Wedding Venues

Gallery Glorious

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Don't even think about using balloons, confetti, or scattered petals—museums frown upon them—but do consider taking your design cues from the surrounding art, your favorite painting, even the building itself.

And since the art can change—special exhibitions come and go, and pieces from permanent collections can rotate—try to find out in advance exactly what will be on display before you make a commitment for a certain date. You may be a big fan of, say, contemporary art, but that cross section of a cow that has critics enthralled may appall your less open-minded guests.

Money Matters

How much will you pay for the privilege of having a wedding in such a renowned venue? Although it's possible to spend less than $1,000 for a space—for $750, you can have a cocktail reception in the lobby of Miami's Wolfsonian-FIU, dominated by an Art Deco fountain from an old movie theater—you'll most likely spend between $5,000 and $15,000 for a museum rental.

The American Museum of Natural History, in New York City, charges a whopping $25,000 for a seated reception held beneath a suspended 94-foot-long replica of a blue whale. A museum's booking fee usually buys you nothing more than four to six hours' use of the space—and sometimes you'll be charged extra for holding the ceremony there, for opening up adjacent galleries, or for making them available to guests for more than an hour or two.

Also, since your vendors will have less set-up time—they usually can't get into the museum until it closes—they may need more manpower to do the job quickly, and that will cost you. You'll also have to take out a one-day certificate of liability insurance for $1 million or $1.5 million to protect the museum and its contents; you can most likely get it, starting at about $200, through your homeowner's or rental insurance.

Sound and Light

Museum spaces often have funky acoustics, from towering atriums that can swallow up sound to smaller galleries and staircased rooms that send tunes ricocheting off the walls. If you plan on serious dancing, hire a sound engineer, rather than leaving it up to the musicians, to test the acoustics beforehand.

Dramatic spaces practically demand expert lighting to bring out their good bones. Consider placing tiny, pinspot lights over tables or artwork, throwing a wash of color on the underside of an arch, and downlighting columns. Your museum should be able to recommend a lighting specialist.

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