Monday, November 23, 2009

Reception Venue Hunting

As Pitt alums, Mr. Octopus and I never had a doubt in our minds where our ceremony would be: Heinz Chapel, the chapel affiliated with the University.



Gorrrrrrgeous, huh?! It's extra-special to us, because Mr. O performed in the university chorus here several times every year, and I was his number-one fan out in the audience. Booking Heinz Chapel was our very first wedding decision.

That left us to find a reception venue, and Mom Octopus, MOH/sister Lauren, Mr. O and I took a whirlwind three-day tour of potential places. We visited seven, but ruled out four immediately. Two were at the high end of the price range and were very neutral palettes (meaning they'd cost a lot to decorate), one just didn't have sparks for any of us, and one was great....for someone else. Think cement floors, white walls, exposed pipes....very funky-industrial-urban-loft style. To quote my MOH/sister: "you are not cool or hip enough to have your wedding in this place." 100% true. That left us with three heavyweight contenders:

Contender #1: The Mansion at Maple Heights
This venue is an old mansion from back when Pittsburgh was in the midst of the the robber baron days. It's now been purchased and renovated into an event space.



  • Very private--the house itself is tucked away in a secluded, residential area in a gorgeous neighborhood (Shadyside, for you Pittsburghers). You rent out the entire house and backyard for your event; you really have it all to yourself.
  • A five-minute drive from our ceremony location.
  • Also doubles as a bed-and-breakfast, and the upstairs is to die for. You can rent out the whole thing for yourselves and your bridal party, and it comes with a kitchen stocked with snacks and drinks, a giant theater room with video game systems and DVDs, and big, luxurious suites. Amazing co-ed bridal party sleepover! MOH Lauren--whose taste runs toward the finer things in life--was smitten.

I could just see all our groomsmen playing video games in here after the wedding is over. Source.

  • Completely all-inclusive; they partner with a whole team of vendors. By choosing the Mansion, the caterer, florist, linens, and other rentals are all locked in as well. If you're not that into coordinating vendors or doing a lot of planning, this might be a pro for you, but it was a con for me. I wanted more choice than that.
  • I didn't want to split our guests up into different rooms in the house for dinner, so we'd have to rent a tent in the backyard to accommodate them all. Spendy.
  • This venue is brand new; when I visited, they hadn't actually hosted a wedding yet. I was kind of nervous about their lack of experience.
  • Only has one single-stall bathroom for guests to use!
Contender #2: The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh
Here, you host the cocktail hour in the lobby of the museum, and the reception follows in the Grand Hall.

The exterior, lobby, and Great Hall of the Children's Museum. All the stuff gets cleared out of the Great Hall--but the glowing balloons stay! (Found here, here, and here.)

  • Coordinator here was very knowledgeable, flexible, and helpful.
  • When you see the space all at once, it looks whimsical, fun, and striking, but also doesn't read as childish, especially when set up for an event. Also, has a giant Foucault pendulum that separates the dinner area from the dancing area. Awesome.
  • Tables and chairs included in the rental fee.
  • Does not have a liquor license, meaning that you provide your own alcohol. CHA-CHING!!!!
  • MOH/sister's sage opinion once again: "this is very you."
  • I had an ideal, dream caterer, and the exclusive partner here isn't it. Their partner caterer has a reputation floating around the Internet for being delicious, but expensive.
  • Definitely the farthest (and potentially most confusing) drive from the ceremony for guests to make.
Contender #3: Heinz History Center
This is a museum about the history of Pittsburgh, located in my favorite of all Pittsburgh neighborhoods, the Strip District. (As in a strip of markets and specialty food shops. Don't be saucy.)

The exterior of the museum, and some different angles of the reception location. (Found here and here.)

  • Gorgeous, and distinctly museum-y ambiance made our geeky hearts sing with joy. Warm lighting, brick walls, Pittsburgh memorabilia. Yum.
  • The best coordinator of all. Extremely professional, responsive, and prepared, with books upon books of inspiration photos.
  • Uses the same caterer as the Children's Museum--but this place DOES have a liquor license. You have to purchase your open bar from them. Gulp.
  • Includes nothing at all--you have to rent every table, chair, fork, and spoon.
Once we sat down and weighed all the pros and cons, the choice was actually pretty easy. We picked the Children's Museum! I am so, so, so excited to host our wedding reception here. I loved the Heinz History Center, but the price just wouldn't work for us. Even though it uses the same caterer as the Children's Museum, it's inclusive of fewer things. The savings was significant enough to basically make the choice for us.

Unfortunately, it also means that my very favorite caterer in all of Pittsburgh--Big Burrito--is out. That was a bit of a disappointment, but you win some and you lose some in wedding planning, I suppose.

Overall, I'd say our venue hunt went really smoothly. It was really helpful to have some different perspectives represented: YAY!!! WEDDING!!! (me), extremely practical (Mom Octopus), moderator between the two (MOH Lauren), and agreeable to whatever (Mr. O). Altogether, I think our questions and ideas were really able to cover all the bases, and we walked away with a good perspective of what each venue could provide.

What was important to you in choosing your reception venue? Did your search go pretty well, or was it a struggle?


  1. I think I would pick the first one but only because I'm having a tented wedding and it would be awesome to have that type of B and B on the property...But they are all gorge!

  2. what was the funky, cool venue?? I'm looking for just such a place myself!

  3. Nice way to decorate your walls. I have never done that. My effort to beautify the walls in my house was to order big-sized canvas prints from, from images of western art. I use the same angel motifs in all of the rooms painted by different painters, such as this one by very interesting English artist Stanley Spencer,

  4. In my opinion deciding venue for an occasion is a very difficult task and for an event like marriage it became more difficult because the host has to satisfy everyone's need.

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  5. Would love to learn more about how the wedding went and what you thought of the caterer! I am considering the Children's Museum as well!

  6. Truly an adorable event venue. Thanks for sharing this usefull information in your website if you are looking for best Corporate Event Venues then should visit Corporate Event Venues