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Concerted Effort: Musical Minnesota Wedding Venues

Hosting your wedding at a music hall or concert venue has never sounded better.
Becky Kazana

World-class musicians from Prince to Osmo Vänskä call the Twin Cities home, Minnesotans flock to festivals and concerts in droves, and we’re consistently placed on national “Best Cities for Music” lists. There’s no two ways about it, we’re a community of music lovers.

Weddings are filled with musical moments. There’s the swell of music as you walk down the aisle, the grand entrance crescendo at the reception and, of course, the romantic ballad of your first dance as newlyweds. Put great music center stage with a wedding at one of our iconic local music venues. Here, local wedding planners, venue managers and couples share their advice on ringing wedding bells loud and clear in a concert-worthy venue.


Sarah and Matt Garcia's wedding at Varsity Theater

Sound Effects

Bands and DJs sound their best in concert spaces.

Music venues can emphasize the musical aspect of your love story like nowhere else. Most are constructed with sound in mind. “To make an acoustically perfect venue, you have to build it,” said Wendy Schallock, chief operating officer for Entourage Events Group. “The Fine Line Music Café was designed for music—right down the ceiling tiles and the hardwood floors.”

That’s also true at Orchestra Hall, where the cubes scattered around the auditorium are specially designed to send sound to every corner of the hall. Even the balconies are set at the optimal angle for reflecting and amplifying sound.


Ashley Wokasch and Ryan Damian’s Orchestra Hall reception

Another perk in concert spaces is access to state-of-the-art sound equipment. What these venues offer at no charge, or minimal charge, is on-site audio-visual equipment, which can be costly to bring in, says Allie Markman, director of client services with A2Z Do it Directed. “Lots of bands and DJs like being in these spaces because they don’t have to bring their own equipment.” Make sure you know what is and isn’t included in your rental fee so that you stay within your budget.

Hayley Parmentier, operations and sales manager at Muse Event Center, says a music venue is a great option if your wedding is centered on performers. “If your focus is entertainment, it’s really nice to walk into a space with those sound necessities,” she says. Microphones, monitors, a sound deck and an AV technician to operate the house sound system are already in place at many Twin Cities concert venues.

Sarah Garcia was married at the Varsity Theater and heartily recommends a concert venue wedding to other couples. “These venues are great because they have strong acoustics, which make toasts easy to hear and the music even more fun to dance to, since it surrounds you from every angle,” she says.

Mix Tapes

Let music inspire your reception.

Music inspired many aspects of Emogene Schilling and Kai Cataldo’s wedding. Cataldo is a classically trained trumpet player, and Schilling played a memorable gig with jazz pianist Nachito Herrera at the Dakota Jazz Club in high school. After getting engaged and beginning to plan their big day, the Dakota sprang to mind as the perfect wedding venue.

The pair recruited Amy Fuerstenberg of Mi Mi Design to help them realize their vision for a glamorous Jazz Age-inspired wedding. “We knew we wanted to have a jazz band with a retro sound, so we booked Davina and the Vagabonds,” says Schilling. She also chose a 1920s-style beaded gown that fit the effortless elegance of the era.

“A really great thing about the Dakota is that they already have relationships with musicians,” says Schilling. The couple worked with staff to ensure an ideal schedule for the performers, so they would have time to eat and take breaks. The on-site sound technician helped to make the band sound its best and make the entertainment run seamlessly.

“At the Dakota, you get the vibe that there are different musicians that go in and out of that space every day,” says Fuerstenberg. “They are very hands-on with the music. And if you’re not sure what kind of music you want, they have so many resources to work with.”


Ashley Wokasch and Ryan Damian’s Orchestra Hall reception

Ashley Wokasch and Ryan Damian also drew on musical inspiration for their recent wedding at Orchestra Hall. The couple lived in New York at the time of planning, so they worked with Gretchen Culver, owner of Rocket Science Weddings & Events, to coordinate all the details in Minnesota.

The couple wanted a traditional string quartet for the ceremony, but added their own special twist. “I walked down the aisle to Randy Newman’s ‘Marie,’ which was very sentimental,” says Wokasch. “Ryan curated the music for the entire evening.” Their eclectic, heartfelt playlist featured artists like Brenton Wood, Bob Dylan, Jim Ford and Fleetwood Mac.

“Music played a role throughout the evening,” says Culver. “Each area had music tailored to the space and what was happening.” The bride and groom are close friends with a Tom Petty cover band, and New York City-based DJ Paper Tiger, so it was easy to choose their dance music for the reception. And the guests loved the music. “They rocked the dance party,” says Culver.

Light It Up

Music venues often feature unique lighting and staging opportunities.

