The Inside Scoop
FROM THE KNOT EDITORS
The First Look
For couples with a wild side, animal lovers or even those just searching for a unique reception venue, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania might just be the perfect option. First opened in 1898, it has grown throughout the years to include a children's zoo, Asian forest, a 22,000 square foot island exhibit and now, it can be the host to the wedding event of your dreams. Dine next to vivid tropical fish, or sip champagne in the midsts of a lush jungle environment—this venue is prepared to take guests on a destination wedding, no plane ticket required.
A 7,200 square foot venue, surrounded by the botanical gardens and lavish foliage, setting the scene of an exotic locale. The garden tent is available for rent from April through October, for daytime and evening rentals, and can hold up to 800 guests. The rental includes tables and seating for up to 150 guests. A beautiful hardwood floor and arching white canopy provide a simple base, so couples can customize their wedding to their own taste with ease.
A setting like no other, the PPG Aquarium is host to cascading waterfalls, verdant rainforest life and spectacular aquatic creatures from around the globe. Couples can hold their wedding reception in this space to enjoy dining and dancing next to exotic fish and sharks. This space is available year round, for evening rentals only. It holds up to 500 guests and comes with seating for 150.
Your guests will be awestruck as they enter two underwater tunnels, watching sea life slip through the water all around them on their way to this unique reception venue. Water's Edge whisks your guests away to Pier Town, a coastal village exhibit, complete with sea otters, sand tiger sharks and majestic polar bears. The spacious event space is available for rent all year, but only in the evenings. It can hold 200 guests and includes seating for 140. Rental of this space can also include the nearby PNC Pavilion.
What You Should Know
Couples can choose from a variety of reception packages at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium to suit their tastes and budget. Each reception package includes facility rental, tables and chairs as well as all tableware.It's important to note that reception packages require a minimum of 100 guests and include catering provided by the venue itself. That being said, couples who opt to have catering done with their reception packages will still have to order their wedding cake separately, as there is no option available to order with the venue. Alcoholic beverage packages are available separately, including a house bar package, platinum bar package and wine and beer package. Each one includes soft drinks, water and juices. Cash bar packages are offered as well. If you and your guests are night owls, you should note that outdoor rental spaces must be closed by 11 p.m., and all animal exhibits in the zoo close at dusk.
Couples who opt for the zoo can happily look forward to a unique reception and a roaring start to the rest of their lives together. There are a few special features offered by the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium that will help navigate the jungles of wedding planning, including:
• Shuttles provided to and from reception venue• Special dietary accommodations
From the Vendor
More impressive than your typical hall
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium offers three reception venues that will amaze and entertain your friends and family. Lose yourself in the PPG Aquarium, which features hundreds of animal species ranging from the tiny cuttlefish, to the six-foot-long South American arapaima. At Water’s Edge, be thrilled by underwater views of our polar bears and sea otters. An under-the-sea event space gives your guests an intimate and unique reception atmosphere. Finally, dazzle your guests with a kaleidoscope of color with the exotic flowers and plants that surround our Garden Tent.
Amenities + Details
Outdoor - Covered
For more details about amenities, please message the Venue.
$$ – Affordable
Backyard, Garden, Museum, Historic Venue, Park, Tented
Bar + Drinks, Food + Catering, Rentals + Equipment, Service Staff
FantasticReviewed on 5/10/2014 Lindsey B
My husband and I decided to have our wedding reception at the Pittsburgh Zoo because we loved the aquarium space. I was a little bit nervous leading up to the wedding because the catering department wasn't always the best at returning emails/phone calls. When we got to the zoo on our wedding day everything was perfect. All of our guests loved our reception and told us how much fun they had. The food was great and the evening never had a dull moment. The staff at the zoo took care of everything. The only drawback about choosing the Zoo is that you have to have the ceremony elsewhere.
Wedding at the Garden Tent VenueReviewed on 6/25/2013 Becky K
I had my wedding reception at the Pittsburgh Zoo in their Garden tent area, it was absolutely fabulous! The staff was incredible with my millions of emails before the wedding, and the day of the wedding they were just as incredible. I received many many compliments from all of my guests about how friendly and nice the staff was an I felt the same way. Planning a wedding reception there was honestly fun and easy. I highly recommend this venue if your looking for something different than a typically banquet hall or country club! I absolutely loved it !
