By Jessica Green, Sara Ryan, and Rebecca Lapointe | February 27, 2015 | Lifestyle
Welcome in spring with a beautiful wedding full of intricate details, one-of-a-kind venues, and a hint of magic in the air.
A Philadelphia couple steals a kiss in Old City.
Springtime in Philadelphia is the perfect backdrop to a wedding—offering everything from classic elegance to bohemian simplicity. From Center City gardens with natural floral accents to The Great Gatsby elements at Union Trust, Philadelphia’s wedding settings are ones to be admired. As the flowers begin to bloom and the sun comes out of hiding, florals and romance become the base for wedding planning. Everything from delicate gowns to fun stationary can be found in these pages, whether you dream of a classic, traditional wedding or an evening full of simplicity and magic. With the help of Philadelphia’s premier venues, florists, chefs, and designers, you’ll be inspired to find the details that will make your dreams come true.
1. Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History inspires a more modern aesthetic for the weddings it hosts. 2. Gown, Berta ($8,200). The Wedding Factor Boutique, 114 N. 21st St., 267-861-0409. 3. Clutch, Jenny Packham ($750). The Wedding Shoppe, Eagle Village Shops, 610-293-1299. 4. Movado Moderna 30mm stainless-steel watch, Movado ($550). Benari Jewelers, 299 Main St., Exton, 610-363-8450. 5. Emerald-cut diamond Eternity band, Jeff Kellmer (price on request). 510 W. Lancaster Ave., 484-380-2155. 6. Earrings, Miriam Salat ($325). Joan Shepp, 1811 Chestnut St., 215-735-2666
Philadelphia’s many cultural attractions magically transform into lively wedding settings after closing time. The National Museum of American Jewish History (101 S. Independence Mall East, 215-923-3811), the only museum in the nation dedicated to telling the story of Jewish Americans, and marking its five-year anniversary in 2015, is one such destination. In the warmer months, its amenities promise some of the best vistas in the city. “The fifth-floor outdoor terrace has views of Independence Mall and Center City,” says Ellen Weiss, facilities rental and event manager. The fifth floor is home to the main ballroom, where the ceremony and dinner reception are held. Cocktail receptions take place in the lower lobby or among the exhibition spaces “Only in America” and “Freedom of Experience.” A flexible events policy means that couples are able to make as many decisions as possible for their wedding. “We have a very extensive list of kosher and non-kosher caterers, and you can bring in your own alcohol,” says Weiss. The rental fee also includes a stage and tables and chairs.
Kathy Bado of The Wedding Factor Boutique and Event Studio (114 N. 21st St., 267-861-0409) says that, typically, museum weddings tend to require more planning. “These are usually more formal than other types of weddings, and definitely need to be more carefully executed,” says Bado. She suggests making the venue feel more intimate by using draping to define the space and using tall table arrangements to complement high ceilings—short arrangements or tiny groupings can get lost in the space. “That being said, they are still popular with brides wanting a non-traditional space that can be truly extraordinary.”
1. Collins Park provides a green and floral setting for wedding receptions. 2. Dress, Nicole Miller ($1,900). 200 S. Broad St., 215-546-5007. 3. Slingback, Giambattista Valli ($950). Saks Fifth Avenue, 2 Bala Plaza, Bala Cynwyd, 610-667-1550. 4. Bouquet, Evantine. 210 W. Rittenhouse Sq., 215-790-2576. 5. Ring, ArtCarved ($3,400). Morton & Rudolph Jewelers, 1900 Marlton Pike E., Cherry Hill, 856-424-1101
Each spring, many of Center City’s most popular outdoor gathering spots quietly transform into picturesque wedding locations when the weekends roll around. “Center City District began promoting our public gardens for private events in November 2013, and the response has completely exceeded our expectations,” says Sarah K. Anello, who oversees special events at John F. Collins Park, Sister Cities Park, and the new Dilworth Plaza, where couples can get married surrounded by the dancing fountains.
