The Art of the Party

By Natasha Garber | Make Favorite

Photo: C. Baron Photography
Styling: Darryl & Co

Location: The Bryan Museum

Whether it houses priceless paintings, cultural treasures or historical artifacts (or all three), a museum is a destination for education, inspiration, and, for some, personal reflection. It can also be a wonderful place for celebration, particularly the wedding kind. Here, we open the doors to two distinguished museums—one in Houston, one in Galveston—that offer artful and elegant spaces to dine, dance…and say, “I do!”

The Museum Of Fine Arts, Houston
Houston’s premier fine arts institution offers not one, but several, superb venue options for couples who wish to fete their wedding guests with excellent food, superb entertainment and beautiful decor, in an environment where “the art reigns supreme,” notes the museum’s assistant director of hospitality, James Batt.

The museum’s main campus, located in the stylish, and aptly named, Houston Museum District, includes the Caroline Wiess Law Building, designed by master of Bauhaus architecture, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Its architectural cachet alone would make the building a desirable site for a truly exclusive wedding celebration—but there is so much more to this iconic structure. A stately modernist pavilion that opens onto tree-lined Bissonnet Street welcomes arriving guests in style, while the expansive multi-level main space, surrounded by smaller galleries, and featuring soaring ceilings and walls tailor-made for custom lighting and projections, allows seating for 400 of your best friends, family members, colleagues and more.

More intimate in scale, but no less impressive in provenance—its designer is Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rafael Moneo—the museum complex’s Beck Building houses the museum’s collection of antiquities, Old Masters, impressionists, American art and modern and contemporary art. It also features sleek, intimate, art-filled space for entertaining up to 150 wedding guests.

Outside of the main museum complex, two coveted MFAH sites offer intimacy, refined elegance, and a treasure trove of esteemed artwork. Featuring “European decorative art, stunning architecture—the house museum was designed by prominent Houston architect John Staub in 1952—and an Upper Kirby address,” Batt says, the River Oaks mansion “Rienzi” is an ideal wedding location for couples who value ornate surroundings and priceless artwork…and who are willing to abide by some restrictions in order to enjoy these elements for their wedding. Hoping to serve Pinot Noir at your Rienzi wedding? Sorry, no—red wine is too risky for the delicate artwork, carpets and furniture. But Chardonnay? That’s A-OK!

If a garden gathering is more to your liking, you may opt to host your nuptials at the museum-owned Bayou Bend Collection. But be mindful—if you do want to have your wedding at Bayou Bend, whose mansion museum was once the residence of philanthropist, art collector and “first lady of Texas,” Ima Hogg, and happens to house “one of the world’s greatest collections of American painting, furniture and decorative arts,” notes Batt, you’ll need to get a tent—or two, or three: “This glorious Houston garden venue, with 14 acres of formal and wooded gardens, smack in the middle of River Oaks, really does require a marquee for events,” as its indoor space is only available for guided tours, rather than events.

The Bryan Museum
From its beginnings as an orphanage—one whose solid cypress beams protected its wards from the great storm of 1900—to its brief stint as a private residence, to its status, today, as one of Galveston’s most beloved historic archives, The Bryan Museum stands out as a superb venue for a truly Texan wedding.

Depending on the season and weather, some couples opt to have their ceremony in the beautiful gazebo on the museum’s grounds. Those who do, along with their fortunate guests, get to enjoy a true outdoor ceremony experience, beneath a jasmine-covered structure that can be illuminated, in the evening, with anything from crystal chandeliers to paper lanterns.

Bryan Museum director of events Ann Urban notes that, due to Galveston’s fickle climate, most couples opt for an off-site ceremony, bringing their guests to The Bryan Museum afterwards, for a one-of-a-kind reception in the museum’s recently completed, and completely climate-controlled, conservatory. At just under 2,000 square feet, the Belgian-inspired structure features intricate ironwork and evocative emerald-color glass, along with a built-in green onyx bar. These features, combined with a dazzling floor that “really is like a mirror,” Urban says, make The Bryan Museum’s conservatory, itself, “a work of art.” Of special note are the museum’s on-site areas for wedding-party preparation—a rarity among museums and cultural institutions that offer event-space rentals. “We have the most beautiful bridal suite—a real fairytale space, with gold-leaf moldings and a huge European mirror. It is a very luxurious spot for the bridal party to hang out and get ready for the big event,” Urban says. For the guys, “There is our groom’s lounge—a fantastic ‘man cave,’ with a big TV and leather furniture.”

And while the main museum space, with its exceptional collection of Texas and American West art and artifacts, is not available for large wedding events, it is available to the couple for photography sessions (an extra special treat, since the museum does not allow regular visitors to take photos inside). It’s also a great place, Urban adds, for a “small, private Champagne reception on the Sunday after the wedding, where 25 to 30 special guests can experience the museum’s collection.”

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