Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers » One of the "50 Top US Wedding Photographers" - weddzilla.com

What a surprise this morning when my friend Kate McElwee messaged me to say that I’d been named one of the Top 50 US Wedding Photographers by the wedding planning website Weddzilla!

Best wedding photographers in the USA

I’m friends with many of the photographers on this list, including my dear friends Kate and Steve Koo, and I’m so honored to be named along with them. Whatever accolades that my photos might bring are a reflection of the wonderful people who I am privileged to work with.

Here’s a screenshot of the award! So they misspelled Pittsburgh, but you still get the idea 😀

Photo of the award naming Joe Appel Photography one of the top 50 wedding photographers in the country

In other news, a few weeks back just after Federal Judge overturned Pennsylvania’s ban on gay marriage I was contacted by David Highfield of KDKA news for a story that he was doing on the impact that the decision would have on the wedding industry. I met him for an on-camera interview at my office in Highland Park and then spent the next few hours fretting over whether or not I sounded like a complete fool. Thankfully, I didn’t 🙂

Here’s a link to the video of the news report.


  • Trish Hooper - June 12, 2014 - 1:19 am

    If you are looking for a wedding photographer, hire Joe! Awesome photographer, better person.

  • Jenny Romer Scherrbaum - June 12, 2014 - 1:33 pm

    Yes….Joe is great!!

newlywed couple walks hand in hand across the roberto clemente bridge in pittsburghI’ve had this post from Courtney and Rick’s Renaissance Hotel Wedding in Pittsburgh on the schedule for a couple of weeks now. It’s been a busy start to the wedding season and frankly the task of updating my website has fallen by the wayside.

Coincidentally, I talked with Rick on the phone yesterday and I was glad to hear that both he and Courtney are very happy and enjoying full lives and busy careers. It’s always a pleasure to find out what’s going on with couples in the months and years after their weddings. I’m privileged to be with them on Day 1 of their marriage. Life goes on and changes happen, which is why I believe that having a set of photos that document what the day was like and show how you felt on Day 1 is so important.

Courtney and her girls share a toast:

bride and her bridesmaids share a toast in their room at the renaissance hotel

Courtney’s mom Sheila helps her get her dress on as the bridesmaids look on:

dramatic side light as a bride

Since the wedding ceremony was to be downstairs and the guests were already downstairs, Courtney and Rick had their first look in the suite. It was a beautiful and private moment, just like it ought to be:

(Lisa’s photos below):

a groom smiles as his bride walks up behind him before the first looka bride smiles as her groom sees her in her wedding dress for the first time

There was great light coming in the windows, so why not do a few portraits in the suite? Courtney’s bouquet was by the always-elegant Allison McGeary:

gorgeous portraits of a bride and groom on their wedding day

The ceremony was on the grand staircase in the lobby of the Renaissance:

a bride

The combination of white marble and red carpeting is beautiful and timeless:

bride and groom have their wedding ceremony on the grand staircase at the pittsburgh renaissance

a bride laughs while saying her wedding vows

First kiss (photo by Lisa):

bride and groom have their first kiss

Beautiful bride in a beautiful gown:

a bride stands facing away from the camera revealing the scoop back of her wedding gown

The couple is introduced into the reception:

bride and groom wave as they are introduced during their wedding reception

Courtney laughs as DJ Kelli Burns talks about members of the bridal party (Lisa’s photo below):

bride laughs with her bridesmaids during a wedding reception

The ring bearer, Zayden, smells the flowers of his mom Tessie’s bouquet while Courtney and Rick have their first dance:

a little boy sniffs the flowers on a bridesmaid

I love this photo by Lisa of Courtney and Rick as they feed each other cake:

closeup shot of a bride and groom feeding each other wedding cake

The couple listens to toasts while sitting at the sweetheart table:

bride and groom laugh during toasts from the best man and maid of honor

Sheila surprised Courtney by having her favorite teacher from high school perform a song during the reception. While still a teenager, Courtney said that when she got married she wanted him to perform at her wedding:

bride and groom dance to a song from a guitar player

Parent’s dances:

bride dances with her mothergroom and his mom walk to the dance floor

These guys were so sweet!:

two men hold hands while dancing with their datesbride and her friends sing a song on the dance floor during a wedding reception

Nothing like a little AC/DC to bring out the air guitar players in the crowd:

a man plays air guitar during a wedding receptiona lady yells as she dances with the groom during his wedding reception

Sheila bangs on a pot to signal time t0 change partners during the money dance:

mother of the bride bangs a pot with a wooden spoon during the money dance at a wedding receptionbride and groom wear sunglasses as they dance.

So there you have it, some of my favorite photos from the day. One of my main goals this season is to keep the site updated. I’ve got a lot of really great weddings in the pipeline and I’m excited to share the photos with you. So check back soon.

