Venues: Landmark Celebrations
Put your wedding on the map at one of Philadelphia’s historic venues
Your wedding is a milestone, a landmark that begins a new chapter of your story. It will become part of history, the pictures and moments of the day cherished by you and those who come after you. These six Philadelphia venues are as monumental and beautiful as the commitment and love you have
Your wedding is a milestone, a landmark that begins a new chapter of your story. It will become part of your history, the pictures and moments of the day cherished by you and those who come after you. These six Philadelphia venues are as monumental and beautiful as the commitment and love you have given to one another.
30th Street Station
Your guests might not have noticed it during their daily commute, but this historic train station has a lot to offer as a party setting. One of the city’s landmarks since 1934, this stately neoclassical structure covers almost two city blocks.
The glorious columned portico makes for a dramatic entrance to your reception. As guests enter the building, they pass beneath the 95-foot-high coffered ceiling of the Main Concourse, set alight by 18 art deco chandeliers. “Guests come away with a very memorable evening because of the historical and architectural ambiance of the rooms and the building,” says Sheryl Haynes, marketing and events manager of the building.
Set off from the Main Concourse, the North Waiting Room’s colonnaded porticoes, Tennessee marble floor and travertine walls — punctuated by Karl Bitter’s magnificent wall sculpture Spirit of Transportation, on the west wall — make for a dramatic space that can seat 100-600 guests. To ensure privacy as you dance the night away, cloth is draped at the arched entranceways.
The South Arcade, on the Market Street side of the Main Concourse, has floor-to-ceiling windows that bathe the floors in moonlight and allow a stunning view of the city, says Haynes. Potted trees will seclude the space from travelers, to create an intimate atmosphere for you and your guests. “There are a lot of options to utilize that room with a budget,” says Haynes, ensuring that a party in this majestic setting doesn’t have to break the bank.
Rooms: North Waiting Room; South Arcade
Capacity: Up to 600 for a sit-down dinner; up to 150 for a sit-down dinner
Price: $5,000-$8,000; $2,000-$7,000
Book in advance: 6-11 months
Hours you can book: 5 hours; up to midnight
Special feature: Floor-to-ceiling windows
Catering: A list of referrals of caterers who are familiar with the space is available, or bring your own caterer
The Franklin Institute
Built in 1932, this classic Greek Corinthian-style building displays all the scientific history of Philadelphia with elegance — and lots of imagination.
Several spaces within the museum are good for celebrations. Lois Switken, director of sales and catering at the Institute, suggests the following agenda:
First, take your vows beneath a canopy of stars in the Fels Planetarium. The two of you can even personalize the sky above, by choosing the star chart that illuminates the dome above you. Choose the stars on the night he proposed, or the dates of your births — or even opt for the Philly skyline, graced with a rising moon at the commencement of your ceremony and a rising sun at the completion.
Newly wed, you can move upstairs to the Franklin Gallery (you could also hold your reception in the planetarium itself), where guests can have cocktails while exploring the Electricity and BioScience exhibits, complete with the famous walk-through heart. “It’s such a lovely marriage between the elegance and beauty of Franklin Hall and the fun of the exhibits,” says Switken. “All the brides want their picture taken with the heart.”
Franklin Hall, which opens off the Franklin Gallery, is a space that will dazzle your guests and is perfect for a large seated dinner. Inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, its 16 three-story columns hold up the grand marble rotunda. The sturdy Italian travertine marble floor is perfect for hours of dancing — and your party can last until 1 a.m.
Rooms: Fels Planetarium; Franklin Hall
Capacity: 350 for cocktails, 200 for a sit-down dinner; 700 for cocktails, 400 for a sit-down dinner
Price: $130 per guest and up
Book in advance: 2-12 months
Hours you can book: 6 p.m.-1 a.m.
Special feature: A ceremony under the “stars”
Catering: Frog Commissary
The National Constitution Center
Set in the heart of Philadelphia’s historic Independence Mall, this elegant two-story structure was built to convey Philadelphia’s importance in our nation’s birth and has hosted many beautiful weddings since opening its doors in 2003.
“The space is so unique, there’s nothing to even compare it to,” says Anne Boon, director of facility rentals. She says that brides love the versatility of the space — it allows them to create the party of their dreams.
The 60-foot-ceilings, 40-foot glass windows, glossy terrazzo floors and enthralling views of Independence Mall are a beautiful backdrop for any color scheme or theme you could imagine — one recent bride, says Boon, had a blue sky and clouds projected onto the white ceiling above the party.
