So you want to elope to the Steel City. The City of Champions. Blitzburgh. Whatever you want to call it, the late, great Anthony Bourdain nailed Pittsburgh when he opened his 2017 Parts Unknown episode with, “Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own rights and rituals, a patchwork of cultures that took shape over a century ago… Pittsburgh could’ve been another company town gone to beautiful ruin. But something happened.”
That “something” was a significant economic renaissance produced by scores of tech talent. In came Google, Uber, Amazon, and Facebook, and a steady wave of young adults looking to set up shop in America’s oft-rated most livable city, which also boasts a flourishing restaurant scene (hence Bourdain’s visit), a buzzy cultural district anchored by Heinz Hall (same family as the ketchup), and, in a time when other cities with comparable accolades are seeing scary-high rents, a very affordable housing market.
Visit today and you’ll find a deeply passionate, hard-working city brimming with lifers and newcomers alike (and deeply diehard sports fans of its three championship franchises, the Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. This is not a drill.). Those born and raised here are very, very unlikely to get married anywhere else, and often seek out elopements in some of the ‘burgh’s most beloved spots. Visitors can play tourist on the city’s three rivers, take in the views from the many steep vantage points, and wander around one of four Carnegie Museums founded by the OG of Pittsburgh’s economic growth, steel titan-turned-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
Best Time of Year to Visit
May - October
Pittsburgh is home to dozens of colleges and universities, making the summer months noticeably more laid-back when the students clear out. The summer is also very, very humid, so if you don’t mind campus tours, dazed parents, and a bit of extra traffic, plan for the fall for beautiful foliage and milder, less muggy temps. November ushers in rain, but December brings out the beloved ice rink at PPG Place in Downtown Pittsburgh; at its center is a towering tree, a favorite for photo opps. Avoid January, February, and March unless you enjoy below-zero temps thanks to the wind whipping off the city’s rivers. Spring happens in a blink, and the best month is May; just be sure to plan around all college and university graduation ceremonies.
Pro Tip: In May and September, check the calendar for two of the biggest races in the city, the Pittsburgh Marathon and the Great Race, respectively. You’ll also want to look for any events at Heinz Field, which is home to both the Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh football teams, as well as the big-ticket concerts, all of which tend to clog up traffic on the interstates heading into the city and gobble up hotel rooms and Airbnbs in nearby Downtown, North Side, South Side, and Mount Washington neighborhoods.
Simply put, the Allegheny County Courthouse is completely badass. The Romanesque Revival structure in Downtown was designed by Boston architect H.H. Richardson and finished in 1888. Its majestic Syrian arches, French Gothic dormer windows, and soaring tower make it the second best courthouse in America, according to the American Institute of Architects—not bad, considering the number one spot goes to the U.S. Supreme Court Building. The Courthouse’s onsite planning team makes ceremony arrangements a breeze: Say your vows indoors, perched on the sweeping Grand Staircase, or head outside to the romantic courtyard in the building’s center. Don’t be freaked by the fact that the Courthouse is connected to the old Allegheny County Jail (it’s now offices) by the “Bridge of Sighs,” inspired by the original Bridge of Sighs in Venice; the walkway offers intimate photo opportunities above the humming Downtown sidewalks.
In 1994, The Andy Warhol Museum opened on the North Shore of Pittsburgh, where the artist was born and raised. Today, the museum—which belongs to the Carnegie family of museums—is equipped with an event staff who can help create a quick and intimate elopement, whether you live locally or are traveling in from out of town (it is the largest museum in North America dedicated to a single artist, holding 900 of Warhol’s paintings and 4,000 of his photographs). Plan to go when there’s not a baseball game at nearby PNC Park to avoid traffic and road closures. (Or, if you like baseball, do both—the park’s been voted the most beautiful stadium in the country.) Following your ceremony, take a short ride over the Andy Warhol Bridge to Downtown for photos under the “Two Andys” mural above Wiener World, which depicts Warhol and Andrew Carnegie receiving beauty treatments in a salon. Then head to the nearby Bloomfield neighborhood for celebratory cocktails at Brillobox, named, of course, after Warhol’s famed Brillo pad box.
Pittsburgh has 446 bridges, more than anywhere else in the world. Yes, even Venice, and if were born in Pittsburgh, this braggy piece of trivia was implanted in the womb. If you’re planning to visit, you’ll likely come across this tidbit during planning, as it’s one of those facts that also brings an enormous bucket of pride to those who know and love Pittsburgh. So, why not elope on a bridge? As long as it’s just the two of you, an officiant, and a stealthy photographer, you’ll be fine (and if any authority figure has an issue, just say you’re taking engagement photos). The Smithfield Street Bridge, which straddles the Monongahela River and links the South Side to Downtown, is undoubtedly the most romantic bridge in the city, its navy blue arches studded with lights. Time your vows outside the 5 PM rush hour in order to avoid commuter foot traffic and loud buses swishing by. Further down the Mon is the Hot Metal Bridge, which was once used to transport molten iron—literally, hot metal—and today connects the South Side with Oakland. It has a wide walkway with small pads jutting off so you don’t have to dart out of joggers’ way. Plus, it offers a gorgeous view of the Downtown skyline at sunset.