  • Kaethe Richter - June 4, 2014 - 2:51 pm

    beautiful light, joe!!

  • Sherry Grondin Pickerell - June 4, 2014 - 2:55 pm

    These are absolutely gorgeous Joe!

Sacred Heart Church Wedding. Phipps Conservatory Reception.

Bride and Groom stand in front of colorful paintings at the Special Events Hall in Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh

Kristin and Tom’s wedding was an elegant reflection of their refined sense of style, taste in art and love of family. This was evident in their choice of venues: Everybody got ready for the day at the fantastic Mansions on Fifth in Shadyside.

Kristin and her mom Pat share a moment as Kristin puts her dress on. Pat made the dress for her own wedding and was thrilled to see Kristin wear it for her wedding:

A bride and her mom smile at each other as she puts her veil on at the Mansions on Fifth in Shadyside

Meanwhile down the hall, Tom is reflected in a mirror as he buttons up his vest (Lisa’s photo):

A groom is reflected in the mirror as he puts on his vest while getting ready for his wedding at the Mansions on Fifth in Shadyside

What a terrific headpiece to go along with the dress:

A bride is reflected in a mirror as she poses for a portrait at the Mansions on Fifth in Shadyside

Tom hands over the custom-designed wedding bands to his best man Paul (Lisa’s photo):

The best man checks to make sure that he

Kristin’s long veil trails behind as her dad Randy walks her down the aisle at Sacred Heart Church:

A bride and her father walk down the long aisle at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh

Father John Riccardo, the priest from Tom’s family’s parish in Detroit made the trip to Pittsburgh to celebrate the wedding ceremony:

Bride and groom stand at the altar at Sacred Heart Church as they say their vows during their wedding

A romantic gesture as Kristin and Tom walk down the aisle after the ceremony:

A groom kisses the hand of his bride as they recess down the aisle at Sacred Heart Church in Shadyside, Pittsburgh

Tom’s sister Jennifer congratulates the couple just after the ceremony:

A groom

We didn’t have to go too far for portraits afterwards since the east end of Pittsburgh offers a number of beautiful spots. We took this one in the open shade of the Sycamore trees in front of the Carnegie Library in Oakland:

A bride looks at the camera as her groom rests his forehead on her during an outdoor portrait near the Carnegie Library in Oakland Pittsburgh

Some details include the wedding bands, Kristin’s Jimmy Choo’s, a fantastic cake, and the Special Events Hall at Phipps Conservatory. Hanging in the hall are two panels that Kristin and Tom each painted – they’re both talented artists. The design was carried over to the boxes of treats that the couple’s guests received:

Wedding details include custom-designed wedding bands, Jimmy Choo shoes, black-eyed susan flowers, and wedding party favors

First dance. (Lisa’s photo):

a bride and groom share their first dance as the bride hugs the groom

One from my angle:

guests gather around a bride and groom as they share their first dance together at Phipps Conservatory Special Events Hall

Another one by Lisa:

bride and groom laugh as they dance together at Phipps Conservatory Special Events Hall in Pittsburgh

Randy cracked his daughters up during his toast:

Bride and her sister laugh with their father during a wedding reception at the Special Events hall at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh

I love this photo of Pat as the sun was setting outside the wall of windows in the Special Events Hall:

Mother of the bride is lit dramatically from the setting sun at Phipps Conservatory special events hall

Father/daughter dance:

bride and her father dance together during her wedding reception at Phipps Conservatory Special Events hall in Pittsburgh

Tom and his mom:

groom is hugged by his mother as they dance together during a wedding reception at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh

Flower girl Elaina ruled the dance floor!

little girl in a cute white dress dances during a wedding reception at Phipps Conservatory

Next two photos by Lisa:

A woman grabs the cheeks of her dance partner during their reception at Phipps Conservatorybride and groom raise their hands in the air while they dance during their wedding reception at the special events hall at phipps conservatory in pittsburgh

While the dancing went on inside, some fine cigars were passed around outside. The light caught the smoke just right in this one:

smoke from a cigar is backlit as it rises in the air during a wedding reception in pittsburgh on a summer evening


  • daniellabean photography - May 23, 2014 - 8:59 pm

    You certainly captured some great moments – LOVE the last shot!

Wedding photography at the Pittsburgh Renaissance Hotel:

While looking over these photos as I prepared this post, I was struck by how much laughter played a part in Kara and Brian’s wedding day. It’s been a while since their wedding last summer and I can’t help but smile thinking back on that day.