Or take your party to a whole new level, with a reception on the second floor in the Grand Hall Overlook (which can seat up to 600). With doors closing to the public at 6 p.m., you’ll be able to enjoy an intimate, private space until 2 a.m.
Rooms: Grand Hall Overlook
Capacity: 800 for a reception, 640 for a sit-down dinner
Price: $150 per guest and up (inclusive)
Book in advance: 6-12 months
Hours you can book: 5 hours; 6 p.m.-2 a.m.
Special feature: Enthralling views of Independence Mall
Catering: Max and Me
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
Home to the Philadelphia Orchestra and some of our city’s best performance groups, this soaring architectural wonder on the Avenue of the Arts has much to offer for reception choices.
Many brides start with cocktails in the First Tier Lounge, which offers a view of the surrounding performance halls and the Commonwealth Plaza below — making it the perfect venue to indulge in a little people-watching.
When everyone is good and mingling, it’s time to move the party up to the main event: a reception held in the Dorrance H. Hamilton Garden, an oasis on the rooftop beneath the vaulted 150-foot steel-and-glass ceiling. “It adds a nice ‘wow’ factor to your event. It’s a great view of the city,” says Kelly Benedict, event sales manager, who’s seen this space transformed from sunny and bright during the day to soft and romantic in the evening, with votives flickering and up-lighting illuminating the trees that line the perimeter. Dinner is catered by Restaurant Associates, who will customize any menu you might want, and offer it as a sit-down meal, buffet or stations.
Rooms: First Tier Lounge; Hamilton Garden
Capacity: 200 for a reception; 200 for reception/sit-down dinner
Price: $1,750; $3,000
Book in advance: 2-12 months
Hours you can book: 5 hours; up to 2 a.m.
Special feature: A glass-roofed garden oasis
Catering: Restaurant Associates
The Union League of Philadelphia
As your guests walk up the sweeping twin staircases of this circa-1865 French Renaissance-style building, they might feel a bit privileged — it’s usually only open to league members and sponsored guests. “It takes you back to a time over 100 years ago,” says Patricia Tobin, assistant general manager. “And the staircase is a great place for photos with the bridal party. That and Broad Street — all the brides want their picture in the middle of Broad Street.”
Dine in Lincoln Hall, which has more than 5,900 square feet of eating, drinking and dancing space, a 32-foot-high ceiling, gorgeous wood floors and walls, and a crystal chandelier that was made for our nation’s centennial in 1876. Guests can walk through the Library Lounge with cocktails and can even opt for a nightcap — or two. The top three floors hold 67 bedrooms.
Rooms: Lincoln Hall; Meade Room
Capacity: 750 for cocktails, 500 for sit-down dinner; 400 for reception, 280 for sit-down dinner
Price: Starts at $135 per guest
Book in advance: 6-12 months
Hours you can book: 5 hours; 1 p.m.-2 a.m.
Special feature: Dramatic twin circular staircase
Catering: Full-service kitchen with an executive chef and pastry chef
The Shops at Liberty Place
If a gala is in the works for your Big Day, this two-tiered marble “ballroom” (which can hold up to 1,000 guests for cocktails or 500 for a formal banquet) may be the answer, both for fashionista brides — and for those who’ll appreciate being married in the building that defines Philly’s modern skyline.
As the clock strikes 8 p.m., the rotunda, the busy epicenter of this Center City shopping destination, transforms into your own private landscape. All of the 55 storefronts and eateries go dark, and you and your guests can dine beneath the 110-foot ceiling. “When you look up, you’re staring at this beautiful glass dome,” says Jill Scarlett, marketing director. “At night it can be very elegant.”
As a perk, the bridal party can use the dressing rooms of a vacant shop, if one is available, for a little pre-party preening and late-night touch-ups. For those who intend to stay late (the party can last until 2 a.m.), the Westin Hotel, which connects to the shops, will be a welcome retreat after hours of dancing.
Rooms: The Rotunda
Capacity: Up to 1,000 for cocktails, 500 for sit-down dinner
Book in advance: 6 months (cannot rent during the holiday season)
Hours you can book: 8 p.m.-2 a.m.
Special feature: 110-foot glass ceiling
Catering: Approved list of caterers include: Jack Francis Catering, the Westin Hotel Philadelphia, Jack Kramer’s Catering, Restaurant Associates