The Art Room in the Strip District, with a modern chic industrial feel. The barn wedding featured rustic wooden elements juxtaposed against evergreens and deep red berries, while the city wedding showcased individual wedding cakes on pedestals at each seat, multiple food stations for every palate, and a doughnut bar to cap off the evening.

Both events included a live painter creating a scene from the evening — this newer trend provides both entertainment and a keepsake for the couple.

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PHOTO BY WHITLING PHOTOGRAPHY

Martz encourages couples to use menu cards to communicate with their guests. “The table setting is prime real estate to set the scene,” she says, adding many of her recent events have incorporated overview cards written in the voice of the couple.

“If it’s a wedding for yinzers, it’s written in that language,” she says. “Hope yinz are hungry!” For a more formal event, the wording can set the tone accordingly. Overall, these cards keep the evening moving and avoid lulls where guests are unsure what to expect.

Rather than simply list what is for dinner — especially since guests likely chose their meal when they RSVP’d — she encourages couples to lay out a plan for the evening. Couples can note the location of special elements such as a photo booth or cigar lounge, as well as let everyone know the order events will occur in — though not necessarily what time they will occur, since that can change.

“We make things move,” says Martz. “I do not want the guests to get bored. I can bump things up if there’s a lull. Guests don’t want to sit and wait. The timeline is so crucial to the vibe of the event.”

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PHOTO BY DAWN DERBYSHIRE PHOTOGRAPHY

Breaking Up the Space 

Perhaps one of the most crucial details event vendors and couples are focusing on is the layout of the space. Gone are the rectangle banquet halls filled with dozens of identical round tables. Allen says SHE loves to break up that classic monotony. “I’m always looking for fun, creative ways to do guest seating just in general.”

Martz is looking to break up that standard room setup, too. “When someone doesn’t have a massive budget, I always tell them to get creative with the floor plan — it’s one easy tweak that really goes a long way.” Groupings of lowboy and highboy tables, longer farmhouse tables for guests who want to gather together, and lounge areas with crushed velvet couches and inviting ottomans set the stage for a much more inviting atmosphere. Rather than one assigned seat, guests have options.

“Creating these vignettes has become very popular,” says Derry. Wedding parties rarely sit at a head table now — it’s much more common to create alcoves with comfortable couches and chairs for couples to greet their guests or snap a photo.

“They also want conversation areas surrounding the dance floor. If there are older guests, couples don’t want them sitting at their table all night away from the festivities,” says Derry.

These modern twists on timeworn traditions leave guests with the feeling they are at a one-of-a-kind event as opposed to just another wedding.

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PHOTO BY DAWN DERBYSHIRE PHOTOGRAPHY

Some of the attention to elaborate detail can be attributed to the pandemic, says Derry.

“Some people that kept rescheduling their weddings decided to elope or have tiny events with 15 people. Others held off. That extra time allowed them to save up and blow it out with this massive, fabulous party.”


Meg St-Esprit is a freelance writer based in Bellevue. She can be reached at megstesprit@gmail.com or at
@MegStEsprit on Twitter and Instagram.

Weddings Editor Lauren Davidson contributed reporting.

Categories: Weddings