Bridal Guide: How to Plan Your Dream Wedding

By Connie Capone & Jessica Green | August 19, 2016 | Style & Beauty Feature

Here's what you need to know about planning the wedding of your dreams.

Capture the Moment

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The steps of the Art Museum, with City Hall rising in the background, make for one of the city’s most iconic places for wedding photos.

For professional wedding photographer Phil Kramer, the secret to his trade is knowing what’s going to happen before it happens. “I know my equipment, know the light, anticipate the shot, and watch it unfold.” Kramer—the CEO, founder, and director of photography for Remark Weddings—has worked as a photographer in Philadelphia for 30 years and has shot more than 3,000 weddings. It’s no surprise, then, that his favorite settings span the city and suburbs. “No location is as iconic as the street shot of City Hall, with bride and groom standing on an island surrounded by cars and towering skyscrapers,” he says. “A lesser-known backdrop is the Painted Bride Art Center in Old City, where a couple can pose in front of the building’s colorful mosaic of glass and metals.”

Getting the right outdoor shot can mean traversing through natural settings—Kramer is particularly fond of Longwood Gardens, which offers an infinite amount of breathtaking shots with over 1,000 acres of land—so he requests that brides bring walking shoes to the shoot. For inclement weather, Kramer recommends a spot under the Benjamin Franklin Bridge: “You are covered by the bridge in case of rain, while the architecture, colors, and shadows create something truly spectacular.”

Plan the Main Event

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FROM LEFT: Tabletop décor at the Kimmel Center; a bride poses at the Rodin Museum; a chic white bouquet; silver candelabras set a festive mood at the Westin Philadelphia.

From ballroom weddings to Ball on the Square, Brian Kappra’s event production and design firm Evantine, which just relocated to a chic new Center City storefront, has worked its magic all over town for decades. Here, Kappra shares a few priceless planning ideas.

Smaller bouquets are still popular among brides, but roses have been replaced by bolder blooms like gardenias, peonies, and orchids. And don’t be afraid to mix up the color palette, advises Kappra. “The bride may carry totally different florals than the bridesmaids or chose a colorful mixed bouquet while her bridesmaids stay neutral,” he says.

One of Kappra’s top planning tips is to gauge “party light.” Those dusky lighting schemes that perfectly set the mood for receptions can also majorly alter certain colors. “One bride chose gorgeous lavender seating cushions that looked brown,” he says. Kappra tests out hues with mock “party lights” at Evantine’s Southwest Philly design studio.

Kappra has amassed a sample of nearly every chair that every Philly venue stocks so couples can assess on the spot—and 99 percent of brides will opt to bring in their own, he says. Kappra suggests mixing it up, like “two styles of Lucite chairs for dinner or different chairs for the wedding and the reception.”

The Luxury Hotel Venue: Ritz Carlton-Philadelphia

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CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Known for its amazing architecture both inside and out, The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia’s latest renovations include updated guest rooms, ballrooms, and lobby lounge; Ivory beaded and embroidered chiffon trumpet bridal gown, Lazaro Perez (price on request). Elizabeth Johns, Suburban Square, Ardmore, 610-649-8100; The 6,100- square-foot Grand Ballroom, located on the concourse level, is the centerpiece of the hotel; Baguette accent modern vintage engagement ring, A. Jaffe (price on request). Benari Jewelers, Exton & Newtown Square locations, 866-363-0808

With its grand architecture and prime address on the Avenue of the Arts, the Ritz Carlton-Philadelphia has long reigned as one of the city’s hottest wedding venues. Now the storied property has ushered in a new era of picture-perfect portraits following a yearlong multimillion-dollar renovation.

“As the only luxury branded hotel in the city, we offer a one-of-a-kind experience for weddings,” says Bradley Pacana, director of sales and marketing. “The updated spaces create a warm environment and color palette to work alongside each individual wedding vision.”

