Monday, May 7, 2012

Snow Cone Vendor Reviews

During my planning, I loved hearing other brides' opinions of their vendors' work.  I really enjoyed reading others' reviews, but always grew a bit dismayed at the fact that most of the reviews focused on Pittsburgh or Harrisburg vendors.  Hopefully this post should help to redirect some focus to the small-town vendors in Western/Central Pennsylvania.

Accommodations: Holiday Inn in Johnstown, PA
Recommend, with special considerations.
We chose to set up a block of rooms for our guests at the Holiday Inn.  Additionally, this hotel served as the location for the gentlemen to get ready for the ceremony, and as the wedding night accommodations for us.  Overall, they were an easy vendor to work with.  Mr. Snow Cone said that, despite his request that a shuttle arrive at a specific time to take the groomsmen to the church for pre-ceremony portraits, the shuttle ran late for them.  Additionally, we paid a bit of extra money to have a "honeymoon suite" as they termed it, which amounted to a regular hotel room with a conference room adjoined to it.  Both Mr. Snow Cone and I felt the use of the term "honeymoon suite" was far too generous and frankly misleading.  Overall, we had only minor bumps in the road with this hotel, so I'd recommend them but wouldn't recommend falling for their honeymoon suite.

Bridal attire (gown, veil, and alterations) and BM dresses: The Exquisite Bride in Murrysville, PA
Recommend to everyone I know.

When dress shopping, I visited The Exquisite Bride just so I can say I tested the Pittsburgh bridal salon waters.  I had fallen in love with some gowns already, so I expected to stop by, try on a few, and return to another salon.  I told my consultant what I thought I wanted, she pulled some based on those guidelines, and then noted what feedback I was providing and pulled one based on her assessment of what would suit my preferences.  It was the total opposite of what I originally outlined, and it was absolutely the perfect choice.

I purchased my veil, necklace, and BM dresses there, and everything was a breeze.  Because I purchased my own gown there and had seven 'maids, the shop granted us a 15% discount on BM dresses, which was very helpful to us all. I also worked with the in-shop seamstress, who wasn't pushy or irked by the short turn-around time for my alterations.  Without a doubt, this shop was a gem in the wedding planning process.

Cake: Cindy Leech in Johnstown, PA
Highly recommend.

Admittedly, Cindy is a family friend who agreed to do our wedding cake shortly after we got engaged.  However, that doesn't diminish the fact that she whipped together a gorgeous cake based on a rough design plan I communicated to her a whopping two to three weeks before the wedding.  She also didn't bat an eye when I asked her to coordinate with our florists to work out the details of the flowers for the cake.  The cake looked amazing and tasted even better.  If you'd like contact information from her, as she runs her cake business out of her personal home, please contact me directly for her phone number.

DJ: Top Dog DJs in Johnstown, PA 
Highly recommend.

Top Dog made planning the music for our reception, in addition to our reception timeline, a very simple process.  One of my favorite parts of working with this company was their online event planner.  One simple form with all of the blanks that needed to be filled in, along with a library of song suggestions for each specific part of the reception.  Dustin, our DJ, walked me through the entire evening during a planning session and really worked in a lot of our preferences for special reception moments.  I am still in love with the pair-by-pair grand entrance montage he prepared; I think it added a really unique detail to our big evening.  Most importantly of all, our dance floor was packed the whole evening!

Flowers: Bob's Floral in Seanor, PA
Highly recommend, but no longer available.

Bob's Floral was a complete a total joy to work with.  Bob and his partner, Greg, provided top-notch customer service, from our very first planning session all the way through the wedding day.  They provided an experienced eye when it came to picking out floral arrangements, and they were very transparent when it came to the costs associated with any specific floral decision.  Our flowers were gorgeous and completed our wedding day.

The reason this vendor is no longer available is that Bob passed away unexpectedly a few months ago.  I'm still saddened to hear about this loss, having gotten to know Bob and Greg through our planning conversations.  I will be eternally grateful that we were lucky enough to have Bob's floral talents grace our wedding day.

Makeup: DIY based on bridal makeup lesson from Pittsburgh Makeup in Pittsburgh, PA 
Highly recommend.

While I did my own makeup for my wedding day, I decided to have a professional consultation a few months prior, and it was one of the best decisions I made.  Julie Marckisotto was very helpful and warm during our meeting.  I loved that she took the time to look at my existing makeup supply, rather than telling me I needed to spend $300 on all new supplies.  Along the same lines, for the makeup she suggested I purchase, she provided a good mix of department store and drugstore brands, which was kind to my wallet.  She walked me through proper application, helpful hints, and common errors, ending the appointment by giving me notes on our session to help me recreate the look.  Even if you don't think professional makeup is what you want or need for your wedding day, I highly encourage you to consider a consultation to make sure you're confident you're looking your best on your wedding day.

Men's suits: Miller's Formalwear in Johnstown, PA
Would not recommend for large group purchases.

