The 20 Smartest Library Venues Around the U.S.
Venues worthy of their own story.
Photo By: Mark Sagliocco
Photo By: Jerry Verdin
Photo By: Boston Public Library
Photo By: L Hewitt Photography
Photo By: Providence Public Library
Photo By: Tory Garcia
Photo By: stevegeer
Photo By: Brooklyn Historical Society
Photo By: Mark Sagliocco
Photo By: traveler1116
Photo By: NBC
Photo By: Travel Paso
Photo By: Seattle Public Library
Photo By: Joe Sohm/Visions of America
Photo By: GABRIEL BOUYS
Photo By: alfredotisi
Photo By: Roman Babakin
Photo By: jmoor17
Photo By: f11photo
Photo By: The Karpeles Manuscript Library
Photo By: The Washington Post
Say “I Do” In Front of the Classics
The best weddings say something about the couple and what they hold dear. Some folks want to unite in their home church while others prefer to honor Mother Nature with an outdoor ceremony. For lovers of literature, there’s probably no place holier than a temple of books. From presidential archives to good ol' public libraries, here are the smartest library wedding venues around the U.S.
Tooth & Nail Winery
Paso Robles, California
Relationships are all about compromise and so are weddings. One partner may want an intimate library celebration, while the other prefers a wine country party. If that’s the case, Tooth & Nail Winery has you covered. The industrial European-style castle, surrounded by vineyards, boasts more than 9,000 square feet of gorgeous indoor and outdoor event space for the picture-perfect nuptial rite. The bride and groom can descend down the dramatic spiral staircase of the foyer to say “I do” in the small and intimate library right off to the side. The cozy room is ideal for private gatherings of up to 30 of the couple’s closest friends and family.
Boston Public Library
In 1848, the Boston Public Library was founded. Its collections grew so quickly, it had to relocate twice before settling into the Central Library in Copley Square in 1895. Designed by Charles Follen McKim, the National Historic Landmark has been described as “the first outstanding example of Renaissance Beaux-Arts Classicism in America” by the National Park Service. Couples can choose from several layouts and venues within the gorgeous palace of edification. Some host their ceremony in the idyllic inner courtyard, before dining under the famed murals by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes in Bates Hall. Then, the party can go dancing underneath Edwin Austin Abbey’s brushstrokes in the great American muralist's namesake abode.
George Peabody Library
Consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, John Hopkins University’s George Peabody Library’s 1878 neo-Greco structure, which was designed by Baltimore architect Edmund G. Lind, has been described by provost and co-designer Nathaniel H. Morison as a “cathedral of books.” Literary fans would be hard-pressed to find a space that feels more sacred than the sun-drenched Reading Room. A latticed, frosted glass skylight illuminates its six tiers of cast-iron columns and ornate railings adorned with gold leaf. Couples who choose to pledge their love here do so surrounded by 300,000 historic books dating from the Renaissance through the 19th century. As great as it may seem to be enveloped by the love of friends and family, some betrothed might be more impressed to spend the big day amongst rare works by Shakespeare, Byron and Oscar Wilde.
Providence Public Library
Providence, Rhode Island
In 1878 the Providence Public Library first opened its doors on the second floor of the Butler Exchange to locals seeking erudition upon its shelves. The public’s passion for perusing its pages grew so quickly, the board of trustees was forced to secure larger quarters on Snow Street just two years later. The Renaissance-style structure has been the center of the city’s scholarly endeavors for the past 119 years. Many of its rooms have recently been restored to their original grandeur, including the magnificent Grand Hall with its hand-carved floret adornments, rich marble floors, original arched clerestory windows and skylights. For a more traditional library feel, many couples chose to unite in Rhode Island Room (pictured above), the wood-clad research room that houses its locally-focused collection of books.
The Kansas City Central Public Library
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City’s Library holds a wide collection of materials related to the area’s local history, ranging from postcards and photographs to news articles and directories dating from the city’s earliest history. It even boasts a complete collection of books, pamphlets and other materials about African-American history and culture. Wedding guests will feel the antiquity as soon as they pass through the front columns of the building. Couples who want to wed at this important repository of local history will have a hard time choosing between two gorgeous venues: Kirk Hall, a grand lobby space, boasts high ceilings, classic columns and gorgeous marble floors; upstairs, the Helzberg Auditorium and Rooftop features soaring windows, dark wood walls, marble inlets and, as the name suggests, a dramatic rooftop terrace.