Nightclubs and concert venues can be dark, so make the most of on-site lighting equipment. “Work with the space,” advises Markman. She suggests a theatrical color palette and dramatic lighting to create a moody atmosphere. “I think lighting is the best way to get the most bang for your buck. A lot of these places will let you use their equipment for free, and their staff technician can tell you what looks best.”

Parmentier agrees that lighting is a great way to add drama to a wedding ceremony or reception. She can arrange to have a couple’s monogram projected above or around the stage at Muse with a custom-made spotlight cover. “We do fabulous lighting for those key moments, like a spotlight on the father of the bride during his speech, or lights going up behind the wedding party. We can do really fun things that your guests will remember.”

Since the stage is the focal point at concert halls, use it to give your guests a great view of key moments. Exchange vows front and center, and then showcase a great band or DJ. Consider unexpected additions too, like a choreographed dance with your bridal party or a karaoke session for your guests.

A memorable moment from Garcia’s wedding was their first dance, which they planned to the tune of Jose Gonzalez’s “Stay Alive.” Their guests loved it. “The Varsity was a perfect venue for a choreographed dance with a mix of the disco-ball lighting and colored lighting,” says Garcia.

Since music venues are set up for theatrics, you can create wonderful surprise moments. Schallock recalls a bride and groom who married at the Fine Line years after meeting there at a concert. Their families surprised the newlyweds with the band that played on the night they met. “The group came up to play the first dance, and it was just amazing to see their faces. The bride literally fell to the ground,” says Schallock.

Wokasch and Damian’s ceremony and reception made innovative use of Orchestra Hall’s airy, light-filled spaces. The couple was married on one of the balconies, guests enjoyed a seated dinner in the main hall and then moved into the Target Atrium for dancing.


Wokasch and Damian’s wedding at Orchestra Hall

Scott Feldman, events sales manager at Orchestra Hall, adds that couples love the bright, spacious feeling of the hall. “Orchestra Hall’s contemporary, but neutral architecture allows you to select whatever style and color palette you prefer,” he says. “The walls of windows allow you to focus on the stunning views of downtown Minneapolis.”

Party On

Cater to your crowd with a space that can be tailored to suit any style.

David Nafus and Dennis Delude were looking for a venue where their friends and family could cut loose after a traditional ceremony at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. The couple had attended many concerts at the Varsity Theater together, and decided it was the perfect place to host a no-holds-barred dance party. “We really wanted people to kick back, relax and have fun,” says Nafus. “We knew we had to have a band.”

Liz Nahm, senior catering and sales agent at the Varsity, agrees. She advises every couple who comes to the Varsity to consider live entertainment. “Get a band. It can really take your event from great to once-in-a-lifetime,” she says. She provides clients with a long list of bands she has worked with.

Delude and Nafus spent weeks going to shows to find just the right sound. In the end, they chose Brat Pack Radio, a local band that plays ’80s and early ’90s dance music, complete with a light show. “They were perfect with our crowd,” says Nafus. “My 10-year-old nephew was up on stage, dancing with them,” says Delude with a laugh.

The couple loved the Varsity’s willingness to collaborate and tailor the space to match their vision. “They were open to any creative idea we had,” says Nafus. “We came with an inspiration board and they helped it come to life.”

They used a rich color palette to work with existing décor, including plenty of lush red roses in the bouquets and centerpieces. Candelabras scattered around the space brought in soft natural light and added to the romantic mood. The in-house snow machine cued softly falling snow. “Our snow machine is magical; it never gets old,” says Nahm.

“They’re great at remembering what worked well at other events, and making it match yours,” says Nafus. “Everything was exactly how we envisioned it.” *

Cue the Band

A sampling of great Minnesota wedding bands and musicians for your reception.







Brat Pack Radio



Davina and the Vagabonds



DJ Nick Dwyer



Elan Artists



Instant Request



The R Factor



The Sevilles






Party Spots

Host your wedding at one of these hot concert spaces.

The Dakota Jazz Club

This 30-year-old lounge is a sophisticated spot to please foodies and music aficionados alike. Minneapolis, 612.332.1010


Fine Line Music Café

Only open for concerts and private events, this dual-level space features exposed brick, natural light and perfect acoustics. Minneapolis, 612.338.8100


Muse Event Center

This sweeping space marries industrial chic with amenities at the ready. Minneapolis, 612.716.8139


Orchestra Hall

A recent renovation has made this downtown landmark even grander. Minneapolis, 612.371.5600


The Varsity Theater

This popular Dinkytown concert venue can be staged in a variety of ways to make your event unique. Minneapolis, 612.604.0222

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