April 13 - Pittsburgh ZooReviewed on 6/12/2013 Becca T
I had my wedding reception in the PPG Aquarium building, and it was absolutely perfect! The space is great for a relatively large number of people. Guests can be seated on the balcony as well as the lower level, and appetizers can be served in the aquarium hallways near the entrance. We had access to the entire building, which was great for exploring the exhibits and for entertaining the kids. All of my guests loved the unique atmosphere and the opportunity to experience something other than dancing. All zoo staff were as nice and helpful as can be - I was told by multiple guests and vendors how nice every zoo employee was! The staff sets up and cleans up, so you don't have to worry about any details on your wedding day. The food was also fantastic. I was a little worried, because Taste of the Wild does not do tastings prior to the event, but everything was delicious. My guests all loved the prime rib and the Parmesan chicken. The zoo provides a shuttle for guests from the entrance to the aquarium building, so nobody had to worry about walking too far. The per-person price for this venue may seem high, but it is actually very reasonable when you consider that it is truly all-inclusive and includes facility, set-up and break-down, service, furniture and dinnerware rentals, and more. You only need to provide your own alcohol, but that's less expensive and more flexible than places that provide it for you. I had so much fun at my reception, and I know my guests did as well. I am so glad I decided to hold it at the zoo! Thanks to all who made my reception so wonderful!
Everything was pretty legit with our wedding at this venue. While it is a little more on the pricey side, I think this is way cooler than your traditional banquet hall. Here are the highlights and hiccups: -Dave and Gabby were great coordinators, along with the catering lady Ashley -Most things are included in the fixed per guest price (e.g. tables, chairs, linen, glassware, drinks excl. alcohol, etc.) -Dance floor and extra shuttle are extra monies -We were able to bring our own alcohol (yet I think this has changed since we booked in 2014) -You cannot have a tasting beforehand (we tried buying a la carte and still couldn't) -The crab cakes were super bland, but the filet mignon was super good -Carpet was dirty and cocktail tables were uneven (kept moving). Keep in mind they close at 5:30pm and have to transform the place by 7pm -We used very minimal decorations thanks to the aquarium already being aesthetically pleasing -Had major issues with sound and hearing speeches due to the waterfall in the background. I missed my dad's speech because of this, which was a pretty big bummer (but of course, the DJ should have tested sound beforehand) -We had approx 130 guests and only used 1 shuttle. Should have bought the additional shuttle. Most of our guests were waiting 15-20 mins for the shuttle to pick them up
We had our reception in the Garden Tent in September of 2012. (takes me awhile to get to reviews) I was over-impressed with how the staff took care of everything to ensure my day went flawless. I do agree with the lack of communication leading up to our day, and had to reach out several times to different people to get the person that I needed to speak with. But, honestly, that was the worst of it. I went off of everyone else's' reviews on the food and was so glad I did.... it was awesome! We ended up renting an air conditioner unit since it was very hot out but it really did not help. I have photos of people sticking their heads in the air conditioner... that's how hot it was. We also rented a white dance floor and I feel like it made our photos on the dance floor really pop. We dropped off all of our cookies the day before and I left specific instructions as to how I wanted everything set up. The staff listened and it was perfect. We had at least 4 different vendors coming in that day, between the DJ, the staging company, the up-lighting company, cake team, etc.- and that worried me that someone would not show up, or be available to let my vendors in, and no one had a problem. I would highly recommend this venue. They are great to work with!
