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The Best Off the Beaten Path Places to Get Married in Pittsburgh

On April 10, Cory Cope and Jennifer Owen invited 250 of their closest friends to gather at the corner of the 6th St. and Fort Duquesne Blvd. at 7:30 p.m. to witness their wedding at a site that would be revealed at the time. When the guests arrived, they were whisked away to watch as the discerning couple got married nearby—on the Roberto Clemente Bridge.  

"We wanted a wedding that was uniquely Pittsburgh," says Cope, "and what's more Pittsburgh than a bridge?

"Jen and I plan events for a living," says Cope  who works at Fly Space Productions and we incorporated lots of surprises for our guests.  For example, when the pastor pronounced us man and wife, fireworks shot off from below the north end of the bridge."

And in case of rain? "Golf umbrellas printed with our wedding logo," laughs Cope. "But we just knew the day would be perfect."

While it's hard to top this event, it's no surprise that a city like Pittsburgh offers quite a few offbeat spots that make for cool nuptials.  

It's with good reason that many couples host amazing weddings at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Phipps Conservatory, the Hyeholde, Pennsylvanian, William Penn and Renaissance. While most people already know about those venerable and elegant wedding sites, Pop City went under the wedding radar screen to find cool sites that are off the beaten bridal path.  

For brides who want a contemporary feel, Jay Verno Studio, a working photography studio on the South Side, offers a wow factor.  Its two giant studios (5000 square feet each) with soaring ceilings have areas that look like different rooms in a contemporary home.  Of course the space is all about lighting—and the colors can change as the evening progresses.  

"It's just not Pittsburgh," says Verno who shoots commercials and catalogs in the space. "I've worked in L.A., Chicago and New York, and I built the studio based on that."  Verno offers a photography and video package—which he will soon deliver on an ipad.  

Brides with a bent for contemporary art can choose to dine with Andy, Marilyn and Jackie in the main entrance at the Warhol, or utilize the indoor and outdoor space at the Mattress Factory with its urban garden and industrial lobby.  "There are no rules here," says Mattress Factory's events coordinator Gina D'Amico-Perez.  Guests are encouraged to interact with the art, and wedding photos are often taken amidst the art installations.  One bride chose to float flowers above the tables by hanging the vases from the rafters with invisible fishing line--very Harry Potter-esque.

All the World's a Stage
If performing arts are more your passion, the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side can stage a magical wedding.  In keeping with the mission of this avant-garde theater, Operations Manager Alex Bard says any event serving alcohol must include a performance element. While this can be as simple as a singer or band, one of Bard's favorite performances was an aerialist who swooped into the crowd from between brightly colored banners and then performed mid-air acrobatics during dinner.

For the more left-brained brides and grooms, the Science Center offers a wedding site fit for Mr.. Spock.  Science gurus in lab coats pump liquid nitrogen into cocktails transforming them into instant slushies.  The Omnimax lobby offers spectacular city views for cocktails or dinner, and after-dinner activities can include anything from dancing in the fog-infused Works Theater to star gazing from the rooftop observatory (complete with an astronomer and a live feed from NASA).

For couples who dream of intimate elegance, the Mansion at Maple Heights fits the bill.  This lovingly restored 1903 mansion is tucked above "Millionaires Row" in Shadyside.   A gracious circular drive flanked by flowers cascading over stone walls provides a heart-stopping entrance.  Once inside, the grand foyer stretches the length of the building and leads to a large outdoor porch and patio.  Crystal chandeliers, deep wainscoting and turn-of-the-century stained glass are reminders of Pittsburgh's rich history.

The cozy Morning Glory Inn, an 1862 Victorian Townhouse on the South Side, also appeals to traditionalists.  Innkeeper Dave Eshelman says that couples that choose to marry at their inn "want elegance, but want it laid-back."   The original brick courtyard lit with candles and lanterns is the central feature of any wedding here.  Retractable roofs make the Burgh's unpredictable weather a non-issue, and although most weddings are held spring to fall, the Eshelmans had a wedding in the snow during February's Great Blizzard.  Younger couples sometimes head to nearby Carson Street for their after-party.

Modern brides who seek something new and classy should check out the new and modern Fairmont Hotel.  With the theme Where Art Meets Industry, the hotel's edgy use of steel celebrates Pittsburgh's industrial heritage while the artwork celebrates local artists. As a wedding gift, the Fairmont will apply five percent of the tab toward a honeymoon at any Fairmont hotel worldwide.

If the Great Gatsby's gardens are more your cup of tea, the lawn of the Frick Mansion provides a spot of lush green in the city as well as access to Henry Clay Frick's magnificent home, cars and grounds.  

And, if you're really into parks, the charming Schenley Park Visitor Center marks the entrance to the granddaddy of them all. With balconies and a covered terrace overlooking the park and Panther Hollow, Manager Bartho Nietsch says that many couples choose to wed in this quaint turn-of-the-century cottage because they met in Schenley Park. "A lot of them were Pitt and CMU students," he says.

Finally, what would any Pittsburgh list be without a sports component?  PNC Park offers baseball fanatics the chance to be married smack in front of the Pirates' dugout.  But with the park's large selection of banquet rooms and spectacular city views, Special Events Manager Ann Elder says, "we're much more than a ballpark."  

The same goes at Heinz Field:  nuptials can be performed in the Coco-Cola Great Hall, but "Steelers' wedding cakes are rare," says Cayce Little Pastoor, marketing and guest services manager.  Most couples fall in love with the views, the tall ceilings and uniqueness of the room, she adds.

And in the Laurel Highlands, the Barn at Fallingwater provides a unique and stunning setting. Jennifer Baron, Pop Filter editor for Pop City, and Greg Langel of the Frick Art and Historical Center, held their reception there three years ago. They loved it for the combination of good modern design, sustainable building (with walls of pressed sunflower seeds) and the setting in the woods. "And it was very affordable," says Jennifer, who liked the idea of supplying their own caterer and local products such as East End Brewery for their "handmade" wedding. (She designed her own dress, pictured on the left.)  To learn more about creating your own wedding, check out Pittsburgh's first  Hand(made) in Marriage event featured in--where else?--Jennifer's Pop Filter selection this week.

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Photographs, from the top:
Wedding at the Warhol Museum.  Courtesy Joey Kennedy
Cory Cope and Jennifer Owen.  Courtesy Renee Rosensteel, LaLaLa Photo
Wedding at Jay Verno Studios.  Courtesy Jay Verno
Jennifer Baron in the Laurel Highlands.  Courtesy Tim Hussey.
The Frick Art and Historical Center.  Courtesy the Frick
Mattress Factory.  Image Courtesy the Mattress Factory

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