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Married in Motown
Our fair metropolis is undergoing a grand revitalization just in time to play host to your wedding. You want resplendence? Detroit’s got it. You want charming? It’s here. Hip? Check. And history? It’s everywhere you look — in spectacular abundance.
Opened in 1929 on Park Avenue and Montcalm as one of four women’s clubs is what is now Detroit’s entertainment district, the Georgian-style Colony Club’s clean lines of red brick, limestone and iron grill work emanated genteel elegance and taste. Each floor had a purpose. Shops were on the ground level. A modern solarium provided a rooftop retreat. Sleeping rooms, card rooms, salons, squash and badminton courts — even a smoking lounge for men (who were not allowed above the third floor) — all led to the clubhouse’s piece de resistance: the third-floor Louis XVI Grand Ballroom, shimmered in Versailles cream and gilt. The structure was considered the city’s finest.
In 2006, in preparation for the arrival of Super Bowl XL, the club was restored to its original magnificence, including its original maple floors. Wedding arrangements are directed by the Gem & Century Theatres’ staff, who oversee every detail. Amenities include colored accent lighting to highlight the Grand Ballroom’s architecture and a late-night menu including a Detroit coney dog station and chocolate fountain. The Colony Club offers fun, fun,fun housed in luxury for up to 400 guests.(313) 463-4215; colonyclubdetroit.com.
DETROIT OPERA HOUSE
Picture saying “I do” on the stage of Detroit’s first movie house, amid crystal chandeliers, brilliant frescoes, marble stairways and lush rose-red Italian damask. David DiChiera and the Michigan Opera Theatre open the doors of the magnificent Detroit Opera House for couples to wed, sharing a stage that once featured luminaries like Louis Armstrong, Betty Hutton and Duke Ellington. Then, kickoff the celebrations by raising the grand curtain and welcoming your guests onto the stage for your reception.
Modeled after the Italian Renaissance style grand opera houses of Europe by Detroit architect C. Howard Crane — who also brought us the Fox Theatre, State Theatre and Orchestra Hall — the Detroit Opera House, originally opened in 1922and called the Capitol Theater, was the first of many palatial theaters built in the Grand Circus Park area; the facility underwent major restorations in the mid-1990s. The opera house can accommodate receptions for up to 500 people. (313)965-4314; motopera.org.
DETROIT YACHT CLUB
Since being called home by the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Belle Isle — the largest island park in the U.S.— has had a tumultuous and romantic history.Designed by noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York City’s Central Park, it is home to the historic Detroit Yacht Club.
Add your guests to the ranks of U.S. presidents, international royalty and Hollywood elite — all of who have been hosted by the club.
Originally founded after the Civil War,the iconic Mediterranean-style clubhouse, built in 1923 — the same year a concrete bridge to Belle Isle was opened — was designed by architect George Mason (of Gem Theatre and Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel fame).
By the end of the following year, membership had reached 3,000. Today, it is the largest yacht club in the United States —and the 12th oldest. (313) 824-1200; dyc.com.
Let the calls of the wild set the tone fora truly exotic wedding adventure. Among wedding options at the Detroit Zoo are the Wildlife Interpretive Gallery (for up to150 guests), which contains the rotunda, mezzanine, theater, exhibit hall and two art collections.
It also houses the zoo’s oldest building,the 1928 glass-domed birdhouse,which has been renovated to hold the tropical Butterfly-Hummingbird Garden, and where couples can say “I do” amid hundreds of flitting, vibrantly colored butterflies.
Another option: Purchase a private zoo evening and wed in front of the Rackham Fountain, followed by hors d’oeuvres and a stroll through the zoo before dinner and dancing.
For smaller weddings (60 seated guests without a dance floor; 50 with a dance floor; 100 guests for a cocktail reception),your company can gaze out at the underwater views of polar bears and seals inside the Arctic Ring of Life’s Nunavut Gallery and Exploration Station. (248) 541-5717; detroitzoo.org.
