Day of Does: A Styled Shoot, Part II

Missed Part I? Catch up!

Part II

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and here we are in frigid Pittsburgh! Time to get things done. And buy a space heater for my office.

Between meeting newly engaged couples for coffee consults and planning with my 2019 brides and grooms, I’ve made some big progress on the styled shoot!

Like a real wedding, the first thing you need to book is the venue. It will strongly dictate the vibe/theme of your shoot, and will also have the final say on your date. As a first timer and slightly ‘alternative’ wedding planner (and person…I’m getting married at Mr. Smalls Funhouse, come on!) I leaned heavily on my shoot photographer Katie of Kathryn Hyslop Photography to keep my ideas grounded in reality.

As I brainstormed minutes before my coffee meeting with Katie, a few spots immediately came to mind:

  1. SCENARIO Nightclub in Southside

  2. Randyland

  3. Bicycle Heaven

  4. The Planetarium at the Carnegie Science Center

  5. The Benedum Center/Cultural Trust Theaters

Can you tell I’m quirky and love music? I’ve had such awesome experiences visiting each of these spots. After discussing my ideas with Katie, I learned even more about what makes a place a good fit for a styled shoot:

The venue should already be a wedding venue, or aspire to advertise as one in the near future. Otherwise, you’re not only selling something unrealistic, but what would be in it for the venue? It’s also not your job to convince venues that getting into the wedding biz is the best plan for them. Say goodbye to SCENARIO, Randyland, and Bicycle Heaven. Although in Bicycle Heaven’s defense, they have hosted a wedding before! It looked pretty sweet.

And on the flip side, even though a space is or will be a wedding venue, the spot for your shoot shouldn’t be something obvious. Examples: The Pennsylvanian, any Downtown Pgh hotel ballroom, The LeMont, etc. I’m not saying you couldn’t do a kick-ass shoot at any of these, but the classic Pittsburgh wedding venues are already famous for hosting stunning and well planned ceremonies and receptions every weekend. I want something fresh!

After a quick Google search, the Planetarium not only has a well-oiled wedding setup, they were also the backdrop for a super cool styled shoot recently, and they crushed it! I’m not following that show stopper. Thank u, next.

The Cultural Trust is very specific on who they let rent their theaters, and this line in their inquiry form had me hesitant to even bother:

“Wedding events or social parties cannot be accommodated due to programming guidelines and staff limitations.”

I emailed the manager of The Benedeum anyway, and while they would be open to it, they could only guarantee 2-4 weeks notice since touring shows would get priority. *Files under potential future marriage proposal shoot location.* Moving on!

With my Top 5 out, I went back to the drawing board. I tried to think of venues that had potential to host weddings, but fly under the radar. Spaces with character, a large area, and an established following. If I wasn’t already planning my own dang wedding at Mr. Smalls, I’d be there in a heartbeat! Seriously, check them out, they rock!

Then, it came to me: The perfect spot! An eclectic bar in the East End with a large second floor, and amazing food. It’s dripping in character and coolness, but doesn’t try too hard. One of my past clients ‘knew the owners,’ so I kind of knew them too, right? They’ve hosted New Year’s Eve parties and small concerts in the past…maybe a wedding? Let’s find out!

Here’s where another one of Katie’s tips kicked in: Only ask one potential venue at a time. If you pitch three venues to host a styled shoot and they all say yes, someone’s gonna get burned. Bottom line: It’s unprofessional.

Below is my actual e-mail to the venue owners. I tried to keep it light and to the point, like I’ve totally done this before.

Hi Venue Name
My name is Heather Dougherty, and I'm a Pittsburgh wedding planner (I believe my old client, Client Name is a friend of yours!) I wanted to ask if venue name could be used as a wedding venue? I'm teaming up with some vendor friends of mine for a styled shoot in early 2019, and we've brainstormed some non-traditional wedding venues in Pittsburgh as potential locations, and your name came up. Let me know if this is something you many be interested in, I'd love to chat further!
Best, Heather 

LOL @ ‘vendor friends.’ What vendor friends?! It’s called fake it ‘til you make it, people. I hit ‘send’ and crossed my fingers. Before the end of the day, they replied, and were totally interested! Woo! I set up a time to meet them at the bar for the following week…and then I got scared.

What if this idea sucks? What if it’s too weird to publish? Ah yes, publishing! Something else I knew nothing about. Many local and national wedding blogs only publish shoots that will jive well with their target audience. And if your shoot doesn’t get published, did it even happen?

Sure, there’s niche sites like Offbeat Bride and Rock ‘n’ Roll Bride, but what if my shit is too weird and disjointed even for them? At this point, my ‘vision’ looked the floor of my bedroom: A tangled fabric heap of potential looks. Katie said getting published nationally is awesome for your social media and SEO, but won’t necessarily translate into booking clients.

Plus, we all know there’s only one Pittsburgh wedding blog worth their salt, and that’s Burgh Brides. As a listed vendor, I’ve already received tons of business from their blog. I had to pitch them! Hey wait..didn’t I read that Victoria, the site’s founder, offered styled shoot consults? If I wanted to know how to get published, who better to ask?! *Schedules 90 min consult with Victoria*

After I got on Victoria’s calendar to pick her brain, I made my way over to The Venue to discuss making my(!) shoot a reality.

…To be continued!