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From: Sara Schultz
Sent: Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Subject: [DOME-L:9685] Weddings in the dome?

Hello Fellow Domers!

I just received my first request to host a wedding in the planetarium. I am just wondering if any of you all have done this and what the going rate is? We have a max capacity of 60. Also, what kind of "legal" stuff did you have? Like waivers or contracts of any sort?

Thank you for the help!


From: Alexander T. Mak, Ritter Planetarium, The University of Toledo
Date: February 17, 2015 at 8:35:36 AM PST
We’ve done about a dozen weddings in the past 30 years. Lately I’ve been charging a flat rate of $1,000 which includes the rehearsal also.
One thing I insist on is having a walk through so they understand that we don’t really have an aisle to walk down in the traditional sense, and that it is next to impossible to get a nice picture of them and the stars at the same time. If at all possibly I ask them to bring their photographer along if they have one. Every wedding photographer yet has recommended against the planetarium. Honestly, I do everything I can to discourage them. I want them to understand the potential pitfalls before deciding. Did I mention how the seats are angled in front few rows?
There’s an old joke that says the all churches are 2 f-stops darker than you think. Well, all planetariums are 2-f stops darker than any church.
From: Steve Fentress, Strasenburgh Planetarium, Rochester, NY USA
Date: February 17, 2015
I agree with Alex about photography. However, with a spotlight on the ceremony area, modern digital cameras can get at least something.
Strasenburgh Planetarium has been doing weddings for 20+ years. Some notes from our experience:
- I say "It's your wedding, but we can offer you suggestions on how to use this unusual building. Here's an outline of what has worked for a lot of couples in the past..."
- Try to prohibit open flames and berries or flowers that will stain your floor
- About $1000 for a rehearsal and ceremony sounds about right.
- I've never had a serious problem with the ceremony - the participants and guests are mostly sober. The reception is another thing - it happens elsewhere, and I hear about that in the following week's Operations Team review.
- Many couples love the idea of using their own music, either original material or their playlist. Others want us to suggest. Have "At Last" by Etta James, the Pachelbel Canon, Princess Leia's theme, and Clair de Lune loaded on your hard drive. For recessional, the Mendelssohn "Midsummer Night's Dream" really works -- the pacing and structure are perfect. No wonder it's a hit. Unless the couple wants something else, like Van Halen.
- Our wedding ceremonies have a mini-star show in the middle, accompanied by Holst's "Venus."
- At the rehearsal, let the couple or their designee (bride's mother, officiant) run the event as much as they want to. Less work for you and they are happier. On the other hand, if they are just waiting for you to tell them something, start the rehearsal by figuring out and practicing where everyone will stand during the ceremony, then figure out how everyone will get there, then walk through it once without and once with the music. The things that require the most thought are who gives away the bride, if anyone, and how, when and where the parents will be seated. Then send the party off to the rehearsal dinner, which is what everyone really wants.
- Designate to the best man and maid of honor the job of figuring out who has arrived and when the ceremony should start. You wait at the control console to push the "bridal procession" button.
- If you have seats that are especially good for elderly people with limited mobility, walkers, etc., save that space and highlight it in the rehearsal. Your consideration will be appreciated.
- I would classify weddings in my experience on a two-axis plot. The x-axis runs from easy to difficult; the y-axis runs from boring to inspiring. The easy inspiring ones tend to come from couples over 35. They know themselves, they're not primarily trying to please anyone else, they have perspective.
From: Karen Klamczynski
Date: February 18, 2015
I ran about a dozen dome weddings. Each couple was interested in doing something "different," and the planetarium dome was exciting, and in some cases sentimental ("first date" or the like). Each couple also had a slightly different take on how their event should look and sound. One had a well-developed "outdoor" theme (we showed a forest all-sky during the walk-in and walk-out), and they chose only "realistic" effects and themes. Some others literally wanted to be married under the stars, and they used a lighted arch to illuminate just the bride, groom and officiant during the vows (yes, that is tricky lighting for a number of reasons). Quite a few liked taking their guests on a wild ride through a black hole! In general, we used special effects, all-skies and cove lighting for general backgrounds, and nearly every couple wanted the lights to fade for a musical interlude with stars at some point during the ceremony. We had a lot of fun with those. Their music selections ran the gamut from the obvious classics to Enya to rock music, but all were tasteful and lent themselves well to the venue and occasion.

