A Reception Venue Just for You

Jessica Salerno
Emily and Michael Webber chose the Columbus Museum of Art for their ceremony to embody their creative tastes and love of art.

Living in Central Ohio definitely has its advantages when it comes to wedding planning, and one of the more convenient benefits is the seemingly endless selection of wedding venues. Finding a unique, beautiful space that best represents you and your future spouse is possible; you just need to know where to look. Here are the venues to check out while you're on the hunt.

If you like: Van Gogh, Picasso or Rembrandt

Check out: The Columbus Museum of Art

Falling in love in front of a beautiful work of art might sound like something that only happens in movies, but Susan Brehm, director of events and business strategy at the Columbus Museum of Art, says that's only one of the reasons she hears for why couples choose CMA as their wedding venue.

“[Sometimes] their fiancé proposed because of their connection to a piece of art, or we have families whose siblings, parents and grandparents have gotten married here,” Brehm says.

The atmosphere and ambiance of the museum is hard to replicate, especially with recent renovations. The Schottenstein Property Group Pavilion, which can hold up to 300 guests for a seated dinner, was completed in 2015; Brehm says couples were booking it, site unseen, before it was even finished.

“I call it a blank, white canvas,” she says. “It has a modern feel with light wood floors, recessed lighting, skylights and a whole wall of glass. And there [are] two doors that go out to the balcony and lead down to the new garden.”

The garden she's referencing is the Patricia M. Jurgensen Sculpture Garden, where large, striking pieces complement the greenery. Brehm says couples can transform the pavilion space into their wildest dreams, and she's seen the space change from a summer camp-themed reception one night to a simple, elegant theme the next.

Most couples choose to do their ceremony in the “very regal” Derby Court and the McCoy Family Broad Street Lobby, which features a dramatic skylight ceiling and can accommodate 200 to 300 guests, depending on the layout.

Emily Webber, a photographer, and her husband, Michael, an art teacher, held their ceremony in Derby Court on July 22, 2016. They wanted a space that represented their individual styles and mutual interests.

“The museum was perfect for that; with us being artistic ourselves, it was the perfect combination,” Emily says.

She adds that one of her favorite parts was getting married in the same space as historic pieces of art they'd grown up enjoying. In fact, they didn't add any flowers or decorations to the court, because they already loved its simple elegance.

“All of the great pictures and art we grew up learning about in school, to be married amongst all of those was really exciting,” Emily says.

If you like: A charming and intimate setting

Check out: A historic inn

Couples looking to explore outside of the city can look into the Granville Inn, about 30 minutes east of Columbus. “We package ourselves with the town,” says Linda Turk, director of sales at the inn. Granville is “a very walkable and accessible town if [wedding guests are] staying for the entire weekend,” she adds.

The Granville Inn underwent renovations in 2015, but that hasn't altered the charming, English Tudor style throughout the building. It can host weddings for up to 150 guests and can accommodate smaller receptions as well. Guests will forget they're in small-town Ohio when they see the romantic courtyard setting available for outdoor ceremonies.

“We're a hidden jewel outside of Columbus, and I think we're surprising,” says Turk. “When we get a couple in the door and see the reaction on their face from what we have to offer here, [that] is very rewarding for us.”

A bit closer to Columbus, the Worthington Inn offers Victorian-style décor for couples who are looking to make a statement. Dating back to the 1830s, the opulent Van Loon Ballroom holds up to 100 seated guests under a 500-pound crystal chandelier. The other rooms have been remodeled to fit smaller groups for more intimate settings, all while keeping the same unique décor and feel throughout the space.

“The building can sell itself; there's nothing else like it in Columbus,” says AnnaBell Kinsel, private event sales coordinator at the inn.

Centrally located between I-71 and State Route 315, the Worthington Inn is only a short drive from the Short North and Downtown Columbus, should guests want to head into the city post-reception.

Kinsel says she consistently hears from couples who want to avoid a huge affair in favor of a more cozy celebration.

“They want something with their closest family and friends that's a night to remember, with great food and very intimate [surroundings],” says Kinsel. “That's a niche we fill.”

If you like: Brutus and the Buckeyes

Check out: The Blackwell Inn and Conference Center

From the rehearsal dinner to the farewell brunch and everything in between, the Blackwell is a one-stop shop for those who are looking for convenience and proximity to Ohio State University's campus.

With 151 hotel rooms at the Blackwell, your out-of -town guests will be just a short elevator ride from the festivities. Depending on the setup, the hotel's ballroom can hold up to 275 guests.

“We're more than happy to accommodate any requests the couples have,” says Madison Martin, wedding sales coordinator at the Blackwell Inn and Conference Center. That means taking advantage of the indoor and outdoor spaces, including an outdoor patio that overlooks the Fisher College of Business.

“We do have a lot of smaller, intimate weddings, so we work really closely with them to set up their needs,” Martin says, adding that past events have included everything from twilight services to brunch weddings.

A new offering is the completely customizable menu, which the chefs create after the couple takes a short survey to identify their taste preferences.

