Artsy wedding venues offer guests a memorable experience.
4 Questions to Ask When Seeking a Wedding Venue
Knowing a location’s restrictions in advance can help brides manage expectation.
What are the time constraints?
Museums hold events only during certain hours, generally when the museum is closed to the public. Some only allow one wedding a day.
Which services does the venue provide?
A full-service operation, which provides everything from the linens to the cake, can be beneficial when there’s limited time to prepare the space. However, you may want the freedom to select your own vendors. If that’s the case, make sure the vendor has handled events in that facility. Many venues can provide approved lists.
Are there any restrictions as far as the decor?
Museums, in particular, may prohibit certain items. For instance, the Delaware Art Museum does not allow balloons, glitter or live plants, which might infect the museum—and the art—with insects.
Are there any limitations concerning photography?
Kennett Square photographer Joel Plotkin says many museums do not allow the artwork to appear in pictures. “It has to do with the copyright,” he explains. Also the museum may forbid the photographer from using a flash anywhere near artwork. Bright light can cause damage to old paintings, Plotkin says.
Kent County, Delaware
Sewell C. Biggs Museum of American Art
406 Federal St., Dover, (302) 674-2111, ext. 101, (direct line for facility rentals), www.biggsmuseum.org.
A relative newcomer to Delaware’s museum scene, the “Biggs” was established in 1993 to showcase American fine and decorative arts, which were the passion of Sewell C. Biggs. It features not just paintings, but also furniture and silver.
The museum did not push its galleries for weddings in the past due to space limitations, but renovations have expanded options. Still, the Biggs is best for small weddings of up to 75 seated guests, with cocktails served in one gallery before dinner in another.
The museum’s various items are on view. “Guests can walk through on their own, and we have staff available to answer any questions they may have,” says Beccy Cooper, the education and programs manager. “It’s not your typical venue.”
New Castle County, Delaware
Blue Ball Barn
1914 W. Park Drive, Wilmington, (302) 761-6952, www.destateparks.com/events/blue-ball-barn.
Part of Alapocas Run State Park, Blue Ball Barn—which is visible from Concord Pike and just off I-95—was built by Alfred I. du Pont for his dairy farm. Its name, however, comes from the Blue Ball Tavern, an inn and meetinghouse that once stood near the barn’s current location in the 18th and early 19th centuries. In those days, innkeepers raised a blue ball attached to a pole to indicate that passengers in the inn needed
a ride on a passing stagecoach.
Renovations on the two-story stone barn were completed in 2007, and in addition to offering event space, the barn is the repository of the Delaware Folk Art Collection, one of three state-owned folk-art collections in the United States. Each of the collection’s 50 artists is represented.
For events, the two-story stone building can handle up to 250. There are four rooms, and the largest is 1,900 square feet. The venue also has a 2,480-square-foot courtyard that can be tented.
Although the rooms have names such as “Calving Room” and “Hay Room,” culture— not cows—now pervades the Blue Ball Barn.
Delaware Art Museum
301 Kentmere Pkwy., Wilmington, (302) 351-8530 (direct line for facility rentals), www.delart.org.
Home to a renowned collection of Pre-Raphaelite art, as well as representatives of the Brandywine School, the museum offers several spaces for rent, prepared wedding packages and custom deals.
Some couples wed in the 6-acre Copeland Sculpture Garden, surrounded by nine pieces of art. They can keep it alfresco with a seated reception for 240 on the North Terrace. Inside, the Catherine A. Fusco Hall seats 130 guests and accommodates 200 for cocktails.
Catering and event services since 2005 have been handled by Sodexo. “We are a full-service facility,” says Liz Deroisier, a general manager with Sodexo Leisure
Services. “There’s only a short timeframe to get the museum up and ready after it closes to visitors. We can take care of all the details, so you just show up and enjoy yourself.”
She’s seen party planners name tables for artists featured in the museum. They’ve used postcards from the gift shop as “save-the-date” reminders. One guest had sugary Chihuly-glass replicas on the wedding cake.
For an additional fee, the museum will open the galleries and provide guides on site.
Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts
200 S. Madison St., Wilmington, (302) 656-6466, ext. 7103, (direct line for facility rentals), www.thedcca.org.
With its industrial-chic design—the facility was once owned by Harlan and Hollingsworth, which made ships and railroad cars—the DCCA offers an intriguing ambiance even before you add the contemporary art. “The space really lends itself well to a beautiful lighting design,” says Ashlee Lukoff McCullough, former director of special events. (Meagan Mika was scheduled to take her place.)
DCCA sits on the Wilmington Riverfront, giving it numerous advantages. The center often partners with the Russell W. Peterson Wildlife Refuge, where couples can hold the ceremony. Afterward, guests can take a shuttle to the center or stroll along the riverwalk.