Collins Park (215-440-5500) promises the ultimate garden-party setting for weddings. Tucked behind an ornamental iron gate along 17th and Chestnut Streets, the public park feels like it was made to host weddings: intimate, studded with trees and plants, and home to a fountain wall. “It’s a unique oasis,” says Anello. “Typically we host ceremonies for groups smaller than 80 people with passed hors d’oeuvres or food stations. But we have also done seated dinners for 25 people.”
For larger parties that prefer green space to gardens, Sister Cities has become the perfect gathering spot for what Anello calls “interlude receptions” thanks to its proximity to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. After ceremonies, couples and their guests walk across the street to Sister Cities for two-hour cocktail receptions. “This works well because Catholic weddings have to be done by 4 pm and many venues can’t host until 6 pm, so this gives everyone something to do until the formal reception. The flowers and trees are in full bloom in the spring, so the backdrop is incredible,” says Anello.
Since these lush settings figure so prominently into the wedding, Gina Sole, of Center City’s The Wedding Planner (301 S. 18th St., 215-271-1012), says that minimal décor is needed. “Collins Park is a diamond in the rough. For an intimate reception, I would fill the space with strings of carnival lights overhead and have small plates passed throughout the evening since space is limited,” she says.
1. The newly revamped Union Trust imbues weddings with an Art Deco spirit. 2. Gown, Paloma Blanca ($2,530). La Belle Mariée Bridal, 14 Summit Square Shopping Center, Langhorne, 215-860-6400. 3. Ring, Penny Preville ($8,350, not including center stone). Bernie Robbins Jewelers, 2123 S. Eagle Road, Newtown, 215-579-8224. 4. Bow tie, Commonwealth Proper ($125). 1839 Chestnut St., 267-319-1741. 5. Stationery, TPD Design House. 163 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, 610-293-4933. 6. Clutch, Moyna ($180). Knit Wit, 1729 Chestnut St., 215-564-4760.
Union Trust (717 Chestnut St., 215-627-5100) is finding new life as one of Philadelphia’s hottest wedding venues. It’s a story more than two centuries in the making, says Michelle Finley, general manager at Finley Catering. “The building opened in 1888 as Union Trust Bank,” she says. “In later years, it was Kellmer Jewelers and then a steakhouse, before we acquired the property and reopened in September.” The building’s jaw-dropping architecture—detailed accent walls, a dramatic balcony level, and the 65-foot engraved ceiling in the main room—has made Union Trust an obvious choice for couples who want to make a true style statement on their wedding day.
Gina Sole, of Center City’s The Wedding Planner (301 S. 18th St., 215-271-1012), suggests mixing things up with the décor for venues that comprise multiple spaces like this one. “Union Trust has so many levels and opportunities for fun ideas. Use the entire space to keep the crowd moving throughout the building the entire night: Cocktails, dinner, dessert, and an after party can all be hosted on different floors of the building. Guests won’t know where they’re going next. I would decorate each space completely different.” Guests are free to tailor the evening as they like, with many eschewing formal seated dinner receptions for the casualness that comes with food stations.
One trend that Finley has noticed among brides and grooms is butlered desserts. “We have servers offer butlered desserts on the dance floor so guests don’t have to go to the dessert table,” she says. “It’s something a little different.”
Just like the venue, Finley adds. “The city was missing a venue like this. It’s not your typical traditional ballroom. There is such a sense of old regal Philadelphia here.”
1. Gown, Claire Pettibone ($6,500). Nicole Bridal, 261 Old York Road, Jenkintown, 215-886-2333. 2. The historic Rittenhouse hotel offers its intimate halls for both ceremonies and receptions. 3. Bouquet, Beautiful Blooms. 1016 New Market St., 215-925-9300. 4. Ring, Benari Jewelers ($475). 299 Main St., Exton, 610-363-8450. 5. Open-toe sandal, Badgley Mischka ($200). Nordstrom, Cherry Hill Mall, 856-773-5600. 6. Bag, Dolce & Gabbana ($795). Saks Fifth Avenue, 2 Bala Plaza, Bala Cynwyd, 610-667-1550
Nothing says Philadelphia elegance quite like The Rittenhouse hotel (210 W. Rittenhouse Sq., 215-546-9000), making it a perfect backdrop for a romantic wedding. With multiple space options, the venue tailors to every bride. “The Rittenhouse has options for your ceremony and reception that can be planned in our Grand Ballroom or located in our Cassatt Garden,” says Kathleen Slater, area director of sales and marketing. All the locations within the hotel also provide cuisine and service designed by Lacroix, the in-house restaurant. And while the hotel is a favorite among locals, professionals also recognize its grandeur. “Our guests should expect nothing short of perfection from our AAA Five Diamond hotel and service,” says Slater. “Our team will cover every aspect of your wedding, down to the smallest detail.”