Of course, any die-hard Buckeyes fans will love the advantage of being on campus and a short walk from Ohio Stadium. Couples have the option to hold their ceremony and cocktail hour overlooking the stadium, and Blackwell staff will set up a photo session in the stadium or coordinate an appearance by Brutus at the couple's request.

Although the OSU connection is a big draw, Martin says it's not required to enjoy your wedding at the Blackwell.

“We get a good combination of couples—a lot of people have heard about us from going to Ohio State—but there are many couples who have no affiliation at all,” Martin says.

If you like: A unique animal experience

Check out: The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

More and more couples are seeking out the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for the beautiful space and unique animal experience their guests can enjoy, says Sara Baker, group sales representative at the zoo.

The Water's Edge Boardwalk, which backs up to the Scioto River, is an indoor-outdoor space that can hold 160 people. Retractable glass doors provide an open-air atmosphere that doesn't sacrifice shelter. But Baker says the more popular space is in the new Africa Event Center, which can hold up to 300 people and has a private parking lot for guests.

“The background for that is the Heart of Africa vista, so you're getting giraffes, zebra, ostrich, wildebeest and all those really awesome Heart of Africa animals,” Baker says.

Included in the wedding package is a promotional animal visit in which animal trainers bring out three to five zoo ambassador animals to mingle with guests for 30 minutes, usually during cocktail hour, as well as private newlywed photos. Ambassadors include clouded leopards, snow leopards, cheetahs, wallabies, penguins, sloths and bearcats.

But Baker says the zoo isn't just for animal lovers. “I think some people choose the zoo just because it's different and to add value for their guests, so they can see animals and do something they wouldn't typically do at a wedding reception,” she says.

Along with the beloved animal interactions, another point of pride for the zoo is its culinary team, who makes everything fresh for the event.

After looking at venues in Michigan, Amanda Hicks, an event planner, and her husband, Scott, couldn't find anything that they loved. They toured the zoo's event spaces after a recommendation from Amanda's coworker.

“We loved the idea of doing something a little bit different,” she says.

Amanda and Scott were married on June 25, 2016, in the Africa Event Center, and took advantage of the customizable food stations and an animal encounter that let guests feed the giraffes.

“We thought the animals were a unique touch, and we loved the idea of them being able to interact with the guests,” Amanda says, adding that guests from her wedding still talk about getting to the chance to play with a kangaroo and see a penguin up close.

If you like: Performance art

Check out: CAPA's theaters

Those looking to add a little extra drama to their wedding day can book the Southern or Lincoln theatres for their big day.

The Southern Theatre can accommodate 900 guests for a ceremony and 150 guests for a reception on the stage. Keisha Dean, venue sales assistant at CAPA, says the Southern is more popular for larger wedding parties.

“Another great thing about that space is it's so historic; it's the oldest theater in Columbus,” she says. “You walk in and it's so ornate, there's not a need for a lot of additional decorations.”

The Lincoln Theatre seats up to 588 guests, and its Cardinal Health Ballroom can hold up to 200. Couples can get married in the theater itself and have their reception in the ballroom upstairs, or have the ceremony and reception both in the ballroom.

“We have a lot of people that come to us because they're theater people and want to get married in the theater, especially at the Lincoln, because people are familiar with neighborhood and live nearby,” says Dean.

Dean says many couples love the idea of getting married on a stage where international artists have performed. Couples also can celebrate their big day with their name on the Lincoln Theatre marquee, which she says is very popular.

“I think people are really impressed at what a great value it is. With such a nice, fancy venue, they think it's going to cost a lot more,” Dean says. “We try to be careful with our pricing so people with a lot of different financial backgrounds can come in and utilize the space.”

If you like: Bill Nye the Science Guy

Check out: COSI

Couples who are looking for a unique experience and a space unlike any other should check out COSI.

“If you love being close to the Downtown scene, if you love science in any way, shape or form, COSI is perfect,” says Kayla Wavra, director of group sales and catering at COSI.

COSI offers an uninterrupted view of the Downtown skyline that is hard to find at any other venue in the city.

“You're going to get the best pictures here,” says Wavra.

The huge venue offers a variety of spaces for your ceremony, reception and cocktail hour. Especially popular are the three galleries, the mezzanine areas and the Ocean and Progress exhibits. Couples looking to enjoy nice weather can select from the Big Science Park, two plazas and the North Courtyard.

Wavra has seen a gamut of themes, including Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. And for couples who have always wanted to get married under the stars, the Planetarium is available for ceremonies.

And of course, science can be incorporated into the wedding festivities if the couple is interested. Wavra says COSI offers mobile “science carts,” with fun activities like nitrogen ice cream, to keep guests entertained in a unique way. You also can book any of the interactive science exhibits for guests to explore, too.

The average wedding at COSI is usually between 250 and 350 people, but Wavra says the venue can accommodate groups as small as 30 or as large as 600 in one room, though renting the entire building allows for even larger group.