Harold Washington Library Center
Chicago’s Harold Washington Library Center is an impressive place. It has over 1.2 million holdings including works by more than 50 artists and a genealogy database. The building is one of the coolest in the city, a postmodern masterpiece that combines new design elements and techniques with the classic Beaux-Arts style of nearby buildings with large granite blocks, red brick and decorative owl figures on the roof to symbolize the wisdom held within its walls. The centerpiece of the structure is the Winter Garden, a grand atrium with a gorgeous terrazzo and marble floor capped with a 52-foot glass paneled dome that spans across the room. The space is so stunning that there’s no need to add a thing for the big celebration unless, of course, you want to go over-the-top.
Brooklyn Historical Society
Brooklyn, New York
Since its founding in 1863, the Brooklyn Historical Society has been dedicated to celebrating and preserving the borough’s 400-year history. It holds archives and manuscripts that date back to the 1600s, along with maps, books, oral histories and all different kinds of documents. Located in the heart of historic Brooklyn Heights and just steps from the Brooklyn Promenade, its 1881 Renaissance Revival building on Pierrepont Street is a national historic landmark with all of the timeless architectural details one would expect in a building that holds that kind of distinction, including stained-glass windows, lofty ceilings and hand-carved woodwork. It oozes class and intelligence—and so will you, if you decided to seal the deal in this scholarly chapel of antiquity.
New York Public Library
New York, New York
Carrie Bradshaw certainly isn’t the only scribe who’s dreamed about getting hitched at the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building – though her character is one of the few who could actually afford to (nearly) pull it off. The gorgeous Midtown Manhattan structure is an incredibly important New York City landmark and research facility that, among other onsite divisions, houses 800 rare books printed before the start of the 16th century. Guests will feel the grandeur as soon as they approach the ornate marble facade of the Beaux-Arts style building and walk up its iconic steps. The bride could turn up in a potato sack and still impress the party after that entrance.
Indianapolis Central Library
First constructed in 1917 of Indiana limestone, Indianapolis’ Greek Doric-inspired Central Library has long been considered one of the most impressive architectural libraries in the United States. Its collections include The Center for Black Literature & Culture and the Indiana Special Collections Room, which features first editions and signed copies of books written by Indianapolis authors from the 1800s to present-day including James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, Janet Flanner and John Green. The impressive repository recently got a dramatic upgrade with a new glass and steel atrium that is primed for weddings.
Daughters of the American Revolution Library
Set between the White House and the Washington Monument, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Library, offers just about as dramatic of an entrance as you can imagine. Guests arrive at the Beaux-Arts historic landmark via a grand circular driveway and enter through an opulent marbled foyer. Those resplendent details flow throughout the building and into the library, which is filled with crystal chandeliers and breathtaking views of the monuments through the windows and the outdoor balcony. Guests can dine at long tables set up in between the shelves of nearly 40,000 family histories, thousands of historical manuscripts and special collections of African American, Native American and women’s history.
Paso Robles, California
Set right in the middle of Paso Robles’ quaint town square, City Park, Carnegie Library is an Americana piece of history. The Classic Revival building, designed by prolific Carnegie architect William H. Weeks, is made of rose-colored brick and gray stone trim on a lush plot of land that takes up a full city block in downtown. The 1906 structure, which now is home to the El Paso de Robles Area Historical Society, was one of the 1,689 US public libraries funded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie’s $60 million fortune around the turn of the century. The all-American library is surrounded by old valley oaks and magnolias, an Insta-ready scene for an outdoor reception.
Seattle Central Library
The Seattle Public Library’s Central Library looks more like a spaceship than a traditional temple of learning. The 11-story glass and steel building, designed by Rem Koolhas and Joshua Prince-Ramus, opened to the public in 2004. Three years later, it made it to the American Institute of Architects’ list of America’s Favorite Architecture. Book lovers and/or modern architecture fans can take the plunge under the steel and glass ceiling of the Living Room or the upstairs Reading Room that offers spectacular views of the city skyline.
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
As the former grand country estate of Henry Francis du Point, the 175-room home that now makes up Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library combines art and history with Gilded Age elegance. The library, established in 1952, has become an esteemed research center for understanding America’s artistic, cultural, social and intellectual history from colonial times to modernity. It’s a pretty serious graduate-level research facility, so it’s not the best place to tie-the-knot, but the nearby mansion and 1,000 acres of rolling pasture, woodlands and gardens are the perfect spot. Couples can choose to wed in several locations throughout the picturesque gardens and inside various historic rooms at this luxe former dwelling.