The $24 million-dollar project pays tribute to the historic aspects of the hotel, constructed in 1908. In addition to the column-filled lobby and its expanded bar and restaurant, Aqimero, guest rooms and both ballrooms have gotten a contemporary makeover as well. “Our grand chandelier and oculus allow couples a first dance under the moonlight,” notes Pacana. “It’s an experience you can’t get anywhere else.” Chef Patrick Morrison’s updated seasonal menus complement any time of year; couples (and up to six guests) have the chance to meet with the chef during a complimentary tasting. Having a large wedding? Opt to rent out the entire hotel lobby for a cocktail reception.

As a first-anniversary gift from the hotel, couples can relive the magic with a one-night stay and dinner. That beats the traditional paper gift any day.

Don Eye-Catching Accessories

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18k white-gold 7.58-carat diamond drop earrings, Bernie Robbins (price on request). 775 E. Lancaster Ave., Villanova, 610-971-2446. 18k white-gold, 0.13-carat round white diamond, 5.62-carat princess-cut diamond, 3.05-carat pear-shaped diamond, and 12.88-carat marquise diamond necklace, Simon G ($77,000). Golden Nugget Jewelers, 800 Chestnut St., 215-925-2777. 13.56-carat diamond ring, Forevermark Exceptional Diamonds (price on request). Morton & Rudolph Jewelers, 1900 Marlton Pike E., Cherry Hill, NJ, 856-424-1101. Platinum 4.15-carat diamond wedding band, Tacori ($23,160). Golden Nugget Jewelers, see above. 3-carat queen-cut diamond ring, Philadelphia Diamond Company ($30,000). 111 S. Independence Mall E., 215-607-6700. Lismore Champagne flutes, Waterford ($160, set of two). Bloomingdale’s, King of Prussia Mall, 610-337-6300. Crystalline toasting flutes, Swarovski ($399 set of two). 1421 Walnut St., 215-563- 9374

The Historic Venue: Hyatt at The Bellevue

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CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: A wedding reception at Hyatt at The Bellevue; Fit and flare tulle and guipure lace gown, LaSposa by Pronovias ($2,500). Unveiled Philadelphia, 200 W. Washington Sq., 267-216-6339; Platinum 4-carat cushion-cut diamond with brilliant side trapezoids, Golden Nugget Jewelers (price on request). 800 Chestnut St., 215-925-2777

Philadelphia is riddled with iconic landmarks, all of which are ideal backdrops for any city wedding—and Hyatt at The Bellevue, housed in a building that dates back to 1904, is no exception. The hotel recently unveiled a multimillion-dollar renovation that balances traditional and contemporary influences; conceived by Marguerite Rodgers Interior Design, the hotel’s guest rooms, lobby, and front entrance all received a facelift, and each floor takes guests through a historical journey courtesy of fanciful sketches and renderings from the archives of Opera Philadelphia, Walnut Street Theater, and Pennsylvania Ballet. “The hotel and the area itself have a rich history and vibrant culture that are reflected in the new design and in all the Philadelphia-themed art,” says General Manager Pina Purpero. The property’s pair of ballrooms remain as stunning as ever: The Rose Garden Ballroom is ideal for more intimate weddings, while the Grand Ballroom features original lighting designed by Thomas Edison and the stately marble and hand-worked iron elliptical staircase. During receptions, couples can enjoy a new small-plates menu from chef Richard Hebben, featuring dishes like flat iron steak and roasted pork belly.

It's All in the Details

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Beaded clutch, Moyna ($190). Knit Wit, 1729 Chestnut St., 215-564-4760. Crystal headband, Jennifer Behr (price on request). The Wedding Factor, 125 South St., 267-861-0409. 18k gold and diamond caviar bracelets ($1,850 and $2,750), Lagos. 1735 Walnut St., 215-567-0770. Ivory satin sandal, Jimmy Choo ($695). King of Prussia Mall, 610-265-5727. Amalfi organic pearl opal sash, Laura Jayne (price on request). Elizabeth Johns, Suburban Square, Ardmore, 610-649-8100

Bring the Entertainment

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FROM LEFT: The Philadelphia School of Circus Arts is taking wedding receptions to new heights with over-the-top performances; For the ultimate wedding favor, call on Caricatures by Courtney to sketch guests during the reception.

