MuseumArticlebyNACE

From intimate affairs to large-scale events, an experience in museums and historic venues can make any bride’s vision for a unique and special celebration come true. How can you ensure success? Alicia Crosby, rental and program planning manager at The Baltimore Museum of Art, shares her expertise in this Q&A and discusses how planning an event in a protected space can be both wonderful and challenging.

Q: What’s different about events in a museum or historic venue?

A: “For the past few years, more and more brides are thinking outside the box and want something different, more creative. While traditional event venues are wonderful, protected spaces offer a unique opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by showcasing the city and, often, built-in décor (with artwork), saving brides money, in some respects. Although this trend may not be new to catering and event professionals, museums are catching on and strategically planning and investing more time and money into creating or updating these spaces. Our goal, at the museum, is to drive more revenue and open ourselves up to a completely different experience for an untapped audience.”

Q: What type of couples are looking for this venue experience?

A: “Most of the couples I work with are interested in something different, something beautiful. Many are artists or artistic/creative people themselves, and sometimes, they had a first date here or got engaged here. Most of them have average or higher budgets—you have to when choosing a museum/historic venue since they are usually not cheap!”

Q: What are the main challenges in having an event at a protected space?

A: “Spaces like ours can have logistical issues that are easily addressed in more common, conventional event venues. For example, loading docks, hang points, unlimited power sources, and an excess of bathrooms are not generally a problem in a traditional venue. However, with a protected space, you may have to work with your couple to tone down the DJ or consider alternative décor that can be brought in without the need for large entryways. Then, there’s always that pesky budget. Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles with catering for a couple that are set on having an event in a protected space can be the budget. Rental fees for spaces can range from $3,000 – $50,000 plus, and that’s even if you can rent them. Your favorite museum may not rent space or may require you to be a certain type of member or donor to rent the space. Also, having an experience at a protected venue will most likely include higher rental rates for things like chairs and tables, as they may need to be venue-friendly and are generally not included with the space.”

Q: What should planners know about protected spaces?

A: “Having an event at my museum is definitely special. Here are the top five things planners should consider when working with their couple on securing their dream venue:

1. Educate yourself. Get to know the venues in your area, especially the new ones or ones that are soon to be in construction. This will help you understand the needs and wants of a couple looking for a unique experience at an unusual venue.

2. Listen. Build relationships with the venue managers and find out what it takes to successfully work in their space (from their perspective). Ask your colleague for a tour of the front and back of the house, or see if you can attend an event to appreciate how they prefer vendors to work in their space.

3. Communicate. Always keep venue managers in the loop from the beginning—you will avoid a lot of changes that way.

4. Understand (and follow) the rules. Although you might not be able to use flash photography in front of the Mona Lisa, you should be familiar with the rules and regulations for protected event spaces, as they may be entirely different than those to which you are accustomed. Arming yourself with that knowledge will help you and your client plan a successful event, assure everything goes smoothly, and help better prepare you for compromises.

5. Be creative. The more you know about venue restrictions, the more creative you can be. Alternative options to current trends help you take your bride’s Pinterest idea and make it happen at a level that keeps the integrity of the idea while abiding by the venue’s requirements.”

Q: Tell us about the coolest event you’ve ever had at your museum.

A. “The coolest and most memorable are the events that incorporate the venue and the artwork within the theme and décor—creating beautiful, artistic centerpieces; using artist’s names instead of standard numbers to indicate tables; and designing the menu inspired by works of art. Really doing anything that sets the tone of the venue and the event is something special!”

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Kim Grimm, National Association for Catering and Events (NACE), Columbia, Md.