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So I’m a total NPR junkie. I’ll admit it. It’s the best part about my Sunday morning, along with the New York Times. That I purchase and read in my hands… not online. Call it old school, but I’m a glutton for weekend tradition. So, some of you may have heard the NPR program This I Believe…

It was started in 1951 by journalist, radio pioneer, and all around cool guy Edward R. Murrow. Ever heard of him? Murrow asked Americans from all walks of life to write essays about their most fundamental and closely held beliefs, encouraging people to write in and share their thoughts. It was revived in 2005 and continues to run today.

In the spirit of the holidays I decided to share my own short essay of some of my own personal beliefs, as both a tribute to the program, and to share with all of you this season.

This I Believe…

I believe that the power of hello is stronger than you might think

I believe hugs are underrated and underused

I believe there is something bigger out there

I believe that patience is the most over rated virtue

I believe that generosity is a virtue worth remembering

I believe you get what you give

I believe in maintaining some childlike wonder, no matter how old you are

I believe in the power of song

I believe charm can go a long way

I believe in not going to bed angry

I believe in the truth

I believe in forgiveness and acceptance

I believe in the power of surprises

I believe in listening. Really listening.

I believe love is in the details

I believe in handwritten cards and letters.

I believe laughter is the most important part of a relationship. Any kind.

I believe in the power of positive thinking

I do believe in signs

I believe in keeping in touch with friends and family

I believe in please and thank you

I believe you know when something is just that right

I believe in maintaining old traditions while creating your own

I believe in love

I believe that giving someone your time is the best gift you can give.

I believe in magic

Wishing you a very magical holiday season and a very happy and healthy new year.

About NPR & This I Believe:

In reviving This I Believe, executive producer Dan Gediman says, “The goal is not to persuade Americans to agree on the same beliefs. Rather, the hope is to encourage people to begin the much more difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from their own.”

This I Believe, Inc., in partnership with Henry Holt and Company, has produced two books collecting essays featured in the NPR series. The first book, published in 2006, became a New York Times bestseller in paperback, while the second volume was published in 2008. In addition to collecting these essays for posterity, the books have become popular with “one book, one community” projects.

For more information on NPR and This I Believe click here.


Ohhh I have such a fun wedding to share with you all!  I love me an off-beat bride, and Jessi was just that. Wanting to do everything and anything that was as much fun and unique as she and her fiance Benjamin, they put little bits of themselves into all of the best details of their wedding! Jessi and Benjamin married on November 14, 2009 in Washington, PA, and fab photog  Randi Voss was there to capture the day.

As soon as I saw the pink crinoline and the polka dot shoes… please. I was totally hooked.

I mean, how could you not be? So much fun!

From the bride… Benjamin and I are far from your typical couple therefore we couldn’t have a typical wedding.  I wanted to put as much of Benjamin and myself as I possibly could into our wedding as individuals and as a couple. My attire was my favorite part of our wedding.  My dress with my pink crinoline down to my polka dot shoes.  I feel like it just fit my personality.

Like many couples these days, Jessi and Benjamin opted to see each other before the ceremony.

From the beautiful bride…  I loved, for our first kiss as husband and wife Benjamin picked me up and I wrapped my  legs around his waist and kissed (our cake topper matched).  Our son, Keagan, joined us during our first dance and sang every word of our song while strumming his chest as if he were playing his guitar.

From the bride… It was important to me to remember my grandmother on such an important day of my life so I had her picture in my bouquet.
Years ago, Benjamin found a ring while working and as a joke he sent it to me in the mail (in a regular letter envelope) when it got to me it was half falling out of the envelope with a note saying “Jessica, will you marry me?”.  Joke or not, I wore it then had it sewn into my dress.

From the bride… To down play it, Benjamin and I are Dave Matthews fans.  There was no doubt that we had to incorporate the band into our wedding.  I walked down the aisle “Steady as we go”, at our reception our bridal party was introduced to “Best of what’s around” while we were introduced to “So Right”, our first dance was to “You and Me”,  and Benjamin did the garter toss to “Smooth Rider”.  We named each of the tables a DMB song.  And of course we told our DJ to play as much DMB as he wished!  Our wedding wouldn’t have been complete without DMB.

From the bride… Benjamin’s favorite part was when we were announced at our reception, we were wearing our personalized hockey jerseys… his a Flyers jersey and my Pens jersey.  We may not like the same team but we love the same game.

