Say 'hello' to the dream (wedding) team
Whether you're envisioning an enormous celebration with hundreds of guests or an intimate to-do of just your nearest and dearest, planning a wedding can feel like a big undertaking. Of course, when you've got an experienced specialist working with you every step of the way to turn your unique vision of the perfect wedding into a reality, the planning process can be a lot more enjoyable. Enter: our team of wedding specialists, Erin Rose, Ava Sander and Greg Sgro. They've got the expertise, the vendor connections and a passion for all things wedding-related from the big ideas to the littlest details, not to mention they're just fun to work with. Below you can get to know the team a little with a short Q&A.
What is one thing that people forget while planning a wedding?
You've hired a hotel team and vendors who will fully plan your day—try to relax! Your morning will start with hair and makeup and photos before the ceremony. Once you're on site, we take care of you the rest of your evening.
Always ask for a full estimate—including service fees and taxes based on your estimated guest count.
My favorite part is when you're ceremony is on site. I love seeing our brides right before walking down the aisle. That moment of quiet and calm before your entrance always gives me goosebumps. My least favorite part is also right before the ceremony. Getting your entire wedding party lined up is always a challenge!
This is the first time you've planned an event like this—you don't know what you don't know. I take it one step at a time and plan your day based upon what is important to you! The best part about weddings these days, is that there really aren't any standard ‘must do's' anymore. We can customize your evening completely, including the timeline, setup and the food and beverage.
Think about a winter wedding! Not only are the prices more affordable but the entire hotel is really celebrating you. You can make it really easy and have everything on-site, from your rehearsal to your ceremony and reception to your send-off brunch the next morning. With our unique space, we can create a different feel for each of your events!
Really, the only time we would need you on-site is during the tasting! The rest of the planning, from the timeline to diagrams and setup, can all be done over the phone or by email. We have worked in the area for a long time, we're happy to connect you with our preferred vendors who we select based upon their reliability, quality execution and ease to work with.
Consider a first look. This is such a special time for the two of you to connect before the craziness really starts. It's so special to capture those moments together, alone or with your closest friends and family. It also really helps your timeline throughout the evening, giving you plenty of time for photos so you aren't rushing to get to the reception. You may even be able to join your cocktail hour!
Our Commoner fried chicken slider. It is just so good and has been one of our signature dishes since we opened the hotel!
I love adding a signature drink—it doesn't have to be something over the top, just what you like. Maybe it was something you drank on your first date or it's favorite drink to start the weekend. I love doing a bride's drink and a groom's drink and if you use simple ingredients, you can just use the bar package and it doesn't add any cost, just bring a sign for the bars!
Get back to your life—date nights, work, going out with friends and Netflix. And don't put off writing the thank you cards. Do a few the day after your wedding, you'll regret putting it off!
What is the most important part of the wedding planning process?
The tasting. Because this is when I get to spend the most time with the couple going through every detail of the big day. We enjoy quality time eating, drinking and talking, and before you know it, everything comes together and we've planned the major details of your day!
Sneaking the couple into the reception room after all of the candles are lit and the champagne is poured, but before the guests are seated. I love the reaction when they see their vision come to life. Take mental pictures...you'll want to remember these sweet and special moments!
The cookie table, of course! I like to flip the ceremony room to cookie table and late-night bites for the end of the evening. We turn the room into a lounge area with our Monaco-green couches so that guests can enjoy a cookie and coffee as they watch you dance the night away.
Our Juliet balcony, right outside of the ballroom areas, is such a romantic photo. And if your photographer stands in our lobby, he or she can get our colorful hanging garden chandelier in the shot, too! You really cannot take a bad photo in this property. Everywhere you look is begging to be photographed.
Our one of a kind architecture. Our Beaux-Arts style architecture building was built in 1903. Beaux-Arts style is a mix of Neoclassical and Greek revival architectural styles that give our ballroom and foyer its opulent feel. From the ionic pillars to the mercury glass mirrors on our walls, our sister ballrooms evoke a sense of grandeur as you walk in.