LOVED our aquarium reception!Reviewed on 8/24/2014 Katie S
We had our wedding reception in the aquarium because we loved the atmosphere of the big open space between the two-story shark tank, a lush tropical forest, and the overlooking balconies on the upper floor. The zoo staff were very helpful and friendly in helping us arrange everything. The catering department took about a week or so to respond to many of our emails, but in two weeks before our reception, the zoo was very active and helpful in contacting us and reaching out to our vendors to make sure that everything was coordinated. The zoo provided a shuttle (a comfortable van seating about 20 or so people) to take our guests from the front gate to the aquarium. We had only 70 guests, but it took a little while for everyone to get in and to their seats. Meanwhile, the zoo staff arranged to take the bride, groom, and our photographer around the zoo in a golf cart for an hour before the reception started to get some photos. When we arrived at the aquarium in the golf cart, we had to hide out for just a few minutes to get our guests in before we could make our entrance. During the reception, everything went very smoothly. We were able to drop off all our decorations and supplies a few days in advance, and the zoo staff set up everything according to the instructions we provided. The catering staff and the zoo rental staff were extremely helpful and would check in with us during the night to make sure everything was going well. We had a plated dinner with filet mignon and salmon, which was wonderful and received great reviews from our guests. One of the best decisions we made was to skip bringing our own wedding cake and instead serve the plated desserts the zoo caterer offered. We had the dark chocolate raspberry cake and a salted caramel vanilla crunch cake (I had a slice of each). These were some of the most delicious cakes I've ever had! Our friends and family were talking about these cakes for days afterwards! We had access to the entire aquarium for the evening, and it seemed to keep everyone well entertained. The building looked so beautiful at night, with the tanks lit up. I wish we had rented the venue for an extra hour since the night seemed to go by so quickly. After the event, we took only the gifts back with us in the shuttle, and we were able to pick up the decorations and supplies a couple of days later. The zoo staff had cleaned our toasting flutes and packaged all of our other supplies carefully. Since we had fewer than 100 guests, we were not able to use the zoo's catering packages and had to arrange food, linen and china rentals, etc. a la carte. The price per person came out about the same as the packages for the options we chose. The zoo does require you to buy liability insurance for the event, but it wasn't a major cost. Overall, I was extremely pleased with what the zoo provided. I would highly recommend this venue.
ExceptionalReviewed on 6/22/2014 Megan M
Everyone was great to work with. The service was seamless! It was a gorgeous event! The food was so tasty! If you are looking for an open canvas, I highly recommend the garden tent!
Amazing venue!Reviewed on 6/18/2013 Julie H
I had my reception in the aquarium and it was beautiful!!! My guests absolutely loved it. The staff set up and decorated even better than I could've. The food was some of the best wedding food I've ever had. People are still raving about it and I was married a month ago! I was a little nervous because they do not offer tastings but I worried for nothing. Everything was perfect. The only issue I had was getting answers to my questions in the months before my wedding. I really did get the attention I wanted until the week before. Everything turned out in the end but it caused me some stress that I wasn't able to get answers when I wanted them. I hate leaving things until the last minute. But all in all, I wouldn't have changed a thing about my reception. It was something none of my guests had seen before and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. Don't hesitate if you want to have your wedding at the zoo. Just know that e-mails don't mean much. If you want to get in touch with someone you'll have to call and go then go speak with them someone face to face.
wonderful, overallReviewed on 11/04/2012 Robin B
My fiance and I chose Water's Edge since we had a smaller wedding and had heard some complaints about the noise in the aquarium. The events staff (Jaime, Kristi and Rachel) were all amazing and always available via email and telephone. They couldn't have been better, and they even let us come to the zoo 2 days prior to the wedding to set up paper lanterns. They drove us over and got us ladders, etc. So great! Bob, the catering manager was also very informative and friendly during our meetings, but he is terrible at responding to emails. There were times when we waited weeks for a response (after he told us he would send the info out "in a few days"), and we would have to email or call other staff members to get a response. That's disheartening, considering the food is the most expensive part of the wedding. There are no tastings, so you're putting your trust and a small fortune into someone who can't return an email in less than 2 weeks? That was a little frustrating. However, the