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Asia Art Museum, reception, table

Top 10 Northern CA Museums for Weddings

10 Northern California museums that are as great for weddings as they are for class trips.

Photo: Lisa Lefkowitz Photography

The Haas Atrium

Host a formal reception for up to 350 seated guests at the Haas Atrium, in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The lofty space is topped with an aerial bridge and sky-lit oculus, and marble columns, blonde-wood walls and a grand staircase up the drama. Access to galleries is available for an additional fee. You must use one of the museum's approved vendors. (415) 357-4076, SFMoMA.org

The California Academy of Sciences

Have guests enter your reception at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco through a rainforest! Next stop: the Steinhart Aquarium, where up to 250 people can sip cocktails while enjoying floor-to-ceiling views of the deepest living coral reef tank. For dinner, the African Hall has room for 280 guests, and you can peek in at a live penguin colony. You must use one of the preferred caterers. (415) 379-5868, CalAcademy.org

Ainsley House and Gardens

Have a small outdoor wedding at Ainsley House and Gardens in Campbell. The historic 1925 Tudor Revival home has stunning English gardens, which accommodate up to 150 guests for both a ceremony and reception. You can even go inside the house to take pictures. The museum requires a $50 membership fee to rent the gardens, and you can choose your own caterer, with few exceptions. (408) 866-2119, CityofCampbell.com/museum

The Blackhawk Museum

Blackhawk Museum in Danville is a car-lover's paradise. The spacious Automotive Dining Room seats up to 500 guests for ceremonies and receptions and is next to a gallery of one-of-a-kind vintage automobiles. The blank-slate space lets you pull off virtually any décor you desire. You must use the museum's exclusive caterer. (925) 934-0598, BlackHawkMuseum.org

The Asian Art Museum

Start your wedding celebration at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco with a cocktail hour for up to 175 guests in the Loggia, a U-shaped balcony overlooking the grand staircase. Guests will "ooh and ahh" over the barrel-vaulted ceiling and displays of Asian ceramics. Next, host a seated dinner for up to 250 people in Samsung Hall, an opulent space with high ceilings and marble walls and floors. Rent one or more galleries for guests to explore. (415) 581-3777, AsianArt.org

The Conservatory of Flowers

The Victorian-style Conservatory of Flowers in the Bay Area offers five exhibit spaces filled with exotic plants and rare flowers from all over the world. Save on décor at an intimate ceremony for as many as 50 people in the Potted Plants Gallery, which is filled with orchids, hibiscus and other blooms. Larger weddings can be held on the lawn or in the Orchard Gallery, which seats 150 indoors. Guests will get full access to all exhibits. (415) 831-2090, ConservatoryofFlowers.org

The Courtroom A

Get hitched in the beautifully restored Courtroom A at the San Mateo County History Museum in Redwood City. Afterward, up to 170 guests can dine in the Grand Rotunda, which is lined with stately marble columns and has a stained-glass dome that spills light onto the mosaic-tile floors. Head up the grand staircase to pose for photos on the balcony-like second level. You must choose from an approved caterers list. (650) 299-0104, HistorySMC.org

The Chabot Space & Science Center

Hold your ceremony at the domed Observatory complex at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland. How's this for entertainment: During a tented reception for 100 seated guests, an astronomer can help you and your guests discover stars, planets and colorful nebulae through telescopes. You can bring your own caterer for a fee. (510) 336-7421, ChabotSpace.org

The Falkirk Cultural Center

The Falkirk Cultural Center in downtown San Rafael is an old mansion that sits on an 11-acre estate and features local contemporary artists in its galleries. For your reception, up to 100 guests can check out the beautiful interior, which has decorative fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows. Choose your own caterer. (415) 485-3328, FalkirkCulturalCenter.org

Heather Farm

Exchange vows while surrounded by thousands of roses at The Gardens at Heather Farm, a "living museum" in Walnut Creek. Up to 150 guests can fit at a ceremony and reception on the grounds, where the slate-roofed gazebo provides a dramatic backdrop. For an indoor reception, the Camellia Room also seats 150 people. Its floor-to-ceiling windows offer sweeping views of the gardens and Mount Diablo. The site provides a list of preferred caterers. (925) 947-1678, GardensHF.org

-- Patricia Bryan