getting hitched? this one’s for you.

usIt’s taken me three years to write this post, a post I should have written a long time ago. In addition to e-mails from people looking for restaurant, event or the oh so popular I’m-coming-to-Cleveland-can-you-plan-my-itinerary suggestions, I also receive a fair amount of e-mails from brides-to-be or thrilled parents looking for vendor or location suggestions. All of which I’m happy to offer my two cents. Instead of retyping the same e-mail over and over, I neatly compiled all the (hopefully) helpful wedding info in one place.

Pardon the brief moment of sappiness, but three years ago today was simply the most amazing day. I married my best friend, truly the love of my life. I am without a doubt so lucky to be in this relationship and cherish the life we have built together. We laugh everyday, and it just keeps getting better. Sappy, yes, but it’s true. And I really enjoyed planning our big day; mostly because we did it together and only managed to have one fight over one guest.

Our wedding was October 20, 2006. We paid for a good portion of it ourselves (we were in our early 30s afterall) and therefore relied heavily on our professions and creativity (Jamie’s a creative director with an art director background; I’m in PR and have a lot of event planning experience) to make it an event to remember. We wanted our fall-themed day to be a true representation of us. It had to be different, the meal – of course – could not be the typical wedding grub, the location needed to be memorable and our guests had to feel a part of the day and enjoy it almost as much as us. It’s a party after all.

The Venue

For awhile, it seemed that all we did was check out places for the reception (the ceremony itself took place at Resurrection in Solon). It was important for the venue to not look like a hall. We wanted something different. We looked at the Old Arcade, Severance, Botanical Gardens, Glidden House, stonewaterSilver Grille and just about every other place that we’ve all been to for a work or personal function. And then by pure luck, my cousin told us about Stonewater Golf Club located in Aberdeen in Highland Heights. It was perfect. It resembles a large, beautifully cozy lodge with giant windows overlooking the rich colors of fall, an oversized stone fireplace, rich wood and lots of warmth. It was the ideal spot for a fall wedding with 200 guests. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what the status is of this place anymore. I remember reading that they were having problems. I believe the chef we had is no longer there so I can’t vouch for the food and am not even sure if this place is even a viable option anymore.

I will say this, if you’re looking to hold a wedding, shower or any type of party and don’t want to be in a typical “room” call around. A lot of the restaurants may be able to accommodate you. Several have great private spaces and others may be willing to rent out the enire restaurant for your function.

The Dinner

Obviously I’m biased, but this was the best wedding meal we’ve ever had. And I’m not alone. Three years later and people still tell us how much they enjoyed their dinner. Three years. That’s impressive. It was incredibly important for us to have a killer meal and not serve the “usual.” I drove the staff nuts with numerous tastings and requests. I wasn’t well-liked there, but it was worth it. The menu:

roasted pumpkin bisque
mixed greens with dried cranberries and blueberries, candied walnuts, gorgonzola with sweet garlic dressing
butternut squash risotto
pan-seared long bone veal chop with pancetta and sage stuffing, served with asparagus and an apple and port demi-glace

The Music

Next to a great dinner, we had to have live music. We wanted everyone to complain their feet hurt by the end of the night. One of my good friends had this one band in particular when she got married in 2000 and I knew then that I’d have this same band (didn’t know who the groom would be at the time, but I had my band!). The band is Nightbreeze and the leader is Dennis Samson / 440.953.2394. Everyone there, regardless of age, was dancing.

The Flowers

Since we were paying for much of this ourselves (though our parents did help), the majority of our budget went to the food and band. Another friend used Arnie from Blooms for her wedding and I was impressed with his creativity. We met with him and shared we had a limited budget. Instead of turning us away, he was excited with the challenge. The end result – beautifully designed tables with custom centerpieces that amplified the simple beauty of the room and absolutely perfect bouquets. Even if we had more money to spend on the flowers, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I can’t say enough good things about Arnie and his staff.

The Favors

We are not the chotchkies kinda couple. I debated whether or not to even have favors since most people toss these favoraside. Here, we combined the favor with the seating assignment: a chocolate and caramel covered apple donning a guest’s name and table number. I worked with Lauren at Culinaire Pavane / 440 942 1180. They happily assembled each apple and again, were super easy to work with. People were stealing more favors, they were that good.

The Photography

This is another area where we probably spent a bit more that anticipated but the end result was well worth is. We wanted a photographer that specialized in candid shots and could really capture the moment, not a bunch of staged, stuffy shots that will never see the light of day. We wisely chose Steven Mastroianni. He’s truly talented and did an outstanding job. But if it’s a lot of staged portraits you’re after, then he’s not your guy.

