Venue Search Blues

Either I’m doing something wrong or Pittsburgh is kind of limiting when it comes to Wedding venues.

The Wedding Blog universe made me dream up some fantasy world where I could find an interesting, beautiful venue that was flexible about catering and alcohol and otherwise affordable.  The venue would be my oyster!  We could pass pierogies and toasted ravioli as hors d’oeuvres (representing my adopted hometown of Pittsburgh and Collin’s hometown of St. Louis).  We could serve gourmet pizzas as the entrĂ©e!  We could have Budweiser for the St. Louis people and tasty beer for the sane people!  (Oh snap, Finlaws!)

And then I started actually doing research, and it seemed like these places mostly don’t exist, and insofar as they do, they’re outside or can only accommodate parties under 100.  Well, we’re inviting twice that, minimum.

And getting married outside has basically no appeal to me.  I don’t want to be held hostage to the weather, especially in this era of global climate disruption where the Day After Tomorrow could swallow my wedding in a freak lightning storm/blizzard/tornado/CHOMP OF NATURAL FURY any day of the year.  Not to mention 2011 is a major cicada year, and even though Pittsburgh is allegedly too far north for that particular brood, I am still haunted by a story my Sixth Grade Language Arts teacher told me about going to prom in a cicada year and having a three-inch hem of insects on her gown.

With the parameters of “accomodate 200 people” “be inside,” and “don’t be unspeakably ugly,” I came up with a short list of venues that all have exclusive contracts with caterers who have typical menus at typically outrageous prices.  Some of the venues look amazing and are slightly more outrageously expensive.  Some of the venues look boring and I realize I’ll probably spend the difference on decorative touches.  As my friend Alex would say, “Your choice is fish.”

Maybe I’m doing this search wrong.  I tried searches for “event space” and “party venue” and other things that aren’t poisoned with the pricejack word “wedding,” but only found a few more too-small options.  Maybe what I am doing wrong is trying to get married in Pittsburgh?

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11 responses to “Venue Search Blues

  1. I feel like I am commenting jacking your blog but…here are more of my thoughts I think you should know.

    I am also in favor of indoor venues because you never know when INVISIBLE BEES might strike. Indoor provides that extra layer of protection we are all looking for.

    As for doing it wrong, I think you’re just getting started! You don’t have to have all this stuff figured out right away and it will probably take time before you find the best place. Obviously, I don’t know how many places you have looked at to be feeling defeated by the ‘burgh but hopefully something will work out.

    Have you considered Heinz Field and hiring the Steelers to be your bridesmaids? I’m sure that is affordable and awesome.

    • Invisible bees: just another good reason to be a princess about not wanting to get married outside.

      I think Jews are actually SUPPOSED to get married outside (I guess to reinforce the chuppah-as-home symbolism?). But they’re also not supposed to get married on the Sabbath and it looks like we’re ignoring that COMMANDMENT, so tradition, schmadition.

      • Don’t forget tsunami waves, either. I mean, they are astronomically less likely to strike than Invisible Bees but a bride can never be too cautious.

        Maybe it is a product of growing up in the suburbs, but I feel like having your wedding in the burbs will still count as being in the city? (Shh, don’t tell Philly I think the burbs count, they will BOO me). There could be cool venues out in the burbs that might be cheaper for being outside city limits.

        Maybe you could have your wedding at the historic Oaks movie theater. It once hosted a pretty awesome private screening of a movie with pizza and beer which is almost the same level of seriousness as wedding. Think about it.

        (How many fake suggestions am I going to give you about your wedding before your wedding? I do not know!)

  2. I also came to the conclusion that such venues don’t exist, especially anywhere in the northeast, so we ended up going for the off-season. Our winter wedding wasn’t originally in the cards, but it’s saving us about 2 grand on venue alone, so that made it much more attractive than it otherwise would have been.

    Have you looked at museums? A lot of bigger museums have RIDICULOUS rental rates (looking at you, American Museum of Natural History), but I’ve heard of couples convincing smaller museums who might not usually do weddings to rent to them for pretty cheap. Any cute historic house museums you like?

    • We haven’t exactly ruled out off-season; in fact, it might be preferable in that we could have a Saturday night wedding but still observe the Sabbath. But once again, I fear the wrath of nature, because both of our families will have to fly in.

      And I think looking into museums that don’t advertise they rent their space is a great idea. Thanks for your input!

  3. I. Had. The. SAME. FREAKING. PROBLEM.

    We went all the way up and down the California coast in search of our ideal venue (which pretty much lines up with your ideals). What felt like fifteen years later, I finally found it on accident. I was walking by this old-looking place a mere FOUR BLOCKS from my house, and I saw it had a courtyard. I looked it up online. What do you know, it was part of the city’s historical museum. Why yes, they DID rent out for events. Soon, it was ours.

    So I’m going to chime in with weddingness and say, yes, give museums a chance. We also found out that a local old theatre that had recently been renovated was now offering its space for events — and only because we were walking by one night and saw a loud party going on in there. They hadn’t yet started advertising — they’d only held 2 or 3 weddings so far. Bonus: they were way cheap in the theatre offseason. Maybe (hopefully) there is something similar near you.

    So my generalized suggestions: walk around your city looking for potential off-radar party spots. Talk to people — you never know what they might suggest (or whom they might suggest you get in touch with). Or try to think of a combo of alternatives — what if you found a compromise in setting up a tent in an outdoor space (ehhh, you probably don’t want a tent, but I’m throwing it out there).

    Good luck.

  4. Thanks for your advice! I have a lot of friends in arts management; I will definitely talk to them about theaters.

    Also, I tried looking at really gorgeous pictures of incredible weddings in tents to force me to feel better about the possibility of getting married outside. No matter how outrageously beautiful the professionally-lit, epically-designed tents were, I couldn’t stop thinking about terrible gusts of wind.

    • That’s actually a legitimate concern. About a year and a half ago I went to the wedding of a friend. It was to be held outside on the grounds of a polo club, inside a tent. Well. Overnight, the tent blew away. Yes. So everyone had to cram inside a room that was too small for the number of guests. It ended up working out OK, and it was a beautiful wedding, but sheesh. What a thing to have to deal with at the last minute.

      • With all these horror stories, it always works out and the wedding ends up being lovely. But I think that depends on the bridal party being really good at rolling with the punches. I’m more of a sit-down-on-the-floor-and-sob-with-the-punches kind of person.

  5. Oh, the damn venue google search. Also, don’t rule out the outdoor spaces… so long as they have an indoor option too (that’s what we found, so we have a backup with weather) Here’s some thoughts that really helped with my google ninja skills:

    City-owned properties. Some city- or county-owned parks have indoor and outdoor options or buildings for rent.

    Women’s Clubs. Affordable and kinda pretty too, depending.

    Museums

    Artist lofts/event spaces/galleries

    Historical Venues (contact the local preservation or conservation society)

    Community Centers (some in LA are gorgeous and affordable)

    Restaurants (really, some are awesome and have great spaces. You don’t pay rentals or staffing upcahrges, there’s usually a sound system, so you can actually save a bundle

    Theaters/performance spaces. Some have a really flexible set up.

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