Pittsburghers have chosen some original wedding venues

For their wedding, Dana Burrows and Conor McCaskey had every part of the adage covered —  “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”

Well, maybe not that last part, unless you count the bright stripes in bagpiper Jim Berzonski’s kilt. He was probably the least unusual part of the Dormont couple’s July 12 wedding.

It began with a procession down Grant Street, Downtown, led by Mr. McCaskey and his twin brother and best man, Sean, and the groomsmen riding in a 1932 Pirsch Pumper firetruck. Following close behind were the bridesmaids in a vintage Rolls-Royce, the mother of the bride in a vintage Pontiac and the bride with her father in his vintage Morgan. Mr. Berzonski, a friend of the groom, played as the procession rolled under the rotunda of The Pennsylvanian, a train station turned into a luxury apartment complex. There, Mt. Lebanon district justice Blaise Larotonda presided as the couple said their vows. 

A train station is certainly a unique spot for a wedding, but it’s not the oddest place Pittsburghers have chosen for the ceremony or reception. Just ask Addi Twigg, 34, and Joseph Gustafson, 36, who exchanged vows on the Duquesne Incline as it climbed the side of Mount Washington on Feb. 27, 2011.

The Stanton Heights couple had been together for years and were perfectly content, but health insurance issues motivated them to make their relationship official. Ms. Twigg initially laughed when Mr. Gustafson suggested the incline.

“The idea of incorporating a Pittsburgh icon into my union with the man I love is perfectly charming,” she said. “It would feel appropriate because we love this town almost as much as we love each other.”

Of course, there wasn’t room for many guests. Joined by two witnesses and two friends, the couple said their vows and signed the contract as the car climbed the hillside. They celebrated later with friends and family at Nakama Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar on the South Side.

Incorporating pets into a wedding is not so unusual anymore, but wild animals? When Ashley Walch, 31, and Bryan Reilly, 41, tie the knot in October, their guests will include feathered residents of the National Aviary on the North Side. The Swissvale couple’s wedding planner, Hilary Peterson of Aqua Chiffon Events, recommended bridal birding because it fit their budget and would provide a memorable event. For a fee, aviary staff members will bring birds to the celebration.

“When I found out that we could have a penguin and an owl brought out during our reception, that really sealed the deal for me,” Ms. Walch said. 

Some people would rather keep the party animals at a safer distance. Janice and Mark Schiller were one of the first couples to hold their wedding and reception at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium on Dec. 2, 2000.

“Our wedding and reception at the zoo was the best,” Mr. Schiller said.

Couples can rent the entire park or choose a specific location such as the Water’s Edge or an outdoor garden tent. The zoo can accommodate 140 to 200 guests indoors, and the garden tent can seat 500 people or 800 cocktail-style.

Mrs. and Mr. Schiller, president and vice president of operations, respectively, for Pittsburgh Water Limo and Luxury Cruises, say water weddings continue to grow in popularity. Their heated riverboat, Miss Pittsburgh, carries 49 passengers. For bigger weddings, the Gateway Clipper fleet has five boats that accommodate anywhere from 150 to 600 guests.

The priority for many couples, when planning their big day, is making it personal and memorable. Angel Brownawell and David Whalen chose Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland, a favorite spot for wedding photos, to have their wedding in June. But the reception was held at the Hofbrauhaus on the South Side, a regular stop when the Springfield, Va., couple are in town visiting her family in Delmont. Ms. Brownawell is of German heritage, and their celebration, which included German beer, food and music, became known as “Wedtoberfest.”

“Nothing like the Hofbrauhaus experience exists in the D.C. area,” she said.

Couples who want to be sure their guests are entertained might follow the lead of Scott residents Jes Marie Scherder, 31, and Bryan Robert Hayden, 29, who had their wedding and reception in June 2012 at Kennywood. The 116-year-old amusement park in West Mifflin was the “fun setting” they were looking for.

“After the ceremony, everybody had a chance to have fun and ride some rides,” she said.

Vintage rides were a meaningful part of the Burrows-McCaskey wedding at the Pennsylvanian in July. Every detail reflected the personal histories of Ms. Burrows, an eighth-grade math teacher, and Mr. McCaskey, an account executive and retired firefighter. Their families share a history of twins, Irish heritage and a passion for vintage cars and firefighting. In addition to Mr. McCaskey’s twin brother, also a firefighter, Ms. Burrows’ parents are both twins. Her mother’s twin brother loaned her his vintage Pontiac for the wedding procession. 

So what was the “something new”?

Ten years ago, the bride’s father, Dave Burrows, learned from his twin brother’s genealogy search of relatives in Ireland. The engaged couple traveled there and met them last year and stopped there as newylweds on their recent honeymoon. At the wedding, one of Ms. Burrows’ newfound cousins, Martin Burrows, made the trip from Ireland and read an Irish blessing.



Lorri Drumm is a former Post-Gazette intern.

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