The main lobby, which can hold up to 300 guests, is popular for dinner and dancing. Seven galleries are open throughout the event, which prompted one couple to hold a scavenger hunt. Guests had to use cameras to record their finds.
The high ceilings and opens spaces handily accommodate a theme, such as a boardwalk/seaside setting. Or go with the artistic flow. “With the artwork as a backdrop, you really don’t have to go all out,” McCullough says.
Brandywine River Museum of Art
Route 1, Chadds Ford, Pa., (610) 388-2700, www.brandywinemuseum.org.
Nestled against Brandywine Creek, the museum resides in a renovated 19th-century mill. It’s also home to three generations of Wyeth paintings and the work of other American artists. And it’s part of the Brandywine Conservancy. The lush grounds—which you can see through the many floor-to ceiling windows—frame local flora and fauna.
The museum, which can hold up to 120 guests at a seated dinner throughout the space and up to 600 at a cocktail-only reception, is available from 6 p.m. until midnight. Instead of a formal sit-down affair, many couples prefer placing food stations on the three lobby levels, which all overlook the outdoors.
“Guests can enjoy the galleries, and it’s more relaxed,” says Rebecca Bucci, the museum’s private-events coordinator. “It lets the guest explore the museum.” The six galleries are open for two consecutive hours during the event.
If you’re planning a small wedding, consider the restaurant, which also overlooks the river, where you can seat 80.
For the ceremony, the cobblestone courtyard provides a rustic setting. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, guests move to a third-floor space.
Bucci says some couples hold scavenger hunts—“find Jamie Wyeth’s ‘Portrait of Pig,’ for instance—particularly if young kids are in attendance. Because the Brandywine Conservancy promotes native plants and sustainable gardens, one couple used herbs as flower arrangements. Says Bucci: “It smelled wonderful!”
Community Arts Center
414 Plush Mill Road, Wallingford, Pa., (610) 566-1713, www.communityartscenter.org.
Founded in 1949, the Community Arts Center is on the former estate of Henry P. Dixon, who built a summer home there in 1889. The stone facade resembles a stately English manor home, and the water tower looks like a castle turret. “It’s very fairy-tale like,” says Craig Zesserman, a sales representative with the venue’s exclusive caterer, Jeffery M. Miller Catering. “It’s very romantic.”
In 2008, the center opened the 3,100-square-foot Duke Gallery, an addition to the main building, which is the primary event area for wedding receptions with up to 250 guests (225 with a dance floor). The gallery features rotating exhibits.
Those who elect to marry at the center often select a spot on the landscaped grounds. In the event of inclement weather, a second-floor ballroom can seat 150. “The venue has an excellent ‘Plan B,’” Zesserman notes. Many couples also take advantage of the stunning grounds by setting up lawn games and using the castle tower as a backdrop for photos.
As for food, the caterer just added a clay-and-brick oven on site. “It’s just another amenity of the venue,” Zesserman says.
The Farmhouse at People’s Light
39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, Pa., (610) 647-1631, ext. 156, (direct line for sales and catering),www.farmhousepeopleslight.com.
More than 200 years old, this renovated farmhouse holds a restaurant and a ballroom extension that caters to events for up to 250 people. Technically, it is not an art venue. But it does benefit from being part of the People’s Light & Theatre Company, which has a set designer, workshop and prop collection. “I say that I need a trellis built around a pole, and the next day it’s there,” says Spencer Brennan, director of catering.
For a Hindu wedding, the scenery crew set the tone with silk lanterns and vibrant fabric wall hangings. “It was beautiful, nothing ostentatious,” Brennan says.
About half of the couples choose to get married outside on the lawn or under a tent. “Photographers have a field day here,” he says. “The venue has all the charm of an old property and all the amenities of a modern reception hall.”
And what it doesn’t have, the prop department can evidently create.
Sussex County, Delaware
Nassau Valley Winery
32165 Winery Way, Lewes, (302) 645-9463,www.nassauvalley.com.
Delaware’s first and only farm winery,
which opened in 1993, has become a popular, picturesque setting for a wedding and reception. Weddings and art shows have
become an important part of the business, says Peggy Raley-Ward, founder and co-owner.
As a result, the winery has expanded to offer numerous options. Its 8,400-square-foot Grand Cru Hall can handle up to 45 guests at a seated event. You can rent the full building or just half. (There’s also a patio available for rent.)
The 3,600-square-foot Claret Hall holds up to 175 seated, and it’s adjacent to a 40-year-old stand of sycamore trees, known as Bacchus Grove. If you’re considering an alfresco affair, the grove can hold up to 250 people.
For a small wedding or ceremony, there’s Gallery One, an exhibit area that not only looks down on the wine cellar but also features artwork from regional artists. It can accommodate 45 or less for a seated function.
The winery often features Delaware artists and Southern Delaware scenes on its wine labels, making them novel guest gifts. Back at home, the guests can salute your special day and savor the memory.