Industry Friends

When I was in college, I finally realized I wanted to help people put out fires, while bringing vision to life effortlessly. I took writing and PR classes, business classes, crisis management classes, marketing and event planning classes, got involved, volunteered, got out and spoke with different cities, I mean I put my heart into this goal. In 2013, I planned my first solo event as a major surprise party and got the best reactions and feedback I could hope for; cloud nine was nothing compared to what I felt. Then, I graduated shortly after, moved to a new city where I got involved in the technology world and slowly felt my passion fading. I wasn’t motivated, I wasn’t connecting with the story of love and concept of people’s event ideas, and there was no real communication! I had to make a change. I quit my job, moved back to my hometown, wrote a business plan, met with lawyers and accountants, and just started putting myself out there. I offered my services for with birthday parties, smaller events, fundraisers, luncheons, showers, and then it happened…I got my first wedding. It was surreal and flawless and to this day I keep in contact with brides who let me into their hearts and invested in me.

Then my boyfriend at the time (now husband) flew me to Paris, got down on one knee, and I recognized I had my own wedding to plan for. When I was getting married and looking for some help and reaching out to vendors in this city, I quickly took notes as a bride and vendor for what I would and wouldn’t stand for. Some were amazing (who I ended up working with) and often told me to reach out for new tips and tricks. Some I didn’t mesh with, but you could clearly tell they were talented, passionate, and driven in their field so I just thanked them, and then there was one who instantly snapped on the phone, acting better than me, and I quickly learned that certain sublime attitudes were not for me, but they were “successful” so maybe that’s what brides wanted??? I couldn’t imagine that to be true, but I was new and open to the benefit of the doubt, even though  I thankfully went in a different direction. That loftiness isn’t me and I wouldn’t let this vendor ruin the kindness and togetherness I felt Pittsburgh vendors have.

Starting in the wedding industry is almost like starting as a new kid in school half way through the year. People have their contacts, their go-to duties, and their clientele. You try to connect with a few other vendors with your title and they hate the competition; I had an experience where I used a famous movie quote and had another “professional” try to threaten me over, writing some of us were “the worst”and that it was hers. After I sat in my car cracking up at ignorance, I was fixated on how I knew that name since I never met her before….then it hit me. Remember that vendor who wouldn’t help me/ was above me prior? I get it. Some planners or vendors for example can’t handle the pressure of being all hands on deck for a wedding, including kind, but that’s where confidence in your passion comes in.

I wasn’t discouraged, but I was guarded and that certainly was not how I was trying to act in an industry that celebrates and promotes the happiest of day! So I started to reach out to other industry goers; DJs, limo drivers, bakers, lighting professionals, day of coordinators, event planners, caterers, bloggers, photographers, and made some life long friends and great teammates; guiding me and promoting me while I can share their expertise with my brides. I mean, these vendors are amazing! Going above and beyond for the people who trust them and invest in them. The men and women I have met who have offered me advice or feedback will never go unnoticed, even if we are “competition”.

With DSE, there is nothing I won’t do to ensure your day is as smooth as possible, ( within reason, I mean I cannot go against a venue or the law, but i’ll do my best to make your vision a reality with all obstacles) that’s my promise to you. I promise to put you at ease with my input and give you the best advice I can and without looking down on your ideas. With 6 plus years experience in this industry, I know a thing and two and will share it with you! Need vendor help, let me introduce you to my friends! Ain’t no body got time for bad vibes.

I have a passion for planning, I have multiple degrees and a portfolio to back me up, I believe in open and honest communication, and I believe in crisis management to its finest. It’s true that planning a wedding or large event is stressful and that’s why brides have me because I have personal experience on both ends and know what’s acceptable for YOUR big day and what’s not.

visit to learn more.

Image may contain: 4 people, including Jessica A Mc Kelvey, people smiling, people standing and indoor

DSE team and DJ Jess ( )

Wait, I Supply My Own Alcohol?

One of the hardest parts of planning the reception is planning how much alcohol to have. If alcohol is important for your big day, the count will depend on how many guests you plan to have, how much these guests tend to drink, is this an open bar, does your venue hold the proper liquor licenses to serve hard alcohol, etc.

First, let’s mention a few of our favorite tips to consider before we dive into bar options. 

The time and day of the week of your wedding will influence the amount of alcohol people will want to drink. For example, attendees at a Friday night wedding will most likely drink much more than attendees at a Sunday brunch wedding. Also, if you know that your family can and will drink a lot of wine but will shy away from hard liquor, you should plan to have less hard liquor (if any at all) and more wine to compensate.

Let’s talk about the wedding environment you’re hoping to have. If you’re planning to have a classy, formal affair you’ll probably shy away from having an open bar so that people don’t get overly rowdy. OR if you want to ensure there’s ample alcohol to go around but also stay within a reasonable budget, opting for beer and wine only is a cheaper alternative. You can also offer limited options to avoid buying many different kinds of alcohols. When offering limited options, remember that you don’t need to cater to everyone’s preferences. After all, this is your wedding and the spirits you choose to serve should reflect your personalities in addition to what your friends and family enjoy.

