Michael and I tossed up 2 types of venues during our wedding discussions. Below were our top picks:
- Beautiful, modern, all inclusive venues
- Le Belvedere – Our initial top choice with sprawling breathtaking views of Gatineau Hills and very affordable at $139/pp. Unfortunately, with our guest list and due to its location (at least 1/2 hr from downtown Ottawa), we decided against this venue. Would definitely recommend to another bride!
- Canadian Museum of History (previously known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization) – OUR WINNER! More information below 🙂
- Canadian Museum of Nature – multiple facility rentals to choose from with a mix of modern and old architecture and charm. Unfortunately, we never received a reply to our inquiry so eliminated by default!
- St Elias Centre – Right by Mooney’s Bay, also all inclusive with outside caterers available
- Canadian War Museum – We eliminated this option after visiting simply due to the ambiance (very gray and dark) – just not what we were looking for but definitely worth considering!
- Community halls where we can customise our own set up and food (think multi course Vietnamese food with 2 roasted pigs).
It didn’t take much research for us to decide that we would have to forego the community hall option. For a number of reasons:
- Many halls did not have the capacity we were looking for (either too big or too small)
- Most did not offer anything exciting in terms of architecture and potential for transformation post decoration
- Cost of renting the hall is cheaper. But once you add the cost of hiring all the tables/chairs/linens/dinnerware, etc – it was pricey.
- Unless you pay for additional labour, it’s a lot of manual work! And we certainly didn’t want to ask family/friends to work leading up to our wedding.
- We would be coming home from Australia for the wedding. Time = money. The less time we spent on wedding set up, the more quality time we could spend with family and friends.
- No community halls had cooking facilities onsite, all food would have to come pre/half-prepared and warmed up – not really what we wanted
Canadian Museum of History – Voyageurs Salon
As we would be planning a wedding in Canada from Australia – there would definitely some challenges! First up – booking a venue!
Here’s how we did it…
First step: Pick a date – May 14, 2016. We chose a spring date as it would be the earliest time to get married in beautiful Canadian weather! There was no attached significance to the date, but it also happened to be Michael’s parents’ anniversary date – so additional meaning!
Second step: Choose a venue – After hours of research online, we narrowed down our list of potential venues to the aforementioned. We were lucky to have our annual leave in March 2015 – over a year prior to our wedding date, which was lucky because we could visit the venues in person prior to committing. Be warned, book the venue as soon as you can (especially if your date is considered high season)!
Third step: Book an appointment to see the venue. Come ready with all your questions and something to take notes! Bring your phone/camera to take photos of the space because you will likely want to refer to them at a later time. This is especially true if you are visiting multiple venues! If the venue also does catering (or other services), try to set up a meeting with them at the same time. Don’t be shy – you are ultimately paying them a lot of money. If you have any negotiations or special requests you’d like to discuss, bring them up!
We dealt with a lovely lady named Roxanne at the Museum of History. She was prompt with all our email inquiries, met us in person at our meeting, took us on tour, offered advice, answered all our questions, and made sure we had the opportunity to meet with the caterer on the same day.
We fell in love with the Voyageurs Salon at the Museum of History as soon as we saw it. We also visited the Canadian Museum of War but then decided not to even bother visiting the other potential venues. Mind you, it is a cafeteria during business hours so you will have to use a bit of imagination – but Roxanne carried an iPad with photos of the venue transformed for different weddings to make it easier! (Click here to see photos) It was the perfect size for our wedding, beautiful architecture, amazing views of Ottawa and the Parliament buildings by the river, private outdoor terrace to use, very convenient location close to downtown Ottawa and nearby accommodations, cheap onsite parking, area for outdoor wedding ceremony (with rainy day back up in the upstairs Panorama Lounge available), etc. We would have to use their onsite caterer, Sodexo, but the menu was tantalizing and fit our budget.
Fourth step: Book the venue! We were sent a draft contract shortly after our meeting and after a few days of discussion, negotiations and revisions, we went ahead and booked! The venue was the first major wedding vendor we were happy to lock in well in advance!
Our favourite part about choosing this venue ($3200 at the time of booking) – was everything that was included:
- Banquet seating for up to 160 people, including room for cocktail reception and dance
- Set up and tear down (banquet/head/gift tables, podium, dance floor, etc)
- Cleaning before and after
- Food service including cocktail hour, dinner, cake, late night snack
- Internet access
- Projector screen
- Security guard
- Ambiance lighting
- Set up for outdoor wedding ceremony
- Private outdoor terrace
- Museum production coordinator (who is also day of coordinator)
We also paid an additional (discounted) fee to book out the Panorama Lounge (facility upstairs) in case it was raining and we had to have our wedding ceremony indoors. By booking the room, it also meant that there would be no other wedding taking place on the same night, in the same building, and gave us access to more space for storage/getting ready/etc as needed.
After the booking, it was mostly out of sight out of mind until we were back in Canada, over 1 year later! We revisited the location on May 5, 2016 – less than 2 weeks prior to the wedding. I would suggest not leaving it this late, but unfortunately, we had no choice!
It’s great to get another perspective on what we envision and what our guests will be seeing. Here are a few photos the surrounding views:
Views of the Laurier Bridge and Parliament buildings from outside the Voyageurs Salon
The blossom trees lining the processional walkway, which also gave us an opportunity to practice the walk for timing!
The open space that would set up for the outdoor wedding ceremony, facing the river.
Another view of the facilities – outdoor ceremony site right in front of the Voyageurs Salon and the Panorama Lounge upstairs
Upstairs from the terrace above the Panorama Lounge looking down
To the right of the Voyageurs Salon is the Grand Hall and main building of the Museum of History – impressive and stunning!
In between the 2 buildings is a large staircase that would likely be the focus of group photos
It was also the day we met with the caterers for our menu tasting and the museum production coordinator to confirm layout and set up for our wedding – killed many birds with one stone!