Minnesota Art Museum Weddings

Romance blooms amid art, artifacts and history at five renowned museums.
Jill and Mark Scullard let Minneapolis' Walker Art Center be one of the stars of the day at their contemporary wedding reception.

On May 1st, 2009, Mark Mesa got down on one knee in front of the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul and proposed to his girlfriend of five years, Krista Spahn. He knew of Krista’s love for the museum and her desire to have her wedding there.

“I fell in love with it in 2004 after a friend’s wedding was there,” Krista Mesa says of the museum. “I really love the big balcony they have overlooking the river. The Science Museum is something different, not a traditional hall or hotel.”

After she said yes, it was no wonder that the only place she looked to have her June 26th wedding reception was the Science Museum. “It was definitely fun and special,” Mesa says. “It was the perfect location, and everything was just amazing.”

Mesa isn’t alone in her choice of venue. Many Minnesota brides are looking to museums—artistic, historic, even cultural spaces—for their wedding ceremonies and receptions. With stunning artwork adorning the walls and surroundings filled with spectacular artifacts, it’s not hard to see why. But these brides note that museums, like many other venues, have their own reception guidelines, so be ready to ask questions and read the fine print.

Jill and Mark Scullard married at Minneapolis' Walker Art Center. (Photos by Lace/Hanky Photography.)

Room with a view: art museum architecture
Museum venues are some of the most unusual buildings in Minnesota. “We wanted something very different than the traditional,” says Molly McKee Mullins, whose May 8th wedding reception took place at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis. “We fell in love with the Weisman. It was a beautiful space. People would have an opportunity to look around the gallery and have something to do besides chat.”

Perched on the Mississippi River, the Weisman, with a dramatic stainless steel exterior, overlooks Minneapolis’ skyline. Inside, the museum, designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry and known for its 20th century American art collection, is undergoing a major expansion that closed its doors to the public in October 2010. The museum will reopen in the fall 2011 for weddings and other events.

Minneapolis bride Jill Scullard aligned her personal passions with her wedding dollars. “We are both huge art fans, and I’m such big fan of the Walker,” she says of her Feb. 21st reception at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. “To support them in this way, it felt good to me. We had our reception at a venue that we were both really inspired by and loved. It was so much more personal.”

The Walker, like the Weisman, boasts striking contemporary architecture and another breathtaking view of downtown Minneapolis. Rooms of various sizes are available for rent, but most weddings find the Skyline room, with its famed asymmetrical window, a perfect space for a reception. The food is also a big draw, with Wolfgang Puck Catering as the exclusive vendor.

Unique wedding spaces
The Minnesota History Center’s unique architecture was a big draw for bride Katie McWey, who held her May 1 reception there. Constructed of Minnesota granite and limestone with marble accents, the exterior is elegant and contemporary. Inside, two of its many perks are the vast open rooms with vaulted ceilings and the views of the St. Paul skyline, the Cathedral of Saint Paul and the Minnesota State Capitol.

“We loved the architecture, and we loved that the building spoke for itself,” says McWey.

John and Cathy Pohlad looked to The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) in Minneapolis for their small wedding ceremony on March 19th. The museum is tucked away in south Minneapolis, a dramatic building off the radar of many local brides, and features an exceptional collection of Russian art and artifacts.

“TMORA was a perfect size for us, old but contemporary in feel, and a good mix of old and new,” says Cathy Pohlad.

“It was unpredictable and it wasn’t the same old thing,” John adds.

Jill and Mark Scullard married at Minneapolis' Walker Art Center. (Photos by Lace/Hanky Photography.)

Accentuating the museum's décor
One area where museums have a leg up on many other venues is décor. These spaces are elegant, inspiring and perfectly primed for a lovely wedding.

“All our wedding colors were derived from the Walker, with its steel exterior,” says Jill Scullard. Each of her attendants wore black dresses, and a pewter hue was used throughout the décor, including the table linens and stationery; florist Bastian+Skoog drew inspiration for the table arrangements and flower displays from the big asymmetrical window.