All were successful events that the guests enjoyed (some were dubious on their way into the dome, but I bet they still talk about those weddings). Some couples came back for shows on anniversaries and became donors because of their very personal link to the planetarium.

A contract is not a bad idea, though if you have a parent institution, you will probably have some red tape and need them to assist with drawing that up. As a substitute, it would be okay to print a document/"brochure" that specifies exactly what they get for their money. For example, that would likely include a 1-hour rehearsal and a 3-hour reservation of the planetarium on day of wedding. Include a deadline for them getting you music and pictures if they are supplying those things (it's okay to require them to supply it). Make sure they know your seating capacity--and note that might be even smaller if they don't want to use or can't use certain seats. (In some instances, we erected a small riser stage large enough for the bride, groom and officiant. This made some seats difficult to get to. Also, the wedding party might want to reserve the front seats (including officiant) so they can enjoy the "stars"--that's why they chose the planetarium to have their wedding. It's okay to charge extra if something they want is going to take a lot more work (programming a custom show for example).

We had the benefit of having removable triangle-shaped cushions custom made for the planetarium seats. They slipped over backs of the front few rows of seats to make those seats more 'upright'. We bought them from another planetarium, and they perfectly matched our seats. They were useful for any lecture-type event where the focus was front of the dome. (Though I will say, nobody enjoyed the chore of putting them on or taking them off the seats. Or stacking them back behind the dome.)

The photographer should attend the rehearsal. Hope for a good photographer, and all should be well. In my experience, once the photographer sees the situation, they know what to expect and can plan their shots. Talk with the photographer and couple about the lighting. Show the photographer the exact lighting. Try to have lights illuminate the wedding party--at least the bride, groom and officiant during the vows, and if you can project some bright all-skies as backdrops, the photographer should be able to get some nice shots. If some shots are missed during the ceremony, or the photographer wants to stage some special pictures, they should have time after the guests exit to take pictures inside and outside of your dome.

Weddings in the dome are a lot of fun. One more thought: require a non-refundable deposit (such as 50%) to book the event. You can make the balance due on whatever schedule makes sense to you, but I suggest it should be no later than start of the rehearsal.
From: Drew Foster, Rauch Planetarium, Louisville, KY
Date: February 18, 2015 at 1:25:28 PM PST
I host about 6 weddings per year.
See our web page here
then click the link for weddings and receptions.
Info and prices included.

Lighting is not an issue in our dome, I have only had a couple of photographers freak out until I show them the stage lighting. Of course, next I tell them the ceremony will be by star light and candles only! Digital cameras on a tripod do a great job at catching all of the pomp and circumstance. Official wedding photos are usually "staged" after the guest exit for the reception. Then the stage lights are all that is needed. If you don't have stage lights in your dome you can rent them economically or ask your TV or Theater department for a loan. I have never had to pay for additional lighting I just have to pickup and return what I borrow from our Univ. TV studio.

As you will see on our website we offer backgrounds from our full dome system and we even offer custom work or laser shows as requested by the clients. It is easy money if you have the time to offer wedding under the stars. I have done almost 70 weddings in the dome since coming to this planetarium 13 years ago. They got much easier with the addition of the SciDome a couple of years ago. Many of the stock items available are all you need to Wow! the happy couple. Lately, I have done 4 weddings under the very slowly rotating Milky Way image and 1 under a full Moon. We have a Wedding Demo Show that only takes about 3 minutes to run. Our office manager and I can run it quickly enough that we can show it between shows on the weekend if necessary. It shows a few full dome images, a few lighting choices and has space music playing as we talk the client through the demo. It sells the place for us.

I use Sound Byte on my iPad to make the execution of the couple's music choices very easy for me to select, play, fade as needed. Much better than when I tried to run everything from the virtual control panel of ATM-4 or from our Mixer, I needed three hands and I only have two..... Sound Byte preloaded with the music the client has brought to you is the way to reduce your workload.

A trend that has been obvious to me for about the past three years is the 'quicker, shorter ceremony.' I love it. Walk in music for guests, processional music for bride, quick ceremony, recessional music for the happy couple/walk-out for guests. Done. I have had several complete weddings that took less than 15 minutes in the dome.

We include the dome time plus the getting ready/dressed time and photo time in a two-hour package deal that is very popular for our clients. Most have been electing to have a reception off-site and that is just fine with me. I probably average only 2 on-site receptions per year out of the 5 or 6 weddings.

Easy Money and if you are like us, money is good to have coming in. Available for questions if you like.

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