From the bride… It was also important for us to have a child friendly wedding.  Not only b/c we have a child but because we love children!  We had 2 flower girls and 2 ring bearers and about 20 children attending the wedding.  I had coloring books, crayons, and fun straws at the tables with children and my favorite was hula hooping with all the kids!

Photographer: Randi Voss– ” I wouldn’t have trusted anyone else.  She is absolutely outstanding!
DJ: Andy Hutelmyer“He was fantastic!
Bridal Salon: Sorelle Bridal Salon“They went above and beyond anything I could’ve asked for!”

Ross Mantle for the New York Times

I’m your classic Irish/Italian mutt. Kitchen traditions a mile long.

Ham on Easter, Seven different kinds of fish on Christmas Eve, Lasagna on Christmas day, Pizza frite, and lupines at the summer church bazaar and cookies, lots and lots of cookies at every single party you will ever attend.

Especially weddings.

It just went with the territory.

Wedding cake, yes.  But cookies… cookies for days at every wedding I ever attended growing up.

I was wrong. It’s not just us.

According to The New York Times, and my own first hand sources, the mammoth cookie tables aren’t just for the Italians. Over the years, Pittsburgh has made a name for itself as the cookie table capital.

Who knew?

With sometimes weeks of preparation, the bride’s family bakes thousands of cookies for the wedding, creating a tradition based more on your neighborhood, than your last name  Read more here.

Here’s a very special wedding that I can’t wait to share with you. Christina and Jason are serious DIY-ers and this wedding was both beautiful and totally unique to them. Christina and Jason married on September 19 of this year at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Christina and Jason met through  friends- although Jason’s version is that he won a date with Christina in a bet. Love that.

There are so many things that I love about Christina and Jason’s wedding, but I’ll let Christina give you the details herself…

From the bride… The Brooklyn Historical Society was our backup choice when our original space closed, but after seeing the library I knew it would be perfect. Plus it was only a few blocks from our apartment so it really allowed us to show off our neighborhood to all our guests, as did the grill out we had for all the out-of-towners the afternoon before on our roof deck overlooking Manhattan.

From the bride… We tried to make our wedding as personal as possible by including our friends and family during the planning and big day as well as adding personal touches to the ceremony and reception. Save-the-Dates, Invitations, Escort Cards, Menu wraps, Signs, Cake topper, Wedding Ceremony Musicians/Speakers/Officiant, Biscotti, Cupcakes, Mojitos: made by us, friends, and family. Also the favors were little honey jars with honey from Jason’s mom’s farm. Our rings were made by Jason’s sister friend, my engagement ring is a black pearl.

I love all of the DIY that went into this wedding. So beautiful.Check out these amazing amazing table numbers too. Fitting for their venue, and absolutely elegant.

From the bride…   The song my dad and I danced to, Una Noite, a Spanish waltz, was the same song my grandmother used to play in Cuba to let my grandfather (then her neighbor) know it was a good time to come visit. When the ceremony recessional song (Black Eyed Peas: I Got a Feeling) was played later in the night and Jason and I were dancing surrounded by all our friends and family. That was the best part of the day.

And her advice to other brides (and grooms out there)… Relax and enjoy the process, at the end of the day you just want to enjoy a wonderful ceremony and party with your new hubby. Jason’s advice to grooms-to be is just be available 🙂

From the bride…
Vendors Included:
MUSIC: DJ Gaza/Gary Hoffman (He was amazing)

*plus orchids from the flower district that my family helped put together

CATERER: Naturally Delicious

NAILS: Perfectly Polished
*treated the bridesmaids to Breakfast and Pampering the morning of the wedding, it was a great, relaxing way to start the day

I saw her today at the reception
A glass of wine in her hand
I knew she would meet her connection
At her feet was a footloose man…

— Rolling Stones

You know I love me some vintage. Well Lisa Marie over at Orange & Blossom has a whole bunch of vintage inspired product waiting to get snatched up. Here are some of my favorites…

Dusty Pink Lovebirds Feather Cake Topper & Decor $30

*Vintage* 1950s Small Champagne Essentials Bridal Clutch from Japan $28

*Vintage* Mini Bride & Groom Cake or Cupcake Topper from Japan $40

Flower-Shaped Cherry Blossoms Japanese Parasol $75

Are you ready for this? It’s pretty amazing. Ok- by now you should know Randi Voss, photographer extraordinaire and her amazing work on so many of our featured Real Weddings here. Not only does she shoot pretty spectacular weddings, she has a little added bonus that she just started offering up to clients as well. The ShotBox. Imagine a photobooth (my fav) on crack.  Way more people, way more creative poses, and way more fun. The result- is super amusing and super fun for guests at weddings. Couples, like Erin & Michael, are using Voss’s ShotBox in lieu of a guest book at weddings.