The Pohlads used The Museum of Russian Art’s striking interior to their advantage. “The museum was so beautiful that decorating wasn’t an issue,” says Cathy. “It was a very manageable space. You can make it look amazing without having to spend a lot of money.”

Katie McWey loved the uniqueness of the History Center. “While you’re there, you can see past wedding pictures, including some brides who put drapery over the things that make it a museum,” says McWey. “For us, the museum was the cool part of it. We would never cover that up.”

McWey knew, though, that the cavernous surroundings in the History Center could be detrimental to the dance. “Noise is a big factor at the History Center, with the ceilings and the marble,” she says. “We chose a band that had played there before, so they would be comfortable [with the acoustics].”

Minneapolis couple Molly and Brian Mullens married at the Weisman Art Museum. (Photos by Studio 306.)

Wedding day timing
Another factor that makes these venues unique—but also a little tricky—is that they’re public spaces with specific hours. Wedding receptions often need to begin after the venue closes, meaning pre-dinner cocktail hours usually can’t begin until 6 p.m. or later.

At the History Center, set-up time depends on the start time of the reception, as the museum closes at 5 p.m. McWey wanted her wedding reception to start right at 6 p.m., which allowed for just a one-hour window for setup. “I wouldn’t try to find the best deal on vendors,” she says. “I found someone who had worked there before so I wouldn’t have to stress about that one hour.”

A similar situation exists at the Science Museum. “I would have done my social hour a little earlier than 6, as our dance didn’t end up starting until 8:30,” says Mesa. “And I had to work backward from that to figure out the timing of the ceremony and the day. It was a little challenging, but it worked out nicely.”

Some venues also allow reception guests to arrive a bit earlier to see the exhibits, so be sure to ask. For the Pohlads’ ceremony at The Museum of Russian Art, the event coordinator let Cathy see the traveling exhibit that would be on display during her wedding before she committed to the space. “I was a bit nervous, but [the exhibit] ended up being just gorgeous,” she says.

Mullins and her husband specifically chose the Weisman to give their guests that private viewing. But they also wanted their guests to know that they weren’t headed to the typical dinner-and-dance reception. “We conveyed in our invitation that this wasn’t a traditional reception. We highlighted that our ‘cocktail reception would be at the Weisman with a private viewing of the collection.’ ” says Mullins. “We wanted everyone to have aligned expectations.”

Krista and Mark Mesa loved the Science Museum of Minnesota's contemporary wedding decor. (Photos by Cari McGlynn Photography.)

Read the fine print
Museums are like any reception venue in that they have rules and regulations for everything from facility use to alcohol. But given the special surroundings and often priceless exhibits, expect a few more policies. For instance, at the Weisman, the bar can’t serve red wine. And the History Center doesn’t allow helium balloons or confetti.

Wedding photographs, including snapshots, are sometimes subject to a few more regulations. The Walker asks that couples and guests not include the artwork in their photographs. At the Weisman, however, certain works can be photographed.

“We incorporated the art in the pictures, posing next to different pieces of art,” says Mullins. “Our photographer had worked at the Weisman before, so they knew which ones to avoid.”

Almost every museum venue includes a security guard fee in the contract, lessening the fear that guests will go wandering, cocktails in hand, where they shouldn’t. But be prepared for the rare special circumstance that requires even more security, such as a high-profile traveling exhibit.

“The staff of the Science Museum called me a few months prior to our wedding to let me know that they would need to check guests’ purses and other bags,” says Mesa. The exhibit was The Dead Sea Scrolls: Words that Changed the World. “I didn’t have any worries though.”

In the end, a museum proved to be an ideal setting for a wedding. “Just allow the museum to be one of the stars of the day,” says Scullard. “Museums are so amazing, rich and beautiful. Let that shine through and draw inspiration from it.”

Get more from Minnesota Bride! Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.