When you're recommended by lifestyle uber-maven Martha Stewart, you're in very elite company.
The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg has joined that group with the No. 3 spot on a list of the 25 most desirable places in the eastern United States for a wedding reception.
It's one of only two museums on the Marthastewartweddings.com list and the only venue in Florida.
"When you look at the list, it seems to be mostly these unusual jewels that people aren't as aware of, not the big obvious ones such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Modern Art," said David Connelly, director of communications for the museum. The list has been on the website for a while, but the museum just learned of the ranking.
Most of the other venues are in the New York City area. The Museum of Fine Arts, at 255 Beach Drive NE, keeps company with chic locations including the Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan, (preferably the Pool Room, according to the list), the New York Botanical Garden and the Hartford Club in Connecticut, which are well-known. But there are, as Connelly says, "unusual jewels" such as the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Conn. — the only other museum on the list — and Lauxmont Farms in Wrightsville, Pa., which have gorgeous settings.
The Museum of Fine Arts, categorized as a comprehensive museum because its permanent collection spans ancient to contemporary art, has its own charms. It opened in 1965 on a downtown waterfront park. It was designed by Palm Beach architect John Volk, who helped define the famous Palm Beach style beginning in the 1920s, and its classic Palladian facade became the beloved symbol of the institution.
For many years, the main social area was the Marly Room, a traditional ballroom flanked by two intimate enclosed gardens. It has expanded over the decades; the most recent addition, in 2008, was a wing on the north side with more galleries and the soaring Conservatory. That space, along with the original ones, gives the museum more than 17,000 square feet for social events of all kinds and has made it a popular place for parties.
"I wanted something completely different from a typical Florida wedding," said Brooke Boyd of St. Petersburg. "No beach or hotel ballroom."
She and her husband, Peter, had an evening wedding reception for 150 guests in the museum's Conservatory on Jan. 19.
"I looked at a lot of spaces and this one was just perfect. It's very contemporary and we had a vintage and organic theme which I wondered about, but it turned out awesome," she said.
Allison Canfield, the museum's manager of special events, said about 50 weddings are booked there every year and she is now working on dates in 2014. Typically, couples book venues up to a year in advance.
The cost to use the museum for a four-hour wedding and/or reception can range from about $1,500 for one of the gardens to about $8,500 for both gardens, Conservatory and Marly Room. Included in all options is access to the museum's art galleries as well, but does not include food (which must be arranged through the museum caterer), entertainment or decorations.
Representatives of the company could not be reached for comment on the selection process. Connelly also didn't know how the museum landed on the list; he's just grateful for the recognition, he said.
"Martha Stewart is such a big brand name and it's a planning site to help people design their weddings, so it will help us secure more rentals, I'm sure."
Lennie Bennett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8293.