Going above other hotel venues, The Rittenhouse offers a setting where unique details can shine through. “I love hosting cocktails just off the lobby and then walking everyone up the grand staircase to the ballroom,” says Gina Sole, of Center City’s The Wedding Planner (301 S. 18th St., 215-271-1012). “Draping parts of a traditional hotel ballroom and lighting it correctly will certainly change the mood. Move out the furniture that you don’t care for and rent some of your own pieces—eclectic chairs, couches, and lamps, even cool pieces of furniture that you can display desserts in. These additions will transform your venue.”
The iconic Philadelphia wedding photo poses husbands-and wives-to-be in front of City Hall.
Whether you’re posting them on the Internet or creating a classic print album, the photographs from your wedding may be the most important aspect of the day. And with Philadelphia being such a culturally rich city, the first—and hardest—part is choosing a setting.
“Old City is a very popular location for photographs. Its historic architectural background as well as beautiful greenery and foliage [make it] a versatile location,” says Gabe Fredericks of Philip Gabriel Photography (201 N. Providence Road, Media, 610-355-7609). Old City also has sunlight that is harder to find in Center City. “The buildings are not as tall. Therefore more sunlight is able to filter through where needed most,” says Fredericks.
And sunlight is vital when it comes to taking the perfect shot. “It’s not so much about the places but more where the light is going,” says Phil Kramer of Remark Weddings (2424 E. York St., 215-928-9189). His preferred locations span the iconic—Love Park, the Art Museum, Rittenhouse Square—to the eclectic, like “Continental Midtown’s red wall, the red doors of a church, anything that’s bright or different,” he says.
Still, outside City Hall remains the most desirable location. “People are still asking for the infamous City Hall photo,” says Kramer, who is credited with first shooting there in 1999. “Everyone was afraid to go out and get the dress dirty back then; now it’s become a trend. I’ve done it so many times.”
Beyond the location, wedding photographs should appropriately capture the mood of your special day. And many couples still prefer a more traditional look to their photos, with family portraits and simpler poses. “Fun journalistic stuff is out there, but when it comes down to it, they want a well-lit, nice family portrait,” says Kramer. “When you go back years ago, there was always that classic family portrait, and I’m seeing more people getting back into that.”
That means that the trendy “jumping pose” may be worth skipping. “Many of our clients prefer more classic and timeless images depicting their love for each other instead of goofy or jumping images that may date themselves,” Fredericks agrees.
Steering away from the traditional, today’s couples prefer to see each other before the ceremony—a practice photographers delight in. “Ninety percent of brides do a first look beforehand now,” says Kramer. “I need that hour with the bride and the groom, so that time before the ceremony is needed.” And although the custom may seem, well, uncustomary, Fredericks feels it is a special moment in itself. “This is a beautiful time when the couple can share some intimate moments, laughs, and tears of happiness on [their] special day,” he says. “[Plus], it is also a great opportunity to allow more time for various locations for your portraits.”
But above all, technology takes the cake. As technology advances, so do the methods of viewing and sharing your wedding day. “Tech has taken us to an age where you see more videos,” says Kramer. “We show a two-minute video of the event that they can share on social media and with friends. With social media, everyone wants it tomorrow, so we’ve tried to do that.”
Taking it further, Kramer has also incorporated a phone app for newlyweds. “When you’re on your honeymoon two or three days after the wedding, you can download the app and see 40 to 50 images,” he says. “It’s a nice teaser to hold them over until they get back.”