If you’re thinking exclusive, the Fox Theatre is it. The opulent architecturalcocktail of Far East, Indian and Egyptianstyles was the second-largest theater in theworld when Detroiter C. Howard Cranedesigned it in 1928 for William Fox (of20th Century Fox fame).
The lobby was six stories high and half a block long, surrounded by blood-red marble columns, each holding its own jeweled figure of various Asiatic gods. The inaugural performance at the Fox opened with the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” by the Fox Theatre Grand Orchestra as it rose dramatically into view on the elevator platform.
In the past, the occasional wedding was held at the Fox, primarily for those who had some sort of connection to the theater. But now, the Fox is opening itself to six,super-exclusive wedding opportunities per year. Because availability is limited during the theater’s show season, weddings must be scheduled between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Painstakingly restored to its original glory in 1988 by the Ilitch family, the Fox offers couples a variety of wedding packages, some making use of the 5,000-square-foot Grand Lobby and others allowing couples to wed and dine on the Fox Theatre stage, beneath the domed ceiling. The theater can accommodate up to 800 guests. (313) 471-3333; olympiaentertainment.com.
THE GEM & CENTURY THEATRES
In 1903, the Century Club set a historic precedent, holding Detroit’s first building permit issued in a woman’s name. The club was commissioned by the Twentieth Century Association, a group of philanthropic women; and four years later, the club added an adjoining building, the Little Theatre of Detroit — which opened with the first foreign film shown in Detroit, Cyrano De Bergerac.
Since the Depression, the building changed names and purposes several times, until 1997, when developer Charles Forbes saved the structure by moving it five blocks. Using photos of the original design, the Century Club structure was restored to its original Arts and Crafts style,while also preserving artifacts from several demolished downtown buildings —including leaded glass and stained-glass windows and a limestone balustrade from the YWCA and Pewabic tiles reclaimed from the YWCA pool.
Charming and intimate, the Gem &Century Theatres have presented record breaking shows, including Shear Madness and Forever Plaid. The Gem Theatre can accommodate up to 300 guests by joining with the attached Century Grill, and the Century Theatre holds 200 beneath its ceiling of gilded frescoes and vintage chandeliers.In spring and summer, serve cocktails on the wraparound garden patio surrounding the rose garden. (313) 463-4215; gemtheatre.com.
MAX M. FISHER MUSIC CENTER
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra entered a new era in 2003, when “the Max” became its new home. The elegant and modern performing arts facility also houses a four-story atrium, multiple lobbies,reception areas, dressing rooms, rehearsal space, the Music Box (an intimate performance venue) and, of course, the spectacularly renovated Orchestra Hall.
An acoustical legend of its time,Orchestra Hall was designed by Detroit architect C. Howard Crane and built in1919, taking just four months to complete.By 1970, however, the once-grand performance space faced the wrecking ball, only being saved through a series of marches and sidewalk benefit performances.
The structure underwent a multimillion dollar restoration, using Crane’s original notes and sketches as guidelines; the DSO moved back into its restored home in1989. Most areas of the 135,000-square-foot music center are available for you and your guests to enjoy, accommodating up to 500 people strolling and 350 seated. 313) 576-5050; detroitsymphony.org.
Gaining a solid reputation among the hip intelligentsia for “throwing the best parties around town,” the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit opened in2006. Its avant-garde trappings can help set the stage for quite a soiree.Housed in a former auto dealership,the cavernous 22,000-square-foot space(holding up to 250 guests) is deliberately sparse and industrial, with concrete floors, cinder block walls and a raw, urban mood — a textured blank-slate back drop for you to shape.
Couples can embrace the unpolished space with minimal changes or decorate to their hearts’ content; either way, ask how to best use the hundreds of enormous paper lanterns the museum has available for rent. Note: The museum closes three times a year for exhibition installations;rental availability revolves around the exhibition schedule. (313) 832-6622;mocadetroit.org.