Your Wedding Venue Closed Before Your Wedding – What Now?!
((It’s okay to feel the way this little ringbearer does!))
(Also you don’t have to keep your sh*t together!)
(Also this one is true. You got this.)
(Freaking out? That’s okay too!)
(Some shouting? Sure go ahead!)
(Then a little bit more crying? Go for it. This sucks)
(Ultimately weathering this storm? Yep!)

First off, I’m sorry and this sucks. When something bad happens in life, we don’t want to hear  “you’ll find something you like even better!” or “that’s why you should have used a credit card or got wedding insurance” (You know I’m not going to harp on credit cards because I love me some Dave Ramsey so I support you if you choose not to use a credit card!) We just want to hear it sucks, you shouldn’t HAVE to be doing this, you shouldn’t have to scramble to find something, and this is very unfair.

Also, I’m so sorry to the employees who lost their jobs. This sucks.

And also, I feel for all you who had your wedding and fond memories at that venue before – it’s always fun to drive by and say “that’s where your mom and I got married” to your kids or go out to dinner on your 10th-20th-30th anniversary at the place where you made those memories years before. So I’m sad for you too.

Impact on wedding industry: Closings of big companies like Alfred Angelo (years ago) or Noah’s Event Center (recently) nationally and closings of businesses and venues locally hurt the entire wedding industry. I can’t blame couples for asking all vendors to take a credit card. I never judge couples who read my contract line by line carefully and ask for revisions. I even understand why some couples come in and ask for payment arrangements that don’t include paying 100% prior to the wedding – because of scenarios where businesses have closed and left clients high and dry.

I’m not a lawyer. I’m just a wedding photographer. But I like logistics and problem-solving and educating myself on business issues and I wanted to write down my thoughts on the mass closing of a chain of reception venues this week. This isn’t legal advice – this is just advice from a wedding professional and what I would tell my own sister or best friend to do.

First – what happened? It appears to me (and again, I could be totally wrong) that Noah’s Event Center was doing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy last spring (May 2019). A few locations had closed throughout the country – rumor had it that the ones closing just weren’t renewing their leases. I know people signed with Noah’s as late as this week – but the people at the local facility may not have known what the big bosses/headquarters knew – anyone who has a corporate job knows how that can be! You may hear rumblings but you still have to show up to work everyday and do your job. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy would have let them keep operating and just restructured (again, I Googled all of this and I’m no accountant and I might be getting it all wrong – so any client of mine who is a lawyer or accountant or just better at biz than me – feel free to correct me!)

But then, they didn’t “do as well as they had hoped” apparently and a judge changed it to Chapter 7 bankruptcy rather suddenly – saying they should not be marketing or taking payments anymore. This quote came from a WTAE News Story: “With no income, Noah’s decided to shut down. Cannon said Noah’s case will move to Chapter 7 bankruptcy soon. Cannon said the brides and grooms whose weddings were canceled will have to file bankruptcy court claims and, “Sadly, there’s not very much in the way of assets or money.” So more on filing a bankruptcy claim below…

Source: WTAE News Story here https://www.wtae.com/article/two-local-event-centers-wedding-venues-abruptly-close-forcing-couples-to-change-plans/30818464


So what should you do right now? (Again, this is just my advice and not legal advice!)
1. If you haven’t yet, stop any autopayments to Noah’s.

2. If you paid by credit card, contact the card company today. Even if just some of your payments were on credit card, contact your card today – I would call the number on the back. I had to file a claim about 5 years ago for something on my credit card (a windshield in Iceland – expensive fix) and they DID take care of it – so I highly recommend this. It took some paperwork, but I got it taken care of in the end. I know there are time limits on this and it varies card to card, but it seems those who paid on credit card may be in better shape than those who paid with debit/check/cash.

3. If you paid by debit card or check, Google tells me it is going to be harder – but call your bank. And I’d call and speak to a few different people and escalate it upwards.

4. File the bankruptcy claim talked about in the news story. This article talks about that and how to do it: https://www.news5cleveland.com/news/local-news/oh-lake/noahs-event-venue-closes-dozens-of-locations-due-to-bankruptcy-leaving-brides-to-be-devastated

5. Start looking for another venue (more on that below!)

Advice for the Future:

It seems like it could be beneficial in the future to do a few things – Of course, there are no guarantees and this is not at all shaming those who had this happen. Things happen despite our best precautions! We can’t prevent everything!

1. Make payments where possible on credit cards for the protection they provide.

2. Consider getting wedding insurance or looking at your home owner’s policy and adding an event rider on there. The cost is around $300-500 last time I looked.

3. Ask your trusted local vendors the question “Who would you book for your wedding for DJ/dress/venue/photos/etc?” I love being asked who I would book as a photographer – we vendors sometimes hear rumblings of things because we eat, sleep, and breathe this industry. We sometimes know which vendor puts their heart and souls in it and run a tight ship! We see lots of behind the scenes stuff!

Seeking a New Venue – Advice for Those Looking:

1. If you have a hot date (say, the fall or 10/10), look at places that can hold multiple weddings and events in a day, such as large hotels. They are more likely to have space for your event!

2. Remember, unfortunately weddings do get cancelled, so the date will be open somewhere!

3. If you have a hot and popular date, you may also want to look at venues that have more restrictive booking processes or only book in certain seasons – I believe Heinz Field and PNC Park fit that bill – they are beholden to the game and concert schedules, so they may book a bit later than other venues! Same thing for venues that only do summer or only do winter – they might allow you to flex on this due to circumstances!

You also could look at more rural venues/farms outside the area for example that may have availability – I noticed a lot of rural venues still had dates available!

