The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston is one of our favorite venues to host a city wedding. The ICA is a contemporary art gallery located in the heart of the buzzing Seaport district—the perfect venue for a modern wedding filled with culture, art, and the glow of the city at the forefront. As Boston wedding planners, the ICA Boston will forever remain one of our top locations for a sophisticated city wedding.
What we love about the ICA Boston wedding venue is that each space is amazingly memorable, which means the guest experience is always unforgettable. The ICA gives couples a bit of everything- an open-air ceremony and cocktail hour on the Boston Harbor, time to explore unique and modern art, and all the modern glamour of a city wedding.
We love working here for many reasons, but visually, the ICA is extremely inspiring. The venue’s angular, clean exterior is one of our favorite inspiration pieces when designing weddings at the ICA. With stunning metal finishes and floor to ceiling windows, the architecture allows our couples to incorporate unique structures and angles into their wedding design – whether it be in the tablescape, fashion or stationery. Yet, the venue’s soft ocean backdrop softens its edge, creating a natural and calming vibe.
The other spaces are just as memorable – with an outdoor theater-style for a ceremony, a harborside plaza for cocktail hour under the bistro lights, and massive glass windows overlooking the city and ocean for the reception. In fact, each space is more unique than the next – so the flow is dramatic throughout the night!
An ICA wedding is ideal for the city-loving couple who adores art, culture, cuisine and water views. This is a couple who wants to wow their guests with a sophisticated, elegant and contemporary celebration, and give their friends and family a taste of Boston living.
The ICA is conveniently located in the trendy Seaport district – just steps from some of the city’s newest and hottest hotels, restaurants, health clubs, rooftop bars and coffee shops. Guests can enjoy pedicab rides around the city and explore all of the hot spots just steps away from their hotel and the venue. The scene also sets the stage for a great black-tie dress code (but of course, not necessary!).
The flow for a wedding at the ICA makes a lasting impression. When guests arrive, they’ll walk down the public walkway to the Plaza, overlooking the Boston Harbor. The ICA offers amazing “theater style” seating outside, perfect for an outdoor ceremony on the water. The theater lends itself to creative, fun design – using cushions or pillows, or even just a few chairs in the front row for the VIPs. Guests love this unique seating arrangement and it makes for stunning photos too!
Following the ceremony, guests move to the open portion of the Plaza to enjoy cocktail hour with views of the harbor. We love this spot for outdoor lounges, passed hors d’oeuvres, and an oyster bar in the summer. You can also choose to use the Common Room for additional indoor space, should guests need a bit of shade.
Following cocktail hour, guests move through the museum lobby and up the elevator to the theater – a magnificent space with floor to ceiling windows and polished industrial finishing.
The theater is amazing at night – showing the harborside and city glow from almost all angles. The space is amazing for a sexy, sophisticated modern dinner and pairs well with a dance floor that is anything but traditional – black or white looks amazing here!
Based on your guest count, you can enjoy both dinner and dancing in the theater (best for 140 or less) or you can move downstairs to the lobby for dancing. The lobby can be transformed into a dancing and lounge space using amazing lighting and soft seating. This provides a lovely change of scenery for your guests.
Want to see the spaces IRL? Check out the Virtual tour here!
When it comes to an inclement weather plan, the ICA offers ideal options that won’t compromise your vision. We typically plan to use the Upper Lobby for the ceremony in case of rain. While we have not had to do so yet, we always plan to angle the ceremony against the tall clear glass windows overlooking the city. Just be sure to rent a set of chairs, especially if your plan A is outside on the Plaza stairs, where chairs are not needed.
Should cocktail hour need to be held inside, The Common Room and Lower Lobby provide a lovely flow to host your guests without revealing the Theater before dinner and dancing.
Lastly, even though hotels are close by, we almost always reserve a shuttle to bring guests from the hotels to the ICA in case of rain. If cold weather is an issue, be sure to also consider renting heaters for the Plaza. Note: they will need to be approved by permitting through the city of Boston and The Catered Affair.
Yes! The ICA has a stellar team of vendors who are seasoned in event production at the museum. Because the museum is open to the public during the day and is filled with coveted artwork, the load-in and load-out is extremely detailed, scheduled and particular. You’ll need an amazing team of vendors on your side for set up. And, because the museum closes at 5:00 PM, ceremonies must start at 6:30 PM, which means a very quick transition for set up. All in all, an experienced team is essential for things to run smoothly. As your wedding planners, we are ready and experienced in managing the quick load-in at the ICA.
The good news with this quick transition? The preferred vendors at the ICA are no strangers to this timeframe. Their exclusive catering partner, The Catered Affair, manages the rental of the space, in addition to the amazing culinary and beverage program and impeccable event staff. They are amazing partners throughout the planning process and execute flawless service before and during the celebration.
The other lesser known perk about the ICA? Their in-house AV and lighting team are astoundingly talented! They are onsite to assist in the sound at the ceremony and cocktail hour, and can create a full scale lighting plan of your dreams. Ryan and his team truly know how to light up a room.
And of course, we love complementing the venues with spectacular rentals. We recommend Peak Event Services for chairs, linens, tables, china, lounge, and more.
A few little tidbits:
• You can opt for your guests to be able to view exclusive galleries during your cocktail hour. It’s a lovely way to immerse them in the museum setting.
• Ceremonies cannot start earlier than 6:30 PM. However, guests can begin to arrive at 6:00 PM. Depending on the time of year, be sure to ask their AV team about the sunset and ceremony lighting if needed. (ie: in September, the sun sets at 6:20). So if your season is right, guests can have a bit of daylight and sunset. The reception end time is midnight – great for added dancing bonus!
• The theater space at the ICA is small but packs an amazing visual punch. Most of our couples want their full reception here. And about 50% of our couples want a band. You can absolutely have a band at the ICA – just be sure to account for stage space when creating your layout (typically 10’x20’) which will slightly reduce guest count. Brianna & Drew’s wedding pictured here was a lovely 110 with a band, and a mix of long and round tables.
• Fun perk? Use the elevator to your advantage! The elevator can become a fun and functional photo booth after guests move to the theater!
We would absolutely love to host the dancing portion of the night outside on the Plaza (where cocktail hour is). We think dancing under the stars in the mid-summer ocean air would be just magical!
Want to see how we bring it all together? See more photos and full video from Brianna & Drew’s wedding at the ICA
Considering a wedding at the ICA or need help choosing a venue? Contact Whim Events for wedding planning, design, and floral.
Photos by Elizabeth LaDuca
The Institute of Contemporary Art is located at 25 Harbor Shore Dr, Boston, MA 02210, in Boston’s Seaport District.