I have worked with Miller's in the past for individual suit purchases or individual tuxedo rentals, and they've always delivered.  However, I do have to say that I was not very happy with the service we received during our relationship with them for the wedding.  Simply put, we had arranged to order about 10 suits from them six months in advance of our wedding, and provided them with the measurements they requested.  We were then repeatedly told that the suits should be in "by the end of next week," and many of our follow-up calls went unreturned.  Finally, about two months before our wedding, we were told that the original suit we had requested (a three-piece ensemble) would be unavailable due to an alleged fabric shortage in China, so we were forced to go with vestless suits for the gentlemen. I was (and still am) put off by that response, given that we had done everything within our control to ensure an easy ordering process, and we were not given the same attention to detail in response.  Sure, the men looked dapper, but there was definite room for improvement.  It seemed as though this shop is quintessentially mom and pop and didn't handle bulk orders for weddings on a regular basis, leaving everyone a bit uncertain about how to proceed.  Overall, I wouldn't recommend going to this shop if a bride expressed interest in a bulk suit order.

Photography: Christina Garber in Altoona, PA 
Recommend to everyone I know.  

I stumbled upon Christina's website through a lucky Google search, and I have a feeling I'll be thanking the internet gods for a few decades to come for this discovery.  I honestly cannot say enough about how grateful I am that we worked with Christina for our special day.  She's a joy to work with, both in-person and via email/phone.  Her images are undeniably amazing, and we had all of our wedding photos in-hand within two weeks of our wedding.  Truthfully speaking, I'm mildly upset that I don't know more people planning weddings in the Johnstown-Altoona area; I feel robbed of the chance to gush over this amazing vendor!

Printing: Copies Plus in Johnstown, PA
Highly recommend.

As our wedding weekend drew nearer, I was in a major bind regarding printing.  I had a seating chart, programs, and menus that were completed but needed to be printed, trimmed, backed on foam, and bound, and I didn't have the time or focus to get it all done myself.  Fortunately, my mom suggested outsourcing it all to Copies Plus, and it was a total life-saver.  I dropped a thumb drive and some specific instructions off, and less than 24 hours later, it was all ready to go, and reasonably priced at that!

Reception venue: Sunnehanna Country Club in Johnstown, PA
Highly recommend.

Our reception at Sunnehanna was perfectly executed.  We worked very closely with Sunnehanna's on-site coordinator, Denise, who was a great combination of experienced and innovative.  She took all of my ideas and made them work, creating what I thought was a very personalized, warm reception.  We've fielded many compliments on the food (we used Sunnehanna's on-site catering), and the night flowed perfectly.  I'm not entirely clear on the membership restrictions associated with having a wedding at Sunnehanna, given that it is a private club, but if you're looking for a wedding site in Johnstown and Sunnehanna's an option, you should definitely look into it.

Rehearsal dinner catering: Clark's Corner Store in Johnstown, PA 
Highly recommend.

photo by my brother P
Clark's is a company that my family has worked with innumerable times in the past, yet they always manage to impress me with their food, service, and attention to detail.  Our rehearsal dinner was one of the highlights of our wedding weekend.  While Mr. Snow Cone's parents hosted the event and my parents provided the facility, I don't think either of them had to manage the actual execution of the evening.  Everything was gorgeously prepared and presented, and clean-up was a breeze.  Somehow, Clark's was able to expertly pull off an event that included both hometown pizza and surf and turf, all while making it look natural and effortless.  I'd definitely recommend Clark's for any catering needs, weddings or otherwise. 

Rings: Brooks Diamonds in Pittsburgh, PA
Highly recommend.

Mr. Snow Cone worked closely with Stacey Brooks, owner of this store, to design my engagement ring.  Therefore, it was a no-brainer for us to use the same vendor for our wedding rings.  Neither of us were very high-maintenance in our ring selection, but Stacey still walked us through some options, never rushing our decisions.  Our rings were ready for pick-up in a very timely manner, which allowed us to cross that off our to-do list.  My only cautionary comment about working with Brooks Diamonds is to make an appointment to view rings; the facility isn't very large and it's staffed by only a few individuals.  By making an appointment, you'll ensure you have great customer service and a positive shopping experience.
Transportation: McIlwain Charters in Johnstown, PA
Highly recommend.

 photo by my brother P

McIlwain made it very easy to book wedding day transportation.  We weren't sure if we wanted to shuttle the bridal to the ceremony and/or from ceremony to reception; we also toyed with the idea of shuttling guests to and from the reception.  I can't tell you how many different quotes I requested from them over a span of just a few weeks, but they took it all in stride.  Finally, we settled on the party bus for just the bridal party, for just after the ceremony.  The bus was right on time, the driver was beyond courteous, and the bus was wonderfully air-conditioned.  This party bus was the perfect choice for our group.

Which vendor choice made you happiest during your planning/wedding?

All photos courtesy of the amazing Christina Garber unless otherwise noted.

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