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North Hills Monthly

More Couples Choosing One Locale for Wedding, Reception

May 31, 2019 11:39AM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch

The Grand Hall, photo courtesy of The Priory

Traditionally, brides and grooms would get married at a place of worship and celebrate at a reception off-site with friends and family, either immediately following the ceremony or later in the day.

However, more and more couples are choosing to hold their wedding ceremony and their celebratory reception at the same venue, a decision that has a number of advantages.

First, it can streamline the event by making things easier for the couple and their guests.

John Graf is the owner of The Priory on the North Side and the Mansions on Fifth in Shadyside; both are popular places for weddings and receptions. He said that people wanting to get married on-site is a trend, reflected in about half the weddings he books at his venues.

“For the guests, the advantage is convenience,” he said, as out-of-town guests can book a hotel room at either location and not worry about having to occupy a few hours in between the ceremony and the reception. And no worries if guests have had one too many drinks; all they have to do is take the elevator or walk back to their guest suite.

Another advantage is that the whole event flows in a consistent way, as guests seamlessly move from one room to another. Depending on the size of the wedding, couples getting married at The Priory have a choice of getting married inside the Grand Hall or outside in the courtyard, while at the Mansions on Fifth, the ceremony generally takes place on the grand staircase.

When a wedding is held outside of a place of worship, Graf said that about 95 percent of couples still have some type of clergy presiding over the ceremony.

Graf said that people are often drawn to his venues for their weddings not only because the events will be memorable and unique, but because of the stories attached to the sites. “The Priory has this interesting story—this was once a Catholic parish founded by German immigrants, and the building is one of the oldest in the North Side and the city of Pittsburgh. It was completed in 1852, so it has a lot of history,” he said.

The Mansions on Fifth tells the story of Pittsburgh’s industrial history, as the building is the former home of Henry Clay Frick’s lawyer. “It is one of the few places on Millionaire’s Row that the public can go into now,” Graf said.

Plus, you can’t beat the surroundings in either building. The Priory has 60-foot high ceilings with encompassing stained glass windows; the Mansions on Fifth has that ‘Gilded Age’ feel.

Another reason that a couple might choose to hold their wedding off site is that at a church, they may have to work around other events or Mass time frames, according to Phillip Wintgens, catering sales manager at the DoubleTree Hotel in Cranberry. 

“If a ceremony is at 2 p.m. in a church and the party is not until 5 p.m., that leaves a two-hour gap for the guests to figure out what to do before cocktail hour,” said Wintgens. Plus, he added, it can be ‘competitive’ to try and reserve a slot at a church.

Wintgens agreed that wedding ceremonies at a reception venue is a trend that is on the rise. “People are attracted to the uniqueness it provides for them,” he said.

Not only that, but they get an on-site wedding coordinator that will take care of all of the details, from setting up for the ceremony to the cake and centerpieces. “It is sort of one-stop shopping and eliminates the need for them to contract with outside vendors, so it streamlines the process,” he said.

Another advantage is that many brides and grooms will hold breakfasts the next morning for their out-of-town guests. And it’s hard to beat the convenience of Cranberry, located just off the interstate.

At the DoubleTree in Cranberry, which was renovated just a few years ago with a mid-century modern design, there are various ways to configure the space. “We have a very large ballroom space that can seat up to 700 guests and can be divided into smaller areas,” Wintgens explained. “When we host a ceremony in addition to the reception, essentially we reserve an additional portion of the ballroom that is adjacent to the reception space.”

The guests then adjourn to the ballroom for a cocktail hour, later greeting the bride and groom in a receiving room.

Couples seeking picturesque surroundings and an elegant, unique venue are often drawn to The Mansion in Butler. Originally built in 1927 by the owner of T. W. Phillips Gas & Oil, it is now owned by Concordia Lutheran Ministries. Not only do couples have amazing photo opportunities in the manicured gardens at The Mansion, but the interior is equally exquisite.

Manager Donna Mullan said that wedding ceremonies are held on the patio or in the garden area, or inside the grand foyer or living room, depending on the weather and the size of the party. For the reception, the rooms are interconnected, and guests have the option of wandering to different spaces or everyone can be accommodated in one section.

As for why people choose weddings outside of a church, Mullan said, “I think that they like the idea of not having to travel from one venue to another.” Plus, she added, some people are not affiliated with a place of worship.

Also, unlike at some other venues, the wedding party at The Mansion has the use of the facilities for the entire day rather than being rushed out to accommodate the next event.

The upswing in wedding and receptions onsite is a boon for venues and couples alike. Fortunately, there is no shortage of places in the region that can accommodate both.