The Invite

Something else we still receive comments on (and requests for help) is our invites. They were beautifully designed by Jamie (along with our programs, menus, table numbers and thank you notes). For printing, he used a small letterpress vendor in Salem called Graphic Touch. He was thrilled with how they turned out and with this special find (letterpress is fairly rare anymore and he was happy to utilize someone local).

The Rehearsal Dinner

This was the one and only difficulty throughout the entire process. My in-laws generously agreed to pay for the dressrehearsal. Keeping that in mind, and the fact that half the people were coming from Youngstown, Jamie’s hometown, it was a challenge to find a place that was close to the church and freeway, could accommodate 50 people and was reasonably priced. Of all the places I called, it was Maggiano’s that made the most sense – even though I truly didn’t want it there. But I will concede and say this – the private room upstairs was nice, the location was ideal and the food wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. But – they were absolutely horrible to deal with. Hands-down the worst vendor and worst experience we’ve ever had with a restaurant, wedding or not. It was so bad that the president of the entire chain called to apologize. If we weren’t in a jam because of the aforementioned, I would have cancelled altogether. But in the end, they came through.

Other misc. tips and tidbits

  • In lieu of a guestbook, we had all our guests sign Mario Batali’s Babbo cookbook (where we were engaged). It’s still proudly displayed in our kitchen and fun to read all the messages when we flip through to make dinner.
  • For the bridesmaids, I rented out the spa at Ladies & Gentlemen/Legacy and treated all my girls to their choice of a massage or facial and brought brunch in. We had a great afternoon and the staff was incredibly accommodating.
  • I found the perfect chocolate brown bridesmaid and flower girl dresses then ordered from Net Bride like previous friends had. It saved everyone a decent amount in the end.
  • Our wedding was on a Friday. It saved us costs on the space, flowers, and a few other small vendors. Plus it was nice having the ceremony and reception back to back.
  • While we weren’t as creative, or memorable as the JK wedding dance (why couldn’t we have thought of that?), we did take dance lessons to learn the Fox Trot to Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darrin via Fred Astaire in Willoughby. I loved our dance, but couldn’t wait until it was over – too much pressure worrying if I’d stumble a step.
  • For our wedding night, we stayed at the Inn of Chagrin Falls (after a quick stop at the Arby’s drive-thru – funny how you kinda forget to eat on your wedding day). This inn, much like all of Chagrin Falls, is quite picturesque and charming.
  • For our honeymoon, we spent two weeks in Hawaii: Kauai and Maui. If you ever have the opportunity – go! Absolutely unreal. And the food… that deserves a post all its own.

wedding_fireThere you have it. Three years ago I went from a maiden name that started with a V to a married name that also starts with a V (what are the odds). And though my childhood hopes of one day moving to the front of the alphabet were never met, it was a small price to pay for all that I’ve received, and then some. If you’re planning a wedding, or similar event, congratulations and lots of luck! I hope this post is of some help. And remember, something will go wrong the day of – it may rain, family members may get on your last nerve, or your nephew could spill juice on your dress. It doesn’t matter. Because it’s your day and it will be perfect. And remember to look around and take it all in. All the people from your past, present and future are there to celebrate you both and your new life together and it’s an indescribable feeling.


  1. Posted October 20, 2009 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    very nice post. I shared with my friends who are planning cleveland weddings.

  2. Posted October 20, 2009 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Happy anniversary -hope the two of you have a delicious celebration.

    I would love to hear all about Kauai and Maui sometime. Kauai is on my must-do list.

  3. Lorraine Cogan
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Steve Mastroianni took the photos for my daugher’s wedding in August of 2008 and they were beautiful. It’s like a photojournal of the event, not just a bunch of posed photos, as you said.

    If new brides are looking for an inexpensive way to have their makeup done on their special day, they can call on me for complimentary Mary Kay makeovers ( or visit my website to get ideas for great natural looks:

  4. Amanda
    Posted October 26, 2009 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for all the information – your preferences and must-haves match mine and my fiance’s. I called Stonewater to request venue information and was told they don’t host weddings anymore- sad!!

    I’ll definitely be looking into your vendors – they sound exceptional :O)

  5. Posted November 1, 2009 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    As a wedding junkie, I’m loving this post! My husband and I got married a month before you did (9.23.06), so we spend our anniversary remembering how much fun we had on our wedding day.

    Nightbreeze is a great band – my work had them for a gala last year and they just rocked for three solid hours.

    For our wedding, we also did chocolate and caramel covered apples:

    I love the cookbook as a guestbook. There were some vendors that you used that I haven’t heard of before, so thanks for sharing them. I know it’s a bit late, but happy anniversary!

  6. Posted November 10, 2009 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    Alicia, happy belated anniversary to you, too!

  7. Posted July 5, 2012 at 2:46 am | Permalink

    Wow that must have been some experience. You were in the right place at the right time. Excellent picture as well.

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