Couples can “book” the third floor of the Madison Public Library.
Your marriage is history!
Or it could be, if you wed at the Wisconsin Historical Society. It’s one of several unconventional wedding venues that couples are turning to.
In March the Historical Society started to ramp up event rental at its 117-year-old neoclassical headquarters at the foot of State Street. “We’ve hosted three weddings since October, and we currently have seven more contracted through October of 2017,” says event manager Craig Jacobsen.
The society can host ceremonies and catered receptions in several spaces, including its exterior State Street terrace, 300-seat auditorium and 4,200-square-foot lobby — which features a unique wedding guest: the 1895 iconic bronze statue nicknamed “Miss Forward.” (Its actual name is merely “Forward.” Long a Capitol Square landmark, a replica replaced it there when the original moved to the society in 1998.)
But it’s the society’s second-floor reading room, what Jacobsen terms their “spectacular beaux arts flagship room,” restored in 2010, that wins wedding raves.
Nuptials are neoclassical at the Wisconsin Historical Society.
The society can accommodate anything but electrically powered bands, for fear of subtle damage inflicted by vibration.
“One of the risks we run with historic artifacts and historic space — the more those elements come into human contact, the more risk there is for damage,” he says. For more information contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another historic space is Madison’s Orpheum Theater, which opened as a movie and vaudeville palace in 1927. “One of the favorite parts of my job is when people walk into the building and their jaws just drop,” says Abby Schulz, director of sales. “It speaks for itself in terms of beauty.”
Typically, the lobby serves as a cocktail area, with ceremonies on stage or in the second balcony. The “show room” — the theater’s former orchestra section — can seat 300 for catered receptions.
The Orpheum adds drama to romance.
While the Orpheum has been available for wedding rental for some years, Schulz points proudly to the recent renovation of the French Baroque-Revival interior as further reason to choose the site. “We definitely want to do a lot more weddings.” For information, contact her at email@example.com.
Similarly dramatic outdoor wedding spaces are on the UW campus, including Picnic Point and the Arboretum. Camp Randall is available only for photo shoots, but couples do take advantage of that option. Photo reservations must be made at least one month in advance of the requested date.
“It’s only fitting that since many of our alums meet their spouses here, they come back to campus and celebrate important life events,” says Gary Brown, director of Campus Planning, Landscape Architecture and the Lakeshore Nature Preserve.
If your love is an open book, you may consider a ceremony at the central Madison Public Library. Wedding guests from out of town “are knocked out. They are very impressed,” says the library’s Thomas Karls.
After the central library was reconstructed and expanded, from 2011 to 2014, the newly added third floor became event space; with its big glass windows and access to the rooftop deck, it’s a particularly nice spot for weddings. “And that’s how I became a wedding planner,” says Karls.
He and event coordinator Hannah Peschek must be doing a good job. “We’re going to do 25 weddings this year,” says Karls, and no more reservations will be accepted until April 1. The library will host both the ceremony and the reception. Bands and DJs are allowed, or wedding parties can even skip a DJ and plug an iPhone playslist into the library’s own sound system. Catering needs to be from one of six approved caterers. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if your love blazes like wildfire, it’s only natural that you might seek an even more unconventional wedding space.
But you will be disappointed. “We do not open up the fire stations as wedding venues,” says Madison Fire Department spokesperson Cynthia Schuster.
“We’ve had members of the public ask to come in and get their pictures with the fire trucks on their wedding day, but we’ve had to turn those requests down.”
Editor's note: This story has been edited to reflect that Camp Randall can be scheduled for wedding photos, but no actual marriage ceremonies take place there, not even for staff and former letter winners who are active members of its W Club.