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:
- Three free hotel rooms “for the couple and both sets of parents.” We had a nice awkward moment where I tried to dance around the question, “do you still get the third room when your parents are dead?” while still getting to that information. (Answer: yes).
- WEEKEND-LONG access to a totally insane “hospitality suite” which has far too many televisions, a full bar, a “poker room,” and a kickass view. Apparently this is something they are aping from Las Vegas hotels. I’ve never been to Vegas, so I was thoroughly impressed.
- The ballroom was just renovated last year, so it is super modern. It reminded me of the Hilton in 2001: A Space Odyssey. There are three “light walls” in the room, which I think look awesome but other people would probably find hideously ugly.
- There is a lounge area! There just is one, I don’t have to find funky furniture at yard sales or arrange hay bales or anything. And again, it looks like what people in the 60′s thought the future would look like, and I think that is cool.
- The reason for the light walls in the ballroom is it is half underground and there are no windows. Imagining the reception, I’m fine with that, but it bothers me more when I think about the ceremony. Who wants to get married in the basement?
- The patio which actually drew our attention to the venue in the first place will be closed for renovations next year, so there is no escape from the basement!
- I thought the chairs, which were boxy, black & brown, with flexible backs, were really cool. But I can tell other people will think they are ugly and talk about them behind my back. And it is my understanding that as bride I am supposed to care OH SO VERY MUCH about the chairs at my wedding.2 Because chairs : weddings :: fingernails : job candidates.3
Next stop: Station Square, a section of Pittsburgh where everything ridiculously expensive but not very classy clumps together in one overpriced, drunken, tacky4 ball. I am not a big fan of Station Square! But they have so many wedding venues, because wedding venues are by their nature overpriced and tacky.
We rode the Incline (sidebar: Pittsburgh is awesome!) up to Mount Washington to look at LeMont, and left almost immediately because LeMont is kidding themselves when they say they are wheelchair-accessible.5
The unexpected brevity of that visit meant our next appointment was not for another long while, so we ate lunch and then decided to “pop in” to check out the Grand Concourse, which is the restaurant in what was the eponymous train Station of the Square.
Grand Concourse pluses:
- This was the most friendly and helpful venue coordinator we met with today, and the only one we didn’t have an appointment to see. That matters.
- This place is fucking gorgeous.
- The ceremony space is a grand staircase! I am in love the idea of having my ceremony on a staircase. I don’t care if I am nervous and slip and fall (unless I die).
Grand Concourse plus/minuses:
- The dining room is filled with built-in booths, which I think lent it exactly the funky and unusual feel I want for my wedding (so I can feel interesting without having to spend a million dollars and hours on “details”). Collin worries it broke up the guests too much and will put a damper on the partying.
- The dance floor is in its own room adjacent to the dining room. I think this further contributes to the “Not Your Father’s Wedding” feel. But maybe this will also put a damper on the partying? Or maybe sequestering the crazy dance party part of the wedding will make it crazier? I have to think about this aspect more.
Grand Concourse minus:
- This should be obvious: Price! Not outrageous, but more.
Our last appointment was at the Sheraton in Station Square. I will not break this down because there were basically only minuses: The woman we had an appointment with ditched work that day. Red flag! Her boss didn’t attend to us for half an hour after our scheduled appointment time! Red flag two! The event spaces were all really small! Red flag three! There was an audition for a girl’s beauty pageant going on! Red flags four through seventy!
While less expensive than other venues we looked at, the value for the money just wasn’t there. I don’t see us getting married there. Unfortunately, if we do get married at the Grand Concourse, we’ll probably end up doing the room block at the Sheraton, because it is the only hotel around. Hopefully the regular hotel staff is better at their jobs than the event staff. Luckily, Collin’s parents are staying there next weekend, so we can have them test the waters.
The saving grace of this disaster of an appointment was that we got to see event a hugely elaborate Indian wedding being set up. Dozens of floral centerpieces lined up in a row! Orange uplights being attached to extension cords! Hotel staff hammering pieces of PVC piping together to construct a mandap! (This wedding had gold Chiavari chairs. Also very pretty beaded organza linens. Also, based on the space rented, this wedding had a food and beverage minimum of $45,000).
Sheesh, this post is long. And it’s time for “date night” with Collin.6
1Yes! We hired a wedding planner. I know this means I can’t sit with the cool kids at lunch anymore, but I’ll just have to deal with that. I’ve got a combination of enough money to spend/crippling anxiety that I decided a wedding planner was the correct decision for me. Plus she was recommended to me by my friend Liz, whose wisdom I trust over basically anyone else in the entire universe, including Oprah, Roger Ebert, and Muhammed Ali.