Richard Nixon Library & Museum
Yorba Linda, California
Richard Nixon may have had one of the more contentious presidencies in US history, and the museum and library that bears his name digs into that legacy. It’s a nationally recognized research center that grants scholars the opportunity to study the vast spread of materials that documented his administration. It’s also absolutely stunning, which is why it’s one of the most famous wedding venues in all of California. The nine lush acres that make up the museum include the meticulously manicured First Lady’s Rose Garden, extended reflecting pool, Nixon’s humble birthplace cottage and the only replica of the White House East Room in the world. With three opulent crystal chandeliers, Golden Italian silk draperies and imported marble fireplaces, that reproduction makes for one darn patriotic setting to celebrate one’s union.
Richard J. Riordan Central Library
Los Angeles, California
Ranking alongside the Bradbury Building and Union Station as the crown jewels of Los Angeles’ historic downtown, the Richard J. Riordan Central Library looks like something straight out of a classic Hollywood film. It's emblematic of the city’s Art Deco style with simple lines acting as a backdrop for ambitious, decorative sculpture. Couples can pledge their vows in various event locations throughout the property, such as the awe-inspiring Lodrick M. Cook Rotunda, which boasts four 40-foot wide panels of painted scenes from California history and a spectacular bronze Zodiac Chandelier hanging from the colorful domed ceiling that’s covered in beautiful painted patterns. The sprawling room can accommodate up to 400 guests for standing receptions.
Parkway Central Library
It took 16 years from the time of conception in 1911 for the Free Library of Philadelphia’s grand Parkway Central location to open its doors. Various obstacles, like World War I, got in the way of the opulent Beaux-Arts style building that mimics the Hôtel de Crillon and Hôtel de la Marine on Paris's Place de la Concorde. It’s right in the midst of the city’s cultural center that spans along Benjamin Franklin Parkway and boasts a massive collection of rare works, including collections from Edgar Allen Poe, Beatrix Potter and even medieval manuscripts. Let those greats witness your holy matrimony as you and your betrothed unite under the high plaster ceiling with Greek key patterns and rosettes in the main lobby. Many couples chose to move the party to the Skyline Room and Terrace for prime panoramas of the city and its storied landmarks.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Set on a 12-acre park that overlooks the sea in the city that launched president John F. Kennedy to greatness, the JFK Presidential Library and Museum combines culture and modern elegance, just like the late great leader that inspired its creation. The library, one of just 14 presidential libraries within the National Archives and Records Administration, preserves and provides access to primary source materials that document the life and times of the 35th president and 90 percent of Ernest Hemingway’s known manuscripts to boot. What better way to start your life together than by honoring two American icons in style? Many choose to host their ceremony and cocktail hour in I.M. Pei’s nine-story glass Pavilion before moving the reception to Smith Hall, which offers spectacular views of the Boston Harbor and city skyline.
The City Library
Salt Lake City, Utah
When the Salt Lake City Main Public Library was designed at the turn of the 21st century, the goal was to reimagine a library’s role in a downtown setting. Occupying a full city block across from City Hall, the sprawling geometric complex aims to draw urban life into the building and vice versa. It features shops, services and a public plaza, as well as more than 500,000 books and other materials. The Urban Room, a soaring public space inside the five-story triangular structure, features the same limestone paving as the adjoining square outside and is lit via a 20,000 square feet skylight. A wedding here feels like it’s outdoors without having to worry about the weather.
The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum
Buffalo, New York
The world’s largest private collection of manuscripts is not in Washington, D.C., New York or London. It’s (partly) in Buffalo, the Queen City of the Great Lakes. The library, spread throughout ten museums in nine cities across the United States, was founded in 1983 by California real estate magnates David and Marsha Karpeles. Buffalo is the only city with two locations in town. Couples can wed at either one. For those seeking to marry in a chapel of scholastic endeavors, Porter Hall features soaring ceilings, traditional wood pews and classic medieval designs, while the North Hall, previously occupied by Christian Scientists, features resplendent Greek Revival design.
Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall
Throughout the course of his life, Andrew Carnegie went from being a poor Scottish immigrant to one of the richest people in history. In his later years, he devoted his life to large-scale philanthropy, building cultural centers from Carnegie Hall in New York City to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. His greatest impact, however, was the more than 2,500 libraries he opened around the world, with the most fabulous of all being the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie, Pennsylvania. This gorgeous, century-plus-old space has hosted countless graduation ceremonies, theatrical and musical performances and hundreds of weddings.