Saying that guests seemed to enjoy it… is a serious understatement.

Erin & Michael opted for props at their wedding, even throwing Erin’s veil into the mix, but Voss has said they are totally unnecessary and sometimes even make for a better picture sans hats and accessories. That means you have to get more creative kids.

Check out the ShotBox pictures below from photographer Randi Voss from Erin & Michael’s wedding. It’s definitely something worth adding to you reception. I mean… it’s a really good time.

Trust me. I lived it.

For more information on Randi Voss and this new Shotbox wedding trend- check out Erin & Michael’s wedding shots here and also more information on Randi Voss Photography and her stellar ShotBox here.

I’m really excited to share this wedding with you guys. So Erin is one of my  favorite people in the world. I met her in grad school, while her (now) husband, an Army Captain was stationed in Iraq. Watching her plan this wedding while finishing grad school, finding a new job, moving to Alaska and welcoming Michael back was pretty extraordinary. Amazing actually.

Erin is/was the best kind of bride. Laid back to all extremes, wanting nothing but a big, fantastic party with her closest friends and family. No muss, no fuss- just fun. Being a girl who seriously loves the snow, Christmas and all things that come with the holiday season, Erin and Michael picked a ski resort in Maryland for their wedding ceremony and reception in late November.

With all the ridiculous weather we’ve had lately, I was nervous she wouldn’t get the snow she wanted, but was I ever wrong. Driving into Maryland, we were greeted by PLENTY of snow.


Randi Voss, friend of the bride, shot the wedding, and did some amazing work per usual. The setting was pretty magical, which definitely didn’t hurt either.  Here are some photos from Erin & Michael’s Winter Wedding in Deep Creek, MD.

I love a bride who goes bold with the shoes. Their colors were red, black and white, and hiding a little bit of sass under that white dress was just perfect.

Erin is a self-proclaimed non-traditional brides in some ways. One- no flowers. Instead a friend of hers created a button bouquet for her in their signature colors for Erin to carry instead. The best part about this, was their florist worked some details — like the wisps of silver beads– into the bridesmaids real flower bouquets and groomsmen’s boutonnieres. So much fun.

Erin & Michael are world travelers. Dead serious about that one too. Michael proposed on top of an elephant in Thailand, it doesn’t really get much better than that does it? To pay tribute to their love for traveling, each table name was the word “Love” in a different language. Love that. (No pun intended)

Over the last few years I’ve learned something about Erin. She’s kind of a cupcake whore. She loves them. They make her happy. She had them at her engagement party, her city “shower” and her bachelorette party. So when it was time for dessert, Erin opted for a tower of delicious cupcakes– multiple flavors– all spelled out for guests to choose from.  I happen to love the cupcake over wedding cake option at weddings. Keeps things interesting. Oh and they had a candy bar. With takeaway containers.


Especially the next morning.

Erin & Michael danced to Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight.” One of my personal favorites. She shot me one of those” You cry, you die” looks right before they went out to the dance floor. I mean… it’s Sinatra, what do you expect? Also- quickly I do want to point out that this version of this song is WAY better than the Tony Bennett version- ya know the one  that resurfaced in My Best Friend’s Wedding in the 90’s.  Yes it was that long ago. That version is depressing. When in doubt, always go Sinatra.  Moving on…

To the dancing… which was pretty epic. Erin & Michael have friends that are not afraid to show your friends up on the dance floor.

And they will.

I’m not gonna lie. I was all kinds of impressed.

The wedding was wonderful, and I’m so glad I was able to share this (first hand) wedding with you all.

More from Erin & Michael’s Wedding to come.

I love winter. I do. Born and raised in the snow, I have to say there really is nothing prettier or more magical than twinkling lights against glistening snow. When my wonderful friend Erin, seriously of my favorite people in the world, got married last weekend it was just that. Magical snow everywhere, and just in time for her rehearsal. After a super casual (which was amazing and should be adopted everywhere) rehearsal at a brewery with more than a handful of their closest friends and family, Erin & Michael hosted a bonfire complete with marshmallows, snow and some drinks to keep everyone warm. It was beautiful, and a perfect way to kick off the weekend together. Here are some more amazing photos from photographer, and friend of ours and the bride’s , Randi Voss.