food ended up tasting great (we had a sit-down dinner with the petite filet & arctic char combo), and we got a ton of compliments from our guests. What Bob lacks in communication skills, he makes up for in really delicious food. We were also able to drop off all of our candles, decorations, etc, a few days prior to our wedding and his staff did a great job setting everything up based on our notes. You can also leave everything at the end of your wedding (except gifts) and pick it up up to a week later. It was really nice to just leave at the end of the night and not worry about cleaning up or gathering up all of our decorations and sundry items. Aside from the slight communication issue, the only warning I would give future patrons is that the wi-fi does NOT work in Water's Edge. Our friend was acting as our DJ as a wedding gift to us, so our entire wedding playlist was saved onto an internet-reliant program. We had been assured that there was wi-fi at Water's Edge from the get-go, but it would not work when we were there setting things up 2 days before the wedding. When I told the office that it didn't work, a woman there (not any of the great staff we had previously worked with) basically told me that I was crazy and it worked. I logged on to the wi-fi in the office (where it worked) to show that it wasn't my phone- it was Water's Edge. She told me not to worry because it should work and they never had problems before. Luckily, another staff member happened to overhear our conversation, and she confirmed that she had recently had trouble with the wi-fi at Water's Edge too. I asked the original woman what she suggested since our "DJ" needed the internet, and she basically said that it should work, but a good DJ should have a back-up plan. Helpful. So obviously I was too paranoid to just trust that woman, and I spent the day before my wedding putting together a shortened hard-copy playlist. Although that was definitely not optimal when I had 100 other things to do, THANK GOD I did! The wi-fi did NOT work on my wedding day. It makes me sick to think about what would have happened if I hadn't tested the wi-fi beforehand. We would have literally had no music. So please test it out beforehand if you are relying on the internet. Obviously we didn't have a "real" DJ, but we can't be the only couple on a budget. Small issues aside, we had a great evening and would definitely recommend the zoo for a fun and non-traditional reception. It was an amazing ni
Beautiful but problemsReviewed on 10/21/2012 Erin K
The venue was beautiful overall but we experienced some problems which really threw the entire night off. First, they are at times hard to get a hold of but when you do they are helpful. Though there is no food tasting, I got many compliments on how good the food was. The problem was with the shuttle. Cocktail hour was supposed to start at 6pm and many of the guests did not even get to the aquarium until after 7pm, ,meanwhile the bridal party was set to be introduced at 6:45 which clearly did not happen. They only have one shuttle for each reception area and this just did not work for over 100 guests. This was also not explained to us, neither was the fact that the bridal party had to be shuttled also, and you use the same shuttle as your guests so you are preventing your guests from getting to the reception while you are on the shuttle, especially if you want to stop once or twice in the zoo for pictures. Once I got to the reception and realized many of my guests were not there, that is when I learned that I shared the same shuttle as the guests and they basically blamed the bridal party for holding up the shuttle and not having guests there on time. I did the highest package which also has passed out appetizers along with the cheese and fruit and so many of my guests did not even get to eat any of it even though I paid a lot of money for them. Because of the shuttle problem, we complained, a lot, so they extended the reception half an hour, although we were set back almost a full hour. I then had to deal with the Dj and who would pay him for the extra time and so on. I was just very frustrated because they tried to put the blame on me and the bridal party when no one fully explained anything to us and we didn't even use the shuttle for long so I still do not understand why so many people waited almost an hour for the shuttle. The sound is also horrible in the aquarium. My guests upstairs could not hear any of the speeches or my slideshow, plus I barely could hear because all I heard was the waterfall behind my table. My guests all said they enjoyed themselves and the reception but for me and the groom, we really were so angry that for all we paid we did not get what we thought. It kind of ruined my wedding reception and I was completely devastated.
Perfect weddingReviewed on 10/12/2012 Kristine T
The staff at the zoo helped to make our day perfect and absolutely unforgettable.
Aquarium FunReviewed on 10/09/2012 Marlena H
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium was the best! They were very helpful, catered to all my needs and above all the food was amazing! Everyone who attended the wedding said they couldn't believe the food and how interesting and fun the location was. Being in with the fish was super cool!
