Pssst…It starts with a cool and classy location!
by HCTG Director of Creative Content Jolene Rae Harrington
IMAGINE SAYING “I DO” beneath a stunning Chihuly glass chandelier…posing for photos with a classic Jaguar convertible…savoring champagne and caviar surrounded by avant-garde sculpture or 3,000-year-old Chinese ceramics… Any of these out-of-the-ordinary scenarios can become your reality if you wed at one of the Bay Area’s acclaimed art galleries or museums. No longer the sole province of school field trips, tourists, or snobby scenesters, galleries and museums have found a fresh calling as novel places to throw a party.
It’s a safe bet you’ve already had a crash course in “the 4 Cs” of diamonds. (Did we catch you gazing at the lovely sparkler on your left hand? Thought so!) Since we consider museums and galleries location “diamonds,” we’ve summed up their advantages with our own version of “the 4 Cs”: Class, Culture, Conversation-friendly, and Cool.
Most brides envision their wedding as elegant with at least a dash of chic. Museums, often known for striking architecture and upscale décor, are works of art in themselves; as for galleries, they’re notoriously sleek and stylish whether dressed to the nines or left California casual. No matter what level of formality you desire, these venues automatically say “class.”
It’s natural to want an event site that conveys a worldliness and appreciation of the finer things in life. This is the Bay Area, after all, where we value social awareness and personal expression almost as much as our award-winning wineries. Nothing illustrates your cultural savvy like staging your bash alongside Matisse oil paintings or a giant black & white photographic mural.
You’d also like your guests to mingle. But instead of encouraging them with home movies, karaoke or disposable cameras on the tables, wouldn’t it be awesome if the setting itself provided built-in conversational icebreakers? Galleries and museums are custom-made for this. Without any effort on your part, friends and family meeting for the first time will have something to talk about besides Aunt Harriet’s fifth trip to the martini bar.
Let’s face it: everything from your shoes to your wedding cake speaks volumes about your sense of style. If illustrating your ahead-of-the-curve sensibilities is a priority, then select a venue that demonstrates your genius for ferreting out all things cool—and a reception at a hip gallery or art museum is a sure-fire way to raise your trendsetter-quotient.
Galleries and museums offer a rich combination of our 4 Cs in one dynamic setting. Like a beautifully cut diamond, they glitter with promise—in this case, of a celebration that’s innovative, elegant and fun.
Read on for a guided tour of ten of our favorite artsy locations:
Celebrate amid the exotic lure of the Orient at the Asian Art Museum, a historic Beaux-Arts structure that rivals the works within for artistic appeal. The Lobby’s opulent Grand Staircase, with three flights of travertine marble steps, is an irresistible spot for a ceremony. Guests look on from the nearby Loggia, an airy arcade with a decorative barrel-vaulted ceiling and glass cases of Asian ceramics. In the museum’s galleries, a world-class collection from the Far East beckons guests to explore. Receptions come alive in the palatial ambiance of Samsung Hall, featuring enormous glassed-in arches crisscrossed with intricate metalwork. If you prefer the clean lines of a contemporary milieu, the museum’s thoroughly modern North and South Courts oblige, with angular skylit ceilings that rise nearly three stories high. No matter where you stage your fête, you’ll be surrounded by so much beauty and style that little else is needed for a dazzling affair.
America’s romance with the automobile has defined our culture since the beginning of the 20th century; perhaps nowhere else are the auto’s aesthetics so gorgeously celebrated than at the Blackhawk Museum, a striking glass, granite and stainless steel facility that showcases “the Art of the Car” in sumptuous surroundings. This “Auto Louvre” has a distinguished collection of vintage one-of-a-kind vehicles and rare classics, including cars once owned by Hollywood stars. Stage your reception in one of Blackhawk’s galleries or on its mezzanines or terraces, and watch your guests admire the stunning silhouettes of antique luxury sedans…the graceful curve of a fender…the gleam of polished chrome and shiny brass trim. Blackhawk goes one step further in vehicular appreciation by devoting an entire gallery to cars depicted in fine art. Whether you’re an auto enthusiast, an aficionado of Americana, or just looking for a unique venue, the Blackhawk Museum makes a scintillating showroom for any high-powered event.