The bride shares a laugh with friends by the bonfire…

Father of the Bride…

The bride and groom take a quick sled down the hill with friends…

The bride and her maid of honor head down next…

So you all remember Alison & Paul, one of my FAVORITE weddings from photographer Randi Voss! Alison & Paul decided to go two rounds for their wedding, incorporating a small intimate destination wedding in Maine first, and opting for a seriously fabulous and all out party back in their hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. I especially love Alison’s multi-dress change incorporating the old with the new. Love. So here it is,  round two… and really, it just keeps getting better. Enjoy!

From the bride…  After our  bed-and-breakfast destination wedding in Maine at the end of September, Paul and I were ready for an all-out party for our at-home wedding reception at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA.  I was initially under the impression that having an ‘at-home’ reception after our actual wedding would be less stress but it actually turned out to be pretty stressful!  Despite us already being married, we truly were planning a full ‘typical’ wedding reception in Pittsburgh, complete with catering, cake, music, photography, floral details, etc so there was a lot of details, organization, and coordination required. My parents were an absolute lifesaver in the month between the actual wedding and the reception and I owe most of the reception’s success to them for sure as they were my eyes, ears, hands, voice, etc for most of it! Regardless of the extra stress that popped up here and there, the reception turned out fantastic and everything came together perfectly!

Photo Courtesy of Randi Voss

Photo Courtesy of Randi Voss

From the bride… Our venue, the Heinz History Center was nothing less than perfect. I was certain that I wanted a venue that had its own personality and of which did not require a lot of decorating. The History Center was a perfect fit and provided just the amount of character that I was looking for with its exposed brick walls, steel beams and vintage vehicles, the best being a full-sized classic Pittsburgh trolley that provided the perfect photo-op.

Photo Courtesy of Randi Voss

Photo courtesy of Randi Voss

From the beautiful bride… The best thing about our reception for Paul and I was to get the chance to celebrate with our larger group of family and friends. We have a large group of friends from our days in consulting and since many of them live out-of-town, we do not get to see them very often. We are also very lucky to still remain close to friends we had growing up through high school, many of whom live out-of-town as well. So, when we get the opportunity to have everyone together, and then adding in delicious food and cocktails, great music for dancing, photographers and videographers to capture everything, it makes for a wonderful time!

Photo courtesy of Randi Voss

From the beautiful bride… We used the ‘a&p’ logo (along with the lower-case font) on our cocktail napkins, menu cards, truffles that were placed on each table, bathroom guest towels, candy table signage, etc.  Our centerpieces utilized two different arrangement-types and included pink, ivory, and green flowers as we similarly had in Maine for our wedding.

Photos courtesy of Randi Voss

Photos courtesy of Randi Voss

From the bride…  One of the things that was meaningful to me and of which I was most excited about was what I ended up wearing to the reception. Soon after we decided to have a destination wedding and then a reception at home, I was convinced that I wanted to be a two-dress bride and wear more of a party/reception dress in Pittsburgh. Enter my mom’s wedding dress….. On a whim, my mom suggested that we take her wedding dress to the seamstress that was currently fitting me for my actual wedding dress to see if she would be willing to create a reception dress for me from my mom’s dress. Only a few weeks later, my mom’s long-train, high-neck, long-sleeved, lace wedding dress was turned into a short, strapless, lace reception dress for me! We made sure to have a picture of my mom in her dress on her wedding day at our reception to show everyone what the dress used to look like! Now that I had my reception dress, a part of me also wanted to wear my actual wedding dress so the guests that were not in Maine with us could see the dress I was married in. So, I ended up wearing my short dress for most of the reception but also changed into my actual wedding dress for our introductions, first dance, and cake cutting. Best of both worlds!

Photos courtesy of Randi Voss

Photos courtesy of Randi Voss

Photos courtesy of Randi Voss

Photos courtesy of Randi Voss

From the bride…  The food was absolutely delicious and was presented as station-style eating, with a pasta, carving, and Mediterranean station that gave a nice variety of food for our guests. The band had everyone on their feet all night long and gave a wonderful performance. Last but not least was the most talented photographer – Randi Voss, who continued as our photographer for our reception and produced nothing less than amazing photographs for us once again!

Congratulations twice over to Alison & Paul from Wedding Belles! Thanks for sharing both of your very special days with us!

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December 2009
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