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North Hills Monthly

Pittsburgh Offers a Wealth of Unique Wedding Venues

Jan 31, 2018 02:10PM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch

Phipps Conservatory, photo courtesy of Leeann Marie Photography.

Putting a polar bear or a penguin on your wedding guest list may be unconventional, but it certainly is memorable.

To create that special vibe, today’s couples are opting to hold their weddings in nontraditional venues to take advantage of picturesque settings or to create unconventional events.

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is a popular wedding venue, hosting 30 to 40 weddings annually. The main reason that couples choose the zoo, according to Group Sales & Rentals Manager Gabriele Boldizar, is simple: people love animals and want a unique location for their big day.

“Water’s Edge offers guests two underwater tunnels separated by a wonderful party area. Imagine the thrill of standing underneath a 900-pound polar bear swimming above your head, or seeing sea lions show off their incredible speed in the second underwater tunnel while playful sea otters provide a great backdrop for your reception,” said Boldizar.

“Surrounded by penguins, sharks, sea turtles, bubbling waterfalls, plus a two-story ocean tank, guests are immersed in a tranquil environment at PPG Aquarium,” she added.

Other members of the animal world that have been known to make appearances at weddings are residents of the National Aviary. Last year, the aviary hosted 65 weddings, using both its indoor and outdoor spaces. 

“Guests are encouraged to explore the National Aviary’s free-flight habitats after hours, and couples can even choose to add close encounters with a penguin, parrot, owl or other bird of prey as part of their event,” said Laura Daversa, events manager.

“Our historic rose garden and illuminated tent patio is nestled in Allegheny Commons Park, providing a serene garden setting right in the heart of Pittsburgh,” she added. “Even our indoor rentals can enjoy an elegant setting under the stars under our Victorian-inspired atrium glass dome.”

Another unique option at the aviary is to do a custom penguin painting as a guestbook alternative.

About 45 couples a year choose to say their nuptials at the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History in Oakland, where they can choose from approximately 10 unique spaces. “From gilded halls and marble columns to contemporary corridors and scenic overlooks, Carnegie Music Hall and the music hall foyer are arguably the grandest event spaces in all of Pittsburgh,” said Kelly Thornton, director of special events and retail food service. Other wedding spaces within the historic facility include the majestic Hall of Architecture and Hall of Sculpture or the more contemporary Scaife foyer, ideal for cocktail receptions.

“If you want to have a drink with Carnegie’s world-famous dinosaurs, the Foster Overlook is the perfect spot,” she added. “And the Founder’s Room is the very space where Andrew Carnegie once greeted his museum guests.”

You can even include docent-led tours through the galleries as part of your reception, or have dinner among the black bears and jaguars in the Hall of North American Wildlife.

If you desire vintage vehicles at your wedding, the Heinz History Center can accommodate. Guests in the Great Hall will find themselves surrounded by a Conestoga wagon, antique fire engine, stainless steel Ford, the Heinz Hitch and an antique trolley.

“Originally part of the Chautauqua Lake Ice House, the Great Hall features high, vaulted brick ceilings and the original steel beams, as well as a two-story grand staircase, perfect for making your grand entrance,” said Maura Minteer, director, events department.

A more traditional space is the Mueller Center on the fifth floor, featuring a large ballroom and an outdoor deck with views of the city and the river. Besides the unique accommodations and photo ops in the building, another bonus is that the money used for the wedding directly supports the Heinz History Center’s exhibitions, programs and mission.

For a sensory experience enhanced by the aroma of seasonal flowers and picture postcard scenery, more and more couples are choosing Pittsburgh’s famous glasshouse, the Phipps Conservatory.

Phipps offers three distinct areas for weddings. “Phipps’ outdoor garden is a beautiful four-tier garden with a large white tent, and the Broderie Room is an intimate classic French garden, heightening the romance and elegance of any wedding ceremony,” explained Katelyn Larsen, event sales manager, who added that Phipps was designated the best garden wedding venue in the world by Elle and Harper’s Bazaar. “Our Special Events Hall features floor-to-ceiling glass walls that offer dramatic views of the adjacent Tropical Forest and scenic area landmarks.”

To go along with the scenic greenery, couples concerned about sustainability can opt to have a green menu, with food grown on the premises and at local farms.

Plus, continued Larsen, the space feels like a destination wedding without the travel expenses.

Another picturesque setting is at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, a newcomer to the wedding scene but one that is quickly gaining in popularity, hosting about 70 weddings per year.

“Ceremonies typically take place in the Peirce Celebration Garden, featuring a stone wall abundant with florals and greenery. From there, our guests continue the celebration in the Davidson Event Center, our newly renovated 1870s barn with a modern, rustic charm,” said Colleen Chorney, events and guest relations’ director.

“The event center features a wall of windows overlooking the natural woodland beauty of Oakdale. Rustic chandeliers add a romantic ambience, and a large patio with a fireplace provides ample room for seating, mingling and of course, dancing,” she added.

Many lush trails lead to numerous areas for spectacular photo opportunities.

A wedding day is a once-in-a-lifetime event, so why not pull out all the stops to make it as unique as possible?