The bride and groom may be the main attraction, but when it comes to modern-day weddings, couples are pulling out all the stops with a spectacle of entertainment for their receptions. Making your wedding stand out is easier than you think—if you step (far) outside the box.

A band or DJ is a staple entertainment choice, but have you thought about... fire dancers? “Weddings are a time for brides and grooms to share their unique style and personality with family and friends,” says Shana Kennedy, director of the Philadelphia School of Circus Acts.

In addition to classes, PSCA has performed all over the city for special events. “With so many weddings happening in non-traditional settings these days, [this] takes their event to new heights and gives guests something to talk about.” Under the PSCA umbrella is Airplay, a circus and variety entertainment company that has talent ranging from jugglers to aerial artists. Think hula-hoop dancers greeting your guests or cocktails served by stilt walkers at the reception.

At nightlife and event performance company Jewelz Entertainment, fielding requests for choreographed dancers, body-painted servers, and fire performers is all in a day’s work. “We once had a bride ask us to paint the entire waitstaff at her wedding venue in silver body paint; another requested to have a mermaid serve sushi during her cocktail hour,” says Julie Abramson, owner of Jewelz Entertainment. “A recently popular request is to have an aerial bartender, suspended from the ceiling, serving guests Champagne.” For these brides and grooms, as Abramson says, it’s all about the “wow” factor. “They want their guests to have a great time and be fully entertained.”

For wedding keepsakes that are truly worth keeping, many couples are calling on artists like Courtney Sell, a Temple graduate that honed her sketching skills during stints at the Philadelphia Zoo and Citizens Bank Park. Her Caricatures by Courtney will live draw your guests—or any aspect of your wedding—for a frame-worthy favor that people will remember long after the big day. “I’ve heard on almost every occasion people say, ‘I would have never thought of this, it’s so different,’” says Sell. “It’s definitely something they are going to remember.”

Where to Beautify

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Architeqt Salon adds a lacy fascinator to cascading curls for a touch of romance.

Long after every detail about the wedding has been planned, the last monumental choice that brides will make is how to wear their hair. No matter how many hair trials or late nights spent scouring Pinterest, many brides will wonder—sometime around when the teasing comb emerges during the appointment the morning of—if they have chosen their best ’do. Look to fall’s hottest bridal hairstyles to deliver plenty of drama and ample accessories. We caught up with a few of Philly’s most indemand stylists to comb through their favorites.

“Floral wreaths are perfect for the bohemian bride who wants a romantic, outdoorsy vibe,” says Alexey Kats, owner of Architeqt Salon. But whether you are saying “I do” in a garden or inside a ballroom, it’s important to keep your hair simple. “The floral-wreath bride is popular nowadays because she wants an effortless, shabby chic style,” says Gabrielle Mancano, stylist and bridal team member at Calista Grand Salon and Spa. “To achieve this, I would set the hair with beachy waves, nothing too ‘done’ looking.”

A bridal braid can be tailored to match every bride’s style, but goes best with a mermaid gown, says Richel D’Ambra, owner of Richel D’Ambra Spa & Salon. “Fit and flare gowns with an open back work great,” says D’Ambra. “Braids can also can be enhanced with flowers or any other type of accent jewelry entwined into the braid.”

Sparkling accessories fit best for the classic bride with a vision of a fairytale wedding. “Diamond-studded accessories such as tiaras, rhinestone headbands, or combs can enhance a more formal ball gown,” says D’Ambra. And to complement a stunning hairpiece, opt for a traditional updo. “They look great next to a chignon or a sleek, sweptover- the-shoulder style,” adds Kats. “Make sure to look for pieces that are malleable and can be pinned into the hair without weighing it down.”

“Romantic curls will never go out of style,” says Mancano. “They transform your everyday look into something stylish and sophisticated.” The biggest bonus for this hairstyle is that it works with every type of wedding. “It’s a more natural look that can be paired with almost any dress and venue,” says Kats. “For the hair to keep its wave throughout the night the key is to lock the curl in with the proper heat and hairspray that has memory but doesn’t turn crispy.”

photography by Drew Noel Photography (Hyatt at the Bellevue)

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