Category Archives: Venue

When Possible, Make a U-Turn

One of the “things only a wedding planner knows” that I already knew was to actually try out the driving directions to our venue before putting them in our invitation. So on the way back from the airport after my task-tackling trip to St. Louis, I programmed my GPS to make a stop at Station Square.

I will break here to give those of you who don’t live here a primer in Pittsburgh geography. This not-very-accurate map should cover the basics:

Basically, to get from the airport to Station Square, it looks like you should be able to take one highway (the orange one on the map) for 20 miles and magically arrive.  But the trouble is, in that last couple of miles there’s a big honking mountain1 in the way. If you stay on the highway, you’ll go through the Fort Pitt Tunnel (the left green circle). This is the route recommended by Bing maps, Mapquest, and my Garmin GPS. On the plus side, you’ll get through the mountain. And you’ll get to experience the wonder of seeing the Pittsburgh Skyline when you pop out on the other side.

Unfortunately, you’ll also exit the tunnel directly onto the Fort Pitt Bridge, and consequently end up on the wrong side of the Monongahela River (as far as our destination is concerned. It’s not like, “the wrong side of the tracks” or whatever). And then you’ll be Downtown, known to Pittsburgh historians as “The Golden Triangle” but known to people who have trouble with directions as “The Bermuda Triangle.” One-way streets that don’t alternate! Mysterious turn restriction at intersections! Perpetual construction! A multidimensional road map that makes GPS units cry blood! Making a u-turn in Downtown Pittsburgh to cross a second bridge is an ordeal I really don’t want to put my guests through.

So the next time I was south of the city I tried a new approach: I just followed the road signs. [An aside: the highway between the airport and the city was recently renamed. It went from being 279 North to 376 East. Yes, I realize those are not the same direction. Does the city? I don’t think so. As an added bonus, this meant all the exits were re-numbered. I think these changes were made under the “Make GPS Units Worthless Act” of 2010.] According to the signs, I should take Exit 69B to get to Station Square. Awesome.

Except when I took Exit 69B (putting me on the purple road) I discovered that I had two choices for how to get to Station Square: #1: The Wabash Tunnel (the right green circle with the red X), which is HOV-only some of the time, completely closed some of the time (hence the red X), and generally a mystery wrapped in an enigma.2 #2: The road my GPS suggested when I was forced to drive past the closed Wabash Tunnel, which goes OVER the mountain with a serious of hairpin turns that will surely kill one of my guests if there is even a little rain, and ultimately ends with a complicated detour to avoid a road closed for construction.3

Back to the drawing board. This time I looked up the “official” directions recommended by Station Square. This requires driving past the exit that is designated for Station Square, to an exit for Route 51 North. A road which is not part of the directions to Station Square at all. You see, Route 837 West pops up right after the exit despite zero signage to that effect. Fortunately, Route 837W is exactly where people want to go. So if they’ve made it this far, they just have to get on that road. Oh, and not turn at the first sign that says Station Square, because that’s the wrong entrance. Sheesh.

So I’ve found directions that work! Sort of! Hooray! Yay for me! But I’ve also realized how easy it is to get lost in this area, even for someone who lives here. Who is paying really close attention to the directions. Out of town guests trying to figure it out on the fly or just relying on MapQuest or their GPS are going to get lost. And that’s a terrible start to the weekend, right?

Anyone else have to deal with complicated directions to a venue or lodging? How did you work out this problem? Should I make the directions insert really flashy? Should I set up a “get un-lost” hotline? Should I personally drive everyone from the airport? WHAT DO I DO?

1For those of you who live west of the Great Plains, let me clarify it is actually a large hill.  For those of you who live on the Eastern Seaboard? It’s a GIGANTIC MOUNTAIN!
2I looked at the Wikipedia page for the Wabash tunnel to try to find out why it is so restricted, and found some blatant editorializing that I hope is not flagged for editing until it becomes outdated: “The Wabash Tunnel is a former railway tunnel through Mt. Washington in the city of Pittsburgh. Constructed early in the 20th century by railroad magnate George J. Gould, it has never been of much use.”
3What’s that you say? “The construction will be over before the wedding”? HAHAHAHAHA. Clearly you’ve never been to Pittsburgh. When we put up detour signs, we GET OUR MONEY’S WORTH on ’em. My marriage will be OVER before that detour ends.


Get Married in a Restaurant

If any of my readers don’t already have a venue for their wedding (not-yet-engaged friends, this means you), I would like to strongly suggest you consider getting married in a restaurant.