Open Bar

An open bar is when the bride and groom prepay for their guests to enjoy unlimited drinks for the duration for which the bar is paid for. This is the most expensive bar option for your wedding because you will need to have many different types of alcohols and mixers as well as an experienced bartender who will serve your guests drinks.

Cash Bar

A cash bar is where you have a fully hosted bar but instead of you paying for the drinks, the guests pay for the drinks as they consume them. Many couples choose to have a cash bar in addition to providing champagne and wine for toasts and dinner so that they are not responsible for footing the entire alcohol bill.

The Signature Cocktail

Having a signature cocktail is becoming a more prevalent option in modern weddings today. If your wedding has an overall theme, having a cocktail to go along with it is a fun addition. It’s also a cheaper alternative as you’ll get to buy in bulk.

Limited Bar

A limited bar is when the bride and groom pay for all of the alcohol, but serve only a limited number of types of drinks so that they don’t need to pay for a bunch of different kinds of alcohol.

Now that you have decided to purchase your own alcohol for your wedding, you’ll need to take to make sure you have a successful bar:

 Determine the quantity to purchase

The amount of each alcohol you buy depends on the number of guests you’ll have and when you want to serve drinks. However, the actual amount that will be consumed is impossible to predict and it’s better to have extra than not enough.

A good rule of thumb for the amount of beer, wine and liquor to buy is to assume each guest will consume about two drinks for the cocktail hour and one drink per hour every hour after that. You’ll need to calculate how much of each item you’ll need.

From our friends who own bars around the city, DSE learned that. if you have 100 guests, purchasing 7 cases of beer (24 bottles per case = 168 bottles) will most likely be more than sufficient as not everyone will want to drink beer. In general, evening receptions tend to consume more red wine than white wine. Each bottle of wine is 5 glasses of wine, so if you think your guests will consume red and white wine evenly then 12 bottles of each (one case each) will be sufficient (5 glasses per bottle x 24 bottles = 120 glasses). Of course, if you know your guests are big wine drinkers you’ll need to adjust accordingly.

Remember that this is your wedding and your guests will appreciate whatever drinks you offer them for free– Drink up!

xo, Dayna J

Being a Bridesmaid 101

You bestie is getting married and it finally happened…… you’ve been asked to be her bridesmaid. You’re ready to talk all things weddings at the drop of the hat. But if you’re a first-time bridesmaid, it can also be a bit nerve-wracking too. So, check out some of my favorite tips of being a bridesmaid!!

1. LISTEN to the bride Wedding planning brings all sorts of stresses, so you need to be the calm in the midst of all the wedding madness. Be the bride’s confidante, let her vent if she needs to, talk non-wedding things if that’s what she needs too and try to help her see the fun side if she’s starting to get overwhelmed

2. Show you’re interested in helping her gather inspiration and idea…it’s all about making her feel comfortable to talk weddings and building up the hype! I mean a wedding day is super exciting after all!

3. Attend dress fittings of course it’s your job to help your girl find her dream dress, but it’s also a good idea to be there for the fitting too to find out how to help her into it, and tie up the bustle if there is one when it’s time to hit the dance floor. (If you’re anything like me, I had NO IDEA how to bustle a dress)

3. Brides are already overwhelmed, offer to take specific tasks off her plate. Whether it’s chasing up RSVPs or finding the perfect shade of navy for the ties, delegation can be tricky for some brides so make it one less thing on her to-do list.

4. Be on makeup and lipstick alert all day. The makeup artist will be long gone so it’s up to you to keep the blushing bride, well, blushing! Be the MOH who carries the lip gloss around, its fine and brides appreciate you for it.

5. Stay nearby for the photos, just because the ceremony is over doesn’t mean you can sneak off for a drink – your pal might need help adjusting her dress or someone to hold her bouquet. and if you don’t have a day of coordinator, you’re also probably going to need to wrangle guests for all the different group portraits!

6. Be the first one to join them on the dance floor. It’s a party after all and what better group of friends to dance with the bride and groom than their wedding party!

xo, Dayna J

photo by: Andrew Bair Photography

Our 6 Engagement Shoots Tips

Engagement photos are one of the first * ahhhh this is really happening* moments. I remember when I was taking our and honestly, what a dream. Thankfully, my friends took some great advice as you can see below! Carlyn K Photography took our feature photo and we are already swooning over her work!

What are DSE top 6 tips to remember for your engagement shoot?

1. Wearing Something Conformable is Key!

I’m going to guess that this is no secret, but it really is the most important thing. If you choose clothes that are too tight or clingy, you’ll spend your whole session picking at them or covering up. If you choose something you’ve never worn before, you’ll be worried about how you look in it or may discover it’s actually terribly uncomfortable, which can come across in your photos. Choose outfits that make you feel like 5 million. If you do purchase something new, take it out for a test run (Hi can anyone say date night excuse)!

