The First Decision: Our Venue!

I may have lied…it’s not TECHNICALLY the first decision. I mean, it’s the first decision we’ve paid for, so that should count as the first decision, right?

True Confessions, hive: I’ve been planning this wedding for years. Mr. Palm Tree and I were together for almost eight years before we got engaged. I’ve had visions for forever. I used to joke that the engagement just meant I could move things into the execution stage, because almost everything was planned.

Because of this, decisions came kind of easy-ish to us. We were able to make decisions regarding our DJ and our photographer, but we didn’t “officially” book either of them immediately. We were really hoping that this particular venue came through, because we had found it and LOVED it, but didn’t want to start making decisions in case it didn’t come through and we had to adjust our date…spoiler alert: THE VENUE DID COME THROUGH!

When Mr. Palm Tree first proposed, we just tentatively agreed on May 25, 2013 as the date. We started dating in May all those years ago (May 27, 2004, to be exact) and figured we’d just keep it as close to the same date as possible. We could be flexible if needed, but wanted to just go with that and see what we could find. As far as venues went, we knew we wanted to get married in Pittsburgh—or as close to Pittsburgh as possible.

A bit of background information: We grew up in a very small town, about an hour north of Pittsburgh. I speak from experience when I say that there’s a 98% change that ANY “large” event (like weddings and graduation parties) took place at one of many fairly typical banquet halls. They were all buffet style (to clarify: DELICIOUS Italian buffet style, like oodles of homemade pasta and chicken and mmmm), and they all followed a similar style: dollar dance, cake walk, bridal party dance, COOKIE TABLE VISITS!, etc. (Here’s a really great article explaining the cookie table phenom, if you’re unfamiliar. It was only this year that I realized this wasn’t standard across the board.) As much as we’ve loved our experiences, we didn’t want this wedding.*

However, one bonus to these weddings in our old neck of the woods is that they’re cheapola. The Pittsburgh area in general has an uber-low cost of living, but our hometown takes the cake (ha). So as I started looking around at various venues in the area, I was having heart palpitations. First of all, WHAT DO YOU MEAN we cannot bring in our own food?! This news turned me Southern, hive. I may or may not have said “Well, I NEVER!” and fanned myself. I am so used to family members making the food! I was floored. Second of all, WHAT DO YOU MEAN the $10,000 price tag is just for the space? No tables, no chairs, no food, say whaaa? Or, I’d fall in love with a reasonably priced and/or gorgeous place (Morning Glory Inn, in the South Side, for example) and they’d only hold a number far less than our estimated 200 guests. I kept clicking though, and voila! THE FEZ.


Photo from The Fez / A shot of the Balconade Room, set up for a wedding this past June

To make an inevitably longish post a teeny bit shorter, after getting in touch with the contact, I booked the consultation. Through various emails, our contact—Ms. Debby—explained to me that the quoted prices were all-inclusive. Meaning, for instance, if you chose the $25 per head dinner price and the $15 bar package (I don’t even know if that’s an option, but let’s play pretend) and you had 150 guests, that’d be a total of $6,000 even. That includes the rental of the space, the setup, the tear-down, the staffing, some decorations (centerpieces, for example), lighting, etc. THIS. IS. UNHEARD. OF. The only thing to be added on is the sales tax and 18% gratuity. I cannot stress enough to you all that this is unheard of—for everything to be included and still so reasonably priced? A dream.

So, Mr. Palm Tree and I perused the menu and decided on tentative choices. This past Saturday, armed with Bridesmaid Y and MOH Mem, we went for a tour and sit-down meeting. Debby is FABULOUS. She is so incredibly friendly and helpful, I felt absolutely comfortable with her from the first instant. Bridesmaid Y was in awe: “She’s so NICE! And helpful! It’s almost like you want to ask her if she can be your coordinator…she just knows everything and wants to help you.” As we walked around, we fell completely and unequivocally in love.


Personal photo / Do you SEE this bar? It’s in its own room, off of the reception area…we have like a whole freakin’ wing.


Personal photo / Mr. Palm Tree photo bombing the pictures. It was set up for a high school formal the day we went to visit.

Photo from The Fez via The Fez’s Facebook page / Another photo taken from the June wedding

Honestly, we couldn’t have found a more perfect place. As noted above, the bar is HUGE and in its own area. Not noted above, the bridal party has a whole giant room to itself to get ready. We (meaning all of the reception guests) have our own restrooms. We have a beautiful balcony to descend from and make an awesomely grand entrance. We’re having our reception on site, and there is little to no fuss associated with it. We get to bring in our own cookies and they’ll tray them for us. Oh, and the bar doesn’t close for dinner—did I mention that tidbit? Absolutely positively beyond fabulous.