Beautiful and Fun Space... a Few HiccupsReviewed on 9/04/2012 Sarah P
Things that I heard from my guests: -The people around the zoo were really nice -The hors d'oeuvres were very good and they were very actively served (everyone had a chance to get quite a few) -The food was good -The animals and exhibits were really cool- especially at night -The reception was beautiful -The bathrooms were not cleaned and WERE DISGUSTING -The had to wait for quite a bit of time on a hot shuttle while the driver was missing Things I appreciated about the zoo: -The time they took to give us tours and meet with us --they even gave our parents a tour and run-through of the reception -We were able to stock our own bar, and we had plenty of wine and beer left over -The zoo was flexible with our smaller-size group (even though we wanted the Aquarium space) and their ability to help us cut out specific costs helped make it manageable within a reasonable budget. -They did a ton of really special things for us on our wedding day- they had trams waiting for our guests right when we requested them to be there, they shuttled us around to take pictures around the zoo before the reception, and they did all the set-up and clean-up... really wonderful. My suggestion for brides that book the zoo in the future: - Hire a coordinator to oversee details the day of the event. There was a bit of confusion between the band and the zoo and the schedule of things, but it was really mostly confusion on the part of our band... I guess I hoped that the zoo would act as our day-of coordinator and tell the band what to do (even though they really should have already known -from the details I sent the band- what to do), but that was a little bit silly to expect. -Overall, I'd have to recommend the zoo. We loved the venue and all of the people we worked with there- just make sure that you write all of your expectations into the contract you sign, and be extremely mindful of the details of how you want things to run. The zoo runs part of the show for you, but not all of it. Also- be aware that they don't always follow your seating chart: my Aunts and Uncles were served last- behind 3 tables of college friends (that really did not make them happy), and some immediate family members were seated a little bit away from the bridal party table even though the seating chart was laid out differently.
Okay...Reviewed on 8/21/2012 smith f
We had our reception in the PPG Aquarium. There were a couple things that went wrong that kind of ticked me off. For example, the bridal party and I were running late (because of photos) and Bob and his staff decided NOT to start serving our guests salads nor dinner until we arrived... even though I gave him a thorough timeline that stated salads were to come out at 7:50! Another thing, Bob isn't that great at responding to emails. I had to call him on several occasions just to get a response. Very annoying! And the Kitchen staff threw away my bakers cake stand... Yeah.. now we have to pay for it. But overall, we had a great time and everyone loved the venue! And even though we were not allowed a tasting, the food was way better than what we expected! But overall If I could do it all over again, I would still have it at the Zoo... but I would give Bob specific instructions on when to feed our guests... even if the bridal party is NOT present.
Amazing!Reviewed on 6/18/2012 Melissa G
We had our wedding at the aquarium on May 26, 2012. I can't begin to explain how helpful everyone was from the very beginning. Upon our first tour, we left feeling 100% confident in having our reception there. Jaime, Bob and the rest of the staff were responsive to e-mails and phone calls. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was fantastic. They did all the set up and clean up for us, which was a big selling point for us. Also, given the awesome location, the price was incredible. We received so many compliments about how nice the place looked and how fun it was. My only regret is that we didn't pay for the extra hour because 4 hours went way too fast! I will be recommending the zoo to others for their wedding receptions in the future!
Beautiful location!Reviewed on 11/30/2011 Mary B
We really wanted a venue that would allow our out of town guests to see more of the city than a hotel ballroom. The zoo offered that and provided entertainment all night.
A Wedding in Paradise (without having to travel)Reviewed on 11/02/2011 Renee M
My husband and I just got married on October 15,2011. The PPG Aquarium took our idea of a destination wedding and brought it close enough for all of our family and friends to attend. It was tropical and beautiful! We have gotten so many compliments on our wedding. The venue was so different and unique, it was perfect. The food was delicious, the staff was professional, and very attentive during the event. Jamie, the events coordinator, and Bob, the director of catering, we're great to work with. They were very prompt in returning my calls and emails, and met with us several times during the planning process to ensure everything was perfect. We couldn't have picked a better place for our wedding. Though it was a bit pricey, it was well worth the cost, based on all the feedback we got from our guests.
Loved it!Reviewed on 10/08/2011 Rachel L
We had our reception at Water's Edge. Despite the rain (cocktail hour had to be held inside) and the polar bears hiding for most of the night, it was an amazing evening. Most of our guests were from out of town and loved seeing this unique location. Even our local guests were amazing with how the space was transformed. They said that they would never look at the zoo the same way again! Everyone at the zoo was amazing and helpful. Jamie and Bob helped us throughout the planning process and answered our plethora of questions with patience. On the day of the wedding, we showed up early, as planned, to take pictures. It was raining, so two zoo employees drove us around in a shuttle to take photos. We know it took a lot of time, but appreciate all of their help. I was a bit worried about the food, since no tasting is available. The food was amazing! True top restaurant quality. Several guests raved about it. The zoo made planning much easier since their packages include the food, bartender service (BYOB), linens, set up, tables, etc. All in all, it was a wonderful experience planning & having the wedding with them.