Bride and groom embrace and laugh on a beautiful summer afternoon in downtown Pittsburgh

The crew at the Renaissance Pittsburgh did a wonderful job with the Symphony Ballroom doing double duty as both the ceremony and reception site. The room was beautifully appointed for the ceremony and within a short span of time it was transformed into a grand space for dining and dancing. All of that took planning and I know that Kara and her mother Jenny along with the hotel staff put a lot of effort into the event. The results were outstanding, check it out:

Kara gets a look at herself in a full-length mirror as she and her bridesmaids got ready for the ceremony:

A bride looks at her dress in a full-length mirror at the renaissance hotel in pittsburgh before her wedding ceremony

Lots of laughs while they waited:

a bride and her bridesmaids share a laugh during a silly moment as they get ready for her wedding at the renaissance hotel in Pittsburgh

A note to bridesmaids out there, Eat n’ Park Smiley Cookies with blue icing will turn your tongue blue. But hey, it matched her dress and eyes perfectly 😀

a blue tongue is the result of a bridesmaid eating a lollypop prior to a wedding

Kara’s mom looks at her beautiful daughter:

The mother of a bride looks lovingly at her daughter before the wedding ceremonya bride and her bridesmaids relax as they wait for the wedding ceremony to begin

In the arcade on the second floor of the hotel just before the ceremony:

a bride watches as her bridesmaids process into the wedding ceremony

Kara and her dad Joe before the entering the ceremony:

a bride and her father stand together and smile at each other before a wedding ceremony

Brian and Kara obviously enjoyed the ceremony, there were lots of laughs (Lisa’s photo):

a groom smiles at his bride as they say their vows to each other

Reverend Larry Goyda officiated. He’s a great guy.

a bride bends over with laughter as she says her vows to her groom during their wedding ceremony

The light coming in through the windows couldn’t have been more beautiful. The ceremony had such an open and airy feeling:

a bride and groom are introduced as husband and wife at the end of their wedding ceremony in a hotel in pittsburgh pennsylvania

The Pirate’s Parrot buzzed past while we were out on the Clemente Bridge taking portraits of the bridal party. It was nice of him to dress for the occasion:

the mascot of the pittsburgh pirates, the pirate parrot, rides a bicycle past a wedding party on the Roberto Clemente Bridge


wedding details including blue and white flowers, a guest signing print in the shape of a tree, wedding dress and bridesmaids dresses hanging on hangers with the women

Kara and Brian are introduced:

a bride and groom raise their hands triumphantly as they

Joe’s speech was very funny!

father of the bride laughs as he gives a humorous speech during a wedding reception

Matron of Honor Stephanie’s speech:

matron of honor smiles at the bride during her speech at the wedding reception

Remember, when you ask your brother to be your best man, you’re asking someone who has intimate knowledge of you and a lifetime of embarrassing stories. Brian’s brother Jason shared some of those, but kept it all in good fun:

best man gives a speech as bride and groom laugh during their wedding reception

First dance:

first dance of a bride and groom in a beautifully lit ballroom with yellow and purple colors

This was a dancing crowd, for sure. I’ve got so many wonderful photos from that part of the evening, but here’s a sampling of my favorites:

a cute little girl dances at a wedding reception in pittsburgh pennsylvaniaa bride dances with her aunt during a wedding receptionmother of the bride dances with her brother while they make funny faces at a wedding receptiona woman in a hot pink dress dances sandwiched between two men during a wedding receptiona young man is lifted on the shoulders of an older relative as they dance during a wedding receptiontwo men play air guitar on their ties as they dance during a wedding reception

At the end of the evening, Kara’s family got together with an encouraging message for an injured relative who couldn’t attend the wedding:

family members hold signs up in support of an injured relative who couldn

The sunset that evening was as beautiful as I’ve ever seen. It was the perfect end to the day:

a luridly beautiful sunset over the Roberto Clemente Bridge and PNC park across the Allegheny River from the Renaissance Hotel

Rachel from Pittsburgh Wedding Cinema made a couple of wonderful films from the day. Here’s a link to the shorter of the two – the Highlight Reel. Check it out.

  • Scott Williams - April 29, 2014 - 2:08 am

    Great coverage Joe, love the reception dancing pictures!

  • Sherry Grondin Pickerell - April 29, 2014 - 2:13 am

    What a fun crowd Joe! Beautiful work!

  • Julie Lowry - April 29, 2014 - 2:33 am

    The pic of the girl getting sandwiched on the dance floor is awesome!

  • Britney Gardner - April 29, 2014 - 12:32 pm

    This wedding looks so fun – I just want to jump in and be a part of it!

  • Candice C. Cusic - April 29, 2014 - 1:00 pm

    Such great images!!

  • Kate McElwee - April 29, 2014 - 1:37 pm

    Joe, these are wonderful! Great images and such a fun looking wedding. Love the bride’s smile!

