Bride and groom smiling and holding hands during the ceremony.
Cindy and Wil Orellana getting married in the fourth-floor gallery. Image: Roberto Ugarte/Roberto Ugarte Photography © Cindy Orellana

So he finally did it, did he? He popped the big question! Now, the bigger question, perhaps, is where you will host that special day? There are always the usual suspects: an old country farm, an elegant golf club, or perhaps a beautiful banquet hall inside a posh hotel. But some brides and grooms opt for the unorthodox and get married amongst polar bears, whales and even dinosaurs!

One of the best things about being an educator and working at the museum on weekends is being able to sneak a peek at all the beautiful brides on their special day. And there certainly have been many! Since our grand reopening in May 2010, we’ve actually hosted almost 70 ceremonies and/or receptions in the last year alone!

Weddings at the museum are so popular that one of the brides, Cindy Orellana, even launched in 2011 the CMN Bride blog (now discontinued). It was a meeting spot for all brides who were or were about to be married at the museum to share their tips and tricks from their day.

“This blog was a personal project of mine”, Cindy had explained. “While I was planning my own wedding, I was a member of [another online-community site] and received many questions from other brides considering getting married at the museum. So, I just decided to create my own blog to provide a central spot for all brides who wanted to know about not only my experiences of a museum wedding, but also those of other brides.”

View of the ceremony.
Steve and Penny Cumbaa getting married in the former mezzanine. Image: © Steve Cumbaa

Getting married at the museum is certainly not a recent fad. In fact, wedding receptions have been held at this historic venue for decades. However, the very first wedding ceremony is slightly more recent: it was held on July 31, 1987. And it just so happened to be between one of the museum’s own Earth Sciences researchers, Steve Cumbaa, and his now-wife Penny.

The couple decided to have their ceremony in the former “mezzanine”, now part of the Queens’ Lantern. Although they were years before the large glass tower was built above the space, they loved the stained-glass windows, as well as the “church feel” that the space emanated.

Shortly after the ceremony, their 95 guests headed down to the atrium—then still flanked by the majestic totem poles that are now on display at the Canadian Museum of Civilization—for strawberries and champagne. After this, they were ushered into the salon, then still sporting its “vintage look”, including dull grey and light pink carpeting and dark wood-panelled walls, for a catered buffet dinner and dancing.

“The whole event couldn’t have gone smoother,” Steve and Penny reminisce, thinking fondly of their special day 24 years ago. “We wanted it to be informal and fun. So, at the reception there was no head table, or even place settings. People sat wherever they wanted and could table-hop and mingle easily. Everyone just had a good time, and so did we!”

For Cindy Orellana and her husband Wil, who got married May 28, 2011, it was the contemporary feel of the fourth-floor gallery that won them over. “As soon as I saw it, the space reminded me of a loft apartment in Chelsea, New York, and I instantly fell in love,” Cindy raved in describing her wedding location. One of the main reasons she chose the museum as her wedding venue of choice was because it married the old and the new, no pun intended!

Just like Steve and Penny’s wedding, Cindy and Wil also wanted their ceremony and reception location to be nearby. So, as soon as the ceremony was over in the hall section of the gallery, guests were ushered into the wing (which is just beyond the hall), where a catered buffet and dancing ensued.

Bride and groom hug on the stairs in the Queens' Lantern.
Cindy and Wil Orellana in the Queens’ Lantern before their ceremony. Image: Marie-Michèle Hayeur of Flower Girl Studio © Cindy Orellana

As well as having on-site staff and caterers, the most recent renovations to the museum have brought many more conveniences to hosting events. For example, a large catering kitchen next to the salon allows caterers to easily plate food for guests in a well-equipped space. Prior to the renovations, caterers had to plate food amongst all of our live insects in the Creepy Critters exhibition! Needless to say, this wasn’t exactly the best set-up.

All in all, it’s clear that some things never change when it comes to brides and grooms on their wedding day. Despite the 24-year gap between Steve and Penny’s and Cindy and Wil’s weddings, for both couples, the most memorable moment of the day was “when they saw [each other] for the first time, and simply couldn’t take their eyes of [one another].”

True love, it seems, is timeless.