Here comes the bride, all dressed in…a Medieval-style gown. Watching her ascend down the aisle are her family and friends, looking more like they are about to attend a Renaissance Faire than a wedding.
While not a traditional choice, theme weddings have become more popular in Pittsburgh in recent years. Whether happy couples want to re-enact a scene from Cinderella or are interested in a Corpse Bride theme, the sky is the limit in creating the wedding of their dreams.
Bricelyn Phillips, the owner of Forevermore Events, said she has received more than a few requests for themed weddings that extend beyond the traditional wedding day celebration. One of the most memorable was a couple with a ‘til death do us part‘ premise for their special day.
“The bride wore black, and everything was a dead theme,” said Phillips. “There were lots of skeletons and skeleton pieces for decorations. They had flowers, but they made them look like they were dead.”
The couple fashioned their theme after the 2005 Corpse Bride movie from Disney. Set in a fictional Victorian-era village in England, the movie is based on a 17th-century Jewish folktale.
“They really liked the idea of the movie,” said Phillips. “They even used the Corpse Bride lingo during their ceremony, which included the wedding vows. They intertwined and drank from a chalice. It was very different.”
Another couple that she’s working with has expressed interest in a Pittsburgh Zoo theme for their nuptials. They are still in the planning stages but plan to include Pittsburgh-themed items in the wedding. Their idea includes taking their wedding photos at popular Pittsburgh venues.
Sometimes couples come to her with an idea but not a fully formed theme to go with it. When that happens, Phillips said she works with them to put it all together in a way that makes sense.
One of her upcoming weddings fell into this category. The couple had their engagement photos taken at the Washington County Fair and decided they wanted to carry that over into a wedding theme in some creative way. So, Phillips worked up a carnival theme for them.
The wedding invitations are designed to look like old-time carnival tickets, and guests tear off the ‘stubs’ to RSVP. The wedding favors are designed like the peanut bags found at a circus. Even the reception-under a “big top” tent—follows the carnival theme.
“They have artwork of themselves dressed up recreating old carnival posters, and they are bringing them to their wedding for decorations,” said Phillips. “The bride plans to wear a traditional wedding dress, but the groom has a tux with coattails and a top hat similar to what a ringmaster would wear at the circus.”
Couples interested in planning a theme wedding should always start with the venue and other vendors, said Phillips. She works with a few vendors who can help with themed dressing for brides and grooms. The Pittsburgh Renaissance Faire is among them.
“I reached out to them for a couple who wanted to have a medieval-style wedding. They rented outfits for the bridal party. Guests also had the option to dress up and look the part, too,” said Phillips.
One of the most popular local venues for medieval-themed weddings is Shakespeare’s Restaurant & Pub in Ellwood City. “I’ve had Renaissance weddings,” said Sean Fitzpatrick, general manager. “I’ve had castle weddings where a bride and groom have dressed up as a king and queen. We even had a jester.”
Among the most memorable themed weddings hosted at the venue was one based on the Harry Potter movies. “It was kind of cool because they had wands for favors,” said Fitzpatrick.
Because the restaurant is a castle, it can be used for weddings with medieval themes, Cinderella or other Princess Bride themes, and even murder-mystery themes. “We’ve had grooms wear hats and breastplates and carry swords,” said Fitzpatrick. “The girls love being married in a castle. It’s very picturesque. We’ve had brides say that they want to get married here simply because they could get amazing wedding pictures on site.”
Booking Shakespeare’s Restaurant & Pub for a themed wedding venue can include a custom menu to fit the theme. All catering is done on-site and to order, so couples can customize as much as they desire. “The Renaissance ones usually go all in,” said Fitzpatrick. “They’ll ask for turkey legs for the meal.”
Fall is fast becoming a popular time for themed weddings at the restaurant, said Fitzpatrick. He recommended reaching out to confirm and secure dates as soon as couples know they want to use the venue as part of their wedding theme.
Phillips said to help meet the growing demand for customized venues, she plans to expand her business to include an a la carte, blank slate venue. “It would be a place where you could start from scratch with decorations to have everything blend around your theme,” she said.