Designed by award-winning architects, the new incarnation of the de Young Museum opened in 2005 to enthusiastic acclaim. Light seems to dance off the soaring building’s textured copper façade, an awe-inspiring first impression that prepares you for the world-class collections inside. A myriad of spectacular event spaces provide an immersive art experience. Expansive Wilsey Court enjoys high ceilings, a brick floor and a giant black & white photographic mural. Another option is the Piazzoni Murals Room, where historic Italian landscape paintings surround your celebration like gorgeous wallpaper. Dramatic cocktail receptions are held at the top of Hamon Tower, where floor-to-ceiling windows frame a view of Golden Gate Park against a glorious bay and city panorama. Even outdoor events have cultural flair: tent-friendly Osher Terrace overlooks the scenic sculpture garden. Any gathering within the de Young’s rich, stimulating environment takes on an extra dimension.
Set among acres of parks and gardens, the Los Altos History Museum delights both the eye and spirit. A red-bricked courtyard is tucked between the folksy, wood-framed museum building and the quaint façade of the landmark History House next door. A redwood pergola at one end of the courtyard is a lovely spot for a garden ceremony. When it’s reception time, the tall glass doors of the museum’s gallery slide right open to admit guests. Here, blond wood floors and visiting artworks (including collections from notable institutions like the Smithsonian) lend an air of distinction. The Museum’s upper floors house interactive displays, artifacts and vintage clothing from Los Altos’ early days. For additional entertainment, arrange a guided tour of the neighboring History House, which replicates in amazing detail the homespun lifestyle of a 1930s farm family. A gracious window to a genteel past, this museum is an inspired place to begin your future.
A stunning monument to the City’s cultural mastery, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has been hailed for its cutting-edge Modernist architecture. It’s also a boldly sophisticated setting for lavish affairs, particularly the spacious Atrium. Black-and-gray marble floors and columns form an engaging contrast to honey-colored birch walls, and a skylit roof showers the guests with a natural glow. Brides look ultra-glamorous poised on the open spiral staircase that winds its way up five floors to an aerial bridge. In the adjoining Schwab Room, dreamy specialty illumination gives receptions a romantic patina. Take your gala to the next level—literally—by reserving one of SFMOMA’s upper galleries. The traditional social hour takes on an exciting originality when guests circulate among the vibrant brushstrokes of Pollock, the provocative interpretations of Duchamp, or Kahlo’s searing imagery. Both versatile and remarkable, SFMOMA helps make your celebration as unforgettable as the surroundings.
Holding court on a palm tree-shaded plaza, the San Jose Museum of Art is a study in stylistic contrasts—the Historic Wing, constructed in 1892 from golden, rough-hewn sandstone, is a paragon of Beaux-Arts design; the modern New Wing houses the museum’s soaring Lobby, also known as party central at SJMA. Hung with scintillating glass chandeliers by famed artist Dale Chihuly that set the marble floors agleam, this open, airy space also boasts a second-story balcony and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking an outdoor sculpture court. Solid oak floors and gracefully arched windows lend grandeur to gatherings held in the Historic Wing. Docent-lead art tours are insurance against ho-hum social hours. In fact, your entire event conveys a certain daring, thanks to high-caliber contemporary displays including modern masterworks and 3-D digital installations.
Gifted with more than its share of urban chic, Terra Gallery & Event Venue epitomizes the synergy of modern art and high tech. This expansive, loft-style event space-cum-gallery on two levels has sliding drapes that delineate adjoining, yet distinct, areas for maximum party flow. For instance, say “I do” in front of 40-foot floor-to-ceiling windows that capture a dynamic cityscape; then invite guests into the Gallery to dine among the paintings and sculpture on exhibit. Tech is big here, and with customizable lighting and multimedia capabilities you can project oversized photos of the newlyweds on the white-washed brick walls, while guests dance atop burnished hardwood floors to music playing on Terra’s state-of-the-art Bose sound system. Both levels possess a sophisticated yet minimalist aesthetic, encouraging you to unleash your decorative fantasies. Whether you opt for elegant or eclectic, this versatile venue and its creative staff can turn your party into a work of art.
Designed with special events in mind, the Triton’s high ceilings, immaculate angular white walls, and terrazzo floors make a superb backdrop not only for fine art, but for swank receptions, too. Outdoors, redwood-studded meadows accented with all types of statuary make plein air wedding ceremonies a delight; but the party really gets into gear inside the museum proper. The coolly elegant Rotunda has marble floors and sinuous floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the seven-acre Sculpture Garden. The galleries feature polished blond hardwood floors, advanced lighting, and pyramidal skylights that make your gathering sparkle amid contemporary exhibits. One recent success was an installation of Younhee Park’s luminous sky paintings—large celestial landscapes on billowing, draped canvases suspended overhead. A permanent display in the Warburton Gallery invites guests to wine and dine while appreciating the modern Native American art and historical artifacts. Triton is dynamic, evocative, different…just the way you envision your celebration!