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting, ocean, sky, cloud, outdoor, water and nature

Carlyn K Photography

2. Get a professional photographer!

Now, professional doesn’t always mean expensive. You can always ask your friend who is a genuinely inspiring photographer, because they take their work serious.  Your engagement is such a short and special chapter in your life and your relationship, and you deserve to commemorate that time with beautiful photos together! If possible, we highly recommend booking your engagement photos with your wedding photographer. This gives you an opportunity to get comfortable and connect with your photographer prior to your big day, making for even better photos from your wedding.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, people walking, outdoor and nature

Mann & Wife photography

3. *clink clink* Kiss!

If you haven’t spent a lot of time in front of a camera or maybe you just get a little shy, it can totally show during your shoot. A quick way to loosen up while still getting great photos is to go in for a kiss! This can help you connect with your partner and forget the camera is even around, which makes for more natural photos anyway.

Plus, everyone loves a good candid!

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, bridge, shoes, beard, child and outdoor
MichaelWill Photography

4. Make it a day adventure!

One of the best pieces of advice we’ve heard from photographers is to make your engagement session part of a day-long date. Not only does this give you plenty of time for photos without feeling rushed, but starting your day in this mindset helps you feel connected and romantic as you head into the photo shoot. Alyson , our bride below, chose a book store, a cafe, a park, and invited her photographer to meet her there to grab a few shots before changing locations.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting
Amy Peppercorn Photography

5. Important Scenery to You

Location is everything, so before heading to your neighborhood park for engagement photos, think about what you really love as a couple and what places reflect that. If you relish over making coffee together and snuggling on the couch with some good ole classic movie, maybe an at-home session is right for you. Show and capture your true colors! Just look how much fun Adele is having!

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, shoes and indoor

Carlyn K Photography

6. Schedule your session around the light!

You may have heard that there are certain times of the day that are better for photos and that’s all because of the light! Maybe you enjoy the overcast, (which made our wedding photos ~amazing~ or maybe you love golden hour, which is that beautiful time of day just before the sun sets. We vote early morning light because it can also be magical, so you may want to consider a sunrise session where you arrive at your first location just as the sun starts to rise.Image may contain: 1 person, child, tree, sky, outdoor and nature

Jillian Knight Photography

Have more ideas? Let us know in the comments! 

xo, Dayna

Dear Dayna—Uninvited plus ones

Dear Dayna,
Due to financial constraints, I’m having a small wedding. My fiancé and I are only
inviting close friends and family with limited plus ones. We invited my cousin—who
we’ll call Chad for the sake of the story—without a plus one, but after RSVP-ing yes,
Chad texted me asking if his girlfriend can attend as well. I understand why Chad
wants to bring his longtime girlfriend, but we’re not very close to Chad and have
never met his girlfriend. I feel awkward saying no, but if all of our distant family
members brought their uninvited significant others, the wedding would be much
larger than we anticipated—or budgeted for. How can I communicate this to Chad
without hurting his feelings?

Plus One Blues

Dear Plus One Blues,

Addressing uninvited plus ones is a tale as old as time—if dinosaurs had wedding
blogs, they’d probably have how-to posts about diplomatically telling your T-Rex
neighbor that no, her new boyfriend cannot attend your wedding. Nevertheless, that
doesn’t make the problem any less challenging.
First, take a deep breath and remember that this is your wedding day. You’ve poured
lots of time and energy into curating your guest list based on the strength of your
relationships, what you want out of your wedding, and, as you importantly
mentioned, your budget. There is no shame in wanting to limit your guests to those
who are closest to you, and you don’t need to feel guilty communicating this.
Nevertheless, keep in mind how wonderful it is to have a cousin like Chad who,
despite not being very close to you, wants to shower you with love and
encouragement on your wedding day.
I recommend scheduling a time to meet with Chad in person (or over the phone, if
meeting in person isn’t possible) to delicately explain that you’d like to limit your
wedding guests to those originally invited. Start by telling him how excited you are
that he’ll be present for such a momentous occasion, and thank him taking part in
your wedding day. Next, tell him that you unfortunately do not have room on your
guest list for his girlfriend. Be direct. It sounds like the reason she’s not invited isn’t
personal, so say that—let Chad know that budget constraints motivated the choice
to have a small wedding and you’re afraid to go down the slippery slope of tacking
on additional plus ones. Lastly, talk to Chad about positive alternatives. If you’ve yet
to finalize your seating chart, find out if there are any guests he’s close with so you
can seat them together. If it’s geographically plausible, ask Chad if he and his
girlfriend would like to spend time with you and your fiancé in a more intimate
setting, like brunch or game night.

Enter the conversation with the goal of answering his question—no, his uninvited
girlfriend cannot come to an invite-only event—and expressing how grateful you
are for your relationship with him. Saying no to a family member will likely feel
uncomfortable no matter what, but if you approach it with a spirit of gratitude for
your guests and respect for your own needs, you may be able to turn it into a growth

The DSE team


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