It’s wedding season! Get the details on an outdoor celebration filled with lots of locavore love. Plus, local bakeries help us create a Pittsburgh cookie table, and experts share their top planning tips
By Andrea Bosco
Photographs from Craig Photography
Ariel Nieland and Brandon Forbes began planning their al fresco wedding with three things in mind, “good food and drinks, good live music, and an intimate setting.” For the pair, the laid-back vibes required no theme or color scheme, but serious vision and the support of local vendors. On June 8, 2013, the couple wed less than a year after they were engaged in Cinque Terre, Italy. The setting? The backyard of Ariel’s father’s 1920s Beaux-Arts-style home in Squirrel Hill. With the work of wedding planner Sean Gray of Sean Gray International, their aesthetic outlook became a reality. The intimate soirée, captured by Elizabeth and John of Craig Photography, was equal parts charm and summer, and laden with inspiring details.
“The setting itself naturally incorporated lots of lush green from the surrounding shrubs and trees,” says Ariel, who donned the “Willow” gown by designer Jenny Packham.
Jimmy Lohr of greenSinner crafted “soft and natural” centerpieces using 100-percent local and in-season blooms. “I love all flowers and wasn’t particular about having a certain color,” says Ariel. “Jimmy nailed it.”
Ariel and Brandon strung their guests’ RSVP cards, designed by Golden Rectangle Press on Etsy, for all to see. Locally, they commissioned Sapling Press to create day-of programs.
The 115 guests sipped on Round Corner Cantina mocktails, craft cocktails, such as the Angelita — Espolón Tequila Blanco, Chartreuse, basil, lemon, lime, sugar, and soda — and wine and beer.
Open seating and farm tables were simple, casual touches.
Dinner featured an ample menu of handcrafted burgers and tacos from the BRGR Food Truck and the PGH Taco Truck.
BRGR served appetizers, like grilled cheese bites, bacon-wrapped meatballs, and Thai fresh rolls — the bride and groom’s favorite.
Taco options included Korean braised beef short rib with kimchi, shrimp with pineapple and sweet chili sauce, and spicy jerked chicken with fresh avocado cream, just to name a few. Guacamole, truck-made tomato salsa, onion, cilantro, and lime, and organic Basmati rice and pinto beans were a tasty finish.
Guests chose from four burger selections, including the King Salmon and the Shrooms burger, stacked with forest mushrooms, caramelized onions, Brie cheese, and mustard aioli. Each burger — turkey and veggie, too! — was plated with Parmesan-and-herb-tossed fries and a chopped salad with goddess dressing.
Homemade jam by Breadspreads by Susan in flavors Peach Vanilla, Blackberry & Blueberry, and Strawberry Lemonade were given as sweet favors. The jars’ custom labels were designed by GersonCurse on Etsy.
Bella Christie and Lil’ Z’s Sweet Boutique impressed with a mix of traditional Pittsburgh cookie table offerings and delicious mini donuts.
The former Dozen Bake Shop whipped up a “naked” cake, flavored Cookies and Cream, which the couple topped with wooden peg dolls that resembled them and their two pets, Olive and Cass, found on the Knottingwood Etsy shop.
“To me, one of the most stand-out features was the magical lighting that gradually appeared over the course of the evening in gorgeous and unexpected ways, thanks to Martin of LUXE Lighting & Atmospheres,” says Ariel.
The Great Outdoors
There are important items to consider if you’re planning outside nuptials. In fact, a number of Pittsburgh parks are available, providing gorgeous, lush settings. We checked in with Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications Scott Roller, as well as photographer Elizabeth Craig, for their top tips.
Roller says you will need permits for the space, banner/sign placement, and valet, and your caterer will need an “extension of premises” permit to serve alcohol.
Have an inclement weather plan in place, he says. “This can mean rain, or unseasonably cold or warm temperatures. Most tent rental companies can provide heaters or fans. If it rains, make it fun — wear colorful galoshes, use colorful umbrellas.” Craig adds, “Choose light-colored, Pagoda-style umbrellas. Black umbrellas absorb light and solid-colored umbrellas bleed colors on to the skin and can look weird in photos.”
Says Roller, “Wear appropriate footwear for the outdoors — super high heels will sink into the grass. Thought it’s a benefit to us (aeration), your guests won’t be happy.”
Parking and Directions
“Have a parking plan in place — a space where the valet will park the cars,” he says. “Have directional signage and if guests are using GPS, encourage them to use carefully vetted key search terms, like ‘The Overlook at Schenley Park’ and ‘Mellon Park Rose Garden.’”
“Instead of rice or balloons, carry your outdoor theme into what you throw — wild bird seed,” says Roller. “Plus, it’s environmentally safe.”
Roller encourages couples to tie the outdoor location into their stationery suite. “Use tree leaf or flower images that will be in bloom at the time of your wedding as a motif. And, use nature references in your vows.” Adds Craig, “Try to carve out time around dusk for some extra portraiture. Changing light and colors in the sky make for dramatic photos.”
Craig advises couples to avoid getting married by candlelight at night. “It’s romantic, but not realistic for photos,” she says. Here’s an idea: “A lantern send-off can be a fun way to end your evening, and photographically, it’s gold!”
The Pittsburgh Cookie Table
Thousands of cookies on one table — it’s perhaps one of the best, most mouthwatering parts of a Pittsburgh wedding. Read more here!