Wonderful!Reviewed on 8/05/2011 Chelsea F
I was very happy with PPG Aquarium, although the night was a blur, I can't honestly think of anything that wasn't the way I wanted it to be
They forgot the bride and groom!Reviewed on 7/07/2011 jessica s
I wish I could have great things to say about my reception here because all of the planning went amazing, Bob and Jaime were great! The food was amazing! But the actual reception had too many things wrong with it. First, they let guest in too early so I was rushed into a small hiding room and instead of doing photographs before guests got there I spent half of my reception doing it instead of enjoying my reception. Then at the end of the night, I asked if we could take the leftover cake home and one of the staff replied no and continued to throw it away and then while I was walking out alot of staff were telling us how great our cake tasted. Wish I would have had a chance to try it. Finally, at the end of the night they said a shuttle would be back for me and my husband along with my immediate family but instead they forgot us and they knew they did because the woman told me it was her fault she told everyone to go home and because of that we all sat out side the aquarium for over an hour after the reception was over and all of the guest left waiting to find out if and when we could ever leave. I mean seriously, how do you forget the bride and groom, could not believe that happened! When we asked for an explanation the next day for everything that went wrong, they had no explanation and 3 weeks later, we are still waiting for a reply.
Amazing venue, great people!Reviewed on 6/26/2011 Shannon M
We had our wedding reception under the Garden Tent at the Pittsburgh Zoo June 2011 and it was amazing! The open air reception went off without a hitch thanks to the amazing staff at the zoo. The events coordinator, Jaime, and catering manager,Bob, were, from the first day we met, so friendly and accommodating! The rest of the staff that worked our event was just as friendly - they were smiling and happy to be a part of the party! The Garden Tent does not allow you to be near or pass by any of the animals , but we were able to have a couple of smaller animals (oppossum, lizard, owl) brought up to the tent for the guests to see and touch! Another great perk of the Zoo reception is that the bar is BYO, so you can cater your bar (or lack there of) to your guests and save money by taking advantage of sales at the State Store and returning anything unopened (or using it to stock your own bar after the wedding!). The Zoo is a beautiful, unique place to hold your wedding reception all on its own, but the staff there make it so stress-free and fun! I can't wait to have an excuse to hold another even there!
All round excellentReviewed on 5/31/2011 Melissa M
The zoo staff was great to work with. They returned all of my emails immediately. The day went smoothly and the venue looked beautiful. We got lots of compliments on the food. I can't say enough good things about the Zoo staff.
Better than expected!Reviewed on 10/13/2010 Danielle D
We absolutely loved the zoo! The room took our breath away when we first walked in. The atmosphere, the service, the food - all great!
reception venueReviewed on 10/10/2010 Brian R
The zoo was amazing. Everyone was so very helpful from day 1 to the days after the wedding. They are very accomodating and flexible. The zoo really made my wedding day and planning very stress free! I can't tell you enough good things about them. They go above and beyond. Would definately book them again and again and again.
Easy & memorable!Reviewed on 10/01/2010 Carly H
I planned our wedding from abroad, so I was particularly grateful that the PPG Aquarium staff were so helpful and easy to reach via email. We got the sit-down dining option & it was so amazing to have everything included in the price - chairs, tables, linens, food, bar staff, EVERYTHING - we just had to provide the alcohol (which we ordered from one of the aquarium's recommended suppliers, so they dropped it off and picked up the empties without us doing a thing). The prices are incredibly reasonable for what you get. Most importantly, I didn't have to worry about a thing on the day, as I'd dropped off my favors, card box, guest book, etc the day before the wedding, and the staff set up the tables and everything for me. Our guests are still talking about how cool it was to have the reception at the aquarium, and it was such a talking point on the night that not one single person was bored or left early - even my 80-something grandma stayed til after midnight because she enjoyed herself so much! My only complaints were the bar staff were overly generous with our alcohol so we ran out of spirits early on (and we'd ordered 50% extra!), and the waiters/waitresses cleared the tables so quickly that they took people's nearly-full glasses and even the escort cards! But those things aside, everything was wonderful and I'd highly recommend the aquarium for a wedding reception. I don't regret a thing.