Needless to say, we absolutely placed our deposit and signed the contract. We’re so beyond happy about all of this, to have an official venue and an official date.

How was the venue decision for you, fellow brides-to-be? Did you opt for a one-stop-shop or did your venue require multiple venues?

*Hometown folks past and present, please don’t take offense at this. We just feel as though so much of our life is based in Pittsburgh; we’ve attended college here, we’ve started adulthood here, and it was very important to us to start our lives together here, in one of our all-time favorite cities (Charleston, South Carolina being a close second).


Mrs. Palm Tree

March 20
Pittsburgh, PA
Wedding Date:
May 2013
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  1. Member
    DBS5127 220 posts, Helper bee @ 9:20 am

    That sounds (and looks) like a great place! Congratulations! I’m searching for venues now (actually leaving to go visit one in about 5 minutes). I’m certainly feeling the sticker shock of prices – it’s insane!

  2. snowcone Member
    snowcone 1141 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:53 am

    Charleston is such a amazing city. Loved that shout-out!

  3. mslemur Member
    mslemur 616 posts, Busy bee @ 10:06 am

    Oh venues…they’re so crazy expensive. I think what you found looks amazing! What a good deal for you!

    About the cookie table thing… I saw that when I was looking up wedding stuff and I was actually kinda jealous it’s just a PA thing :) I was born in Lancaster, does that count??

  4. Member
    krislynn_sd 72 posts, Worker bee @ 10:44 am

    We found our perfect venue too and it completely fell into place.
    Get this – For $3400 we get the ceremony outside, tables, chairs, FULL use to a HUGE kitchen (complete with TWO walk in fridges and freezers) AND cabins for our guest for both Friday and Saturday night. We’ll stay in this huge cabin mansion thing for both Friday and Saturday night of our wedding weekend. We can bring whatever alcohol we want, as long as we don’t sell it without a liquor license, and can bring whatever food we want as well.
    Not to mention that it’s right by the lake and it completely beautiful. Dream venue come true.

  5. Guest Icon Guest
    estella, Guest @ 11:15 am

    What’s the cake walk? Besides being an old dance, I mean.

  6. Member
    new york bride 13 334 posts, Helper bee @ 11:42 am

    Congratulations! It sounds like the perfect venue!

    Ours was a quick decision once we walked in. I think I was ready to sign the contract in about 5 minutes. It took everyone else 10 minutes more, and we were signing the contract and doing our tasting on the spot!

  7. Member
    redherring 1815 posts, Buzzing bee @ 12:13 pm

    I don’t want to rain on your parade, but as an event planner, I’m *always* worried about hidden fees. I know you said they’d plate the cookies, but is there a charge for doing so? Cake cutting fee? Any sort of AV equipment for the DJ? An “overtime” fee if you need to get there early to set up or stay later than planned?

    Also, I absolutely loved Morning Glory Inn when I was originally looking at venues, but (1) the coordinator there was *impossible* to get ahold of and (2) my FIL occasionally required a wheelchair, and while they said they were accessible, their pictures online indicated they most definitely were not.

  8. Member
    heykaraoke 1771 posts, Buzzing bee @ 4:47 pm

    I worked at The Fez in high school! I served at a ton of weddings. The Balconade Room was my favorite! Now I seriously cannot wait for your recaps, your wedding is going to be awesome :)

  9. mspalmtree Member
    Mrs. Palm Tree 1122 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:53 pm

    @DaniLyn: Good luck! Sticker shock is a great way to put it. I hope you find what fits you both within your budget!

    @Mrs. Snow Cone: You went there for your honeymoon, right? It’s so magical.

    @Miss Lemur: Girlfriend, it is so not OWNED by PA! You should totally have a cookie table – I think it’d fit perfectly with your brunch, too!

    @krislynn_sd: Oh, I’m super jealous. That price is stellar and the access to the kitchen is HUGE. You win, lady.

    @estella: The calk walk, also called a cake march, is basically just a fun little take on a conga line for a wedding. Someone will lead the walk/march around the venue and end up in two lines at the cake. The bride & groom will then walk in between the two lines and the people forming those lines may lower their arms to ‘trap’ the bride and groom – if/when they do, the b&g have to kiss. It’s an Italian tradition that’s super common in both of our families and around our hometown, but I think it’s somewhat dated. Neither of the weddings I attended last year had them.

    @new york bride 13: That was us, too! We spent more time discussing how much we’d put down for the deposit (if it was worthwhile to put down more than the smallest required amount) than we did discussing our love for it. We just knew it was perfect. Congrats on finding yours!