Blogs have also become a staple in a wedding photographer’s job description. “[Our] blog showcases a variety of work from the latest events that we have photographed,” says Fredericks. “[It] allows our current and prospective clients to see and share our most recent work [and] is a great way for us to stay fresh and up to date in the world of digital photography.”
Blogs have also allowed photographers to dive into other realms of the wedding world—from planning to design. “Our blog is a useful tool for getting ideas on flowers, lighting, and trends,” says Fredericks. And Kramer, who has recently undergone a rebranding, now incorporates planning into his services. “Doing the photography, we set the tone for the day, so planning has become a part of the wedding process,” he says. “We now have options for photo, video, and planning.”
Tie the knot: Braids offer the bride a chance to inject personality into her wedding day look.
From a classic chignon to beachy curls, braids are the perfect complement to any hairstyle this spring. And nowhere is this beauty trend more popular than with Philadelphia brides. “Braids act as accents for up-dos or loose, flowing hair and add a bit of whimsy for brides who don’t want that super-structured look for their wedding day,” says Dana Morrison of Heads and Tails Beauty Boutique (265 S. 19th St., 215-875-8343). Adding a braid as an accent piece to your bridal style also creates a look that’s all your own. “We always say that a person’s hair should ref lect their style, and that is certainly important on a woman’s wedding day,” says Lauren Monaghan of Salon Vanity (1701 Walnut St., Third Fl., 215-925-2211). “Braids allow the bride to show off her personality.”
While a simple braid is still popular, there are arrays of styles requested by Philly brides. “The most popular are knot braids, fishtails, and deconstructed braids,” says Marylene Torres, up-do specialist at Blue Hair Studio (2550 Huntingdon Pike, Huntingdon Valley, 215-947-2963). All of which tailor to the bohemian look that many brides are hoping to capture beyond the style of their gowns. “Hair is matching fashion, especially in weddings, with all the lace and crochet coming back,” says Torres. “Bohemian is hot.” And celebrities are at the forefront of the trend. “Braids are not just for little girls anymore,” says Monaghan. “They are now seen on major celebrities like Jessica Alba, Charlize Theron, and Blake Lively. [For brides,] it’s a more romantic style and can be used to create a subtle touch or to make a bold statement.”
Words such as “ethereal,” “soft,” “undone,” “textured,” and “organic” are how many brides describe their wedding day look when consulting with owner Jason Sparks of Jason Matthew Salon (1735 Chestnut St., 215-665-8030). “What keeps these styles looking more modern is giving them an undone, very soft and textured feel,” he says. If you’re vying for a full braid like Blake Lively favors, extensions are the way to go. “We often add extensions to create a fuller, more substantial braid,” says Renee Iannace of Jason Matthew Salon. “We can then soften and rework the braid to create a softer, more textured, and more modern feel to many of the current bridal hair trends we are seeing.” Accessories also make the braid stand out, for both the bride and her maids. “We incorporate different hair accessories like flowers, brooches, or headbands, along with the veil, to really tailor the style to each individual bride,” says Iannace. “This really lets them reflect their personality.”
The most important aspect of perfecting this look is using the right product. “For a more defined or classic braid, you should prep dry hair by applying Kerastase Forme Fatale and the Touche Finale throughout the hair for added hold and shine,” says Monaghan. “While braiding the hair, be sure to take neat and even sections to create that defined look and spray a long-lasting hair spray like Laque Dentelle to keep the braid intact all night long.”
And stylists encourage that brides-to-be bring plenty of images with them for consultations. “Many girls come in and, at times, apologize for bringing pictures, when in fact that is one of our recommendations,” says Sparks. “Pictures really help the stylist get an accurate idea of the exact look and feel each bride is looking for. We also encourage pictures of the dress, flowers, bridesmaid’s dresses, and venue—if possible—to really be sure there is a cohesive flow.”
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF PHILIP GABRIEL PHOTOGRAPHY (couple); national museum of american jewish history (museum); michael spain (collins park); sarah Dicicco (bouquet); philip gabriel photography (union trust); COURTESY OF THE RITTENHOUSE HOTEL (HOTEL) ; MARIE LABBANCZ PHOTOGRAPHY (BOUQUET); by phil Kramer (black and white); dom savini (salon)