One of my closest friends from college got married over the weekend and Amy and I were invited to attend this special ceremony where two people in love exchange vows to love, grow and troubleshoot through all of life’s trials and tribulations. Not as individuals, but as a team. A tribe of two people who understand that there is no such thing as “I” or “me” when something as sacred as marriage binds two people as one.
It was a weekend to celebrate, but it was also a weekend of nostalgic reunions and adventure for everyone that were there. Where hugs and kisses were the norm between people who are not related by blood, but by the experiences in the past that brought them together. It was one of the best weekends I’ve ever had and seeing smiling faces of old friends and family, only reaffirmed the fact that our bond was strong.
In reality, it would be silly to call the drive up to Pittsburgh a “road trip” or anything related to a long drive for me, especially since I’ve driven up there so many times since college. The long winding road of Route 15, through the wine valleys of Loudoun County, to the connection and mundane highway that is I-70 to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. That being said, I’ve never actually documented the four hour trip up to Pittsburgh.
It was also Amy’s first time visiting the Steel City and like all new road trips, they bring new experiences, therefore I’ve decided to document the whole weekend using both my Leica Q and the Leica M (Typ 240) paired with the Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH FLE and the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 ASPH. Both served a purpose and with anything you do in life, you’re only as good as the skills and the tools that you have to get the job done.
We’ve arrived at our hotel late in the afternoon when the sun was just about completely set and the vivid lights from the city skylines began to overpower the remaining orange glow from what was the last couple of minutes of golden hour.
Coincidentally, Amy and I had ran into the future bride in groom as they were also hectically arriving to their hotel at the same time. It was great seeing Dee and Chris again, albeit I’ve only met Chris once before over a year ago at a bar called “Hals” in the summer. My first impression of Chris was very positive and I think he’ll mesh well with the rest of the rat pack.
What I did not miss about Pittsburgh however and Friday night was no exception. Since our hotel was just 10 minutes away (walking) from downtown across the 6th Street bridge, we’ve decided to take the scenic route and walk into the city for dinner.
The food was fantastic and if you want to try something new, Amy ordered the duck liver pâté served with toast, paired with a cocktail. It was pretty good and I was surprised that I would like it considering that I’m not the biggest fan of pâté anything (or liver for that matter).
Keeping up with Ev
One of the first things we had to do on our non-existing itinerary was to meet up with Ev at her new place close to our hotel by the North Shore. Originally we were thinking about walking, and I’m sure we could have done that on any other day, but that evening was too cold and windy to walk at that distance.We quickly decided to call a Lyft to pick us up but the streets were an absolute shit-show due to the light show that was going on; therefore a lot of roads were closed off even further complicating things for the driver. We’ve waited what seemed like twenty minutes outside, huddled by the entrance of the Byham Theater until we finally caught our ride to Evanne’s.
Seeing Evanne, Momma G, Alex, Zack and finally Chris (he reluctantly showed up 😉 ) and spending time together is always a good time as they are my family. Home away from home.
This was also Amy’s first time on meeting the Giuliano family and she just ate everything up (literally and figuratively) as the family welcomed her to the family as if she was their own.
Side Note: I don’t remember what beer I was drinking that evening, but that 9% ABV beer that Ev and Zack had in their fridge definitely had me pretty drunk. Zack and Ev, if you read this, remind me what I was drinking.
We ended up at a small bar under Zack and Ev’s apartment for a couple of rounds of drinks and one of the most interesting thing that happened was when a Zack was being hit on by another guy. Confusing to see, but funny to watch as Zack felt uncomfortable.
Saturday could have gone a little better for us, especially for me since I could feel the fallout from last night’s shenanigans with the Giulianos. I could feel the back of my skull whisper to be in pain (not sharp pain, but a dull ache if I moved around too much) and when Amy and I both went downstairs to grab breakfast, it was a very slow and methodical process for me as I was trying very hard to keep my shit together.
I saw Dee’s younger brother Alex in the same lobby, looking like he just finished a movie scene with his Wayfarer style sunglasses on and baseball cap.
“Good morning!” He said in a cheery way, with a hint of drunkness or a tinge of a hangover. I could never tell with Al.
“Good morning,” Amy and I said, but without the same enthusiasm as Alex.
We were greeted by one of the hosts in the conservatory, whom escorted us to the elevators that took us up to the second floor. After a few seconds, the doors opened up and we walked around the corner into the entrance of gardens.
That was everyone’s reaction when we walked out of the elevator after being guided from the entrance.
I’m not kidding when I say this, but this was definitely the most impressive indoor botanical garden Amy and I have ever seen. We were greeted almost immediately with a tall Christmas tree, adorned with decorations that would would see at malls or luxury hotel lobbies. See the various colors of ornaments definitely made it stand out from the lush, green color backdrop.
After going through what seemed like a maze (it only felt that way because we were experiencing sensory overload from being draped with colorful plants all around us), we eventually made it to a small, but tall greenhouse that was adjacent to the main domed building.
Family was already gathered there, mingling during this small reunion as what looked like 30 people on the high end.
Dee was not kidding when she said that this would be a small and private wedding. Amy and I were fortunate enough to be invited to a ceremony where only the closest relative and friends were invited.
I looked over to the right and saw who has to be the official wedding photographer since he was dual wielding two cameras in what looked like a cross-body style. After a closer peek, they were both the latest Sony A7 series of cameras paired with what looked like a Voigtlander and a Zeiss Batis (I call them “Zony”) wide angle lens.
“Oh…a Leica! Do you mind if I check it out?” He asked.
After chatting about our gear, we were asked to be seated as it was time for the main event.
As everyone looked behind as the music hit its cue, the white silhouette of the bride can be seen (just barely because she is short) as Dee walked down the aisle, escorted by her father who looked proud and emotional.
I couldn’t help but look to the front of the garden to see Chris flush a little bit as a man would look when he is both nervous and happy at the same time. This is my 21st wedding and I have to say that it never gets old (I have another wedding in December and I’ll post photos from that as well).
Private Photoshoot in the Gardens
Going back to our initial reaction after walking into the beautiful botanical gardens, Amy and I had a little photoshoot to take advantage of the amazing soft lighting and the greenery from the plants around us. I’ve switched over to the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 ASPH, one of my favorite 50mm lenses of all time, short of the legendary Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH which I can’t afford (but I accept donations 🙂 ). For a lens that is literally so much cheaper than the Leica equivalent, the results speak for themselves.
The gap between the ceremony and the reception gave us enough time to wander the streets downtown to grab a bite. After Yelping around a little bit, we found a local brick oven pizza place for dinner, which had the best candy bacon we’ve ever had.
The food was overall very good and it was enough to get us through the rest of the afternoon to walk around and explore the city before the reception. (Sorry that I don’t have any pictures from the restaurant but the lighting was pretty poor).
The reception was held at PNC Park on the clubhouse floor where most of the shenanigans took place. One of the first things that we’ve noticed upon arriving on the floor was the amount of appetizers that were laid out for the guest…if you can call them appetizer.
“The sliders are legit the size of full-size burgers,” Ashley said and she was right. They were no normal burger.
The beauty of weddings is that it is the one time in most people’s lives where they’re bound by family obligations to attend, to the best of their ability. Everyone migrates to one location where people can catch up and exchange hugs; the same people they have not seen in years.
This is my favorite thing about weddings.
Despite the logistics involved regarding hotel and travel within a short time-frame condensed into a weekend, it’s my favorite reason to travel. If it’s for my family and friends in Pittsburgh, every weekend seems like wedding weekend to me.
Congratulations Chris and Dee!
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