Set the tone for your wedding by choosing the right venue, catering

By Amy Richards

You’ve just gotten engaged and haven’t stopped smiling. You’ve shared your wonderful news with family and friends. Now, it’s time to get busy.
Planning a wedding is an exciting yet daunting endeavor. There are so many options, questions and details to consider. One of the first and most important tasks is to secure a date and venue for your special day.

The choice of venue will set the tone for your wedding, and for that reason is one of the most significant decisions you will make. Anne Thompson, manager of private events and group sales for the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood; Abra Said, hospitality coordinator for Gordon Green in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts District; and Carl Santagata, co-owner of LaVera Party Center in Willoughby Hills, share what their venues have to offer and their advice for selecting a space.

A rendering of what the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s new Visitor Hall may look like during a wedding, once it is complete and open this fall.
Photo / CMNH


What symbolizes eternal love more than celebrating your nuptials amidst prehistoric creatures?

Look no further than the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, which is in the midst of a $150 million transformation project that includes an expansion, a reimagining of its campus and all its exhibits, and the addition of new public spaces, according to its website. Notably, its new Visitor Hall is opening this fall.

“A flexible event space with room for up to 250 guests, the Visitor Hall’s floor-to-ceiling windows allow light to stream in, creating an open and airy feeling,” Thompson says. “In addition, it overlooks and connects to a lovely courtyard space perfect for a ceremony or cocktail reception.”

The venue is unique, allowing guests to be seated among the museum’s most iconic specimens, including “Happy” the Haplocanthosaurus. You may also choose to add on experiences for your guests, such as a private planetarium show or a wildlife encounter.

The museum’s exclusive caterer, Levy, will take care of all food and beverage needs, customizing a menu to reflect your preferences. Thompson notes some of her favorites are the “late-night bites,” which can include Bavarian pretzels and pesto focaccia sticks, as well a Cleveland station featuring options like pierogis and walleye sliders.

Thompson’s advice for choosing a venue: “Set a budget and try to consider all costs. Since your guest list will determine what type of venue you need, plan for the maximum number of guests. You can do a lot of legwork and narrow down options online, but it’s important to visit multiple venues to compare details, connect with the staff and get a feel for the ambiance,” Thompson says.

Gordon Green’s private outdoor courtyard set up for a wedding.
Photo / Gordon Green


Situated in the heart of Cleveland’s Gordon Square neighborhood, just six minutes west of the major downtown hotels, Gordon Green provides a distinctive venue with an “industrial-chic aesthetic”,” Said explains.
“Our space is truly a blank canvas,” she says. “Our airy, black and white backdrop speaks for itself with its 100-plus-year-old architecture, tin ceilings, original sliding black door, built in alcoves and hardwood floors. In addition, the space is updated with every modern touch, including dimmable and color-changing lights and automatic shades that privatize the space.”

The space also includes nine north-facing windows that usher in “the most incredible sunsets off of Lake Erie,” Said adds.
Its main space can hold up to 300 guests seated with a dance floor. For less traditional or cocktail-style events, Gordon Green can accommodate 450 guests comfortably. A private outdoor courtyard and finished lower-level event spaces provide even more space for additional guests, and also can accommodate a full-size food truck along with 7-foot movable bars.
All rentals include in-house tables and chairs, access to getting ready suites, and the lower-level lounge area.

“We work exclusively with three caterers – Thyme, Spice and Driftwood for all food, service and bar staff, and rentals such as tableware, flatware, glassware and linens,” Said explains. “Bar packages are curated and billed through Gordon Green and can be adapted to fit most budgets.”

Her most important advice on choosing a venue: “Venue creates the entire aesthetic of your photos – especially if you are doing everything from ceremony to reception on-site. Choose a space that really represents who you are as a couple so that years from now when you look back on photos, it feels very much like you.”

LaVera Party Center’s dessert table.
Photo / LaVera Party Center


Family-owned and operated for three generations, LaVera Party Center has stood the test of time.

“We are probably one of the only turn-key caterers out there,” Santagata says. “Our packages make it really simple. We have three: Gold, Platinum and Diamond. Gold is the entry level, and Diamond is the Rolls-Royce.”

To put the difference in perspective, Santagata explains that although everything is “incredibly tasty and made from scratch,” the Diamond package has more elaborate appetizers and proteins. Whereas the Gold package offers chef-carved prime rib, for example, the Diamond package offers filet mignon.

Packages include banquet staff and bartenders; tables and floor-length white, ivory or black linens; Chiavari chairs; catered food, wedding cake and pastry table; bar mixes and soft drinks; and venue fee.

“When you walk out the door, you know that you have everything handled, and at insanely affordable prices,” Santagata says.

LaVera leaves it to you to bring your own alcohol, which can often be a nice savings. And the party center has relationships with various beverage stores that its staff can recommend, he says.

The event space includes two ballrooms which can accommodate from 100 to 400 guests each. Its Tuscan Room has earthy colors and warm tones, while the recently-remodeled Crystal Room is a brighter, modern room with crystal-cut mirrors and contemporary crystal chandeliers.

LaVera also does outside catering. It is a preferred caterer for seven venues in Northeast Ohio, including The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood. In addition, it caters out of 15 to 20 other local venues.

For selecting a venue, Santagata advises, “Just find something you are comfortable with. Think of your budget and what is doable for your family. You have to think about yourself in that venue for the evening. Put the trends on the back burner and go with what makes you comfortable.”

LaVera Party Center decorated for a wedding.
Photo / LaVera Party Center

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