    @redherring: Not raining, I promise! I appreciate your concern and giving me the heads up, sincerely. Thankfully, we’re golden in those aspects. Our contract is super specific and outlines everything, step by step, plus I’ve confirmed (and re-confirmed) everything with the planner. I’m super OCD about these things. Also, so good to hear about the Morning Glory Inn. Not that I want it to be a bad venue, but I’m glad it doesn’t have to be the dream that died, you know?

    @HeyKaraoke: Ahhhh!! Small world, I love it! I love that you worked there and loved the Balconade Room. That balcony is seriously such a nice, special touch on an already awesome and open room.

  10. Member
    mordantmaxim 103 posts, Blushing bee @ 10:06 pm

    We’re having a kosher, Conservative Jewish wedding in the Bay Area. It is CRAZY how FEW places actually allow kosher catering; and, as a result, they can all charge an arm and a leg on top of Bay Area prices.

    But, when we finally found one who had the same price, but the perfect outside spot for a November wedding, a ridiculous bridal suite that we can spend the night in, and a 1 year anniversary packaged included, it was the biggest relief ever.

    Congrats on finding yours!

  11. mssquirrel Member
    mssquirrel 276 posts, Helper bee @ 5:02 am

    Love the cookie table!!! I went to college in PA and I love that tradition! Anyway…your venue sounds perfect for you! I am picturing a grand entrance down those stairs :)

  12. Member
    stephk527 987 posts, Busy bee @ 5:54 am

    @mordantmaxim: You know, that’s a really good point that I hadn’t previously thought of/considered – food allergies, preferences, etc. I can’t imagine trying to find a caterer to work with those requirements and their hidden fees. Your place sounds amazing and I’d LOVE to have a bridal suite to spend the night in on location. So stellar!

    @Miss Squirrel: The cookie table is freaking awesome, I love it. And you nailed it! I didn’t mention it, but the “Bridal Staircase Presentation” is like some award-winning bojank that’s included. Definitely a grand entrance. 😉

  13. mspalmtree Member
    Mrs. Palm Tree 1122 posts, Bumble bee @ 5:57 am

    @mordantmaxim: You know, that’s something I hadn’t previously thought of – food allergies, preferences, religious necessities, etc. I can’t imagine having to deal with venues & caterers and the potential for hidden fees. That’s so awesome that you found something that works for you and I’d LOVE an overnight bridal suite on location. So stellar!

    @Miss Squirrel: I’m glad the cookie table is such a hit! It’s funny, when that article came out I had a moment of shock, like “. . .this isn’t done everywhere?!” Hopefully it spreads. :) And you nailed it! The Fez is locally famous for their “Bridal Staircase Presentation.” Grand entrance indeed. 😉

  14. Member
    blonde17jess 1290 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:01 am

    @Miss Lemur: You should absolutely do a cookie table! Yummm!

    I’m with you, girly. I know we could’ve had the same size wedding for half the cost if we did it in my hometown, but we feel most comfortable hosting a party where WE live now. I think it’s the right choice for us!

  15. Member
    OtherJesus 29 posts, Newbee @ 6:58 am

    Now I seriously cannot wait for your recaps!!

  16. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 7:02 am

    Your venue sounds perfect for you, I love the bar set up and I can’t wait to see what you do with the space :)

  17. Member
    lovelyduckie 756 posts, Busy bee @ 7:09 am

    We were a one stop shop on the venue, I did LOADS of research and going into that appointment we knew that it was our best option for all of our must haves. In fact we’ve one stop shopped on just about everything, photographer and DJ (took them after I liked their work and prices at my friend’s wedding). Not to mention dress, hair/makeup, and caterer. Ironically the places I do the most back and forth on are the small details of my accessories and DIY projects.

  18. mspalmtree Member
    Mrs. Palm Tree 1122 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:42 am

    @Blonde17Jess: Sometimes it’s hard to decide on the Then vs. Now – if your FI isn’t from the same hometown, like we are, I’d imagine it’d be even harder due to having to weigh the fairness. I think you made the right decision!

    @OtherJesus: Is it strange to say that I can’t wait for them either? I think about writing them often! haha. Thank you!

    @Mrs. Pony: Oh, we just love it! They had a bridal show there recently and a few of my BM’s and I went just to check up on everything and we swooned all over again.

    @lovelyduckie: I’ve done a lot of back-and-forth on my jewelry and chair covers, of all things. Isn’t it crazy, the things you think would be the BIG decisions turn out to be easy, things you just *know*?

  19. mstoadstool Member
    mstoadstool 2485 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:10 pm

    Wow, it sounds like a fantastic deal, and the place is really beautiful.

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