4. If you aren’t having a lot of luck finding a venue, consider that under 200 (say 100-150 guests) will open up more choices! There are limited spaces for 200+ in Pittsburgh, but at 50-100 guests – there are many many popular smaller venues such as Tree Pittsburgh.

5. Many Pittsburgh vendors and venues are offering discounts or incentives – be sure to check out Burgh Brides Facebook group for help!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/burghbridespittsburghweddingplanning/

Here are a list of the incentives/availability at venues as of 02/09/20 – thanks to Jeannene Lillie Events for compiling this!

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19qvISVFtMcqtZYpbbkN4gnLPPhIWGi1zHce_0Qce7h4/edit?fbclid=IwAR20OaOh8M-gq4r4A5XtNf6UyfqeYJqrzU0SOSjm95WZ9eX7AuVNtoPHQC8#gid=0

6. Obviously, money will be an issue for rebooking. Especially for those who used a debit card or check – I’d check as soon as possible for all forms of payment to see what you will get back. If you won’t be getting a refund of your Noah’s money, I realize your budget will be reduced. I was just talking with a photographer today who mentioned she had a beautiful wedding at a restaurant – so there was no room rental fee (Monterey Bay too – great views!). If you are already out your room rental fee but hadn’t yet selected a caterer, try finding another venue that doesn’t charge for rental and only charges for food and beverage, for example, such as a restaurant. Or carefully see if the caterer would allow you out of your contract/weigh your options on forfeiting that retainer/ask them for help in finding a new space.

Prices vary WIDELY in Pittsburgh – especially for rental of a space. I’m confident you can find something in your budget range now that will still be beautiful.

If you have selected a caterer and placed money there – I realize this will be more difficult! Some venues are willing to work with outside caterers in this special situation! I’ve been to two lovely North Park weddings where the rental fee was only $200-300 – then you can still use your caterer, bring your own alcohol, use your rentals, etc.

Here’s some budget-friendly options (according to my previous brides and grooms – budget has a different meaning for everyone obviously):

Banquet Unlimited
County Parks
Mt Troy Ballroom
Carmichaels Firehall
Greek Orthodox Social Hall
Salvatore’s
Private Property – maybe this is the time to ask your church, your friend with a gorgeous large home, etc
Palisades
Morguen Toole Company
Riverview Park – I get asked about this venue a lot! 
North Park –  I get asked about these two incredible weddings a lot! Trisha and Eric and Emily and Bryan
Scottish Rite Cathedral
Cedar Brook Golf Club
Comfort Inn Penn Hills
Holy Cross Banquet Hall
Greater Masonic Center of Pittsburgh
St. John’s Cathedral Room
Holiday Inn Express in West Mifflin
Sunset Room in Elizabeth

Lesser known venues that might have more dates available:

Country Dreams BnB in Rockwood
PNC Park and Heinz Field often have lesser lead times on booking due to sports schedules
Edgewood Club due to booking seasonally
Hofbrauhaus

Update – these venues MAY allow outside licensed caterers (I haven’t confirmed this but was told by previous brides/quick Facebook search that they may):
WBU Spring Hill
Tarenbee
Rodef Shalom
Armstrong Farms
Allegheny County Courthouse
Hartwood Acres
North Park
Riverview Park
New Hazlett Theater
This is Red
Heaven Sent Farms
Union Project
West Overton
Point Breezeway
Pavilion at Pittsburgh Shriner Center
Lewis Family Farm
Greystone Fields
Valley View Farm
Spirit
Slate

Some clients are wanting to keep things near the original venue for ease of logistics. Here’s a list of a few places nearby:

near Cranberry:
Crystal Room in the Days Inn Butler
Succop Conservancy
The Gathering Place at Darlington Lake
The Mansion in Butler
Twelve Oaks Mansion
White Barn
Atrium (and its sister property)
Shakespeare’s/Old Stonewall
Butler Country Club
Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh Cranberry

near Southpointe:
Hilton Garden Inn Southpointe
Bella Sera
Southpointe Golf Club
Crowne Plaza South Hills Village

similar feel/amenities to Noah’s with on site ceremonies:
Longue Vue Club
Sewickley Heights Golf Club

7. If you aren’t having any luck finding a good venue, you may consider switching the date. Most vendors understand this is a date change due to an emergency and would likely try to work with you to the best of their ability– church, florist, photographer – provided they are not booked on the new date. In order to maximize this option, you might try switching to a Sunday, a Friday, or a winter date – when vendors will likely be much more available!

8. You could also choose to change directions on the type of wedding, the location, the feel – maybe you take off on a destination wedding because after being put through this – you definitely deserve a nice trip away!

9. If you have a little more time to wait (late 2020, 2021 brides without super popular dates) – you can perhaps see if another venue will open in the space – contact the owners of the spaces and see what the plans are as these locations were rented not owned by Noah’s.

Also, to bring it all back to the beginning of this article – I looked at 116 houses before I bought my house. I lost a house offer I was told I had and it was a bummer – I even cried because I thought I had this and I was tired of looking. It was not fair. But – I got so so lucky with the house I did get in the end. It had everything I wanted and the exact layout. 116 houses over 8 months and yet I bought a house that hadn’t even officially hit the market. The sellers? They gave me their patio furniture. They took meticulous care of the place, it was much nicer than the other houses I lost, the bathrooms were new, and the hardwoods were perfect under the carpet. So in the end, I stayed the course and kept looking and came in under budget. I know your wedding will still be beautiful and memorable as Noah’s was just a place and the real magic of a wedding is the love the couple has for each other. Years from now, you’ll look back and say “Remember when our wedding venue closed right before our wedding?” with a laugh because you will have weathered the hell out of this storm and kept right on rolling. You got this.

The Pittsburgh wedding community is here for you – please get in touch if I can be of any help!



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