2Today I learned that what I have been calling “those chairs that are at every wedding” are called Chiavari Chairs. I also learned they are not actually at every wedding, because renting chairs is expensive. I guess they are photogenic or a huge status symbol or something, so they are more like “those chairs that are at every featured wedding.” I can’t remember if I have ever been to a wedding that had them in real life. Oh, wait, I just checked the photos and my sister had them at her wedding last summer. Lesson: chairs don’t matter.
3That analogy probably doesn’t track for people who aren’t in the the stupid appearance-obsessed legal field. According to our career services office, I don’t have a job because I don’t get a manicure before interviews. Well, because of that and because law school was a terrible mistake.
4That’s right, I used the t-word. I’m rebelling against all the Wedding Blogiverse Rules today!
5Dear Venues: Four unavoidable stairs = you are not wheelchair accessible. Answer that question honestly on the phone. Thanks!
6“Date night” is looking more and more like us watching Netflix on the Wii because we’re both really tired. It’s like we’re already married!
May 8, 2010 at 8:17 pm
Ahhhhh, venue hunts. The Grand Concourse is beautiful! And I am not only saying that because I am partial to venues that feature big fancy staircases.
I can see your concerns about weirdly broken up spaces, but honestly? If you’ve got the kind of crowd who is ready to party, they’ll party where you tell them to — in booths, on dancefloors in separate rooms, whatever. And as a lover of booths, I know I’d be pretty stoked to sink into one during breaks from the dancefloor.
I think the decor at the Doubletree sounds interesting, as well. I’m sure you could make the ceremony work (and be awesome, even), basement be damned! I’m sure no one will be thinking about whether they’re in a basement or not while you say your I-dos.
(Also, I wondered if you were referencing that delightful ATL post. Ridiculous!)
May 9, 2010 at 9:21 pm
Go team fancy staircases!
May 8, 2010 at 8:48 pm
the grand concourse sounds like a perfect fit! how much more is much more? would it outrageous to pay more for the combination of elements you want?
regardless- good luck in your quest!
May 9, 2010 at 9:24 pm
It isn’t outrageously more, and I agree that spending more money is sometimes worth it. It’s just enough more money to give me pause. To make me think more along the lines of, “where will I cut back to make this happen” instead of “eh… it’s close enough to on-budget, wheeeeeeeeeeeee!”
May 9, 2010 at 8:20 pm
Netflix on the Wii is probably the greatest thing ever. Just finished Season 3 of Arrested Development today. On the couch. Love it.
May 9, 2010 at 9:25 pm
We’ve also been watching Arrested Development Season 3! What a coink!
May 10, 2010 at 12:22 pm
Before I scrolled down to footnote 2 I assumed it was going to be you making fun of me because I obsessed over chairs (i did). Then i discover you don’t even remember me obsessing over chairs! Even though it was at least partially due to the fact that you had called my attention to the problems with chair covers! I guess this supports your thesis that chairs don’t matter.
May 10, 2010 at 12:45 pm
Your version of “obsess” is pretty tame. I did remember you using your budget surplus on chair rental. I also remember thinking, “these chairs look fantastic!” That is why I checked the photos to see if they were Chiavari. But I certainly didn’t remember them having been that chair once I started reading about weddings and began to notice that chair in the first place.
May 12, 2010 at 4:03 am
I love when Becky comments! That is all.
May 10, 2010 at 3:19 pm
I’m stoked on the Grand Concourse, despite the fact that the name makes me think it’s a ballroom. But! Staircases and booths! That’s pretty damn rad.
May 10, 2010 at 9:39 pm
I also agree with the other commenters that the Grand Concourse’s booths sound cool and for me I think it’d be fun to attend a reception where the dancing is in a separate room, so people can party hard in there but also have a space to retreat to (or just stay in) if you’re more into conversations and hanging out.
I know what you mean about just being enough more money to give you pause, though. What time of day were you guys planning on holding the reception? If it’s in the evening and there won’t be any natural light anyway, then I guess it’s even between the GC and the Doubletree, but if the timing does allow for natural light, then it might be good to consider that natural light will probably help your photos turn out better. One of the places we visited talked about a ‘lighting designer’ they worked with, which was the first time that I’d considered how despite how pretty twinkle lights and candles are, it means purchasing/renting those items and getting someone to set them up and so it was just another reason to shift up the time and not have to deal with that particular logistic issue.
Do you think you’ll visit more venues or is it going to be amongst these?
May 10, 2010 at 11:43 pm
We’re getting married at night, so “lighting design” will probably be an issue anywhere. I made a dinner reservation at the Grand Concourse so our families can go there after my graduation, which will be helpful in vetting the venue for things like, “still pretty at night?”
We have other appointments coming up. Still looking, still have an open mind.
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