The awesome thing about getting married in a restaurant is  you can go have dinner at the place you are getting/were married whenever the hell you want.  (You know, as long as you only want to while they are serving dinner.)

Collin took me to the Grand Concourse, our wedding venue, for Valentine’s Day dinner, despite having told me we were going somewhere I’d never been in some kind of misguided attempt at surprising me.

Could he have picked a better place? No.  Because on top of really delicious food in a beautiful room, I got to spend the night giddily thinking, “We’re getting married here!” [And halfway through my second manhattan, telling everyone who works there the same.]

I also really like the idea that someday we can take our kids to dinner at the Grand Concourse and tell them about our wedding there.  Then again, my parents got married in my grandparents’ living room, which I’ve spent hours and hours and hours in without ever reflecting upon being on the sacred ground of my parents nuptials.  I suspect my trip down memory lane at the Grand Concourse will just make my kids roll their eyes, groan “Shut up, Mom!” and then sullenly push a crab cake around on their plate while staring at the floor.

But they’ll be bratting it up that where their parents got married.  Isn’t that just a lovely thought?


July 16, 2011

We made a deposit at our venue. We’re getting married July 16, 2011!

It’s a good feeling.

Also, I love the event manager there.  He’s the most laid back person on the planet.  We asked if having a vegetarian option counts as one of our menu choices, and he said, “No way, we’re not going to charge you for having a few weird friends.”  We asked about spaces where we could have a yichud, and our wedding planner started to explain that it is a time for the bride and groom to have a moment of peace, and Collin interjected, “I thought it was for banging,” and the event manager said, “Yeah that’s where my brain went too.  I wasn’t going to say anything, though.”

Another highlight: as we were walking out, Collin and I kept hugging and kissing, and the hostess said, “Are you getting married?”  I pretty much shouted “YES!”  back at her.

I’m happy!

God Bless Larry Lessig

We have a tentative hold on the Grand Concourse for my birthday next year, YAY!

Instead of doing practical things to get us ready to sign a contract, like confirming the date works for family and doing a final budget projection with their rates, I’m daydreaming about what this theoretical venue means for our wedding.

Now, I only took two art history classes in college, and neither of them covered the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but I think just from looking that the place has art nouveau design elements.  [People who know can look at my blurry photo and tell me if I am way off base.]

So of course I start thinking about how we could have art nouveau invitations!  Oh shit, weren’t invitations on our “bare bones” column in the budget?  We’re we basically planning on printing our names and vital information on plain cardstock and sending them in the mail?  Why did I have to go get IDEAS!?

Well then I Bing imaged searched “art nouveau” and found this beauty on DeviantArt.  And it’s under a Creative Commons license, so we could theoretically put it on our home-printed invitations.  Woo!

Oh, the Venues You’ll Tour!

Venues, we looked at ’em.

We started at 9AM, meeting our wedding planner Shannon1 at the Doubletree downtown.  There was an open casting call for a movie about “killer iPods and aliens or something” happening in one of the meeting rooms, so it was very busy for 9AM. I’m going to break this down into bulleted pluses and minuses:

Continue reading

Ring Thing Solution!

My future mother-in-law Viki found the solution to my ring thing problem: individualized butter dish from Crate & Barrel:

It meets all my criteria: it looks nice (mine is cuter because Viki painted on tiny hearts and swirls), it is relatively cat-proof, I can see inside of it, and it doesn’t appear to be a sex toy.  Thanks, Viki!

In other news, it is my birthday! In The Knot’s imagination, that means I am exactly one year away from our wedding.  Tell it to the imaginary venue we haven’t booked, The Knot!

Speaking of which, tomorrow, despite the varsity-level celebrating I have planned for tonight, we begin a marathon string of venue tours at 9AM.  Any last-minute advice for questions to ask and things to look for at venues?

Failing that, any recommendations for cocktails I should try tonight?

Wedding, Wedding, Go Away. Come Again Another Day.

For any of you who don’t know anyone who has been in law school, law school finals are a special kind of hell.  For most classes, your grade for the course is determined entirely by your grade on the exam.  For someone about to graduate, this poses the additional challenge of making the most important two weeks of the semester coincide with the time where there are social events left and right.  For someone about to graduate who doesn’t have a job, there is the additional-additional challenge of the overwhelming, soul-crushing sense of WHAT WAS THAT ALL FOR?1

So I have sort of demanded a wedding-planning hiatus.  Even though we’re coming up on the imaginary one-year until our imaginary wedding mark.  And even though we don’t have a venue yet.  But every time I look at a wedding-related spreadsheet, my heart explodes with panic, so it is a necessary irresponsibility.

