700 Frank Curto Drive, Oakland
412-622-6914 or phipps.conservatory.org
If you'd like to have a destination wedding but can't quite convince your loved ones to spend hundreds of dollars just to watch you exchange vows on a tropical beach, Phipps Conservatory may offer the perfect solution. The conservatory has been showcasing the world's flora for nearly 120 years, but it also hosts weddings and special events in several of the building's microclimates.
Colleen Chorney, Phipps' events sales manager, says the conservatory used to have a more strictly traditional approach to hosting weddings. Back then, the conservatory focused almost exclusively on the fountains and pergolas of its outdoor garden, as well as space in tents and event rooms. Those options are still available, but lately the team at Phipps has been thinking about ways to use every part of the conservatory to create unique celebrations.
A couple from Arizona, for example, chose to have their wedding photos taken amid the cacti of the desert room to represent their ties to the Southwest. Other couples have held receptions in the tropical forest, where guests can grab hors d'oeuvres from thatched huts or pose beneath the bright red tufts of the powderpuff tree and watch the fish in the koi pond.
And in a city where sunny days can be few and far between, a ceremony on the paths of the orchid room offers nature lovers the outdoors without the threat of rain or frostbite. "In the winter when you just can't stand another cold day, it's such a relief to step in here," Chorney says.
And the options are still expanding. This spring, the conservatory is scheduled to open its new Center for Sustainable Landscapes, a zero-energy building that offsets its annual energy consumption through solar panels and other features. While most of the interior will be used for offices and educational activities, the building will also feature a green roof -- six inches of soil that will naturally insulate the structure and provide growing space for ornamental and other plants. And an adjacent patio will provide an opportunity for wedding guests to drink cocktails as they survey the leafy plunge into Panther Hollow.
That commitment to conservation is another reason why some couples choose Phipps for their reception.
"A lot of young professionals have the idea of sustainability: I think a lot of our brides and grooms have the same mission as Phipps does," says Chorney. "I tell them, ‘You're having a green event even if you don't plan to have a green event.'" That's because eco-consciousness is built into every aspect of the Phipps operation. The building is one of the most energy-efficient conservatories in the country, and the Phipps catering staff bases its menu on local and organic foods, while doing its own composting on site.
And that's not even including all the jet fuel the venue conserves, by offering the perfect exotic wedding spot right here in the 'Burgh.