Photo courtesy of Butter Studios
When you think of the Vancouver Aquarium, many things may come to mind: waddling penguins, hand-holding sea otters, luminescent jellyfish, and their conservation efforts and educational programs (did we mention the otters?). But perhaps you didn’t know you could choose the Aquarium for your wedding venue. With over 100,000 square feet of event space and countless ways to create a memorable wedding day, the Vancouver Aquarium is a unique venue for those in the know. With a dedicated event staff and magical backdrops, here are five reasons to choose the Vancouver Aquarium for your big day.
The Vancouver Aquarium is a one-of-a-kind venue in the city. Set in Stanley Park, the Aquarium is home to penguins, dolphins, sea otters, sharks, seals, sea lions and more. The galleries host frogs, jellyfish, coral and clownfish. With so many creatures and displays to see, choosing a space for your ceremony and reception is all about what excites you most.
“Our most popular spaces are those with a beautiful backdrop,” says Sarah Troy, event planner at the Vancouver Aquarium. “In the Tropical Gallery, guests can enjoy the spotted jellies, our rescued sea turtle Schoona, as well as our sharks and coral.” If you rent the top floor, your guests will also have access to the Treasures of the BC Coast, Pacific Canada and Canaccord Financial Exploration Galleries. “It’s a really unique, non-traditional space with seating setup throughout three of the galleries, leaving the fourth gallery open for your DJ and dancing,” explains Troy.
Other couples may choose the Arctic Canada Gallery; it’s more traditional as guests are seated in the same space, with room for a head table, stage and clear sightlines throughout.
In sunny weather, the Wild Coast deck is available for ceremonies and receptions (be sure to ask if the dolphins are available for a show). The point is if you can imagine it, the Aquarium can help you bring your vision to life. “The space is very flexible and we’ve done standing receptions with passed canapés and food stations, as well as formal plated dinners,” says Troy. “We can take a couples’ vision and bring it to life.”
And couples needn’t worry about logistics, either. With a full-service event team, the Aquarium supplies many of the basics with every booking, including white or black linens, tables and chairs, candles, microphones, screens and podiums – even staffing. “All of our galleries are wired for sound, so speeches and music can be heard throughout the entire facility,” says Troy.
For guests who envision something more high end, the event team can help coordinate rentals, including florals and other décor items.
As a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, the Vancouver Aquarium sees plenty of first-date visitors and proposals. If you already have fond memories of the Aquarium, consider booking it for your wedding day. And hey, an anniversary date to the Aquarium every year to celebrate your life together will keep the memory of your wedding day vivid for years to come.
If you aren’t yet engaged, contact the Aquarium to coordinate a surprise proposal. “We’ve done a lot of surprise proposals and our staff works with the client to customize it for them,” says Troy. They’ve had proposals during public shows, but many couples choose to do it following an animal encounter. According to Troy the penguins and the sea otters are the biggest hit for proposals. Who could say no with those adorable faces looking at you?
The Aquarium’s conservation and education efforts mean couples that are socially and environmentally conscious can feel good about their venue choice. Money spent on your wedding at the Aquarium helps feed the animals and also supports conservation and education programs.
“Weddings support our Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, our Marine Mammal Rescue Centre and the Coastal Ocean Research Institute,” says Troy. And that’s just a few of the programs.
Troy says the Aquarium is also a green facility. “We’re a LEED-certified building, we have a high rate of zero waste going back into landfills and we use compostable cups at our bars,” explains Troy.
So if you’re looking for a venue that’s in line with your values, consider what you’d be supporting at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Better get comfortable in front of the camera, because there are photo options left, right, up and down at the Vancouver Aquarium. “The most popular spots are our glowing orange sea nettles and spotted jellies in the Tropical Gallery,” says Troy. Outside on the West Coast desk, old growth forest and charming sea otters surround wedding parties.
Flash photography is permitted, though set lights cannot be pointed at enclosures to ensure the comfort of the animals.
Beyond the Aquarium, Stanley Park beckons with more old growth forest, horse-drawn carriages, ocean views, and, in early summer months, the rose garden.
Executive chef Ned Bell, whose food philosophy is “globally inspired and locally created”, leads catering at the Aquarium. Bell is a West Coast chef trained in classical French techniques with cultural influences from all over the world, particularly Asian and South Asian. “Plant-based, nutrient-dense ingredients and sustainable seafood are the champions of the plate,” says Bell.
With a large team and multiple kitchens onsite, the Aquarium can cater events as intimate as two people, right up to 2,000. With scope like that, Bell says the menus and execution can vary greatly. For weddings, Bell says they typically customize menus to the specific desires of the couple and do tastings prior to the event.
Bell prides his kitchen on their sustainability efforts. “We champion local farmers and fishermen,” says Bell, adding that the Aquarium supports “healthy lakes, oceans and rivers, inclusive of agriculture and responsible aquaculture.” They put ingredients first. The kitchen also follows Ocean Wise recommendations, which are generated from assessments using the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program methodology. Bell is also a trained pastry chef, so everything is made from scratch.
Whether you’re a penguin fanatic looking for a unique venue or trying to make a difference on your wedding day, the Vancouver Aquarium is a great choice for couples. Happy planning!
CREATED BY REAL WEDDINGS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH VANCOUVER AQUARIUM