Meanwhile, Collin still thinks this is all very fun.  So I’ll be sitting on the couch grumpily editing a paper about executive privilege and government officials’ use of private email accounts, and Collin will excitedly shout, “GARDEN COURTYARD!”

I firmly remind him, “No wedding stuff!”

He says, “Oh, sorry, [insert pet-name of the moment.]”  Seconds pass.  “Server solely dedicated to the bridal table!”

“Well, that seems unnecessary.  Wait.  NO WEDDING STUFF.”  I start flipping through my tattered Bluebook to figure out how to cite an email republished on a website.

“Oh, so Pittsburgh has a Grand Hall and a Great Hall. That’s confusing.”

“So is executive privilege.”

“Sorry, my sweet little cutie little law student. I’m just so excited to marry you!”

Isn’t that nice?  I’m so not complaining about Collin’s interest in wedding planning.  But I do feel bad that my anxiety about finals and graduating are vastly outpacing my excitement about getting married and having a wedding.

1Someday I’ll tell the long (embarrassing) version of how I met Collin, but the short version is that his now brother-in-law was in my study group during my 1L year.  So the only immediately apparent point of getting my J.D. was finding a husband.  What a relief for a feminist.

The Pink Dress That Wasn’t

We did our first venue walk-through today, at a local museum I worried would become the Pink Dress of our venue hunt.

To explain that term, let’s turn back the clock to early 2005, when I helped a friend shop for a wedding dress [here’s something to get you in the proper mindset.]   This was my first foray into the wacky world of weddings.

We went to a trunk show.  We got a private fitting room larger than the bedroom in my first few apartments.  The designer, a sort of a cartoon of a beautiful Mediterranean woman, joined us.   In my memory, there were flutes of champagne with strawberries in them, but I think I made that part up.

My friend tried on this gown she’d seen in a magazine ad.  It had this gorgeous pink organza overlay on the train, and pink was her favorite color, and she just looked like a million bucks in it.  The only thing that was wrong with this dress was that it cost absurdly too much money.

She didn’t make the splurge, but the specter of the pink dress haunted the rest of the search.

I’ve though about that pink dress many times over the last five years.  When apartment hunting, when buying my car, and, yes, while dress shopping.  I hate exposing myself to something that is exactly what I want at a price I cannot pay.

So,  I worried that touring this venue would be doing that.  It is at the very upper bounds of our budget.  I’m willing to cut back on plenty of things to afford a cool space, but if we went with this location, we’d have to cut with a machete instead of a scalpel.

But, to my relief (I guess) I didn’t love the venue as much as I expected.  The space is just a smidge too small.  The acoustics blow.  The lighting is questionable.  The contract is outrageously restrictive.  It comes with a built-in wedding coordinator who doesn’t like to play with other planners, and I didn’t connect with her the way I did with the independent planner we met with yesterday.  I still think it would make a fun, very memorable venue, but I also think it isn’t quite right for us.

And wouldn’t it be great if the real right venue for us fit more comfortably in our budget?  Oh… yeah.  I’m hopeful.

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 entrée!  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?

Showcase Showdown!

Collin and I just returned from a “Bridal Showcase,” or “convention center filled with photo albums, cake samples, and models wandering around in Bridal gowns.”

We left with two tote bags filled with business cards, price sheets, and coupons.  I imagine I’ll get around to looking through those sometime after I graduate.

Annie D will be delighted to know that I did shake hands with John Parker of the John Parker Band, and learned from him that the fan setup is a sweat-prevention tool.  The windswept effect on his Swayze-like mane of hair is an incidental benefit.

We talked to facilities coordinators from a few venues we’re interested in, but  I still feel like we have a lot of research to do on the venue front.  On the one hand, we don’t want to spend a lot of money, time, and energy on decorations, which makes us interested in funky locations like the Heinz History Center.  On the other hand, if we get married in a hotel ballroom we don’t have to worry as much about transportation and lodging.  And the budget-conscious part of me still fantasizes about finding one of those mythical venues that allow outside catering.

Hopefully the showcase will have provided my wedding fix for the day, because I have a paper about light bulbs to write.  Final thought: I’m glad I’m getting married in 2011, before the US phase-out of incandescent lightbulbs begins.