Saffron arancini or the Commoner fried chicken slider. I love the arancini because it's something you don't find everywhere so it feels special and the fried chicken slider will be the first thing to go - because it's ridiculously delicious! But if you have a favorite food - tell us! We would love to incorporate it into your day.
Add a champagne toast, always! Having champagne at each place setting brings your tablescape to the next level and gives everyone something festive to toast with!
I love a mix of long and round tables. It gives the room really nice dimension and provides your florist with the opportunity to enhance the space using both high and low centerpieces.
The Emperor rooftop is definitely a must-see when coming for your site tour. It is rare to have a rooftop in Downtown Pittsburgh, especially a private one! I'm a city girl, so I love that we are perched on the ideal corner that really showcases the City to your guests who have traveled far and wide for your big day. Take advantage of it for your ceremony, cocktail hour, welcome reception or post-wedding brunch.
There was one time when I only received half of the escort cards on the day of the wedding. The escort cards are important because they tell your guests where they're sitting and they inform our servers of what you'll be eating! My colleague was preparing a makeshift seating chart just in case, while I searched nearly every room in the hotel. I ultimately got the groom's car from the valet and opened the trunk holding my breath...they weren't there. I tried the front seat as a final ‘hail Mary' and there they were! With about 12 minutes to spare, all of the cards made it to the wedding.
Which of the weddings that you planned sticks out to you/remains a night to remember for you?
My favorite wedding was on New Year's Eve, many years ago. The wedding couple was amazing and really wanted the event to be a celebration of their commitment to each other. The celebration itself was most important - after their ceremony. All of the focus was on the guests and how happy the couple was that family and friends supported and loved them enough to be a part of their wedding day. It was an amazing experience! Two cocktail hours, a band and a DJ, late-night snacks, champagne at midnight, cookies, donuts and desserts and then breakfast the next morning!
The fact that all weddings have a beginning (usually cocktail hour), a middle (dinner) and an end (dancing) really helps me put the events in perspective. And the idea that they all depend upon each other helps me make the transitions between each phase seem natural and organic.
I love to put together the details of the individual pieces of the events. Since all of my wedding clients are different - you never get there the same way! That's the fun part and it really lets me customize the events to the clients' needs. It allows me see what is most important to them.
The timeline. My goal is to do everything that the couple would like to do. And my job is to make sure I've allotted enough time for everything. By giving our Chef and our service team a realistic timeline, this helps the event to go smoothly and without waiting or rushing.
First looks before the ceremony save a ton of time after the ceremony - and can even allow cocktail hour to start a little earlier, especially if the wedding couple wants to attend. But it's a very personal thing. And it's your wedding day. Let's do it your way!
Absolutely not! This is your day and there's no pressure to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. But no one likes wedding day surprises. So let's talk about everything that is going to happen and make sure that we plan for everything.
I love children! When you decide to include children, you're including the whole package - temperament, behavior, emotions, etc. As long as you are prepared for any and all of it at any given time, let them come. But if you don't want children in attendance, that's certainly your choice. And don't forget that this could also influence the decision of whether or not to attend by your guests who have children. There are pros and cons to both.
Most parents really want to be a part of the planning process, especially if they are contributing financially to your big day. I think having a plan to involve them and making them feel like they are a part of your day is really important. And as a father of three daughters, I want my girls to have whatever they want but would really appreciate being asked for an opinion.
The groom went missing and was nowhere to be found. For hours after the ceremony, we looked for him but he was M.I.A. through cocktail hour and dinner. A word to the wise...have a friend - a real friend - watch what you drink between the ceremony and cocktail hour!
You get to know REALLY great vendors when you do this for a while! I once had a florist no-show to a wedding and was able to call in a favor (a big favor). I also once saw a wedding cake begin to tip over and I caught it mid-fall. The mother of the bride walked in while I had it in my hands. She asked me if she needed to know what I was doing...I told her to go enjoy cocktail hour. We never spoke about it again and the cake was perfect when the couple made their first cut.