Fans of Andy Warhol should opt for the Seventh Street Bridge, one of the city’s three “Sister Bridges” (along with the Roberto Clemente and Rachel Carson Bridges), which was renamed the Andy Warhol Bridge in 2005. It straddles the Allegheny River and connects Downtown to the North Shore, right near the Andy Warhol Museum. And, fun fact: legend has it that Warhol used to traipse across the bridge with his family and rest on the steps of the building that later became his museum.
The Gateway Clipper is one of those cheesy touristy things that is also just a really good time. The name actually encompasses a fleet of three cruises, the Duchess, the Empress, and the Queen (because ~elegance~), and while wedding packages are available for all three, you can skip the 100-guest minimum and its price tag and just buy tickets for yourselves and your officiant. The Clipper docks at Station Square, a waterfront spot on the Monongahela River across from Downtown that’s lined with more than a dozen fun restaurant chains including Hard Rock Cafe, Joe’s Crab Shack, and The Melting Pot. There’s also a few local joints, including elevated fast-casual spot Terrene From the Earth, serving up salads, sandwiches, and bowls, as well as the grandiose, fairly upscale Grand Concourse, a seafood-heavy restaurant located inside what was once a terminal for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad. Be sure to check the Clipper’s ever-changing calendar of events to pick which sightseeing tour you prefer and which add-ons sound enticing (the Moonlight Dance sounds pretty apropo.)
A few things to know about Mount Washington: It’s not really a mountain, but rather a 400-foot-high slab of rock overlooking Downtown; it’s routinely voted one of the best views in the world, ranked right up there with the Grand Canyon; and it’s named after George Washington, who stood at the top in 1770 and mapped Pittsburgh below. Shooting off Grandview are what look like mini helicopter pads that provide vantage points to take in the glorious view of Downtown Pittsburgh; it’s on these platforms where you’ll want to actually get married. While the area is technically part of Emerald View Park, you won’t need a permit as long as it’s just you, yours, and the officiant. For added photo opps, park in Station Square and take the red Monongahela Incline to the top, where you pay for a (cheap) round-trip ticket that’s good all day.
Perched on a hill in Schenley Park in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood is Phipps Conservatory, undeniably one of the most popular places to get married in the city. The original structure dates to 1893 and is almost entirely made up of glass panes, giving the conservatory a graceful, elegant silhouette that’s also ideal for the eco-conscious couple due to its commitment to innovative sustainability. While there are five spaces to get married throughout the conservatory, Phipps specifically offers up its Broderie Room for elopements. The French-tinged garden space draws inspiration from the era of Louis XIV (as evidenced by its meticulous hedges), and for $750, you’ll have 90 minutes to say your vows and take photos as the sun spills through the glass roof. After the ceremony, walk nearby to Panther Hollow Bridge for photos against a setting sun.
Right Downtown, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio, sits Point State Park, a 36-acre triangular patch of greenspace capped at its tip by a geyser-like fountain known by locals as simply “the Point.” To elope here, shoot for a weekday, as the weekends bring picnicking families and spectators to many poppin’ summer events, including the annual Three Rivers Arts Festival in June and the Three Rivers Regatta in August. You’ll also need a permit (given that whole “State Park” thing), which starts at $2,000; you can apply for one and find all the pertinent information here. Trivia: History buffs will want to check out the Fort Pitt Museum, located on the park’s grounds, which played a pivotal role in the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.
To apply for a marriage license in the city of Pittsburgh, head together to the City-County Building located downtown with proper ID and $80 in hand. While there’s a three-day waiting period for the license to be issued, the marriage license office recommends applying two to three weeks out. Once ready, the license can be picked up by you, a relative, a trustworthy friend, or can be mailed to you at no extra cost. Visit Pittsburgh’s Department of Court Records website for more info. Vow time? Pennsylvania is a no-witness state.
To note, Pennsylvania is also a Quaker state, meaning you can “self-unite.” While this may sound ideal, given the whole stripped-down approach of eloping, there is a process: You and your partner need to find two witnesses and head to the courthouse, where you’ll tell the clerk you’d like a self-uniting license, which also costs $80. Sign it, send it in for filing, and you’re done.