A wedding held at a historic or landmark venue combines the old and the new -- the stunning details of turn-of-the-20th-century architecture and detailing, plus, in many cases, modern refurbishment -- to create a beautiful wedding experience. The architectural details of a historic building provide gorgeous backdrops for your wedding photos.
A landmark building brings with it the fascination of its history. "We attended a wedding at a landmark venue that had actual Matisse and Mary Cassatt paintings in the building," says wedding guest Sylvia Dasck. "We couldn't believe we were actually standing in front of priceless works of art. All of the wedding guests were in awe." The wedding in the building's ballroom was abuzz with excited guests delighted to have been treated to such a sight.
When marrying in a historic or landmark building, it's a great idea to share interesting facts about the building's history, such as the building's once being a speakeasy or a frequent partying spot for historic figures like Charles Lindbergh or Jean Harlow. Your guests' excitement for your wedding weekend grows when you share the fascinating details of the site's yesteryears.
As spectacular as historic venues can be for your wedding celebration, keep in mind that these are protected buildings with their own lists of essential rules and regulations. "At Ellis Island, governed by the National Park Service, we guide our wedding couples through the rules the Parks system sets in protection of our national landmark and grounds,' says Patti Golden, director of sales for weddings on Ellis Island and Liberty Island. The list of regulations for such important landmark sites is understandably detailed. "So we will help the couple plan the timing of their wedding, and advise about allowed installations like outdoor bars, details and site-approved vendors to be sure that all plans adhere to the Parks service's regulations."
Some rules that historic and landmark venues may impart include:
--Time of use. The building may be open for public use during the day and then closed for your wedding in the evening only. You'll need to know the time at which your vendors can arrive and start setting up, as well as the start and end times allowed for your wedding. If the venue says events must end by 10 p.m., that rule will be firm. You'll not be allowed to continue the party on their property and must make other plans for your afterparty.
--Installation rules. Some historic venues will not allow outside tents to be constructed on their grounds, and to protect their floors or lawns, any rented bars must adhere to their weight limits. Any installations, even trellises or chuppahs, must be approved by the management.
--Approved vendors. Many historic and landmark venues will require you to use only their approved vendors, ones who are familiar with the site's regulations and have proved their professionalism and care for the venue. It's important to check the details on this before you put down nonrefundable deposits with outside vendors. If you do wish to hire an outside vendor, just ask. "We will consider your choices of outside vendors, who must be approved by our site before hiring," says Golden.
--Rules for vendors. Some sites require outside vendors to adhere to their regulations regarding setup and creation. For instance, the site might require that all floral decor be assembled before arrival at the venue, because they do not want the mess and potential damage that could come from floral decor construction at the site. Outside vendors may need to tour the site, as well, to be sure the historic building has ovens big enough for their trays and enough power to run their equipment. Older buildings will often require a generator (approved by the venue), and some caterers may require a separate tent outside for their food prep process.
--No fire elements. Candles, flame lanterns, fire pits and other fire hazard items may be prohibited, as may be send-off sparklers and fireworks. Historic buildings must be protected, after all.
--Insurance. You may be required to get a certain amount of wedding insurance to cover any damages to the landmark venue.
--Permits and fees. Ask about application fees and permits needed for your wedding plans and details. This is a standard rule at any wedding venue, but very important for historic and landmark venues, which may have unique permit and fee structures. A wedding coordinator can help you sort through the paperwork for a landmark or historic building. He or she may have worked events there before and thus would be able to guide you.
--Security. Some landmark venues -- Ellis Island, for instance -- require that security measures be taken to protect the location. So your guests may need to walk through metal detectors upon arrival. "We didn't mind," says art-appreciator wedding guest Dasck. "It felt like we were arriving at the Oscars!"
--Even with a long list of regulations, a wedding at a landmark or historic venue is worth the extra effort and adjustments to the rules. The setting is likely to impress your guests, and you become part of the building's history. Plus, the site's docents and tour guides can add a special element to your day. Golden says, "Part of what makes a landmark wedding location special are the creative additions provided by the National Park Service, like the availability of National Park Rangers to guide wedding guests through our historic site and provide fascinating stories and historical information." And don't forget docents who can point out that Matisse on the wall.
Sharon Naylor is the author of "The Bride's Guide to Freebies" and three dozen additional wedding books.