  • Jenny DeMarco - April 29, 2014 - 1:47 pm

    What a fun bride! Awesome Joe!

  • Gulnara Samoilova - April 29, 2014 - 2:47 pm

    Love, love the photos. What a fabulous wedding and beautiful people!!

  • Katrina Wallace - April 29, 2014 - 4:32 pm

    Such a fun wedding! You captured so many great moments!! Beautiful work!

  • Ed Atrero - April 30, 2014 - 12:23 am

    Beautiful wedding and couple!

Wedding photography at the Succop Conservancy is always a pleasure. It was the perfect place for friends and family from all over the world to gather to celebrate Casey and StĂ©phane’s wedding.

Bride and groom stand in a field of flowers as the summer sunshine rims them

I grew up less than 10 miles from the place, so it’s definitely home turf for me. It’s one of those places that invites people to relax and be happy in one another’s company. I think it appealed to Casey and Steph because the elegant Civil War-era Marcraig House kind of looks like a French country villa. Which makes sense because Steph is from France.

Here are some details:

details from a wedding include a lace dress, a sign with bride and groom on bicycle with balloons a vintage suitcase with stickers from foreign ports and a beautiful pair of shoes amongst chinese pottery

My favorite hair and makeup artist Justine Lynn made sure that Casey looked fantastic. Having a hair and makeup person come to you is one of the smartest things a bride can do to keep her wedding day stress level low.

makeup artist Justine Lynn applies blush to a bride before a wedding

Meanwhile just across the hall, Steph fixes his hair (Lisa’s photo):

a groom looks in a mirror as he fixes his hair

Sometimes getting into the dress isn’t as easy as it ought to be. Even with the help of bridesmaids:

a bride makes a funny face as she puts her dress on while her bridesmaids help

Steph and his best man, Arthur share a laugh as they get dressed (Lisa’s photo):

a groom and his best man laugh as they get dressed before a wedding

Casey made a stunning bride. So elegant and lovely:

a beautiful bride reclines on a sofa softly lit by sunshine coming through a window

The ring bearer, Alek, closes the door so that the guys don’t see what’s going on over on the other side of the upstairs hall:

a little boy dashes through an old house before a wedding

Casey and flower girl Ava:

a bride smiles while talking to her flower girl prior to her wedding

Casey’s dad Tom walks her down the aisle in front of the house (Lisa’s photo):

bride is escorted by her father in front of a beautiful old mansion where the wedding ceremony will take place

Exchanging rings:

bride and groom laugh as she puts the wedding ring on his finger during their ceremonywedding ceremony in the shade outside of the Marcraig House at Succop Conservancy in Butler County

A wedding always seems to remind those who have been married a long time how it was on their wedding day:

a wedding guest reaches back to hold the hand of her husband as they watch a wedding ceremony

Casey and Steph planted a tree in a pot that they’d later transplant at their new home:

bride and groom plant a tree as part of their wedding ceremony bride and groom raise their hands together as they are introduced as husband and wife

While the guests enjoyed cocktails, the couple and I wandered the grounds together:

portrait of a bride and groom in the cool shade of a tree as seen through leavessilhouette of a bride and groom in the many paned window of an old house

Casey and her grandfather Don after the ceremony:

bride embraces her grandfather after her wedding ceremony

Good friends:

bridesmaids in light green dresses hug a bride after her weddingblack and white portrait of a bride and groom. closeup as she looks at him and he looks at her.

Some more details. Mostly Lisa’s photos because she’s really good at them:

detail photos of a wedding including french pastries, flip-flops for the dance floor, flowers and ice water with raspberries

guests at a wedding grab french pastries from a serving dish

First dance. Lisa’s photo, because she’s really good at that sort of thing, too 😀

bride and groom share their first dance in an outdoor pavilion on a warm summer afternoon

Many tears flowed as Casey’s maid of honor Anna toasted the couple. She’s very sweet:

bride and maid of honor hold hands as the maid of honor offers a toast to the couple

A kiss after the cake cutting:

bride and groom kiss after cutting their wedding cake during their outdoor reception

Bridesmaids Sara and Kate with a little guy on the dance floor:

a bridesmaid makes funny faces at a little baby wearing a helmet to shape his head during a wedding reception

No dimly-lit dance floor for these folks. They packed the floor even though it was bright out:

a bride and her friends dance a funny dance together during the wedding receptionan older lady smiles and rests her head as she dances with her son during a wedding receptionbride and groom dance together beneath the roof of an outdoor pavilion where they summertime wedding reception was held

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  • Rebecca Kiger - April 21, 2014 - 3:41 pm

    Great honest work : )

  • daniellabean photography - April 23, 2014 - 10:53 pm

    Fantastic shots! This wedding definitely looks like it was a fun time!